Life After Graduation

You’ve taken the sailing courses, received your certifications and spent a few summers crewing on your friend’s raceboat. You’ve learned to tie a mean bowline and trim a pretty mainsail. Still, the reason you first ventured into the world of sailing, to captain a charterboat in an exotic locale surrounded by friends and family, seems just out of your reach—and you’re not alone. In February 2010,
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You’ve taken the sailing courses, received your certifications and spent a few summers crewing on your friend’s raceboat. You’ve learned to tie a mean bowline and trim a pretty mainsail. Still, the reason you first ventured into the world of sailing, to captain a charterboat in an exotic locale surrounded by friends and family, seems just out of your reach—and you’re not alone. In February 2010, an American Sailing Association (ASA) survey found that 63 percent of students intend to charter a multi-day cruise within the year, but may hesitate because the transition from sailing school graduate to charterboat captain is so intimidating.

Enter American Sailing Week 2010 in Clearwater, Florida. From September 10 to September 17, ASA is inviting its entire membership to the Clearwater Marriot, adjacent to the Clearwater Sailing Center, for a rendezvous of sailing, socializing, teaching and learning.

“We are trying to help people live the dream and turn their passion into a lifestyle,” explained ASA’s membership coordinator Kathy Christensen. “By inviting all of our students to one place, they are able to meet other sailors like themselves and together build one another’s confidence in their sailing abilities.”

Veteran instructors Jeff Grossman and Jean Levine, who currently specialize in teaching couples to sail through their company Two Can Sail, are hosting the event. They say they can’t wait to show off what they call “one of the finest sailing places in all the world, where the east breeze makes smooth seas.”

Thanks to the participation of eight area ASA schools and the close proximity of Clearwater Sailing Center, students will have the opportunity to sail everything from Hobie cats to 40ft cruisers. The Marriot also offers all of the amenities of a great resort, so family members who don’t sail will have plenty to keep them entertained.

Throughout the week, students will sail together in a non-threatening environment where they can discuss and embellish their sailing skills. With the support of their fellow ASA captains, Grossman and Levine hope they’ll be able to “take the drama out of the dream,” as Grossman likes to say. “There is currently a gap in the education between sailing and living aboard, and events like this help fill that gap.”

If September is too soon or Florida isn’t your cup of tea, ASA also offers a number of other flotilla opportunities around the world. Like the rendezvous week, these events provide students an opportunity to spend time with helpful captains among other students who are at the same place on their sailing journey.

In addition to gaining confidence and experience on a charter-like boat, students get a glimpse at what it’s like to live together onboard. “Relationships are water soluble, and you have to learn how to live together with someone on a boat,” explained Grossman. “That can be every bit as important as the sailing.”

With spots still available at American Sailing Week and flotillas running throughout the year, there are plenty of opportunities to make captaining not just a dream, but a reality. As Christensen put it, “A lot of people go through our classes, but then lack the experience and confidence to go out on their own. With an ASA flotilla or American Sailing Week they sail with other people and meet other ASA members to build the community. That way, they continue the cycle of learning to sail, getting more experience, and then, finally, chartering.”

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