How to Get the Most out of Class as a Sailing School Student

, How to Get the Most out of Class as a Sailing School Student

When you sign up for taking a sailing class, you want to get the most out of it that you can in the amount of time you have in class. Your time and effort is valuable, as is that of your instructor and the other students.

Here’s how to get the most out of your class – from someone who’s been teaching sailing nearly 30 years. I’ve got this narrowed down to the top tips!

, How to Get the Most out of Class as a Sailing School Student

Show Up Prepared

Have your water bottle, your sunscreen, non-marking, non-dark sold shoes, appropriate clothing for sailboat, something to write with and a notepad.

The morning of class is a bit late to start reading the book or dash off to purchase something you need. There might be items you didn’t expected to want or need, so do try to organize what you know you will need ahead of time.

Check with your sailing school, and ask what they suggest you bring with you for the class. At St. Augustine Sailing, we have a page of ASA Class Info, but there’s probably even more that you would like to know in advance, so don’t be afraid to call and ask what to bring in case there are any specific requirements.

, How to Get the Most out of Class as a Sailing School Student

Go the Extra Mile – Study Ahead

Complete the BoatUS state specific Boating Safety Course online ahead of time. It’s free, has great information, and will help you sort out all those right-of-way questions in advance.

This course is recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard, approved by NASBLA and your state boating license agency.

Recently, I had to take this course in order to qualify to rent boats from NAS JAX MWR – Naval Station Moral, Welfare, and Recreation. Although I hold a 100-ton U.S. Coast Guard Captain’s License, I still learned a lot.

There are very thorough explanations of rules of the road, navigational markers, and more. I still use this resource as a reference tool when I have a tricky, specific question.

, How to Get the Most out of Class as a Sailing School Student

Be Ready to Do and Observe

In the best classes, you get to perform the maneuvers yourself, and you also get to observe someone else perform those maneuver so you can learn what went well, and one did not go so well.

Time to sit back and critique someone else is almost as valuable as your hands-on time.

Be ready to not only participate yourself, but also to watch others and notice their strengths and weaknesses, as well as your own.

, How to Get the Most out of Class as a Sailing School Student

Show Up On Time

It’s a boat! If you arrive late, it throws everyone off.

In a sailing class, there is so much material to review, knots to tie, maneuvers to perform – even a 15 minute delay can throw off the entire day.

, How to Get the Most out of Class as a Sailing School Student

Sign up Far Enough in Advance to Review the Course Materials

This applies to any type of course you take: the less of the instructors time that you take up going over what you should’ve studied in advance; the more of the instructors time you have to go over the things that are best done in person.

If you haven’t completed your course pre-study items and tie up the instructors time going over those basics; the other students are missing out on the more advanced topics that should be covered in class.

The ASA – American Sailing Association has some wonderful reference books. When you sign up for a 101 Basic Keelboat Sailing Certification class, you will receive Sailing Made Easy. If you prefer to read well in advance, many ASA schools will deduct the cost of the book from your class registration if you already have it.

, How to Get the Most out of Class as a Sailing School Student

Take Pictures and Notes!

Take pictures of the things that you were trying to learn, and then you also have a good library of photographs to study later.

Maybe you didn’t completely understand reefing the sail today, but after looking over your photos and your textbook again tonight; maybe it will all make sense!

In addition, later when you charter a boat on your own… you can sneak a peek at those photos for reference. Be sure to put them in a folder so you can find them easily. Yes, I usually photograph the boat’s electrical panel before I touch a thing – so I can set it back as it was when I leave the boat!

, How to Get the Most out of Class as a Sailing School Student

Get Rest, Eat Well

Make sure in the days leading up to the class, you get plenty of rest and eat healthily. You want to have plenty of energy!

Try to avoid terribly greasy or sodium-laden foods. Even though you might be out of town and want to celebrate the “vacation,” you have invested a lot into showing up at a sailing class. Plan to eat as close to your regular routine as possible.

Yes, I have had students show up hungover. And when we went offshore, they felt miserable. Heck, they would have felt awful on land! But the added motion of the boat, and the occasional whiff of diesel or holding tank can make someone already tired and hungover feel absolutely nauseous.

, How to Get the Most out of Class as a Sailing School Student

Start Exercising

Two years in advance, just kidding, but seriously… Start brushing your teeth standing on one foot to increase your balance. Alternate feet with days of the week.

Perform core strength exercises that require nothing but your body and the floor. Work on upper body strength and lower body strength. The stronger you are, the more comfortable and confident you will be on the boat.

The better your balance, the stronger a crew member you will be once we head out into the ocean. If you are wobbly onshore, it will be worse offshore.

, How to Get the Most out of Class as a Sailing School Student

Bring Your Foul Weather Gear

Either you were going to need it, or Murphy’s Law, if you don’t have it it will pour on the entire class. Either way, having it is a better plan.

Once you get soaked, it’s hard to absorb any more instruction, and everyone else is worrying about you instead of their own learning. At the very least, bring along a Sailing Jacket that can work as a windbreaker and foul weather gear.

If the weather looks promising for rain; be sure to bring spare dry clothes to pop on for while you take the test. You’ll feel much better, and perform better.

, How to Get the Most out of Class as a Sailing School Student

Be Organized

Have all your gear in a proper duffel, not falling out of your pockets. Make sure you bring your sunscreen, water bottle and a pen and notepad and something that will keep your glasses from dropping overboard.

Make sure your hat has a string or lanyard or capture device.

Try to keep your gear contained in one area. With four or five people on the boat; there’s a lot of gear! Plus, a neat boat is safer for everyone. Fewer trip hazards, fewer items to negotiate around, less stuff flying across the cabin.

, How to Get the Most out of Class as a Sailing School Student

Be Willing to Be Flexible

Due to weather in on the unforeseen circumstances, like mechanical failures, be ready for change.

Be ready to test earlier or later than you handed dissipated. It’s nature – be ready for anything.

There are far too many possibilities to predict, things completely out of the control of the captain that might alter the schedule of your class. Here are just a few you might not have considered:

Someone gets violently seasick, and your offshore time is cut short. A bridge has a mechanical failure, preventing you from accessing whatever is on the other side. An extreme low tide finds someone run aground in the middle of the channel to the marina, and you cannot exit the marina. Insanely thick fog… fogs you in. A manatee mama and calf decide to munch on your bottom salad, and you are delayed leaving your slip for a half hour.

The list of possibilities is endless. I’ve had all those, and more happen in my classes. So, just be flexible to the point of fluidity. A delay in one area can mean your schedule gets rearranged; hopefully gaining in another area.

, How to Get the Most out of Class as a Sailing School Student


Share your best boating stories, but sparingly, or perhaps later when you all go out for that graduation celebration dinner! Some stories are great for furthering instruction. Other stories only confuse and concern new boaters.

Bring the Right Gear Including Sunscreen

Wear your sunscreen. You’ll be miserable the second day of class if you get burnt the first day! I’m loving this tinted variety from Stream2Sea. Their mineral, reef-safe sunscreens come in tinted or non-tinted, and 20 or 30 spf. Use my code “KimW” to save 10% off your coral-safe sunscreen. Now, come sailing!

Really great article for you to read next: How to Get the Most out of Class as a Sailing School Student

Here’s another idea: Meet the Outboard Motor – Sailing the Small Boat

Or, Sailing Apps For Your Phone

Updated April 22, 2019


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