Destinations: First, choose a place you want to explore and are excited to visit for your sailing course.
Boats: It is well advised to find out more about the boat you’ll be on before signing up for a course. Sailing schools use a wide range of boats, and these can vary considerably in size and quality. Find out the year of the boat you’d be learning on and ask for recent photos of her.
Boat Equipment: This pertains particularly to liveaboard courses. In terms of electronics; the more the merrier! Radar, chartplotter, GPS, sonar, AIS, knot meter, wind direction & wind speed indicators are all valuable tools, and it is an advantage to learn how to operate them with an instructor. Emergency equipment is also well worth checking out.
Instructor: You’re looking for a patient, knowledgeable instructor that is good at communicating and teaching. Remember, just because an instructor has a wealth of sailing experience, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are able to teach that experience effectively to others. Find out who the instructor will be for the course you are considering and give them a call. Try to gauge if their personality and style of communicating would be beneficial in your learning process.
Certification: American Sailing Association or US Sailing? With 30 years of experience, the American Sailing Association (ASA) continue to be the experts in sailing education. They have set a standard of excellence in developing textbooks and curricula in the field, leading the way in which other sailing associations have followed. With first-rate courses, exceptional materials, and over 836,000 ASA certificates issued, ASA certification receives international recognition. So, go with an ASA course that offers formal ASA certification.
Final thoughts… Get some testimonials about the course and your instructor, and make sure they are recent. The more information you have, the better. If you are still in doubt, ask if you can contact someone who recently completed the course, and hear a first hand account. A good sailing school and instructor should have nothing to hide.