Recommendations from Certified Sailors Featured

By  Jun 02, 2015


S A I L I N G  T H E  B V I  


December 2012

My journey to learn to sail began in Denver, CO, for ASA 101 and 103, and then on to San Diego for ASA 104 and 105. I had the good fortune to experience excellent schools with very competent captains. However, the most significant part of my journey came in December, 2012 with Carl Richardson, who owns and operates the Vancouver Sailing Club (VSC) and Sailing School in  downtown Vancouver, British Columbia.

I was looking for a December experience in the Caribbean to accomplish ASA 106 and I was a party of one—which made my search all the more difficult. The VSC had a great venue available, 9 days aboard a 39-foot SUNSAIL catamaran exploring the British Virgin Islands. Following discussions with Carl, I signed on with the added benefit of taking ASA 114 as well as 106. Carl’s thinking really resonated with me. He felt it took at least 9 days to ensure you were steeped in what it took to skipper a boat in all conditions. I came to know the wisdom of his words as Carl is one of those sailor’s sailors who has raced and voyaged all over the world.

He made sure we had the opportunity to study our books, but we were there to learn what being a skipper means, and we spent the bulk of our time doing just that. His incredible enthusiasm for sailing, and sailing right, came across in so many ways. Safety was always paramount- from the condition of the boat to the rules for pfd’s. I watched other sailors who were meandering around the BVI’s during the course of our time there, and I came to understand that there are sailors, and then there are SAILORS. Carl’s attention to detail made him stand tall as I compared sailors. I am sure there are many there who hold the appropriate credentials, but the number who were real sailors were far fewer. In some cases the differences were quite obvious—the way the sails were luffing when they should not have been, motoring when the winds were fair, mainsails hanging all over the boom when in anchorages, lines not tied up, etc. General boat appearance and condition were items Carl drilled us on as those were indicators of how the skipper viewed his responsibilities.

Carl wanted us to get the feel for sail trim without consulting our books, and he put us in numerous situations where we had to apply our knowledge, not simply regurgitate it on a test. We practiced trimming and shaping sails in every possible point-of- sail in winds varying from 6 knots to 32 knots. For example, one day we set sail from Jost Van Dyke to Anegada Island- a course which was largely in the face of 24 to 32-knot winds. As the day wore on, sails began to disappear and other boats headed in for calmer waters or anchorages. Soon we were the only sails to be seen, and we were given the opportunity of optimizing close-hauled sail shape, sail trim and reefing early as never before. We eventually needed to make a course change since we determined we could not reach our "Plan A" destination before dark. As we beared-away to our "Plan B" course on a beam reach we felt very confident in our new skills and made it through the entrance of Gorda Sound, Virgin Gorda in plenty of time for happy hour on the deck of the Saba Rock Resort.

"We" is a key word here, because although our crew of four had never met before and had different levels of knowledge and experience, Carl made sure we all rotated through every responsibility, in all points of sail and weather conditions. We shared boat maintenance duties, navigation and chart functions, hauling sheets and halyards, tidying lines, making coffee, cooking an abundance of fresh food, doing dishes, and even emptying the toilet/ head holding tanks. We practiced man overboard recovery, reefing sails, mooring, anchoring, and docking, and learned to drive the boat with sails and engines. We also swam and snorkeled together every day, dined onshore as a group each evening, and came to think of ourselves as a team. Not just a team, but a damn good team considering what we observed in the BVI’s.

We knew we could call on each other to accomplish any task and that we shared responsibility for getting it done right. The skills Carl taught us were acknowledged when we sailed most of the way into an anchorage one day before dropping sails and motoring the last 50 yards to our buoy. Sailors on other moored boats took notice of our skills and waved as we sailed on in. We understood that our pride in our seamanship was reflected in how we handled our boat, how our sails were trimmed, how we used the wind to get us where we wanted to go.

And isn’t that what sailing is? Thank you Carl for a most awesome voyage, for sharing your knowledge with us, and for teaching us what being a Skipper is all about.

