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Sail Monterey Bay

Pacific Yachting & Sailing's Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How far in advance should I make a reservation for my sailing course, Skippered Charter, or Team Challenge Regatta?

A: For one of our weekend courses, you'll increase your chances of securing a place by giving us at least a couple of weeks notice (You can call 2-5 days prior to the start date and join the class if there are openings). Note: You can be a single person for any of our group classes that we put together regularly.

To schedule a Six- or Eight-Day Course, we'd appreciate a 2-3 week notice. However, with 14 boats and 25 USCG-licensed skippers we should be able to arrange a Six- or Eight-Day course within 5 days.

If you want a private 8 day course (8 consecutive days or 4 weekends), you can start on any date you choose.

Q: What if I have to cancel my reservation?

A: If you notify us seven days in advance of the beginning of your class, we'll give you a 100% refund. Within three days (72 hours), we'll return 50%. Sorry, we can't refund anything if you notify us less than 24 hours prior to your class unless it's an extreme medical emergency.

Q: What happens if Pacific Yachting & Sailing cancels my class?

A: Infrequently, we are forced to cancel a class. Typically, this happens during the winter, stormy season when we have to cancel due to inclement weather and/or hazardous sea conditions. If this occurs, you'll be given the option of rescheduling you class to another date, or receiving a full refund of any monies already paid toward your course.

What to Bring/What to Expect

Q: What should I bring when I attend my sailing course?

A: Soft-soled, comfortable shoes, a warm jacket and sweater, and a windbreaker. To protect yourself from the sun, bring a billed hat, UV-blocking sunglasses and sunscreen. Gloves provide easier holding of lines and help prevent chafe. They don't have to be "sailing gloves"-bicycling, golf, weight-training, even garden gloves will work. Pacific Yachting and Sailing provides comfortable lifejackets and foul weather gear, if needed. It's a good idea to pack a lunch. There are several good eateries within walking distance. However, you may be rushed returning to class by the end of the 1/2-hour lunch break.

Although it's rare that students get seasick during instruction, we have found the seaband - wrist bands are very helpful in preventing queasiness. They are now sold in any drug store or West Marine Products. Cost is under $10.00.

There is another sea band worn on the inner wrist, called the nausea-quelling ReliefBand. It helps avert motion sickness by emitting gentle electrical signals thet interfere with nerves that cause nausea. It's reusable and side effect free. We've heard it works great and is effective 93% of the time. Cost is $74.

Q: Where do I park?

A. You can purchase a parking permit from the pay station in front of F dock and park in the spaces that are labeled Visitor Parking. F dock is just before our office which is in front of FF dock. The cost for parking is $1.25 per hr. The neighborhood streets above Aldo's restaurant is free parking. It's about a 5-10 minute walk to our office if you prefer not to pay for parking.

If you are bareboating or taking a six or eight day consecutive course, we give you a special permit at no charge that must be returned.

Q: How many students are there in each class? What is the instructor to student ratio?

A: We schedule a maximum of three to four students in each class, with one instructor (1:4 Instructor/Student Ratio). In any of our courses you can close the class at two students, for an additional charge. Please see course descriptions for prices.

Q: We'd prefer a female instructor. Is this possible?

A: We do our best to accommodate these requests. We have several excellent female instructors. If one is available on the date(s) you choose to take your course, we'd be happy to schedule her.

Q: What should I expect as far as wind, sea and other local weather conditions?

A: We're located on the Monterey Bay in Central California directly on the Pacific Ocean. Some people say that we have the best winds and sailing conditions in the world. Wind speeds typically range from 15-25 knots (17-29 mph) from March through October. During the summer months, we can get coastal fog in the mornings, which typically burns off by around 10-11am. The winds pick up in the late morning/early afternoon. During the winter months (November – February), winds are generally lighter, except during seasonal storms. Because we are located directly on the Pacific, you can get a taste of real ocean sailing at times.

This is one of the things that distinguishes Pacific Yachting and Sailing from other sailing schools is the exposure to the challenges of learning to sail on the open ocean. We teach our students how to prepare themselves and their boat for safe open ocean sailing. In our sailing area, there are many protected areas, which allow for sailing in calmer winds and seas as well.

