I love my wife, but…(Benefits and Understanding of the ASA)

A typical ASA affiliate event
A typical ASA affiliate event

Have you ever said the following? “I love my ______, but….”. There have been times that I wasn’t thrilled with myself. On one or two occasions my wife has done something that I didn’t agree with (she later let me know that I was wrong but that she would forgive me). The other night when I took Abby out for her last out and all she wanted to do was sniff the flowers and then at 0300 she decided it was time to go out and actually accomplish something. I certainly wasn’t thrilled with that! However, saying all of this does not in any way mean that I need to go into therapy with myself, that I want a divorce, or that Abby needs to worry about going to the pound anytime soon. There is never a “Perfect” fit. If there was we would get bored with it quickly.  See, even when the fit is perfect its not.

Is the ASA perfect?

For me the American Sailing Association (ASA) is just like that. It’s not perfect, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great organization, or that I am not very much inline with it. This article is not about the imperfections of the ASA, rather, it’s about the virtues of this worldwide organization.

The ASA was founded in 1982. Since 1983 there have been more than 400,000 graduates from its certification programs. There are more than 300 ASA affiliated schools worldwide. Eighty-five percent of the commercial sailing schools in the US are ASA affiliates.

In short, the ASA is a collective group of sailors ranging from recreational day sailors, professional sailing instructors and captains, clubs, and schools. The ASA has a close integral relationship with the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Boating Safety Advisory Council. It has affiliations with many national and international boating associations.

ASA a perfect fit for students

The ASA has developed a structured curriculum to teach students the art/science of sailing. This structured program enables students to continue their training at any facility with the reassurance that they are being taught the same material regardless of where they attend their classes. Additionally, this structured curriculum enables instructors to lesson plan knowing that certain subjects have definitely been covered in the student’s previous classes.

Part of the ASA’s educational program is the development of study materials that are current, and relevant. The Coast Guard Auxiliary uses many of the ASA texts in their own education program. The textbooks used throughout the ASA certification programs are updated and revised continuously to keep the student current with various sailing developments such as boating equipment. Within the last 3 years the ASA has introduced new textbooks for the ASA101, 103,and 104 courses. They are currently writing a new Cruising Catamaran Text.

To the outside sailing community the ASA offers a measurable standard to which sailing applicants can be judged. Charter companies and many governments require charter applicants to have passed the first three levels of certification (ASA101, 103, and 104) before the applicant will be allowed to take the yacht out without a professional captain. For example Croatia requires US citizens to have ASA104 certification among other things.

Sailing schools

Schools that want to become ASA affiliates are subjected to rigid requirements. The ASA requires an inspection of the school’s business plan, record keeping system, detailed class lesson plans, and significant insurance requirements. An Instructor Evaluator completes these inspections during an on-site visit. The IE is required to examine the school facilities, the physical proximity to the sailing waters, the marina environment, the boats, and sailing area that instruction will be given. Schools are required to have a viable storefront that prominently displays the ASA logo. The ASA also requires the school’s boats to undergo a safety inspection by the United States Coast Guard. All of this is done by Sailing Florida’s school and is to insure the student’s positive learning experience.

Students are required to pass a comprehensive written exam, administered by the school but designed by the ASA, with a minimum of 80 percent. On the water, students must demonstrate satisfactory understanding and execution of a detailed evaluation standard. The ASA has little flexibility in this standard. Students must pass with 100% satisfaction. By passing this level of written and practical knowledge the student is assured that they are competent sailors for the level of certification they are seeking. Notice that I used the word competent and not confident. Confidence can only be achieved with continued practice over a period of time. In short, ASA certification cannot be bought; rather, it has to be earned. The successful student should be proud of their accomplishment.

Is the ASA Perfect? No, but neither am I. There is no perfect fit. What matters to me is that like me, the ASA keeps trying to be. After all, we are all nothing more than a work in progress. Just ask my wife!

So, please, do whatever you have to do to get On the Water…With Captain Frank