What destinations can we choose from during our sailing class?
Please visit the Course Description page and see the class description of individual classes for the destinations each class visits.
How to get to Virgin Islands Sailing Academy?
American Yacht Harbor marina is located at the following address:
6100 Red Hook Quarters #2
St. Thomas, VI 00802
The St. Thomas airport, Cyril E. King International, is one of the largest in the Caribbean and generally sees a high volume of air traffic from the US and beyond. This makes American Yacht Harbor very easy to get to from just about any destination with an international airport. From Cyril E. King International, ground transportation is available to American Yacht Harbor in the form of taxis, rental cars, and hotel shuttles. Once you sign up we will send you information on which slip our sailing vessel is located in at American Yacht Harbor.
What should I bring with me to class?
Having the right things with you on a sailboat improves both your comfort and safety. We have created a list of things our students may want to consider bringing with them during their class. Please click here to get the list.
To get list of what to bring.
How many students will be in my class?
Where will I sleep on board?
Gallivant has four sleeping areas. There are two private double berths with a door located fore and aft, and two settees in the salon area that both convert into single berths. You can see them on the "Our Teaching Vessel" page.
The captain typically sleeps in one of the settees in the salon area so he can get up to check the boat at night without disturbing anyone. Students are assigned to the other three sleeping areas. Couples are given priority to berth assignments. If one student is a woman, then she would typically be assigned a private berth. If there are all women on board then there is a curtain that can go between the two settees to close off the starboard settee.
Since there are four places to sleep on board this means that three single students and a captain make up a full boat. Note also that if there are couples there could be more students since a couple can share a double berth and there is still room for two singles and a captain. If we have a full boat then one student has to sleep in the starboard settee. Note that there is a table dividing the port and starboard settees so it is not like doubling students into a berth. There is also a curtain on board that can be put up to add more privacy if desired.
Please note that Virgin Islands Sailing Academy does not double single students into one double berth. Many other sailing schools double single students into a double berth and put up a lee cloths down the middle. Our policy of not doubling single students into a double berth is in line with our desire to keep the highest standards possible in our classes. We believe that our sailing classes should maximize sailing education and also be fun.
What will be included in terms of meals and beverages on board?
Shortly after students arrive, students sit down with their instructor and decide what food and beverages should be purchased. Leaning what foods and beverages work out well on a boat is part of the class and this is why we include food and beverages for lunches and breakfasts in the price for the class. Dinners are eaten off the boat except for ocean passage making classes where dinners are also included.
In most cases students eat all or nearly all breakfasts and lunches on board. Dinners are eaten off the boat in local restaurants unless there is no restaurant available. If our boat stays overnight at anchor or on a mooring ball where local shore-based dinner is unavailable, dinner will be planned, provisioned, and provided by the school. Students are responsible for purchase of any meals in local restaurants.
Lunches in many cases consist of sandwiches or wraps with lunchmeat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. Breakfasts often consist of hot or cold cereal, juice, eggs, and coffee or tea. Most classes also want snacks like fruit, cookies, etc. and all of this is included. Beverages include bottled water, soft drinks, juice, etc.
All on board food for breakfasts and lunches and beverages are included with the following exceptions:
Per local laws, no alcohol will be purchased for students. Alcoholic beverages are allowed to be consumed on board when we are not underway at the captain's discretion, but purchase of alcoholic beverages is not included in the beverage allowance. Students who wish to drink alcoholic beverages should bring what they want to drink or plan to purchase it locally. No alcoholic beverages are allowed while we are underway.
We feel that our budget for food and beverages is very generous and meets the needs of most students however if you have a special diet, or if you prefer extravagant foods which cost more, an additional charge for food and beverages may apply or you can bring your own food.
Students are welcome to bring food and beverages with them if they wish but no reimbursement for food and beverages brought with students will be provided unless this is agreed upon in advance.
How much should I tip the instructor?