Six- and Eight-Day Courses

Q: What is the difference between the Six-Day and the Eight-Day Courses?

A: The Six-Day Course is designed so that a student with a dedicated desire can become proficient in sailing a 27-34 foot sailboat. Completion of the Six-Day Course prepares students to take the ASA Basic Coastal Cruising (ASA 103).

This is the level of certification required by many charter companies to bareboat charter, however we require following through 8 days total, completing the extra 2 day Bareboat Course (ASA 104) to be able to charter our boats on the Pacific Ocean. All charter companies have different requirements to Bareboat Charter (you are the captain with a competent crew). Many companies will require a 2 hour practical check-out no matter what certification you have.

The Eight-Day Course provides the student with an additional two days of practice and instruction to learn more advanced sailing skills. Completion of the Eight-Day Course prepares you to take the ASA Bareboat Chartering.

When a student has completed eight consecutive days, and they have completed all of the practical requirements, our USCG Licensed Captain can certify them to the ASA Bareboat level without a review /check-out. We incorporate a check-out for no extra charge in the last day of an 8 day course(Bareboat Chartering).

Q. Will I be certified to take out 28-46 foot sailboats on the Monterey Bay after 6 days of instruction?

A. Most students that complete 3 week-ends or six consecutive days - which include the Basic Sailing & Seamanship, Basic Coastal Cruising & Intermediate Coastal Cruising courses will satisfy the ASA practical requirements for the Basic Coastal Cruising level certification (ASA 103). Note: Pacific Yachting requires that a sailor has ASA or US Sailing Bareboat Certification (104) or that they can pass our practical check-out.

The ASA certification package is $238.00 which includes: Membership to ASA, ASA Log Book, three textbooks-"Sailing Made Easy, Coastal Cruising Made Easy, and Bareboat Cruising Made Easy", the ASA Basic Keelboat, Basic Coastal Cruising and Bareboat Chartering written exams-

We recommend following through 8 days total, completing the extra 2 day Bareboat Course to refine all of your skills to near perfection.

You can take the ASA written exams after you pass the practical check-out.

Because students learn at different paces, we cannot guarantee you will be certified within any time period. However, if you are a good listener, and prove to pick up the essential skills that show you are comfortable with all aspects of boat handling & sailing, you will likely get certified in eight days.

Q: Can I charter boats with Pacific Yachting after six days of instruction if I passed the Basic Coastal Cruising Certification requirement?

A. Here on the Pacific Ocean we require that all of our Bareboat Charterers (you are the Captain) have the Bareboat Certification (8 days) and have at least one crew member that has Basic Coastal Cruising experience. There are many charter companies in less challenging areas that only require Basic Coastal Cruising certification.

Q: Is there any advantage in taking the Six/-Eight-Day Course over three/four weekends?

A: Students who take our courses 8 days consecutively, statistically seem to retain the practical requirements for certification better than those who take the courses on intermittant weekends.

However, students that complete 4 week-ends consecutively or close together, usually do fine passing the practical requirements for Bareboat Certification.

Q: When can I start my Six-/Eight-Day Course?

A: You can start at any time. Our courses are offered year around. The Six- and Eight-Day Courses typically begin on Monday. With advance notice, we will try to accommodate start dates other than Monday.

If you choose to pay a small percentage more for a private class (two students) you can start at any date.

Q: Which of your boats are used for instruction? In the Six- and Eight-Day Courses, will I be on the same boat for the entire session or does it vary day-to-day?

A: We teach on a variety of sizes and types of sailing vessels (we have a fleet of 14 boats). In the Basic Sailing and Seamanship course (Days 1 and 2 of Six-/Eight-Day Course), you'll learn on an 27-30 foot , tiller steering, sloop-rigged keelboat. For Basic/Intermediate Coastal Cruising (Days 3-6), we use one of our 30-34 foot wheel steering, auxiliary powered sailboats. For the Bareboat Chartering course(Days 7-8), you'll be on a 34-36 foot wheel-steering, auxiliary powered sloop.

