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Boston ASA 103
Basic Coastal Cruising Course




3 Days

About the Course

Prerequisite: ASA 101 - Basic Keelboat

ASA 103 Basic Cruising picks up where ASA 101 left off and is designed to transfer the basic sailing skills you have learned on our smaller keelboat and transfer them to a larger and heavier sailboat, our Beneteau First 36.7. Each ASA 103 course lasts 3 days, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

The goal of the course is to take a student with some prior sailing experience and train them to the point where they feel comfortable skippering a keelboat from 30 to 40 feet in mild to moderate conditions. This course focuses on the many different skills needed to “cruise” in a larger sailboat including navigation, anchoring, equipment handling, docking and so much more.

Each day begins with a couple hours of lecture in the classroom followed by a lunch break and then at least 4 hours sailing around Boston Harbor and surrounding islands on our cruising sailboat.  On the water, we practice many of the skills you have learned in ASA 101 like Crew Overboard Recovery and Heaving to, focusing on applying them to a larger and heavier boat. We also spend an entire afternoon practicing docking!

At the end of the course, there is a written examination and upon successful completion each student receives their American Sailing 103 Basic Coastal Cruising Certification.

Read more about our courses and what to expect on our Frequently Asked Questions page.


Topics covered in ASA 103 Basic Cruising


We cover the essential sailing concept of reefing (reducing sail area) in great detail. We begin with the physics of sailing and what it means to be overpowered, then move on to the two main types of reefing systems, slab reefing and roller reefing. After working through the specific steps of reefing with both systems we discuss the pros and cons of each as well as advantages and disadvantages of different sailing rigs, such as the sloop rig vs the cutter rig and more.



One of our goals for this course is to take the stress and anxiety out of anchoring. We teach how to select an anchorage, the concept of scope and differences between all line and all chain anchors, how to deploy and recover an anchor safely and successfuly using non-verbal crew communication and what to do to ensure your anchor sets and is suitable for an overnight stay. You will graduate this course being confident in your anchoring abilities!

Visual Navigation

In ASA 103 students take charge of navigating as we sail throughout Boston Harbor. During our chart briefing and lesson we learn about Latitude and Longitude, Variation and Deviation as well as common chart symbols and abbreviations. We also discuss important reference tools such as Chart #1, cruising guides and chart tables.

Safety Maneuvers (Heaving to and Crew Overboard Recoveries)

As explained above, a large component of this course is taking existing sailing skills the student has already learned in ASA 101 - Basic Keelboat and applying them to a larger and heavier cruising boat. The two major skills we will be focusing on are Crew Overboard Recoveries and Heaving To.


What do you do if you run aground? Or foul a propeller on a lobster pot? Or are taking on water? In ASA 103 we talk through all of these emergencies and more including fires, rig failure, engine failure and more. Although these emergencies occur very rarely it never hurts to be prepared!


The core competency of the ASA 103 - Basic Cruising certification is "to skipper a sloop-rigged auxiliary powered 25'-35' keelboat by day in moderate winds and sea conditions." But how do we ensure we are going out sailing in "moderate winds and sea conditions?" We teach the basic concepts of weather including high and low pressure, weather fronts, synoptic weather, local weather patterns, thunderstorm avoidance, weather sources and the Beaufort Scale.

Maneuvering Under Power and Docking

For most sailors the most daunting part of any sailing day is taking off and returning to the dock which involves maneuvering a heavy sailboat under power in tight spaces. We cover the concepts of maneuvering under power and docking at length and even dedicate an entire on-the-water session to just practicing these skills! We discuss the different drive systems found on sailboats, prop wash and prop walk, "Back and Fill" turns also known as standing turns, approaching a dock and springing on and off the dock. Students come away from the course not only being competent, but confident docking a cruising sailboat!

And more!

At First Reef Sailing, we teach far beyond the basic required curriculum required for certification. Other topics covered in our ASA 103 course include parts of the boat/terminology,

safety systems, required and recommended equipment, hypothermia and heat exhaustion, dive flags, duties of the skipper and crew, and more!

For a full list of all of the concepts and skills required to achieve the ASA 101 - Basic Keelboat Sailing certification please visit the official ASA 103 certification page at

Frequently Asked Questions

What does ASA 103 get you?

ASA 103, also known as the "Basic Coastal Cruising" certification, equips sailors with the skills and knowledge needed to confidently sail a larger keelboat or sailboat in moderate coastal conditions. This certification covers essential sailing techniques, safety procedures, navigation, and seamanship skills required for sailing comfortably in nearshore waters.

What size boat will we learn on?

We teach our ASA 103 course aboard a Beneteau First 36.7. It is a 36 foot long performance cruising sailboat with a 3 cabins, a head and a full galley. It contains an inboard diesel engine and sail drive system.

How long is the ASA 103 course?

The duration of the ASA 103 course can vary depending on the specific sailing school and the format of the course. It is often offered as a multi-day course that includes both classroom instruction and hands-on sailing experience. Courses can range from a few days to a week or more, allowing participants to gain the necessary knowledge and practical skills to pass the certification.

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