Tipping is not required but if your instructor does a great job, it is common for students to leave a tip. We are sometimes asked for guidance on what is customary regarding tipping. It is customary to tip 15-20% as with other service industries. I believe that the amount to tip for a sailing class depends on the number of days in your class and on the quality of service you receive. If you take a class that lasts 9 days, your tip probably should be larger than if you take a 6-day class. If you feel the quality of the class is average, then the tip should not be as large as if the class were great. You may also want to tip more if you receive special attention. For example, if your class is not a docking class, and your instructor includes a lot of docking practice at your request, then you may want to give a larger tip.
Most classes have 2-4 students. The maximum number of students is five students. This does not happen often since for it to happen two couples and one single have to sign up. Three singles is also a full boat since there are four places to sleep on the boat and we do not double up single students. Students should not book flights until they have confirmed that there are sufficient students for the class to go forward. Although this is our written policy in reality, we almost never cancel classes since our classes typically sell out, and since our sailboat and captain are already there, it is better for us to go forward than to cancel.
Are the destinations we will be sailing in safe?
At Virgin Islands Sailing Academy, safety is always our foremost concern. Our yacht is equipped with far more than the minimum required US Coast Guard safety equipment. We only sail in locations that most would consider to be safe. To our knowledge there are no acts of piracy in the Virgin Islands where our sailing classes are conducted. We also have never experienced any theft on our yacht.
Why can't we visit both the US and British Virgin Islands during our classes?
It would be ideal if you could visit both the US and British Virgin Islands, and we used to do this. Since hurricane Irma and Covid hit the Virgin Islands however, it has become very difficult, due to Covid protocols, and expensive, due to ever increasing clearance fees, to go back and forth. After Irma, the BVI increased dramatically the cost of clearing in and out of the BVI from the US for commercial vessels. It costs us approximately $500 for a class of four students to clear in and out. Clearance also has become a big hassle due to ever changing Virgin Islands Covid protocols requiring Covid testing both before you can enter the BVI and before you return to the US. Because of these problems we only go to destinations in the US Virgin Islands.
Should I bring snorkel gear?
Most of the places we visit have wonderful snorkeling. We recommend that you bring your own snorkel equipment, including fins. You can also rent snorkel equipment at the Red Hook Dive Center located in the same marine where our sailboat is moored. 340-777-3483. The last time I checked it cost $80 to rent snorkel gear for a week. We cannot accommodate dive tanks on board.
Do I get my deposit back if I have to cancel a class? Do students get their money back if the school has to cancel a class?
What happens if there are problem on the boat that require repair and possibly lost time under sail?
It is unlikely that we would cancel a class but if we cancel a class then students can reschedule or receive a full refund minus the cost of the course materials.
50% payment is due when students sign up for ASA101, ASA103, ASA104 and ASA106 classes. The remainder is due within 60 days of the class start date. If a student has paid the 50% deposit and cancels a class no refund will be given. Deposit payments are final since once we accept your deposit, we hold space for you and cannot sell that space to others. Sometimes students pay in full for classes when they sign up. If they cancel 60 days or more from the class start date, then we will refund half of their payment minus the cost of the course materials. No refund will be given if a student cancels a class less than 60 days from the class start date. Course materials cannot be returned for refund even if in new condition.
Full payment is required for ASA108 classes at sign up. If a student cancels a ASA108 class, then we will refund half of their payment if they cancel 120 days or more prior to the class start date shown on our calendar. No refund will be given if a student cancels with less than 120 daysí notice.
No refunds are given for ASA105 or 107 home studies.
By making payment you agree to our terms and conditions.
Although we spend a large amount in preventive maintenance on our sailboat, sailboats are very complex systems and problems can occur of one type or another. Learning to deal with issues on the boat is normal and part of sailing. Our experience has been that so long as the class goes forward, students welcome the challenges provided by problems on the boat. For example, if the dinghy starts leaking, the captain and students may need to stop and fix it using the dinghy repair kit on board our vessel. The class would then continue as normal after the repair is completed successfully. Other examples could be given but in general if the class goes forward, and we have time to complete all the skills required in the ASA standard no refund would be given.
