Education for the Modern Cruising Lifestyle

American Sailing offers education and certifications for sailors of all levels who want to improve their onboard skills.
Sailboat on the water
Improve your onboard sailing skills. American Sailing Association

This year, American Sailing is celebrating their 40th anniversary of helping sailors around the world realize their dreams out on the water. Since 1983, more than 500,000 sailors become certified after passing classes offered by American Sailing schools in hundreds of ports around the world that let people of all skill levels begin and expand their sailing skills. 

Today, they are continuing that traditional, successful way of educating sailors at more than 400 affiliate schools, while expanding the curriculum and offering more online educational materials to help even more sailors continue the lifelong journey of becoming a skillful sailor.

“We’re bringing more options online, adding interactive classes, and thinking every day about ways we can engage sailors in the learning environment that suits them best,” says Jonathan Payne, Executive Director of American Sailing. 

American Sailing has had online classes available in the past, but the organization is now continually updating its offerings for live and on-demand online learning. Sailors who choose to join as members can receive discounts or free classes, and the options go far beyond basic classes; they also include skills such as passage planning, sailing at night, shorthanded sailing, weather, radar, and docking, to name a few. 

“We’ve always drawn on the most trustworthy, experienced experts in sailing to ensure our sailing students are confident in the education they are receiving,” Payne says. “Through our live and on-demand online classes, any sailor anywhere can hear Peter Isler, Bill Gladstone, Chris Bedford, John Neal, Andy and Lisa Batchelor, and so many other share their knowledge in practical and accessible ways, so people can learn from the best at their own pace, whenever they’re interested in adding new sailing skills.”

The online class instructors
Meet the online class instructors. American Sailing Association

These online resources are being made available in addition to the foundational classes (ASA 101, 103, 104, 105, etc.) at American Sailing schools, which are easy to locate by region via the association’s interactive online map. Students can register for classes at schools near their own home port or at schools in destinations where they’d like to learn.

For instance, if you’re heading to some of the larger annual boat shows, you could pair the event with a course at a nearby American Sailing school. There are multiple schools in and near Annapolis, Maryland; Newport, Rhode Island; and Fort Lauderdale, Florida—to name just the major boat show locations.

“Our courses are great for first-time sailors, as well as old salts who want to pick up a new skill after seeing what’s new on the boat show docks,” Payne says. “Some of the more popular courses for more experienced sailors include Celestial Navigation and Offshore Passagemaking. If you’ve been cruising in your local waters for years and want to go farther afield, these are the types of courses that can help you get there.”

Starpath courses
American Sailing offers courses for Celestial Navigation and Offshore Passagemaking as well as sailing at night, shorthanded sailing, weather, radar, and docking. American Sailing Association

Having taught so many students throughout the years, American Sailing is the world’s leading educational resource for this type of learning. All are welcome into its classes—older, younger, athletic, differently abled — sailing is for everyone. Military veterans can receive a discount on some courses at specified American Sailing schools. Sailors who have taken the classes have glowing reviews.

“My wife and I just completed the combined ASA 101/103 courses. We both were new to sailing,” wrote students at the Myrtle Beach Sailing School in South Carolina. “We really enjoyed ourselves and can’t believe how much we learned. We intend to continue sailing and will take additional ASA courses.”

Similar comments can be found on the websites of ASA affiliate schools nationwide, such as Griffin Sailing School in Connelly, New York: “Kris was my instructor for ASA 101 and ASA 104. I’ve also logged over a thousand offshore miles with him. He brings a vast wealth of knowledge and experience to his work. Whether you want to learn just basics or are looking to become a world-class offshore racer, Kris will teach you exactly what to do and how to do it as efficiently as possible.”

For anyone interested in bareboating, the ASA is also a gateway to the certifications that many charter companies now demand. These certifications can allow ASA graduates to charter monohulls or catamarans for sailing vacations all around the world.

“Charter companies want to make sure that anyone using their boats is knowledgeable at the helm. They’ve seen first-hand the difference in sailors who are formally educated, and most require certification through at least 104,” says Cindy Shabes, President of American Sailing. “We not only teach the basics that bareboaters will need to sail the boats, but we also emphasize safety so that everyone can feel relaxed and comfortable on board. ”

Once sailors take their first steps down this educational path, she adds, they generally want to continue. 

“Safe, confident sailing becomes a lifestyle,” Shabes says. “If you feel good about your skills, you’re likely to sail more, to invite friends and family to join you, and to have a great time out on the water. That’s the goal with every class we teach, at every level of instruction — we want people to come away with brilliant memories of times on the water shared with friends and family.” 

The 101, 103, and 104 certifications also translate to an IPC, if you are headed for Mediterranean waters. The IPC is a certificate equivalent to the ICC, which is required by most countries to charter in Europe and the Mediterranean. You can learn more about the IPC on the American Sailing website

IPC Header
Learn about the International Proficiency Certificate American Sailing Association

Another option for learning is a sailing vacation that’s part of a flotilla, which means you charter your own bareboat but are cruising with a group of boats that includes an ASA-affiliated leader. The leaders organize the itineraries for ease of sailing based on their local knowledge, and are available throughout the cruise to help with any questions or challenges that students have.

There are flotilla options with American Sailing Vacations through affiliate locations in the Pacific Northwest, the British Virgin Islands, Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Spain, Italy, French Polynesia and beyond. Just about every season of the year, a flotilla is launching somewhere. 

Buying a boat selection
Join an American Sailing Association flotilla as a fun way to learn. American Sailing Association

“Flotillas are a fantastic way for all kinds of sailors to get to know a new destination,” Payne says. “Even the most experienced sailors will tell you that having local knowledge can make the difference between a cruise being good or great. These flotillas can combine fun, education and local knowledge in ways that are simply unmatched.”

Ready to start improving your own sailing skills? Learn more at