ASA Clinic

9. What yacht will I be on, and how many other participants will there be?

The yachts we use for training are part of the Navigator fleet of our sister company, Barefoot Yachts Charters

Most weeks of the year we have more than one course happening at a time.  We normally allocate instructors and yachts to specific courses about 7-10 days in advance of the course start date, based on the number of participants in each course and yacht availability.

The monohulls we use for training are 3 or 4 cabin yachts made by Beneteau, Bavaria or Jeanneau, ranging in size from 41 to 50 feet.  The catamarans are also 3 or 4 cabin yachts, ranging in size from 38 to 46 feet, made by Lagoon, Fountaine-Pajot or Bali.

On a week-long training course, one cabin is normally reserved for the instructor, so up to three cabins are available for participants.  In a 4 cabin yacht, there would be a maximum of 6 students, if each available cabin was occupied by a couple.  More typically, however, there could be one or two couples, and one or two single participants.  In sum, a typical course will generally have 3-5 participants.

Mediterranean – Trans-Atlantic Sailing Adventure, Fall 2022

Mediterranean – Trans-Atlantic Sailing Adventure, Fall 2022

Join us for a sailing adventure of a lifetime, on a passage from Croatia in the Mediterranean to St. Vincent in the southern Caribbean.  Three legs are available: 

  1. Split Croatia to Mallorca, Spain via Sicily (Oct 20-31, 2022)
  2. Mallorca to Madeira via Gibraltar (Nov 2-12, 2022)
  3. Madeira to Blue Lagoon, St. Vincent (Nov 15-Dec 6-10, 2022)

Space is limited! ASA and Sail Canada Advanced and Offshore certifications are available on all legs.

Come and experience why the Mediterranean has been the source of innovation in sailing for thousands of years, from the early Phoenicians, to the Greeks and Romans, to explorers like Vasco de Gama, Magellan, and Columbus, to the naval wars of the Napoleonic era, and to the ocean racing of the present day.

Then experience the iconic thrill of a tradewind crossing of the Atlantic in a Bali 4.1 catamaran.

1. Where can I find additional detailed information about Barefoot Offshore Sailing School courses?

Barefoot Offshore Sailing School (BOSS) publishes a regularly updated BOSS Orientation Guide which addresses the following topics:

Table of Contents

  1. Welcome
  2. The Players
  3. St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  4. Overview of ASA and Sail Canada certification standards
  5. Preparing for your Barefoot Offshore Sailing School course
  6. Travelling to SVG and what happens on arrival (including Covid requirements)
  7. Your instructors and what you can expect from them
  8. What your instructors expect from you
  9. Typical course schedules and Itineraries
  10. What BOSS supplies, what you should bring, what not to bring
  11. Food, drinks, and provisioning
  12. Maximizing enjoyment of your BOSS experience
  13. What’s next: continuing your sailing journey

Click here for the latest version.

2. Rob’s response: As a beginning sailor starting my sailing journey, how much can I learn in a week?

While many Barefoot Offshore Sailing School participants come with some sailing experience, others arrive with little or no experience as crew or helmperson on a sailboat.  We welcome people with any experience level.  Whatever experience and skills you arrive with, you are guaranteed to leave with more!

Many guests who sign up for our Basic or Catamaran Cruise and Learn courses ask how far they can progress?  Here are some perspectives on that question.

Your sailing journey

I think of sailing knowledge and skills as a continuum or journey.  As an Offshore instructor, I have the highest cruising instructor qualifications that ASA and Sail Canada offer, but I’m still on the sailing learning journey, continuing to upgrade my knowledge and skills.

If you are a novice sailor, with little or no previous experience, you are close to the beginning of that journey.

Sailing journey milestones

The first key milestone along your journey is when you have acquired the knowledge, skills and experience to be able to safely skipper a boat for a day-sail with precious cargo: family and friends on board.  (This is the equivalent of Sail Canada Basic, or ASA 101 and for some, ASA 103).  As skipper, you have total responsibility for the safety and well-being of everyone on board.  Based on my instructing experience to date, both in Canada and here in St. Vincent, around 2/3s of people who are novice sailors can achieve SC Basic Cruising or ASA 101 in a week, and some can progress to ASA 103. However, that also means that 1/3 of novice sailors need a bit more time and experience to reach these levels.

The next key milestone along your journey is when you have acquired the knowledge, skills and experience to be able to safely skipper or charter a boat for a multi-day cruise with precious cargo: family and friends on board. (This is the equivalent of Sail Canada Intermediate, or ASA 104). As a skipper in this context,  in addition to total responsibility for the safety and well-being of everyone, you have total responsibility for a yacht worth several hundred thousand dollars. Based on my instructing experience to date, lots of course participants who have previous sailing experience can get there in a week, but in all the courses I have taught, only 1 or 2 novice sailors have managed to make that much progress in a week. There is just too much to learn for most novices to achieve that in a few days.

