Sunday, June 23, 2019

Adventures in Sailing - Part 3

Part 3 - The Ugly (With some good thrown in for good measure.)

Well, after over a year of trying, I have completed my ASA 101 certification for keeled sailboats. Why did it take so long, because I am not terribly impressed with the American Sailing Association (ASA), here's why.

Last year when I tried to do this I ran into a Captain - who insisted on being called Captain - on the coast of North Carolina. We booked the course as a very cursory investigation into his experience level, and I figured if he was backed by an organization like the ASA he was probably okay.

We had a long string of bad experiences with him.

He cancelled us (I say us because at the time my wife and I were both going to take the course.) 8 days prior to the class, claiming a schedule conflict. In exchange he offers us each a $50 visa gift card and would allow us to sleep on one of his boats, which I will point out if it isn't already obvious, costs him nothing, but is an option he offers to people for $100 a night. This class was scheduled for May, and due to my schedule we weren't able to reschedule until June, when he cancelled us again. The next time we were able to make a schedule work, was in August, and then Eloise - my dog - broke her foot. So three weeks before the class, I told him I had to postpone due to a family emergency. He. Freaked. Out.

He sent me a long email stating that while he was very sorry for my dogs injury, it was outside the cancellation window. He went on for several paragraphs and finally said he would allow it, if an only if I filled out a form on his website in the next 24 hours. I tried repeatedly to make the form work, and it wouldn't go through, I emailed him repeatedly, and finally he relented. The thing was, he was really rude. That was when I dug, and saw notices on the NC Better Business Bureau that this was his norm. Cancelling classes, being rude to students. I stowed that info for later.

A week before the course, I emailed him to confirm the date and the gear we would need, and that he would be providing the gift cards and the housing he promised, and again, he freaked out. He threatened to bill my credit card for a $175 for a class transfer fee, which was when I had enough. I just couldn't imagine getting on a boat with him for three days. Here is what I did.

I first, headed over to the ASA website and found an instructor code of conduct, which I immediately saw he was in violation of, This and a couple of other pieces of information would be all I needed. I sent him an email stating that He had been unprofessional, rude and insensitive. That I wouldn't be getting on a boat with him. and made him the following offer. He could keep the fee for one of us - about $530 dollars - but refund the other, and we would be done. I literally said he could keep $500 for doing nothing. But, if he didn't refund the other fee, here was what was going to happen.

1) I was going to file a complaint with the state of North Carolina BBB, and the ASA since he was in violation of the instructors code of conduct.

2) My attorney advised me that we would have no problem winning a case in small claims court, and he would be representing me. I would also, happily, spend more money on lawyers fees than I was going to get back from him just to make his life miserable.

3) I would be writing about the experience on my website which gets around 10,000 views a month.

I had a refund in less than ten minutes.

This made me super wary of ASA instructors, and when I decided to find someone local to teach me, which was when I found AnnMarie, who was amazing, both as an instructor and a kind soul. But I knew eventually I was going to have to do ASA 101, and I found the group I just worked with.

It was a pretty good experience. But as an outdoor educator I can't help but see all the things that my instructor this past week did wrong. It isn't his fault, he is a highly skilled sailor, but he isn't an educator, and this is what (it seems) the sailing community does. Make sailors into educators when really they should be doing it the other way around. I truly feel I would like to - far down the road - teach sailing, and do a better job of it than I am seeing and experiencing.

The sailing community does a great job giving kids great sailing experiences. They also do an okay job giving adults sailing experiences. But it could be so much better.

Now I have to start logging all of my sailing experience - in a log book given to me by the ASA, which is super cool. I will be taking more sailing courses in the future with the same instructor while building skills. I have big plans. Follow me on Instagram to keep up to date, and if you want to go sailing, drop me a line!