Scott Smith, Colorado Springs, CO

Certifications ASA 101, 103, 104, 105, 106, 114

Please note:

2014 Dates for Cruise & Learn - BVI are Feb 17-24, Feb 17-March 3, April 21-28, April 28- May 5- Join Us!


S A I L I N G  in the G U L F  I S L A N D S

on a Vancouver Sailing Club CRUISE & LEARN 

October 2012

I have recently begun a path to obtain all of my certifications for chartering. I have sailed and power boated for many years, but never before bothered with the certification process. In the past 12 months I have taken and passed numerous ASA certifications (101,103,104, 105 in progress, 106, and 114). Through these months I have had direct experience with 2 ASA schools and met and interacted with quite a number of other students from other sailing schools.   The second school the Vancouver Sailing Club and Sailing School was vastly superior to the first, and I have completed several courses with them.

In choosing a sailing school, my first experience has always been on the phone.  Having spent 25 years developing Customer Service help desks from the initial concepts in the 1980's through managing 30,000 desktop client environments more recently, I can assure you that the first point of contact into a service oriented company will likely establish your overall experience. As such, I easily weeded out a number of ASA schools simply based upon the schools professionalism and interaction in the initial phone call point-of-contact. After that I reviewed the schools based upon Internet research.  This weeded out several more due to complaints. Finally, having achieved the best selection I could from phone calls and research, I proceeded to book the class and make travel arrangements.

My first choice of a school had me wondering what went wrong with the above process. However I did learn a great deal about sailing in the BVI and about a sailing Instructors skills required when trying to create a cohesive crew from a group of total strangers with only the common interest in learning to sail.

My first memory is of our first schools Captains' explanation of such basics as sail raising, sail reefing, and points of sail- it was amazing to see the total confusion and frustration of students.  Every course I've been on had the pre-requisite requirement for the students to have read and performed solo testing of the Sailing Instruction Manuals.  However, the difference between reading a book and actually standing on the foredeck of a rolling boat was quite a difference.    The first experiences of our 4 member crew were of confusion and shame for not knowing what to do. 

With the Captain yelling instructions (I say yelling because a louder voice is required with wind, rigging, waves, and of course dialog between strangers) the Students had various reactions to this environment.   Once they had actually performed the duties, seen the results and returned to the cockpit, most everything settled down and became more comfortable. In talking with other students from other schools the experience varies greatly.  Most students believe that they are personally being yelled at directly, not as a crew member, but as a person.  From my observation many of these students come from office environments.  I explained my perspective to them and the change in attitude they had was remarkable.  However there were exceptions, I did interact (not from a learning position, but just being at the same BVI anchorage) with school Captains who really did yell at students and did denigrate them.  This unfortunately appeared to be the Captains instruction style. 

Having spent years of camping and travel to foreign countries, the first negative experiences of are generally with food.   I found on my first Cruise & Learn that the Students expected some sort of gourmet food on board.    Every student had a different idea of what that food was.  The sailing school's advertisement said that all meals were included.  Well, this means basic breakfast cereals, fruit, perhaps eggs, sandwiches, and basic dinners.    I quickly appreciated the Captain's who would offer the evening dining out experience. Their choice of anchorages normally included a bay with a couple of resort offerings.  The Students were disappointed that their dinners and drinks were not included.  In all honesty though, they were offered the choice of staying aboard and cooking their own, or going ashore.

I chose the Vancouver Sailing Club for my next Cruise & Learn experience in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. Upon  my arrival in Vancouver, I met with my Instructor and Skipper, Carl Richardson, and found a friend and teacher. The professionalism of having a real office, with study area, books, charts, navigation tools etc was quite a relief.  I think prospective students of sailing are surprised to find that many schools do not have brick and mortar buildings.  They have only the boat located somewhere in the world.  

Carl immediately sat me down in the office and inquired about what I needed to reach my sailing  goals.  I explained that I did not have the proper gear recommended for sailing in Vancouver and had purposely not purchased any, believing that Vancouver would have the type of stores to have the proper gear.  Carl, despite a hectic schedule, took me shopping to the perfect stores.  Carl spent his own time explaining the strengths of the various clothing & gear manufacturers products, getting me fitted correctly and utilizing VSC's business accounts to obtain significant discounts for my purchases.  Carl's attention did not stop there, he took me to another store where the final article "gortex socks" could be purchased. I have found that Carl's kindness and attention to this type of situation is his trademark.

