OCSC Sailing School


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Why choose OCSC?

OCSC delivers the highest standard of instruction, sailing from the best location on San Francisco Bay, with the most well-maintained fleet available. Our location in the Berkeley Marina is unique in allowing you to be sailing in minutes, in the best wind the Bay has to offer, and with the Central Bay and all of its wonderful sailing destinations directly in front of you. No motoring down a long channel to get to the wind! The combination of OCSC’s high standards and the consistently fresh breeze in our training venue sets you up for success in your sailing endeavors worldwide. In addition, our low student-to-instructor ratio and course guarantee mean that you will get the most out of each and every course you take with us. And membership with OCSC’s unique sailing club provides you with access to the charter fleet, the ability to connect with other qualified sailors through our online Crew List, and a host of social and sailing-related activities.

What courses does OCSC offer?

OCSC offers a comprehensive series of courses that can take you all from way from beginning sailor to offshore cruiser. The core US Sailing certification courses are Basic Keelboat (“crew certification”), Basic Cruising (“skipper certification”), and Bareboat Cruising (“big boat skipper certification”). We also offer advanced US Sailing certification courses in Coastal Navigation, Coastal Passagemaking, Celestial Navigation, and Offshore Passagemaking. OCSC also offers specialized courses in performance sailing (both symmetrical and asymmetrical spinnakers) and a crew course.

How long are the courses?

The core courses -- Basic Keelboat, Basic Cruising, and Bareboat Cruising -- are offered in two formats, weekend or mid-week. The weekend format consists of two weekends, so you get four full days of on-the-water instruction. The mid-week format is Monday through Friday (you get an extra day of on-the-water practice). You can choose whichever format best fits your schedule. Other courses vary between one day and one week, depending on the subject.

How much of the course will I actually be out sailing?

You will be on the water almost the entire time! There will be a brief “chalk talk” on your first day of Basic Keelboat, and during Basic Cruising and Bareboat Cruising there will be brief lectures on topics such as navigation and sail shaping worked in during lunchtime, but the focus of the courses is hands-on sailing.

Is there any classroom instruction included?

Yes. The core courses all include free Study Halls in Seamanship and Navigation, which you attend as your schedule allows. The Study Halls are offered on a rotating schedule, including periodic evenings and weekends. In the Study Halls you get more in-depth knowledge on topics such as right-of-way rules, boat equipment, knots, aids to navigation, chart reading, etc.

What type of boat will I be sailing?

The Basic Keelboat and Basic Cruising courses are taught aboard the J/24, a fast, responsive, and stable performance sailboat, ideal for learning. The J/24 is one of the most popular keelboats under 30 feet ever built, and the skills learned on this safe and versatile 24-foot boat are easily transferable to other, and larger, sailboats.

Bareboat Cruising starts on a 30 - 32' cruising boat for the first part and moves up to a 35 - 40' boat for the second part. The Catalina 32 and Catalina 36 are examples of the type of boat you will be on for Bareboat Cruising.

What is the student-instructor ratio?

Basic Keelboat and Basic Cruising classes have a maximum of three students and one instructor per boat. While there will sometimes be less, there will never be more. Bareboat Cruising is taught aboard larger boats and allows up to four students and one instructor.

What qualifications do your instructors have?

Our instructors hold U.S. Coast Guard captain licenses, US Sailing instructor certifications, are certified in CPR and First Aid, and all have extensive sailing experience. In addition, OCSC instructors are hired only after a rigorous selection process in which only one of every ten candidates is hired to be an OCSC instructor.

What certifications can I receive through OCSC?

The certification courses include Basic Keelboat, Basic Cruising, Bareboat Cruising, Coastal Navigation, Coastal Passagemaking, Celestial Navigation, and Offshore Passagemaking. Each of these courses are based on the curriculum established by US Sailing, the leading national sailing certification organization, and result in US Sailing certification when completed.

Why is certification important and what does it get me?

US Sailing certification is proof of your achievement and your passport to chartering boats locally or worldwide. Our Basic Keelboat course includes a one-year membership to US Sailing and a logbook in which you keep your certifications and log your sailing time. You can show this logbook to charter companies as evidence of your certification level and sailing experience.

How long does it take to get certified?

Each person takes a different amount of time to learn sailing skills, depending on prior experience, aptitude, and effort.

For those students requiring additional practice we offer a 60 day course guarantee. This provides students with a 60 day period in which they may take as many complimentary, three-hour long, intensive training periods on the water as they may need to earn their certification.

I have prior sailing experience. Do I need to start at the beginning?

If you are an experienced sailor looking to take additional instruction or charter with OCSC, the best place to start is with a Bay review., a three-hour session on-the-water with an instructor who will evaluate your sailing skills. This will help you determine if you can “challenge” a certification level by taking the practical test at that level. When you pass the practical test and relevant written tests, you can receive US Sailing certification at that level.

I’m interested in sailing lessons but I’ve never sailed. Is there a way I can try it out first and see what it’s like?

Yes! OCSC offers an Intro to Sailing course, a “taste test” of the sport of sailing. The Intro Sail is an affordable, hands-on, three-hour sail with an instructor and a maximum of five other potential students. During the Intro Sail you can get as involved as you want and ask questions of one of our qualified instructors to help you determine if sailing lessons are for you. We offer the Intro to Sailing program every Saturday, year-round.

When is the best time of year to learn to sail?

One of the many advantages of sailing on San Francisco Bay is that you can sail year round. OCSC offers classes and reviews continuously throughout the year, so you can start your lessons at any time. Each season has it’s own unique qualities that lend to the learning experience. Our advice is that you find a time in your schedule that works best for your life and do it then!

Do I need to be a member of OCSC to take classes?

Membership is not required to take classes. Members do, however, receive a 25 percent discount on all courses, as well as charter privileges, access to the Crew List, and a variety of social activities.

Can I charter a boat with OCSC or at other places with the Basic Keelboat certification?

OCSC requires that you have achieved at least the Basic Cruising certification, and be a member, in order to charter our boats. However, in many cases your Basic Keelboat certification will allow you to charter boats in other areas where the conditions are not as challenging. You can check with the particular charter company to see if Basic Keelboat certification is sufficient for chartering in their location.