Offshore Sailing School, Ft. Myers Beach, FL ~ December 2004
Ever since going to the BVI last year for Barry's 50th birthday and sailing a Hobie Cat, we have been interested in learning more about sailing. So, at the Annapolis Sailboat Show this fall, we signed up for a "Learn to Sail" class in Ft. Myer's Beach, Florida over Christmas break through Steve Colgate's Offshore Sailing School. After taking the class, we can highly recommend this school for anyone interested in learning to sail (or increasing their skills) and becoming US Sailing certified. We had a great experience, and the instructors were knowledgable and personable.
The only snafu we encountered was when we got to the Pink Shell resort, there was no reservation for us! Since it was a Sunday, no one was was in the Offshore office to straighten things out, but thank goodness, Lady Luck was on our side as they had a Sanibel View room available for the five nights we were to be there, and we were able to check in. Offshore straightened everything out the following day. Our room was lovely and right on the ocean. It had a pretty kitchenette area and a fantastic screened porch with great view.
We spent four days in school, which was divided between classroom instruction (1.5-2 hours daily, in the morning), and on-water instruction (2.5-3.5 hours daily). Class began Monday, and on Thursday after class we took the 80-question written US Sailing certification exam. Barry and I both aced the test with a perfect score of 100! The instructors were quite impressed. We had done a lot of studying in advance, reading the Basic Keelboat textbook several times as well as Sailing for Dummies, watched a Learn to Sail video (thanks Teri!), and practiced knots. This before-the-fact studying really helped us during our week in class as we were already familiar with so much of the nautical jargon.
Winds during the week ranged from 5-20 knots. The first day we had the highest winds so learned how to reef the mainsail right off the bat. Most of the other days, winds were in the 10-15 knot range, but at times the winds would come up a bit, and the day we flew the spinnaker, we were getting some 25-knot gusts. Challenging! We sailed on these very nice Colgate 26 sloops:
On Friday we received a "reward sail" for passing the certification exam, and set out with our crewmates Jim and Marci and no instructor on board. Heather, our instructor, had been warning us all week about a shoal out aways, and, guess what? We found it! Yes, we were aground. Fortunately, we were able to get clear by heeling the boat, sheeting the sails in tight, and letting the wind blow us into deeper water. Whew! We made it back safely with no further incidents and had a wonderful sail in 15-knot winds.
Our classroom instructor Beite and on-water instructor Heather were the best!
Other than sailing, we enjoyed a lovely week at the beach. Temperatures warmed from the 50s our first day to the 70s mid-week, with only a quick sprinkle on the last day. We took many long walks at the beach, saw a couple of fabulous sunsets over the Gulf, and ate many delicious seafood dinners. We ate simple and healthy breakfasts and lunches in our room so that we could splurge on dinner each night. Here are some of our beach, sunset, and dinner photos.