The levels beyond that, ASA 106 or Sail Canada Advanced, require much greater knowledge, skills and experience.  There is no possibility for a novice to get to those levels in a week. FYI, I progressed quickly to SC Advanced, but I already had 12,000 miles of cruising in my resume by then.  You don’t need that much experience to be successful at progressing to Advanced, but you definitely need to have skippered a number of cruises and have several hundred miles of experience as skipper before it is feasible to pass an Advanced course.

As a novice sailor, where should I start?

For novice sailor, what I recommend is that you join one of our Cruise and Learn courses focusing on ASA 101-104, or Sail Canada Basic and Intermediate.  (The Sail Canada option is available if the instructor on board has SC qualifications in addition to ASA qualifications.)  As a novice sailor, your realistic expectation in that first week would be to be certified for ASA 101 and possibly 103, or Sail Canada Basic, and make some progress toward 104 or Sail Canada Intermediate certification on a subsequent visit.  (You could also consider learning on a catamaran.  Most instructors agree that there are advantages to starting out on a monohull, but we have also taught many novices to sail on a catamaran first.)

In a future visit, you can focus on completing 104 / SC Intermediate, and consider adding ASA 114 or the Sail Canada Catamaran endorsement if you are looking to become proficient at sailing a catamaran.  At the end of that second week of instruction, you could potentially have built the knowledge and skills you need to charter a boat for future adventures.


Good luck with your journey.  I’m working on the next stage of my own sailing journey, and continue to take great satisfaction on helping others progress on theirs.

Rob McLean is an ASA and Sail Canada Advanced and Offshore Instructor, a Sail Canada Senior Instructor Evaluator, an ASA Master Instructor, and Barefoot Offshore Sailing School Lead Instructor and Coordinator

3. Rob’s Response: How do Sail Canada cruising courses differ from ASA?

Barefoot Offshore Sailing School is one of the few schools in the world, and the only one in the Caribbean, that offers both ASA and Sail Canada certifications.

Participants in our courses often ask:  what’s the difference between Sail Canada courses and American Sailing Association (ASA) courses?  Is there an advantage to one system over the other?  As a Sail Canada and ASA Advanced and Offshore Instructor, here is my perspective.


Until 2018, BOSS did not offer Sail Canada courses, so all our guests were certified to ASA standards.  Now, however, Sail Canada is an option for many of our offerings, and this will continue to expand in future as BOSS increases the number of instructors capable of certifying students in both systems.

Sail Canada and ASA standards are quite similar, for the principal reason that when ASA started up in the 1980s, it licensed the then Canadian Yachting Association standards as the initial basis for the ASA system.  While differences have emerged in the 40 years since then, the two systems remain largely parallel.

ASA and Sail Canada Cruising Courses Overview


What are the main differences between the two systems?

The main differences between the two systems arise because Sail Canada, as the national organization for the sport of sailing in Canada, has access to a cadre of volunteers who work on regularly upgrading the standards, and the related exams and learning materials.  Senior members in Sail Canada’s instructor community meet monthly to consider and implement updates to the Learn to Cruise system. (Full disclosure: I serve as a member of Sail Canada’s national Training and Certification Advisory Committee that oversees this effort. As a Sail Canada Instructor Evaluator, I contribute to the development of cruising training materials.)

As a result, the Sail Canada requirements are in general somewhat more rigourous than the ASA requirements.  For instance:

• Sail Canada has split Coastal Navigation into Basic and Intermediate courses, with Basic Coastal Navigation required as a prerequisite for Intermediate Cruising

• Some content in ASA 106 Advanced is covered earlier in the SC system

• The requirements for Sail Canada Advanced Cruising and Offshore Cruising are both somewhat more extensive than the ASA requirements for the equivalent courses.

Which system should I choose?

When someone asks which system should they choose, my answer is that it depends mainly on where you expect to continue your sailing journey.  If you are sailing and taking future courses mainly in the USA, ASA is the better choice. If you are sailing and taking future courses mainly in Canada, then Sail Canada is a better choice.

However, at the end of the day, what matters is that graduates of our courses are proficient, knowledgeable, and safe sailors, and emerge with credentials that are recognized world-wide.  This is ultimately a result of hard work by students and their instructors, combined with a great cruising ground like the Grenadines, built on the excellent systems maintained by both organizations.  BOSS is proud to accomplish this result under both systems.

Rob McLean is an ASA and Sail Canada Advanced and Offshore Instructor, a Sail Canada Senior Instructor Evaluator, and BOSS Lead Instructor and Coordinator