An objective guide to finding a great sailing school  

How to Find Sailing Schools to Consider

Before enrolling in a sailing school, make sure to know your options. Looking on the web or calling a local marina are your two best bets for generating a list of sailing schools to choose from.

Starting Your Search

Before you start tallying up a list of sailing schools to explore and compare, make sure that you've narrowed down your criteria. First, you need to determine what type of course you're looking for. Schools that specialize in the standard Basic Keelboat beginner course for large boats are plentiful and easy to find on the Web or in a phone book. Schools specializing in smaller boats tend to be locally focused and may be harder to find on the Internet. However, talking to a local marina will help you in either case.

Using the Web to Find Your Sailing School

The Web is a great place to find sailing schools because you'll have access to extensive directories of schools and sites for individual courses that give in-depth information. Most quality schools have some sort of Web presence today. You'll find photos, pricing of classes, some descriptions of course materials, and contact information. This basic information should be enough to tell you whether or not to consider the school. However, you'll most likely still need to call with questions in order to make your final decision.

It's best to have some idea of what you're looking for before scouring the Web. For instance, most people choose to take courses near their home, although some more famous schools draw students from all over the world. Both locally focused and international schools can be found with your favorite search engine.

The following list contains our favorite resources on the Web for finding sailing schools.

Asking Around Locally

As with all aspects of sailing, asking someone close at hand is a great way to learn about regional schools. A good school will openly give you the names of competing schools in the area so that you can compare your options. If you are not comfortable asking a school for a list of competitors, you can ask someone at a local marina about schools in the area and they will know most if not all.

If your end goal is to learn to sail without spending a lot of money, then be sure to extend your search beyond the web and telephone directories. Inexpensive schools are often harder to find, but can provide great value. More prominent, and more expensive, schools are almost always the first to be found because they advertise extensively (and are simply more famous). Asking around locally can also lead to ad hoc deals with individuals who are willing to teach outside of a formal school setting. With such an arrangement, you won't get certified, but you'll almost certainly get more time on the water for your money and can potentially learn just as much about the sport.

Looking Beyond Your Region

While the logistics of taking classes close to home are always appealing, all students should investigate classes beyond their immediate area. Combining sailing classes with a vacation can make both experiences more special. In addition, the top caliber schools are truly wonderful places to learn. Even if you know you want to take classes close to home, take the time to see what world-class institutions have to offer so that you know what to look for in local schools.

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Types of Courses: Sailing Schools Can Take Many Forms -- From small boat lake sailing to coastal yacht navigation, all types of courses exist. Know what you're looking for.

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.

Compare Sailing School Facilities, Marinas, and Surrounding Waters -- Learn quickly what to look for when evaluating a sailing school's facilities.

Quality of Boats in Sailing Schools -- A list of great boats to learn on and some perspective on what types of boats give rise to the best sailors.

Best Locations for Your First Sailing School -- Basic facts about the four most prominent sailing areas in the United States.

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.

Every Body Counts: Class Size in Sailing Schools -- The facts about how a larger or smaller class is going to affect your experience in sailing school.