Q: Will I have the same instructor for the entire six/eight days?

A: Typically, we schedule from two to four different instructors for the Six- and Eight-Day Courses. We do this for a couple of reasons. First, we've found that the learning experience is enhanced when students have the opportunity to benefit from the varied experience and teaching styles of different instructors. From a purely practical standpoint, many of our instructors have other commitments, which preclude scheduling one instructor for six or eight consecutive days.

Q: What boat will I live aboard for the Six- or Eight-Day Course? Will there be other students staying on the same boat?

A: The boat you'll be staying on is moored at our docks. You'll be assigned to one of our 30-34 foot wheel-steering, auxiliary powered sailboats. The accommodations are simple, adequate and comfortable. All of the yachts have sleeping berths, galleys (kitchens) with cooking stoves and iceboxes, and heads (bathrooms). Additional bathrooms with showers are close by our docks. There are several local restaurants, grocery stores, a state beach and even a museum all within easy walking distance of your boat.
Bedding linen and towels will be provided, if requested, at an additional cost of $120 per couple/$80 single.
Students who register individually for the course can be assigned to separate boats if they are available. If not, the individual boats have separate cabins, assuring your privacy. If you are taking a course as a group, your group (of up to 2students maximum) will be staying on the same vessel.

Q: May we cook meals onboard?

A: Cooking is permitted onboard. Because most of our students do not cook onboard, and bareboat charters are usually short term, our boats have minimal cooking supplies. There are many very reasonably priced restaurants within easy walking or driving distance.

Q: We would like to stay aboard the night before and after our course. Is that OK?

A: Staying aboard the night before your class begins is difficult for us to accommodate logistically. Our office closes at 2:00pm on weekends (although our Instructors are still teaching up to 4:30p.m.-7:00p.m.), so staff are not available to orient you to your boat.

In addition, most of our boats are not cleaned until Monday morning after Sunday's charters. We prefer that you stay in a local hotel or inn the night prior to your class.

Generally, there's no problem with staying onboard the last evening of your Six-/Eight-Day Course. However, we'd appreciate it if you'd have the boat available by 8am the next day in case it's chartered.

Q: Are we required to clean the boat we've been living on at the end of the 8 day course?

A. We ask all students to just leave the boat in the condition that they received it in. Also, we appreciate it that you have the boat you may be sleeping on ready to go sailing every day. The instructor may not necessarily use the boat you're living on, but if they do, it's good to have everything stowed so that you won't have to do it during onboard instruction time.

Q: What's the best way to get to Santa Cruz Harbor?

A: Most people fly into either the San Jose or San Francisco Airports. You can either take the Airporter van (831-423-1214) which will take you directly to our office ($99.00 per person, one-way) or rent a car (all major car rental agencies have offices at SJC). It's a 45-50 minute drive from San Jose International Airport. From San Francisco International, plan on 1-1/2 hours. To get the exact directions to our office, please go to this page on our website: location

ASA/US Sailing Certification

Q: Is there any advantage to going the certification route?

A: ASA and US Sailing are both nationally recognized sailing certification and accreditation programs. These organizations, which include sailing schools, charter companies, sailing instructors and sailors, set competency standards for both sailing knowledge and on- the-water skills for sailors and instructors from basic to offshore sailing levels.

Certification simply means a person has demonstrated a standard of proficiency by passing both written and on-the-water skills test (much like a driver's license). It provides a means for charter companies to assess a sailor's ability.

The Basic Coastal Cruising and Bareboat Chartering standards meet the requirements of many chartering situations. While certification provides a basis for chartering companies to evaluate a customer's competency, even with ASA or US Sailing certification many charter companies may require an on-the-water test of sailing skill (called a "practical checkout") before chartering.

All Pacific Yachting and Sailing courses incorporate the standards of ASA and US Sailing. You receive the same course content and expert instruction whether or not you're on "the certification track". Unlike other sailing schools which require that you go through either the ASA or US Sailing Certification Program, Pacific Yachting and Sailing offers ASA or US Sailing certification as an option (available at additional cost). This gives you the flexibility to structure your sailing instruction to fit your needs, not the sailing school's! Because we provide certification only to those who want it, we can offer our courses at considerably lower cost than you'll find at other area schools.

