An objective guide to finding a great sailing school  

How to Choose a Sailing School... in One Page!

Our full guide to choosing a sailing school has loads of important advice on comparing schools and courses. The best of that advice is consolidated here for anyone who wants to quit reading and start sailing.

Where to Begin

Start by finding sailing schools to consider, either by searching the internet or talking to a local harbormaster (the person in charge of a marina). You can find a starting list of top-tier sailing schools in our directory. Also, search Google conveniently from our side bar.

The Decision Process

Once you have identified several sailing school options, you need to compare them. Schools differ on many dimensions, but comparing these four aspects will quickly guide you to the right choice

  • The instructors -- Quality of instruction is very important! Make sure that instructors at the schools you are considering have sufficient teaching experience. Also, try to find a school that evaluates their instructors on a regular basis -- a bad teacher can keep teaching for years if the school doesn't take steps to replace him/her. Finally, if you get a chance to talk to the instructor who will be teaching your class, make sure you feel comfortable enough that you can learn to sail confidently with his or her guidance. read more...
  • Course length and schedule -- Make sure that you're not cutting yourself short on class time or paying for more than you need. Four full days of sailing will teach you strong fundamentals, but another four days will increase your confidence and sailing knowledge significantly. If you expect to make sailing a significant part of your life -- chartering boats or sailing with other unexperienced people (e.g., your family -- make sure to find a longer, more intensive class. read more...
  • Location and Facilities -- Give yourself the chance to experience the thrill of sailing by choosing a marina in which you're excited about spending a few days. Some training facilities are truly exceptional places to spend a week or weekend. Also, certain regions of the country supply better sailing conditions during different seasons. The right location makes class feel like a real vacation. read more...
  • Price -- Sailing schools vary greatly in price, often depending on their format: live-aboard vs. day sailing, length of class, class size, and types of boats. To best compare your options, Decide how much you want to spend, narrow your choices down to those that have good instructors, length, and location, and then choose the class with either the lowest price (best deal) or lowest price per hour (best value). Your best decision will be the least expensive school that you'll love to attend, so don't skimp too much if you are hoping for a great experience. Typical pricing can be found in our pricing article. read more...

Some Useful Advice

  • Check out your instructor once you know who he is.
  • Make sure you take courses during a time of year with consistent wind conditions. Ask any sailor in your area for advice on this topic.
  • Find a class size that fits with your learning style.
  • When evaluating pricing, figure out what happens to your money if your class gets cancelled because of weather.
  • If keelboat courses seem too expensive, consider learning to sail a dinghy or beach catamaran.

Still Can't Decide?

If you've found a couple of courses that meet your expectations and you can't decide between them, you have either found more than one school that's right for you (so just pick one) or you haven't found the right school yet. Some schools are harder to find than others (the more expensive schools advertise profusely, while smaller outfits count on word-of-mouth marketing), so keep asking around for the right school.

There is much more to consider than can fit in this short summary page. Reading through our full guide will give you even more to think about as you consider your options.

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.

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.

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.

How Much Should Sailing School Cost? -- Learn how to compare prices and see some typical course costs.

The Final Decision: There Can Be Only One -- A summary of the most important aspects of a sailing course and thoughts on how to make your choice.