Frequently Asked Questions

What to Bring/What to Expect:
  • Chevron down How far in advance should I make a reservation for my sailing course, skippered charter, or team challenge regatta?
  • 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 to participate in any of our group classes that we put together regularly.

    To schedule a 5-day course, we’d appreciate a 2-3 week notice. However, with 9 boats and 25 USCG-licensed skippers we should be able to arrange a 5-day course within 5 days.

    If you want a private 5-day course (5 consecutive days), you can start on any date you choose.

  • Chevron down What if I have to cancel my reservation?

    If you need to cancel your reservation for a Class please let us know 3-DAYS prior to your scheduled class and, you will receive a full refund if you are not able to reschedule.

    Cancellations less than 3-DAYS prior to your scheduled event will result in a 50% charge of the full cost of your class.

    Cancellations occurring Less than 24 HOURS prior to your scheduled class will not be eligible for a refund and you will be charged for the full price of your scheduled class.

  • Chevron down What happens if Pacific Sail cancels my class?
  • 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, harbor shoaling and/or hazardous sea conditions. If this occurs, you’ll be given the option of rescheduling your class for another date or receiving a full refund of any monies already paid toward your course.

  • Chevron down What should I bring when I attend my sailing course?
  • Soft-soled, comfortable shoes, a warm waterproof or water resistant jacket/windbreaker and a sweater. 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 Sail provides comfortable lifejackets. 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 that 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.

  • Chevron down Where do I park?
  • 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.

  • Chevron down How many students are there in each class? What is the instructor to student ratio?
  • 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.

  • Chevron down We would prefer a female instructor. Is this possible?
  • We do our best to accommodate these requests. We have few excellent female instructors. If one is available on the date(s) you choose to take your course, we’d be happy to schedule her.

  • Chevron down What should I expect as far as wind, sea, and other local weather conditions?
  • 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.

    To check weather conditions in the area, visit our resources page.

    This is one of the things that distinguishes Pacific Sail 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.

  • Chevron down What's the best way to get to Santa Cruz Harbor?
  • 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 visit the location page on our website.

Practical Checkout:
  • Chevron down What will I be required to do to pass the practical checkout?
  • 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. 

  • Chevron down I've owned a boat for 30 years. Will I still have to take a practical checkout?
  • The Pacific Sail 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 checkout.

    A 3 hour checkout costs $300.00.
    The cost of the checkout does not get deducted from the Bareboat Charter cost. If you do not pass a checkout, we recommend taking a group class, or booking a private review session to refine your skills and pass all of our ocean going standards.

  • Chevron down If a friend and I join at the same time, can we get a discount for the price of membership?
  • Unfortunately no. Each individual membership is $450 per year.

  • Chevron down What's the advantage of joining the membership program?
  • Membership advantages include 10% off of all courses and 15%-25% off of all bareboat charters.

Certification Information:
  • Chevron down What does certification mean?
  • 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.

  • Chevron down Why should I get certified through Pacific Sail?
  • 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 Sail 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 Sail offers ASA 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.

  • Chevron down What if I don't want/need to be certified?
  • 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. 

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

  • Chevron down What do the certification procedures entail?
  • During the final portion of your class, our instructors will be watching how you execute your newly learned skills and will making sure you are ready to move onto the next course. Once your instructor has insured that you have mastered all the skills required, you are free to take the written portion of your exam in our office at your convenience.  You will not be required to take your written exam the same day as completing your class. You are welcome to come back to take your exam on a different day.

  • Chevron down What are the written examinations like?
  • The majority of the ASA exams will be multiple choice. If you are taking a more advanced course, they might have “written” sections as well. Most students will finish each exam in 30 to 60 minutes but there is no time limit.

    Students are given written examinations by Pacific Sails office staff. They are not open book, so make sure you study before scheduling your exam. The examinations must be completed and given to office staff at the Pacific Sail location.

    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 they have completed all of the courses and take the 3 exams at one time. 

  • Chevron down What is the cost of certification?
  • Each ASA written exam is $30

    Most students will complete three written exams:

    ASA 101- Basic Keelboat

    ASA 103 -Basic Coastal Cruising

    ASA 104- Bareboat Chartering

    If you are not already an ASA member, you will be required to purchase a 1-year membership to ASA for $39.00.



  • Chevron down What levels of certification are available?
  • Five levels of ASA certification are available at Pacific Sail:

    Basic Keelboat, Basic Coastal Cruising, Bareboat Chartering, Coastal Navigation, and Advanced Coastal Cruising.  Most students who are interested in ASA Certification wait until they have completed the 4 primary courses, and then test for Basic Keelboat, Basic Coastal Cruising, and Bareboat Chartering at the same time.

  • Chevron down Which level of certification do I need to skipper a bareboat charter?
  • ASA 101 Basic Keelboat and ASA 103 Basic Coastal Cruising certifications do NOT allow skippers to bareboat Pacific Sail’s charter boats, however, other companies may honor ASA 103 Basic Coastal Cruising certifications for bareboat charters. 

    Because Pacific Sail is located on the Pacific Ocean, we require that all skippers that want to charter have ASA or US Sailing Bareboat Certifications and have a first mate that has at least the ASA 103 Basic Coastal Cruising skills (not necessarily the certification).

  • Chevron down I am considering taking a similar course with another organization somewhere else. What's the advantage of taking the course at your location?
  • You’ll get a beautiful tan and some wonderful snorkeling experience in the British Virgin Islands. You’ll also get a good sailing education there. Here in Santa Cruz, your sailing education will be superior to that in the BVIs, 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.

About Us

Pacific Sailing is an accredited American Sailing Association sailing school and yacht charter company with a fleet of 10 sailing yachts from 27-46 feet. We offer all levels of sailing instruction, Team Building Regattas, Skippered Charters, and Bareboat Charters.