The Final Decision: There Can Be Only One
With all of your facts and foresight in hand, making the right choice of sailing school involves judgment and a little luck. When you've gathered the information you need to make an informed decision and narrowed your list down to a couple of schools, the best way to decide is to talk to people involved and, ultimately, to trust your intuition. Keep in mind that the goal is not to find the best school out there, but the best school for you (and your budget).
The Core Elements of a Great Sailing Course
In reading through the information on this site, you'll notice that a few key factors emerge as integral to making a sailing course the great experience that it should be. Above all, make sure that the following three elements are all in place and you'll position yourself for success.
- The right instructor -- Quality of instruction is very important, but so is finding someone who you can spend 12 to 32 hours learning from. Make sure to do your homework in this area above all others.
- The right schedule -- Make sure that you're not cutting yourself short on class time or paying for more than you need.
- The right facility -- Give yourself the chance to experience the thrill of sailing by choosing a marina in which you're excited about spending a few days. Some training facilities are truly exceptional places to spend a weekend.
Get these elements right, but don't neglect the others. A great instructor teaching in paradise for two weeks straight will still be a rotten experience if the class is huge, the weather is crappy, and there is no wind. It is often the details of a course that distinguish between good and great courses.
Schools typically tailor their programs to make sure that they can accommodate many people's needs. If you have a special requirements such as avoiding large waves, learning from a patient instructor, having a little extra time to study for the written exam, or figuring out what kind of boat you want to buy, there is probably a school that will take your needs into consideration.
Furthermore, certain personality profiles simply match up better with different course designs. People who would rather read the textbook than review it in a class can take a shorter class with more emphasis on on-the-water training. Those who get frustrated with other students should opt for a smaller class size. People who need some down time during class should look for a laid-back atmosphere. In sum, there is a school out there for anybody. Knowing your particular needs and requirements will help you quickly narrow in on the right sailing school for you.
Listening to another person's decision process is a great way to inform your own. You can start by reading about my story of choosing a school. Ask to talk to some former students. Some of them might even be working for the school now.
Take a look at this state-by-state directory to get an idea of how many sailing schools are out there waiting for your business. An hour of shopping around is simply not enough time to investigate your options and pick the right one. Invest a little extra time to learn more about the sailing schools in your area and around the country to make sure that you get the most out of your experience. Most people can narrow down their list to two or three schools in an afternoon of calling around and thinking about what is best for them. That well-spent afternoon can lead to a lifetime love of sailing.
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How to Find Sailing Schools to Consider -- Make sure to start yourself with a solid list of schools to compare before making a decision. The right school for you isn't always the easiest to find.
A Sailing School Is Only As Good As Its Instructors -- Know how to determine if a school will provide the right instruction, and if a particular instructor is right for you.
The Right Length and Schedule for a Sailing School Course -- A discussion of the total course length needed to learn to sail and various course formats.
How Much Should Sailing School Cost? -- Learn how to compare prices and see some typical course costs.