What to Expect – The ASA 103: Coastal Cruising Sailing Classes from Sailing Florida Charters & Sailing School
ASA Sailing Classes in Florida
You’ve completed your ASA 101 Basic Keelboat Sailing classes! Now you’re ready to hone your sailing skills and increase your confidence in taking a boat out on your own. The American Sailing Association (ASA) 103 Coastal Cruising certification class uses the knowledge and skills you acquired in your Basic Keelboat classes, with the addition of basic docking practice, anchoring, and learning how to navigate on a trip using charts. You also move up in size from your first class – to one of our boats in the 35-foot range, such as one of our popular Catalina 350s.
Your Sailing Florida Charters Captain/ASA-certified instructor will contact you before your class to discuss what you should bring, as well as the proposed schedule. The classes will include the following elements, albeit often in different order depending on the weather and the needs of you and the other class members.
I’m often told by our clients that this class is easier if you review the basics (knots, proper winch handling, points-of-sail, tacking, jibing, etc.) prior to the class so you can free your mind for the new material. Reading (or at least a quick thumbing) through the updated and excellent ASA 103 Coastal Cruising Made Easy book, including answering the questions in the review tests, is always a good idea as well.
A small amount of vocabulary is added, along with the expectation that you use as much of your new sailing language as you can. We can give you the name of most anything on a boat… but remember, you use some part names (such as ‘stemhead fitting’) only because you broke them. Ha!
You’ll get a quick review of the six knots from the first class – figure-8, square, bowline, round turn and 2 ½ hitches, clove hitch, the cleat hitch – and two more to add to your arsenal: the underused yet extremely handy sheet bend, and the rolling hitch, perfect for pulling parallel to a line to remove a winch override.
Then it’s time to learn more about what’s on your boat. You’ll complete a thorough checklist of the boat, including identification of the Coast Guard-required equipment, operating the VHF radio, locating the throughhulls, operating the propane stove, checking the diesel engine, and readying the anchor.
All of the monohull sailboats at Sailing Florida Charters have in-mast furling mainsails, preferred for their ease and strong safety qualities. We’ll review how to properly arrange the boat to the wind and pull the mainsail out of the mast, as well as how to properly roll the main tightly inside the mast at the end of the day.
Now it’s time to hit the water, and review the knowledge you acquired in the ASA 101 Basic Keelboat classes – proper winch handling, tacking, jibing, sailing close-hauled and all of the other points-of-sail, as well as more crew overboard drills. We also introduce a fantastic way to drift in control by executing a ‘heave-to’ – to get the world to slow down, with your sails still up, so you can attend to other matters onboard, including lunch.
Over the next two days, you’ll also learn anchoring, basic docking, and how to navigate with a marine chart, first in paper form and then with the chart plotter/GPS onboard the boat.
In the anchoring portion of the class, you’ll identify and use the ‘ground tackle’ – everything that’s associated with the anchor. You’ll also learn the pros and cons of the two basic anchor designs, Danforth and plow, and how to measure the correct amount of anchor rode (often a combination of both line and chain) as you practice a single anchor set.
You’ll begin your session on docking by practicing how your boat handles under power, and how the wind, wave, and current conditions affect how the boat maneuvers. You learned how to start the diesel engine at the dock and now it’s time to practice on the water. You will put the boat into forward, adjusting the throttle to your conditions, then put the boat into neutral and see how long it takes to glide to a stop.
Next, you’ll put the boat in reverse and feel how the pull of the diesel’s propeller assists in turning one direction and slows things down when turning the opposite direction. Using your new understanding of propeller walk and wash, you’ll be able to back the boat in a straight line, compensating for the wind direction, waves, and current.
Now it’s time to approach the dock. You’ll make several bow-first dockings at the end of the dock, along with several ways of leaving the dock – bow-first, stern-first, and using spring lines to pivot the boat in your desired direction before leaving.
Learning how to make sense of marine charts, with all of their lines, colors, notations, and numbers, will probably be one of the most enjoyable skills you’ll learn – and it’s easy when it’s fully explained. You’ll discuss how the world is set up in terms of latitude (north and south) and longitude (east and west), and how you can plot your position on a chart using these two measurements. You’ll also learn to estimate your distances and plot the compass bearings you need to follow in order to get to your destination.
In addition you will learn the meanings of the different notations and how you can plan your trip with concern for depth, current, and the navigational marks, especially those used for common navigational channels, as well as the Intracoastal Waterway, which circumvents the coast of the United States from New Jersey to Texas.
The second day will include a review of knots as well as other material for your written test, including how to identify and treat the three steps of hypothermia, spotting storm systems and preparing for them, and knowing advanced sound signals.
After two days of practicing your sailing skills and learning some vital additions – anchoring, docking, and charting – you’ll pass your written test and advance to your next destination… the Sailing Florida Charters ASA 104 Bareboat Cruising classes, which includes an overnight anchorage on a 40-53 foot yacht with generator.