Whether or not you chose certification, you will receive training, which goes beyond the requirements of ASA or US Sailing. Our goal is to turn you into an excellent, knowledgeable sailor, able to pass any charter company's practical checkout, if required.

If you are primarily interested in chartering from us, or if your plans include someday owning your own sailboat, then perhaps certification is not for you. For those who choose not to take the certification exams, we can give qualified graduates our Pacific Yachting and Sailing Coastal/Ocean Certificate at no additional charge. This entitles the sailor to charter PYS' sailing vessels. We highly recommend that the sailor maintain documented sailing time at least once every three months to keep our certificate valid.

Our staff is happy to discuss your sailing goals and assist you in deciding whether or not certification will help you reach those goals.

*While certification provides a basis for chartering companies to evaluate a customer's competency, even with ASA or US Sailing certification many charter companies may require an on-the-water test of sailing skill (called a "practical checkout") before chartering.
**PY&S Charter Certification is available to others who successfully challenge the Practical Checkout.

Students can take the ASA written exams at any time after they have taken the appropriate practical course(s). Most students that are local come back after the 8 days of instruction (up to the Bareboat level) and take the 3 exams at one time. Students taking the 8 day consecutive liveaboard course usually take the written exams in the evening, after the practical class time. The exams are not open book.

Optionally, the ASA certification package includes: Membership to ASA, the ASA Log Book, three textbooks-"Sailing Made Easy, Coastal Cruising Made Easy, and Cruising Fundamentals", the ASA Basic Keelboat, Basic Coastal Cruising and Bareboat Chartering written exams-$220.00

ASA Advanced Coastal Cruising written exam (includes Coastal Navigation) - $50.


Q: If a friend and I join at the same time, can we get a discount on the price of membership?

A: Yes. If you and a friend each purchase a membership at the same time and pay in advance for the entire year, the cost is $255 each. That's 15% off the regular annual cost of $325.00!

Q: What's the advantage of joining the Membership program?

10% off of all courses. 15-50% off of all bareboat charters. Discounts with other charter companies worldwide. Discounts on foreign charters.

Practical Checkout

Q: What will I be required to do to pass the practical check-out?

A: The Practical Checkout assesses the sailor's ability to competently and safely handle a sailboat under both sail and motor power in all wind and sea conditions with confidence, precision and ease.

Practical skills assessed in the checkout include: docking and maneuvering under power in tight quarters, reefing, coastal navigation, all points of sail with appropriate sail trim and steerage, controlled jibes, tacking, anchoring, crew overboard recovery, proper boat set-up and securing, and more. Knowing the correct action in a given situation, communicating clearly to the crew what is expected, and performing the maneuver with precision and confidence (what we call "Command Presence") are also critical components of the sailor's boat handling abilities. The skipper's performance is rated on a "pass/fail" basis.

If you are not earnestly confident that you can perform all of the practical checkout requirements, we recommend that you take a Review session, one of our courses or a private lesson before challenging the Practical Checkout. We incorporate a check-out for no extra charge in the last day of an 8 day course (Bareboat Chartering).

Q. I've owned my boat for 30 years. Will I still have to take a practical check-out?

A. The Pacific Yachting staff will review your resume and compare the areas in which you've been sailing to ours here on the Pacific Ocean. If you haven't practiced docking unfamiliar boats, reefing, picking up a man over board using the figure 8 and coming to a dead stop to the victim, coastal navigation,and sailing in heavy winds, then we would politely ask you to do a check out.

We've found that although many sailors are very good at sailing and they haven't much experience docking an unfamiliar boat in tight quarters, man overboard, and navigation, they can't pass our check-out.

Many sailors choose to pay one of our Captains for a 1/2 day or more to review the necessary skills and get checked out privately. This is a good idea even if you own a boat or are certified in an area that is not as challenging as the Pacific Ocean. You would just pay for the cost of the boat (see Bareboat Charters on the left frame) and the captain- $30.00 per hr.

