After teaching hundreds of students to sail, a re-occuring truism continues to emerge. Learning to sail is best done on a small tiller boat. This concept is not new. It is probably as old as sailing itself. This fact is demonstrated in the ASA instruction standards. It is in line with most internationally recognized organizations and experts such as Bob Perry, most recently in a "2010 Sailing" magazine article.
Personally, for a Basic Keelboat class we prefer; a sloop rigged sailboat of about 22' - 26' in length, a fixed keel, tiller, and hank on sails as a school boat for Basic Keelboat instruction classes. A boat of this size can sleep 5, has a head, (toilet), and a small galley, (kitchen). Yes, you may learn to sail keelboats on larger vessels; 34' with a wheel, roller furling and, an inboard diesel. But...
A smaller boat accelerates the learning curve. We won't have to coach you into feeling the effects of a gust. Chances are your body felt the pressure change in the tiller and the change in heel angle. It won't be neccessary for us to coach you into feeling the effect of the mainsheet traveler on weather helm, your tired hands and arms will thank you when the traveler is eased to leeward, the boat flattens, and the tension on the mainsheet is reduced, the boat accelerates, re-trim the main... Heaven! So much of sailing is feel! When you learn on a small boat you become sensitive to the small variances of boat attitude and rhythm. The same sensitivities apply to sailing larger boats but... it is much more difficult to sense or be aware of these movements without first having experienced them on a smaller vessel. The advantage to the student is the accelerated learning curve. The skill sets and tactics learned on a smaller boat apply directly to larger vessels. However, the student will have a greater degree of understanding of the underlying principles and a greater ability to make better informed judgments on boat handling.
We teach the Basic Keelboat on our 25' Catalina, liveaboard classes are held on a Hunter 31'. The difference between a 31' and a larger, say 38' boat, is miniscule. If you understand the basic concepts you will not have any problems adjusting. An ideal class size is 2 - 4 students. We do not book any classes with more than 4 students and the liveaboard classes are limited to 3. Unless special arrangements have been made.
Our sail training ensures that even the Basic Keelboat Sailing class is exposed to actual situations involving; commercial ship channels, commercial ship traffic, Rules of the Road, (Right of way), under sail and under power. Advanced classes sail in; the Intracoastal Waterway, various ship channels, several area bays, and usually the Gulf of Mexico. Whether sailing on an inland lake or in the Caribbean you will have achieved a level of confidence that will allow you to make the appropriate and timely command decision.
The goal at each level is to give the student as much knowledge as possible without having a melt down. As a rule the lectures and discussions go well beyond the ASA minimums. The vast majority of students score well on their written tests, not because they were coached with answers rather, because they acquired an in depth understanding of the material.
2848B Alameda, Corpus Christi, TX 78404