The certification awarded by the American Sailing Association will allow anyone to get the knowledge and the recognition for it, if they want to start sailing on their own. The association has decided on a certain set of standards that have to be met whenever someone is learning keelboat sailing in the US. Since 1983 their certification program allows its students to go through a variety of courses and tests, most of them including a test on the water, not just in theory.
Their certification is offered for a variety of courses, starting with the basics of keelboat sailing, continuing with coastal cruising, with bareboat cruising, coastal cruising for the advanced, celestial navigation, then offshore passage making and finally the cruising catamaran. These are just the sail training courses, with the endorsement courses also being part of their offer. The majority of the training time takes place on the boat while sailing, so it’s not going to be that much classroom time included.
The certification provided by ASA is going to give you access to the boats that charter companies are providing, acting a bit like a driving license that allows you to reserve a sailing boat.
That’s not the only reason why certification is important though. Often enough you will find that the cost of insurance is going to be lower for someone that is certified, as the companies understand that the risks are lower when someone knows what they’re doing.
The standard courses and certification programs are designed with three types of sailboats in mind. First we have the keelboats, followed by the small boats and the multihull boats. Testing is done both through written exams and actual work on a boat.
The different levels of the programs that the student goes through will test his knowledge on different topics and in different conditions. There is a certification exam for each of these levels or challenges.
Basic Keelboat Sailing (ASA101): using a sloop rigged keelboat that is between 20 and 27 ft long, plus knowledge of the various commands, boat parts, the basic terms, buoyage, navigation rules, safety and others.
Basic Coastal Cruising (ASA103): using a 25-35 ft keelboat that is sloop-rigged and with an engine, with the conditions of sea and wind being moderate. Knowledge of various procedures, terminology and rules is also part of it. It requires the ASA101 to be taken first.
Bareboat Cruising (ASA104): exam that takes place during a cruise over multiple days, on a boat that is 30 to 45 ft long, in either coastal or inland waters, with winds that are moderate or heavy. It requires both the ASA101 and the ASA103 to be complete first.
Coastal Navigation (ASA105): this is a theory exam, so there is no sailing involved. Knowledge on how to sail a vessel in inland or coastal waters is required. There are no prerequisites.
Advanced Coastal Cruising (ASA106): has to prove that is able to be either a crew member or a skipper on a boat that is 30 to 50 ft long, in any type of weather while in inland and coastal waters, both during the day and at night.
Celestial Navigation (ASA107): has to demonstrate that he knows the theory on the navigation of sailboats during offshore passages.
Offshore Passagemaking (ASA108): must be able to be either the crew or the skipper on a boat doing offshore passages, no matter what the weather. It includes practical tests for ASA107.
Small Boat Sailing Basics (ASA110): involves the ability to sail on multihull or centerboard boats during winds that are either light or moderate, in waters that are familiar.
Trailerable Multihull (ASA113): using a 20 to 30 ft multihull boat in regional or local waters, in the capacity of crew or skipper.
Cruising Catamaran (ASA114): taken by those with enough cruising experience, it’s an advanced course where the testing requires them to prove that they can be both crew and skipper on a multihull boat that is 30 to 50 ft.