A 3 hour check out for a cost of $310.00.

There cost of the check-out does not get deducted from the Bareboat charter cost. If you do not pass a check-out, we recommend taking a group class, or chartering with a private captain (see above) to refine your skills and pass all of our ocean going standards.


Q: I am considering taking a similar course with another organization in the BVIs. What's the advantage of taking the course at your location?

A: You'll get a beautiful tan and some wonderful snorkeling experience in the BVI's. You'll also get a good sailing education there. Here in Santa Cruz, you're sailing education will be superior to that in the BVI's, as it will prepare you for more challenging wind and sea conditions. Most students that take courses in Florida, the Caribbean, and San Diego need additional on-the-water experience here in Central California before we allow them to bareboat charter. They usually are not prepared for the conditions we encounter here. Our graduates can and do go around the world chartering with no problem passing a checkout.

Q: Why is the cost of instruction at Pacific Yachting lower than most other sailing schools I've found?

We are a small established sailing school that has been in business since 1979. Because it's always slower on weekdays, the Six- and Eight-Day Courses help to fill up those times. So, you benefit from our desire to increase business during slower times. Some business is better than no business. Also, the quality of education that the students get by from our excellent, high paid USCG instructors is insurmountable. It comes back to us in many referrals.

What type of Certifications are available?
  • Pacific Yachting & Sailing offers nationally recognized bareboat (you are the Captain) charter certification called the American Sailing Association Certification.
Certification requires that the skipper pass a standardized on-the-water examination of sailing skills, called the Practical Checkout. The ASA Sailing certifications require, in addition, written examinations.

American Sailing Association
  • Five levels of certification are available at Pacific Yachting & Sailing; Basic Keelboat, Basic & Intermediate Coastal Cruising, Bareboat Chartering, Coastal Navigation and Advanced Coastal Cruising
  • Must pass Practical Checkout
  • Must pass written examinations
ASA Basic Keelboat Certification
  • Does not allow skipper to bareboat Pacific Yachting & Sailing charter boats.
  • In practice, most students who are interested in ASA Certification wait until they have completed the four primary (two day courses), and then test for Basic Keelboat, Basic Coastal Cruising, and Bareboat Chartering at the same time.
  • Most students who take the weekend or 6-Day course achieve the ASA Basic Keelboat standard during course time.
ASA Basic Coastal Cruising Certification
  • Must pass on-the-water examination
  • Must pass written examination
  • Does not allow the skipper to bareboat Pacific Yachting & Sailing charter boats, however some other charter companies may honor the certification.
* Because Pacific Yachting & Sailing is located on the Pacific Ocean, we require that all Skippers that want to charter have the ASA or US Sailing Bareboat Certification and have a first mate that has the Basic Coastal Cruising skills (not necessarily the certification)

ASA Bareboat Chartering
  • Must pass on-the-water examination
  • Must pass written examination
  • Most students can pass the Bareboat Chartering standard during course time.
ASA Advanced Coastal Cruising
  • Must pass on-the-water examination
  • Must pass written examination
  • Most students can pass the Advanced Coastal Cruising standard during course time.
ASA Coastal Navigation
  • Must pass written examination
  • This is the only ASA certification that is a take home open book exam.
Certification Procedures
  • On-the-water Examination
  • Practical Checkout Form is completed for each student and turned in to office
  • Six- or Eight-Day students must pass on-the-water examination to be certified. Students from out of the area may challenge the on-the-water examination during course time, typically on the final day of their class. If they do not pass the standard for BCC (6-Day) or BBC (8-Day) they can be certified to a lower level (e.g., BKB or BCC), assuming they meet the standards.
Written Examinations
  • Written examinations cannot be taken home
  • Student is given written examination(s) by office staff
  • Six- or Eight-Day students are given exams at beginning of course and allowed to work on them during their stay. They are encouraged to use instructors as resources for questions they have difficulty with. The examinations must be completed and given to office staff before the student returns home.
  • Weekend students are scheduled for written examinations after they complete their course.