Learning to Sail: ASA 101 Basic Keel Boat

August 16, 2016

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One of the highlights of our summer has been continuing our sailing journey together.  We both love the freedom of being out on the water, the challenge of getting from point A to point B using only the wind, and most especially working as a team.  Sailing is so rewarding for us, and I am so thankful we’ve found a hobby that makes us both excited!

Someday, we hope to do some serious cruising, but we have a long way to go before that’s a reality for us.  We don’t mind the wait (too much) because the process of getting ready for that phase of life is a lot of fun!  We love learning more about sailing, getting more experience on the water, and dreaming of what the future may hold!  A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to take the next step in our sailing journey, and we had a blast!


Sailing is not like driving a car where you need to take a road test and get a license.  If you want to buy a sailboat, get on out there and sail with no training whatsoever, no one’s going to stop you.  Poof, you’re a sailor!  But, I am willing to bet you are not a very good one; in fact, I think going that route is straight up reckless.

As a captain of a sailboat you are responsible for yourself, everyone else on board & in many circumstances people/boats outside your vessel.  If you decide to go the no-training route, damaging your boat and hurting yourself or someone else is a very real possibility.  Which is why Brian & I both believe you should have some training before you just buy a boat & head out.

If you’ve got a buddy who knows what he’s doing, and they are willing to let a very green sailor practice on their boat, that might be a good way to get the experience you need.  Nothing wrong with that approach, although you might find it difficult to charter a sailboat yourself in the future; some companies won’t rent their boats out to people who don’t have official certifications.

We decided that the best way for us to learn to sail was through formal sailing lessons.  We knew that a professional instructor would be able to help us become confident sailors.


Last summer, Brian & I took sailing lessons at the marina on the Navy base in Groton.  It was an excellent course, which taught a lot of sailing fundamentals.  Passing this course was also your ticket to renting the small 15’ Mercury sailboats owned by the marina.  We had a lot of fun in that class and then going on some sailing adventures last summer on the Thames River, but we were ready for a bigger boat, and more significant body of water.


Our next step was the first level of the American Sailing Association’s classes.  The American Sailing Association is one of the most reputable sailing schools in the world.  Taking their classes not only helps you become a competent & confident sailor, but it also opens the door to charter larger sailboats yourself!  They have locations all over the U.S., but we did our training at the American Sailing Academy in New London, CT.


The American Sailing Association has a lot of different classes, but this summer we took their intro class; ASA 101: Basic Keel Boat.  Here’s how they describe the goals of this course:

[Students will be] able to skipper a sloop-rigged keelboat of approximately 20 to 27 feet in length by day in light to moderate winds (up to 15 knots) and sea conditions. Knowledge of basic sailing terminology, parts and functions, helm commands, basic sail trim, points of sail, buoyage, seamanship and safety including basic navigation rules to avoid collisions and hazards.

A few weeks before our class began, our instructor mailed us the course materials so we could study up!  If you ever plan on taking this class, I HIGHLY recommend that you read through the textbook several times and take all the practice exams!  The night before the class started, we were both excited… and I was a little nervous; there was so much to learn!!

Stay tuned; I will be posting about our first day in ASA 101 soon.  I have some pictures to share!

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  • The Dahls Do Disney: Part II
  • Learning to Sail: ASA 101 Basic Keel Boat
  • Vacation Day 3- Travel to Zion
  • Vacation Day 4- Zion National Park
  • Dahls Do Disney: Part IV
Brian & Katie Larger

Meet Brian & Katie Dahl, a couple living in New England with their dog Molly. Most of the time you can find us working on our home renovation, or cooking up something new in the kitchen, but our favorite thing is having adventures & sailing... read more.



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  1. By Land and Sea on Tuesday- August 16, 2016 at 4:36 PM

    I love this post! We are hoping to get more boat-oriented later in life too! So much to learn – thanks for sharing!!

    • Katie on Thursday- August 18, 2016 at 8:20 PM

      It is really fun; I had no idea how much I would enjoy it when my husband first suggested we try it!

  2. Barbara on Tuesday- August 16, 2016 at 11:30 PM

    Oh, how I have loved sailing (even though I haven’t had the opportunity in years). I never knew that you could sail without a license or training. It seems that formal training would be the way to go. Love your lead photo, can’t wait to see more. 🙂

    • Katie on Thursday- August 18, 2016 at 8:21 PM

      I was so surprised when I found out you didn’t need a license! I can’t imagine going out without training; there is just too much to know & understand! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Anonymous on Wednesday- August 17, 2016 at 11:18 AM

    Great post! I just finished my first sailing course yesterday. It was on a catamaran. I love it and hope to do more sailing in the future!

    • Katie on Thursday- August 18, 2016 at 8:22 PM

      That’s fun; I’ve never been on a catamaran before!!

  4. Cath @ This Mama Learns on Wednesday- August 17, 2016 at 7:14 PM

    Wow, that’s amazing! I’ve never even thought about learning how to sail. I can’t believe you can just buy a sailboat and go for it though. Surely that’s super dangerous to everyone?

    • Katie on Thursday- August 18, 2016 at 8:23 PM

      I would think so!! I can’t imagine sailing without training!

  5. Patricia @ Grab a Plate on Wednesday- August 17, 2016 at 8:49 PM

    Very cool! My husband took sailing classes through ASA, too. We live in the desert, and although there are several lakes nearby, he really doesn’t sail much. Glad you and yours are enjoy yourselves and learning the ropes, too!

    • Katie on Thursday- August 18, 2016 at 8:24 PM

      Sad! We live in New England, right along the coast, so we have water aplenty! But I do love the desert; so pretty!

  6. Anna on Friday- August 19, 2016 at 7:44 PM

    Such an informative post! Thanks for sharing your insights.

  7. Anonymous on Sunday- August 21, 2016 at 5:31 PM

    I absolutely love that you guys are learning to sail! It would be a dream come true for me!

  8. Liz on Sunday- August 21, 2016 at 10:05 PM

    I love this post! I’ve wanted to learn how to sail for a while now, but have been hesitant because I don’t know where to start. Thanks for sharing!

  9. April on Monday- August 22, 2016 at 12:36 AM

    wow! you guys are brave souls. I always wanted to do sailing or learn how to sail but I’m such a chicken. It amazing you guys are doing this …keep it up and keep us posted !