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Pacific Yachting And Sailing School Review
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Pacific Yachting And Sailing School Review

I just got home yesterday after an 8 day training course with Pacific Yachting and Sailing School. If you're doing a bit of research looking for reviews of sailing schools in California, I'm confident that you are now asking the same questions I asked myself before I joined their program. While specific questions about courses, certification, times, and prices can be found on their website itself, I think I can provide you with some additional information that I wish I had known beforehand.

1) Should I sleep in a hotel or on the boat?

I slept on one of their boats which was a lot more comfortable that I expected. I've traveled quite a bit and I found the accommodation to be a lot more comfortable than some hotels I've stayed at! There's relatively little 'rocking' or 'swaying' of the boat, and the simple cushions (much like couch cushions) aren't bad at all. Everything was clean, there were lights, a manual-flushing toilet, a sink, and refrigerator (I did not use the fridge).

The only thing that I didn't like about sleeping on the yacht was that the lines that kept the yacht secure in the slip made noises that woke me up. Actually, there were people arguing, cars, washing machines and a garbage truck that woke me up in the hotel I stayed at the night before starting my course, so obviously no place is perfect!

2) What was a typical day like?

I enrolled in the 8 day course, so every day I woke up at about 7, showed on the docks (Yes, there's hot water!), and had breakfast at a nearby cafe (walkable). I read the ASA books about the course until about 9, then went down to the docks to meet my classmates. At about 9:30 our instructor showed up. We asked questions, and he talked about what we would be doing for the day for about an hour or so. I considered this to be the 'theory' part of the class.

Each day varied, but there was usually some actual task we needed to accomplish for the day. Some days we practiced docking, other days we worked on raising the sails. There were a few days when we went sailing in the morning, but the wind was usually very light.

We then had a short break for lunch, usually with the boat docked and ready to head out for the afternoon. Most afternoons were spend actually sailing or learning some practical skill like man overboard drills or anchoring. There was a lot to do each day and we usually got in a few hours of training in the afternoon, which meant we headed back at 4 or 4:30, and got the boat all cleaned up properly docked for the night by 5.

The evenings were free, and there were plenty of places to eat, but I spent most of my time at the local brewery. There were lots of places to eat good seafood, but I would rather spend my time with some good beer!

3) What skill level can you expect to achieve?

I can only speak for the 8 day course, and of course each person is different, but I feel confident that I can now "sail". Of course, there's a lot of things that go along with that, and I'm not 100% perfect in any of the skills we practiced, but I have no doubt that I could be a competent part of a yacht crew or even charter my own boat with another person with a slightly better skill level than myself. Like I said, I'm no expert, but I'm a hell of a lot better than when I started!

There were quite a few things we covered in the course that you probably won't need if you know someone that sails and you just want to learn some things so you can help crew their boat. We covered anchoring, navigation, engines, and lots of sailing techniques. But if you only want to learn the sailing part, basically you just need to know how to identify the 'points of sail', how to 'trim the sails' properly, and know the parts of a typical boat.

If you want to eventually charter your own boats, do international cruising, buy a boat, or know what to do in emergency situations, the 8 day course is a great way to start, and you will need to follow up with lots and lots of practice. Sailing is like any other skill. You can learn the basics in a short amount of time, but to be skilled at it, you need to put in the practice hours.

4) Is it worth the money?

Without a doubt, definitely. As of June 2013 is was a little less than $1500 dollars, including the ASA certification ($220), which means I paid less than $200 per day for a full-day's instruction of real time spent on a yacht (no virtual sailing here!), plus accommodation, and I'm now ASA certified. It was money and time well spent.

Conclusion

I had a great time at Pacific Yachting and Sailing School. Santa Cruz was a pretty cool city to hang out in, with, and I feel like I learned a lot during the course. I really couldn't have hoped for something better. Now that I'm certified and have friends in the Santa Cruz harbor, I'm planning on taking another trip up there this summer to practice what I learned. I'd like to buy a boat in the next couple of years and cruise the world, so I may run into you in some far off deserted island or exotic foreign city!


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