An objective guide to finding a great sailing school  

How to Choose a Sailing School: A Complete Guide

Sailing courses are the perfect entrance into the world of sailing -- combining great instruction and confidence-boosting practical experience with the thrill of cruising through open water almost immediately. However, there are two vital facts that every prospective student needs to know before enrolling:

  • A sailing school will only be worth your time and money if it gives you the confidence and passion to integrate sailing into your life over the long term.
  • The quality of your experience will vary widely depending on the course and school you choose.

This guide will quickly teach you what to expect and what to look for in a sailing school in order to choose the best school for you. Before you spend $1,000 or more on lessons, a quick read through this site will improve your chances of having the great experience that a sailing school should be.

The Value of Attending a Sailing School

If you're new to sailing and don't yet know what to expect from a school, set your expectations very high. A good sailing school will be constantly fun, sometimes thrilling, thoroughly educational, and highly empowering. Not all sailing schools will meet these high expectations, but they should. Expect the best, and then invest the time to find a school that meets your expectations within your price range.

Expect your sailing school to go beyond teaching you the basics of sailing. The real value of a sailing course lies in providing the skill, confidence, inspiration, and community that will serve as the foundation for a lifetime of sailing adventure. Great sailing schools will attend to all of these needs, giving students a complete introductory sailing experience. Conversely, poor execution on any of a number of dimensions (listed below) can turn the experience sour -- undermining confidence or inspiration so much that sailing never becomes more than a passing interest in a student's life.

About This Guide

This guide is designed to educate prospective sailing students about what they should expect from a sailing course. Each article discusses how a particular element of a sailing course affects the student's overall experience, and how to compare different schools with regard to this element. Taken as a whole, the site offers a comprehensive method for evaluating and comparing sailing schools -- the knowledge to make an informed shopping decision.

Say you're considering a sailing course and have a few hours to explore a your options before enrolling. Your first steps will be to find schools to consider and understand typical course content. After you know which schools sound potentially appealing, read through the following articles to learn what to explore before committing to a program.

  1. Types of sailing schools -- Lifelong sailors most often begin with a keelboat course, but know your options first.
  2. Instructors -- A mediocre instructor makes classes a drag. Learn our tips to getting best-in-class instruction.
  3. Price and value -- The total cost, cost per day, and various perks will often make one course stand out over others.
  4. Class size -- The class size you need depends on how you learn. Find out how your experience may change with every new student in your class.
  5. Class length and structure -- Total class time varies widely. Determine how much time you will need.
  6. Facilities -- How the marina, nearby waters, and quality of boats and equipment factor into the experience.
  7. Geographic location and season -- Location and time of year affect wind conditions, class enrollment, and learning environment.

Remember that finding the right school will take patience and exploration. Learn about as many schools as you can to find the right combination of winning elements at the right price. When you've learned what you need to know about each of these factors, read our take on how to make the right final decision on a school. Invest a few hours now, and enjoy a lifetime of sailing.

This guide was created as an objective resource for students by a former student who wished it had existed before he chose a school. If you found this guide useful, we would appreciate your input on what parts you found the most worthwhile and what could be added in the future.

How to Find Sailing Schools to Consider -- Make sure to start yourself with a solid list of schools to compare before making a decision. The right school for you isn't always the easiest to find.

Types of Courses: Sailing Schools Can Take Many Forms -- From small boat lake sailing to coastal yacht navigation, all types of courses exist. Know what you're looking for.

A Sailing School Is Only As Good As Its Instructors -- Know how to determine if a school will provide the right instruction, and if a particular instructor is right for you.

Compare Sailing School Facilities, Marinas, and Surrounding Waters -- Learn quickly what to look for when evaluating a sailing school's facilities.

Quality of Boats in Sailing Schools -- A list of great boats to learn on and some perspective on what types of boats give rise to the best sailors.

Best Locations for Your First Sailing School -- Basic facts about the four most prominent sailing areas in the United States.

The Right Length and Schedule for a Sailing School Course -- A discussion of the total course length needed to learn to sail and various course formats.

Every Body Counts: Class Size in Sailing Schools -- The facts about how a larger or smaller class is going to affect your experience in sailing school.