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2024 June 1

Students share the sailing school experiences that have changed their lives and make them full-fledged sailors

Diddy Hitchins Anchorage, Alaska

Occupation: Professor emerita of political science and international studies

Sailing courses: ASA 101, 103, 104, 106 from Sunsail Sailing School; ASA 105 at Sailing Inc.; ASA 111 and 114 at LTD Sailing; ASA 108 and 117 through R&R Charters

What was the best or most useful thing you learned through a sailing course?

I discovered that I loved flotilla sailing: the freedom of chartering combined with the sociability and the support. Knowing that help is always nearby gives me confidence. I particularly love demonstrating how good I am at Med mooring­—judging the distances perfectly—or bringing my boat in to dock in a strong wind when the Sunsail docking staff have volunteered to do it for me. I like to do it myself and see the look of amazement on their faces that this little old lady can do it as well as, if not better, than they can. I really love the challenge especially participating in a flotilla race: getting the rig just right so that the boat sails with the sails just right and the telltales straight out.

What are some of your best memories from sailing courses?

I had the privilege to earn my ASA 108 Offshore Passagemaking and ASA 117 Basic Celestial Navigation endorsement on a voyage from Bermuda to the BVIs on the 157-foot sailing yacht Arabella with David Renoll of R&R Charters as a superb instructor. How I loved being at the helm of that beautiful boat especially at night, under the stars, with a stiff wind and perfectly trimmed sails. 

 When I was qualified to charter, I skippered a Jeanneau 33 on a Sunsail Ionian flotilla, and later in Croatia on a 48-foot Beneteau. 

Were there people at the schools you attended who made your sailing school experience excellent?

I had a wonderful experience cruising in the Tobago Cays and taking the catamaran course with LTD Sailing with instructors Jon Totten and Mike Harrington. I’ve since done several flotillas with LTD, and take the ASA 111 sailing review course each time to brush up on my skills. Several fellow participants on these flotillas have been couples buying their own boats,  wanting instruction on how to live aboard their boat while sailing around the world. In addition to taking the sailing seriously there are always lots of activities offered including snorkeling, hikes, wine tastings and floaty parades.

Thanks to excellent and patient sailing school instructors, I have the necessary documentation to be able to participate in a variety of sailing experiences which enrich my life and give me great joy. 

Tim and Amanda Newton Greene, Iowa

Ages and occupations: Tim, 46, is a business owner and helicopter pilot. Amanda, 36, is a helicopter pilot and mechanic.

Sailing course: 

OSS 101 at Offshore Sailing School

How can students make the most of a sailing school experience?  

With sailing comes a whole list of new nautical terms and operations. It’s important to review the study material ahead of time, but don’t worry about understanding everything ahead of time. The courses are well laid out and it all makes a lot more sense when you see it firsthand. Do not be afraid to try all the sailing skills. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. It is much more fun and you learn faster if you try all of the things the instructor is teaching.


What is your favorite memory of your sailing school experience?  

Our first time out in the boat the instructor let us take the helm and we accidently put the boat in a very aggressive heel. We all thought we were about to end up in the water but as our instructor explained the boats they train in cannot flip. After we learned that lesson it made sailing much more fun. We also really enjoyed the camaraderie gained by going through the course with our classmates.


What compelled you to seek out a sailing course for the first time? 

Amanda and I are both flight instructors and we operate a business providing accelerated flight instruction for customers from all around the country. We know firsthand how challenging it is to teach a huge amount of specialized knowledge and skill in a limited amount of time. We searched for a sailing school that had the processes, equipment, and instructors in place to provide that. It was time and money well spent to attend a sailing course, and it provided us a confidence and skill set that would have taken years (and much frustration) to achieve on our own. We look forward to using these lessons on our new-to-us Precision 23.

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