OFFSHORE SAILING CLASSES – A FAST TRACK TO GETTING BLUEWATER CRUISING EXPERIENCE
Considering the time and cost to outfit a bluewater boat, an offshore sailing class is the quickest and cheapest ways to get offshore sailing experience. This is Part II in a series of articles on getting offshore sailing experience from guest blogger TJ of Savvy Salt. He shares a list of the offshore sailing schools and tips for choosing the right one.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT OFFSHORE SAILING SCHOOL FOR YOU
Welcome to the rarified air! Only a small percentage of sailing schools run an offshore sailing program. Skippers that manage to charge for offshore voyage opportunities are often famous and extremely accomplished sailors. You can choose from opportunities worldwide for your passage. You’ll be learning a lot on your voyage; your education is the trip’s primary purpose.
You can be very picky about which offshore sailing school and passage you choose. They cost a lot of money and time so you should make sure the passage is the best one based on your goals. Perhaps start by defining your goals. Are there certain regions you want to get experience sailing? Do you want to learn to sail on a certain size or type of boats? Is there certain onboard equipment you need experience with? A few more examples:
Learning to sail offshore on a 35’ (45’ 55’) ketch
Experience an offshore passage on a catamaran
Learn to use radar, AIS, windvane or etc
Sail high latitudes aboard a boat with an aluminum hull
Get your feet wet offshore (2-3 nights) to epic adventure (2-3 weeks)!!
Qualifications offered by the program that will help you accomplish your goals
LIST OF SAILING SCHOOLS AND PAY-TO-PLAY EXPEDITIONS
Once you’ve got your goals nailed down read up on the sailing classes you might take and voyages you might embark upon. These can be tough to find so here’s a list:
At the time of writing there were 18 schools that offer ASA’s Offshore Passagemaking course and they are all linked to here
US Sailing has a list of schools and if you send them a message they can help you find an offshore program suited to your needs.
John Kretschmer Offshore Passages: John Kretschmer is a successful sailing author with hundreds of thousands of sea miles. You can get a sense of what sailing with John would be like as well as learn a lot by reading Sailing a Serious Ocean. There is a waiting list though; as of April 2017 all of John’s 2017 and 2018 passages are booked.View this post on Instagram
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Rubicon 3 Expeditions: Go on a voyage aboard a 57’ or 60’ ocean going yacht in the North Atlantic. Just gain experience or work toward your RYA credentials.View this post on Instagram
- 59 North: Sail a passage with some very experienced high latitude cruisers. That combined with the tenor of their site has me interested. For this price bracket I’m surprised that they don’t offer steps toward any certs.View this post on Instagram
Mahina Expeditions: Mahina expeditions comes highly recommended in the cruising community; you get the opportunity to join a world cruising couple for a part of their journey. They strike me as a bit old fashioned: “Out of courtesy to others, we ask that iPads, tablets, computers, phones and other personal electronic devices not be used aboard.” Here you can learn about passages aboard Mahina.View this post on Instagram
Ocean Racers: If you’d like to sail faster you can apply to join Ocean Racers for a race or an ocean passage. The accommodations are going to be more spartan and they definitely have a younger vibe. Ocean racers have the most affordable pay to play opportunities I could find (less than $1000!). Check out their YouTube channel to get a better sense of what they do.View this post on Instagram
- Clipper Round the World Race: The clipper round the world race is definitely the veteran of paid offshore racing opportunities. You pay for a crew spot on one ($6,000) to all of ($60,000) the legs of a circumnavigation via the southern ocean. The Clipper race is expensive but they’re the only pay-to-play circumnavigation.
View this post on Instagram
ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS
There is a lot to peruse. Take your time and come up with a short list of offshore sailing schools that meet your goals. Once you’ve got your short list of sailing schools, you should reach out to the skipper or organizer and ask any specific questions your have. Be picky, you have options and you’ll be paying a lot so make sure you’re getting what you need. You can probably talk to the skipper of your specific trip directly if you’re willing to wait till they are not at sea. Some schools or skippers will even work out semi-custom arrangements with students.
One of the best things about pay-to-play offshore opportunities is that you don’t have to spend much time considering the safety of the voyage: these opportunities are built around setting a good safety example for sailors just like you and if they were unsafe they would quickly become notorious within the sailing community. These are the only types of opportunities where a google search can act as the primary resource for your safety evaluation.
If a pay to play offshore passage seems like a good fit for you then go forth and conquer; if you’re headed for one of the high latitudes expeditions I’m quite jealous and would love to hear about your experience! If pay to play doesn’t seem like a good fit you can compare and contrast the other types of offshore opportunities or jump right in and:
Good luck! And see you out there.