My first  school had distractions (the Captain's personal relationship problems were evident), the poor maintenance of the boat, the horrific scheduling demands, etc.  Sailing with VSC was quite different. At the VSC, it was all about learning- to- sail with confidence and cruising enjoyment.  Our instruction yacht "ClaraALLEGRO" was a 2011 Beneteau First 36.7 sloop cruiser/racer in almost new condition.  Yes, there were some issues, but the issues became an opportunity to learn and were remedied in a timely fashion.

Our skippers' life was revealed only for learning sailing. Carl's experiences around the world were relayed in contextual reference for anchorage selection, anchor techniques, windage, currents, tide comparisons, navigation, boat designs, sail rigging, trimming sails etc.    

Carl's first moments with the 4 of us were spent in finding out about our sailing history and anything that would detract from the crews comfort or performance.  For myself I have a hearing problem with my left ear.  I explained this, and for the rest of the 7 days, Carl always, always made sure to remind the other crew.  Over the 7 days the crew took the time to remember this and help with communications.  I've never had a greater group to work with.

Every moment of sailing was spent learning.  If we were on a steady course, then Carl would review everything we had just been through, or other things that were to come up shortly.  We cruised through harbors identifying the rigging and differences of other boats.  Each day we logged our maintenance regimen, morning navigation review, constant attention to ATONs, right- of- way traffic, hazards of all manners, the approaching wind on the water, the lack of wind areas, weather changes etc.  Since we were in British Columbia the wonders of this area were also pointed out- seals, sea lions, dolphins, snow capped mountains, the constant float planes; a spectacular place of land and sea.    We took particular care in Navigation with Carl working with the Skipper and the Navigator of the Day always checking positions, hazards, velocity, current effects, tide ebbs and floods, etc.  The assigned watch/deckhands were constantly busy as well.  There was never a moment of confusion, everyone and I mean everyone knew exactly what was going on at all times.  I could not ask for a better lesson in "living in the moment".

The food was basic, but great.  Carl took us all along to the market for provisioning.  Beforehand we discussed food allergies, preparation care, cleanliness, etc.    Carl keeps a tidy boat and the galley was always clean and the food was great.  As a side note;  Carls' stew is incredible.  However, we did spend some evenings at well appointed marinas and had the delight of sampling the Gulf Island's dining establishments.  They were varied in cuisine and uniformly very good.  It was really nice to get off the boat at these times for a walk and use of the Marina's endless hot showers. Visiting the early morning coffee shops were fabulous at regenerating our spirits and energy.

My best experience ever in sailing was sitting at the helm with Carl by my side.  We were on a close reach in the early morning with 15-20 knots of wind, the two other students (now crew) were at my full disposal for sail trimming.  Carl's infinite patience and understanding allowed me to release all anxiety about the boat.  We sat and studied, tested, and observed all the aspects of sail trimming, sail twist, the effects of each and every control as applied to the jib and mainsail. Watching the shapes of the sails change and feeling the "power" differences, different degrees of heel, the actions of the crew, feeling the "groove" of the boat, the helm's "feel", the speed fluctuations on the boat.  It was a beautiful thing.

Carl took 4 total strangers and brought us together as a cohesive, trusting crew.    We all passed both our written and under-way exams for ASA106 certification. We have stayed in touch, and plan sailing together again in the spring with the VSC. Thanks Carl for a great adventure.

Jeff Dull

Colorado Springs, CO

certifications ASA 105, 106, 114

2014 Dates for Cruise & Learn - BVI are Feb 17-24, Feb 17-March 3, April 21-28, April 28- May 5 - Join us !



2008- Present

I have been a student of Vancouver Sailing Club (VSC) and Member of the Club since September 2008, when my wife and I took ASA 101 and 103 on a cruise and learn with Carl Richardson as our Skipper and instructor. We have since taken 104 and 114. I have also completed 105 and am taking 106. We have done many day cruises with Carl and Vaughan Johansen, another VCS instructor. I am in the VSC racing program and completed the VCS 504 Competent Racing Crew course. Over the last 4 years I have been crew for many club races, regattas and several distance races, including Southern Straits and Round Salt Spring Island races.

