If your ambitions don't include driving for dollars, it's not essential to pony up a bunch of bucks, carve three weeks out of your life, and slave for a certificate you don't need. You can learn what International Yachtmaster Training teaches in classes closer to home, if you make that the fundamental priority in your life. However, consolidating your education in a no-nonsense, supportive environment offers useful integration. Bernadette and I went cruising before we knew a fraction of what we needed, and we had some lucky moments. Experience is the finest teacher, but I wish I'd taken this course before we left. IYT offers Yachtmaster training in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. For information on entry requirements and costs, contact IYT (888-243-6011, www.yachtmaster.com).