Is smoking or chewing of tobacco allowed on our yacht?
Smoking is not allowed on our yacht. We also do not allow chewing of tobacco on our sailboat.
Is it possible that I will have a different instructor than the one indicated when I signed up?
Although most classes go forward with the instructor listed on the schedule page of our website, we reserve the right to change the instructor at any time. This is necessary sometimes due to illness, death in the family, scheduling conflicts, etc.
Many sailing schools operate illegally in the Virgin Islands without getting required boat inspections and license requirements for captains and a permit to operate the sailing school. Does Virgin Islands Sailing Academy and it's instructors meet all these requirements to operate legally and safely in the Virgin islands?
Our teaching vessel meets all US safety requirements.
All Virgin Islands Sailing Academy instructors have as minimum a US Coast Guard 50 Ton Near Coastal Master Captain's License.
Virgin Islands Sailing Academy has a business license to operate in the Virgin Islands.
Many sailing schools in the Virgin Islands operate without meeting required certifications, permits, and licenses. This compromises student safety and if they are caught by authorities the school could be shut down during a class. Virgin Islands Sailing Academy and its instructors meet all requirements to operate legally and safely in the Virgin Islands.
Is Virgin Islnds Sailing Academy an ASA affiliated sailing school?
We realize that things happen such as trip cancellation, illness, death in the family, missing your flight, or other problems so we recommend students purchase travel insurance. If you choose to not purchase travel insurance, you are assuming any financial loss associated with your travel arrangements. To obtain travel insurance, contact your insurance agent or other insurer to ask about travel insurance plans. Please see below an insurer who offers travel insurance that can be customized for your needs.
Should I purchase travel insurance?
What happens if there is no wind or too much wind to sail?
Students come to the Virgin Islands from all over the world because it is one of the best places to sail. The weather and wind are nearly ideal during the season when we operate. Although unlikely it is possible for there to be little or no wind, or too much wind to sail. If there is little or no wind, then we will go over the course materials each day as normal and motor from place to place the same as if we were sailing. We can sail with as little as 5 knots of wind so it is very unlikely that there would be many days with such light wind that we could not sail. Once the trade winds fill back in, we will sail as much as possible to pick up as much lost time under sail as we can. If there is too much wind then we would have to hunker down either in a slip, on a mooring ball, or at anchor wherever we are when the big wind starts. Once the big wind decreases to a wind speed where it is safe, we will sail as much as possible to make up lost time sailing. It is up to the captain to decide if there is too much wind for the boat and students to be safe. Although the captain makes this decision, in general we will go forward with classes so long as the apparent wind speed is 25 knots or less. There are no refunds given if the wind is either too light to sail or too strong to sail.
One of our competitors indicates falsely on their website that they are the only ASA Sailing School in the USVI. This is false and easy to look up and confirm. Virgin Islands Sailing Academy is an ASA affiliated sailing school. We have operated out of Red Hook in the US Virgin Islands since 2013 and have always run as an ASA school. Click here to go to the ASA website and see the Virgin Islands Sailing Academy listed as an ASA affiliated sailing school in the US Virgin Islands.
What is not included in our price for the class?
Students are responsible for traveling to the boat. Provisions for lunches and breakfasts eaten on board are included but dinners eaten in local restaurants are the responsibility of the student. While we are underway all boat related fees such as fuel, water, electric, slip fees, and mooring fees are included.
Answers to Common Questions.
How much are clearance fees?
The US Virgin Islands are a territory of the United States. If you are arriving from the US mainland there are no clearance fees to enter or exit the US Virgin Islands. This includes St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix.
Has the British Virgin Islands recovered from hurricane IRMA and Covid as much as the US Virgin Islands?
Compared to the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands does not have the resources or money to help with recovery efforts. The US Virgin Islands is part of the US, so they had FEMA and the EPA to help them recover from IRMA and PPP funds to help businesses recover from Covid, but the BVI was on their own. The result is the BVI still has many boats wrecked on shore from Irma and many more closed restaurants and other businesses.