I heard about VSC from a friend who knew of Carl and suggested I call him, knowing I was interested in learning to sail.  At that time we did not know about the VSC. I recall the first time we talked to Carl. It was long call and he took time to tell us about the club, his qualifications and experience, the courses and the gear we’d need. Being in Canada, I wondered why ASA and he explained how the certification was recognized around the world and a good choice if we wanted to cruise just about anywhere. We connected right away. There was no pressure to sign up. He was friendly and I immediately felt there would be a personal touch rather than being just another student. Turned out I was defintely right about that. He invited us down to see the boat we’d be on and explain some more on how the courses would go. I was convinced and we signed up. He provided course books to study and a few weeks later we were sailing. We had a wonderful time on that first trip. We learned lot and with Carl’s instruction built the confidence that we could become sailors. I was hooked and knew I wanted to do more sailing and take more courses.

I have found Carl to be professional yet friendly and easy going, patient and always happy to take questions and explain things to students at any level.

I think he is an excellent instructor and I’m sure every fellow student would agree. He’s obviously very knowledgeable about sailing. There is always a learning process going on with Carl on these trips. While we are enjoying a sail or at anchor he takes every opportunity to impart some knowledge, even small things, about sailing, seamanship, the boat, equipment, weather, life on board, etc. After four years he is still teaching me things every time we go out.

Carl is always very safety conscious. He encourages wearing PFDs at all times and requires it if the wind picks up. In rough weather jack lines are rigged and each crew is given a tether in case needed. Shortening sail early is discussed and he asks us to think- through putting in a reef. He always shows concern for students, making sure they are feeling okay, get breaks, warm enough in colder conditions  and having a good time. At the beginning of our 104 cruise and learn there were high winds in the strait. I’m sure we could have departed Powell River safely but Carl waited a day because 2 students were brand new to sailing. He later explained he didn’t want to chance them being too nervous the first time out. He wanted them to have positive first experience. We spent that day learning rigging and systems on the boat, practicing knots, charting and studying our books. We left the next day for Desolation Sound in beautiful weather, the start of one of our most enjoyable trips ever.

Carl is very calm and cool when things get a little dicey, as they can do when sailing. On our 114 course in the BVI, when raising the main we had the halyard on our 40 foot cat blown overboard in big gust and through the prop. Later that day both engines failed, due to dirty fuel and rough conditions stirring up the tank as it turned out. In 20-25 knot winds and having only the jib we had to short tack the narrow channel between the reefs to enter the harbour on Virgin Gorda. Even in the harbour the wind was up and we were unable to slow down enough to pick-up and hold onto a mooring buoy under sail. After 10 attempts we had to run to the other sheltered side of the bay to anchor and pray it would set the first time. Thankfully it did and then we set a second anchor to be sure. Throughout the experience, and with some nervous students, Carl was calm and reassuring. If he was nervous it did not show. He was like an airline pilot calmly preparing passengers during an emergency. 

Carl always suggests great sailing locations, anchorages and destinations. Not to mention some fine restaurants, in some pretty remote places. He knows the cruising area very well and is familiar with just about every place we’ve gone and the different routes to get there. Boats are kept in good condition, clean and equipped with everything we need.  Things are kept tidy on deck and below. Carl makes sure the boat is well provisioned and everything is included for meals aboard. We have enjoyed many great meals aboard including our favourites fresh spring salmon steaks with asparagus and maple syrup glazed carrots. 

We’ve met lots of great people on C&Ls sailing in Desolation Sound, Howe Sound, the Gulf Islands and the BVI with VSC and made new friends who look forward to sailing with us next time. Maybe it is a common interest and love of sailing, or the fact that we are all having a great experience- we’ve liked and got along with everyone we sailed with. That’s easy when everyone is having a great time- and I’m sure it has something to do with Carl’s great attitude, enthusiasm, the way he runs the courses and life on the boat.

I would recommend Carl and the VSC to anyone who wants to learn to sail, to improve their sailing skills with advanced courses or get into racing.

Steve Wilson

North Vancouver, BC

2014 Dates for Cruise & Learn - BVI are Feb 17-24, Feb 17-March 3, April 21-28, April 28- May 5 - Join Us!



Last modified on Friday, 05 February 2016 09:52
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