Is it easier and less expensive to travel to St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands or Tortola, British Virgin Islands?
It is less expensive and much easier to travel to St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands than the British Virgin Islands. St. Thomas has an international airport so you can fly direct to St. Thomas and then take a taxi to our sailboat, but the BVI does not have a major airport, so you are required to fly to St. Thomas or Puerto Rico and then either take an additional plane or ferry. For US Citizens there are no requirement to clear so there are no clearance fees to fly to St. Thomas or visit St. John or St. Croix.
Is the British Virgin Islands more beautiful than the US Virgin Islands?
Although the reputation is that the BVI is great, some of the most beautiful places in the world are in St. John, St. Thomas, and St. Croix.
Where can I stay during my classes?
Most students stay on board our teaching vessel Gallivant and do not require a hotel except for possibly the last day of the class. You can stay on board all nights of the class and the evening prior to your class start date. If you can't get a flight on the last day of the class you will need a hotel. We recommend the following hotels: This is just a few of many hotels in the area near Red Hook.
Mafolie Hotel & Restaurant- Telephone: 340-774-2790, www.mafolie.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, 7091 Estate Mafolie, St. Thomas, USVI 00802.
Sugar Bay Resort and Spa- Telephone: 340-777-7100, http://www.sugarbayresortandspa.com, 6500 Estate VI U.S., St Thomas 00802
Many of our students have had success using Air B & B to find excellent and less expensive accommodations.
Do I need a passport?
Passport Info: U.S. citizens traveling to St. Thomas, St. John or St. Croix from the mainland USA need only government issued picture identification to gain entry. The airport in St. Thomas encourages passports but they are not required.
How does Virgin Islands Sailing Academy compare to other sailing schools in the Virgin Islands?
There are a lot of differences that could be sited but they all come down to our sense of quality being higher than other sailing schools.
Many other sailing schools in the Virgin Islands emphasize the vacation aspect of taking sailing lessons and are not that focused on providing excellence in sailing education. We like to have fun but not at the expense of the student learning to sail.
Another difference is in the quality of our sailboat. It is probably hard to believe that this is the case when you look at the glossy pictures on some sailing school websites but I know that many of the sailing schools in the Virgin Islands have sailboats that barely operate, and I know of captains who refuse to work on them for fear of having problems, and I know of mechanics who refuse to work for the schools because the school owner will not spend the money to get the boats repaired properly.
We also teach our classes on a sailboat that really sails well. Many other schools operate on sailboats that are hard to teach on because the boats don't sail well even with experts on board. All of our classes are taught on a cruiser/racer that allows students to see how a sailboat that sails well operates.
Our captains are truly top rate both in terms of them being good people and excellent sailors. I would never allow a yeller to be captain in our classes. We all strive to be professional and compete in terms of our own experience and credentials. All our captains can teach to advanced level ASA sailing classes, and we are one of just a few sailing schools within the entire ASA system who teach all the ASA classes out to and including ASA108 Ocean Passage.
Most other schools do not have a curriculum or course materials. ASA is primarily a test and certification organization and leaves it to the sailing schools to teach the students. The students in many other sailing school classes read the book and sail with an instructor but there is not structure or organization to their instruction. Our internally developed curriculum and handouts are proven to allow student to quickly learn the most important things about sailing and prepare for the ASA test.
Finally, we have a sailing perspective that is wider. Many other schools only teach in one location and only a couple class levels. Our captains operate on the Chesapeake Bay during the summer months, and we sail our sailboat back and forth to the Virgin Islands and the Chesapeake Bay with stops in Bermuda and Florida giving us a much wider sailing perspective. For those students looking to get their own sailboats or sail around the world our captains know how to do it and can provide the kind of guidance they need. Many other sailing schools use instructors that are barely above the level of the students.
Do I have to wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) during my sailing class?
We require all students and instructors to wear an approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD) during every sailing class. This requirement exists to ensure student safety and is also required by our insurance carrier.