NORTH FORT MYERS, Florida -In 16 years of training
people how to handle expensive sailing and poweryachts,
and awarding hundreds of diplomas to people from all
over the world, Vic and Barb Hansen have seen competitive
boating schools appear then disappear.
Why did Florida Sailing and Cruising School emerge
as the leader when other U.S. boating schools did
not? Vic Hansen says it in two short sentences. "Safety
isn't boring. Safety isn't mean."
Indeed, safety is the bottom line watchword at FS&CS.
After all, the Hansens and their instructors, Coast
Guard-licensed captains, are dealing with unpredictable
Mother Nature, vessels worth millions of dollars,
and priceless lives. More importantly, students who
leave with a FS&CS diploma also will assume those
heavy responsibilities when they cruise and sail on
But teaching safety, says Vic, shouldn't mean stern
faces or raised voices. "We believe that people learn
and remember when they are having fun, and we believe
they learn with their hands, hearts and their heads,"
said Vic. "This is the philosophy upon which we design
They're called Seamanship courses in the FS&CS brochure,
Passport to Seamanship -- 13 sailing courses and 12
power courses. Except for a couple of courses, the
fee includes staying aboard the vessel. Students can
even bring a child or a parent. The live-aboard fee
for an extra person is just half of the course fee.
"Check-in" is the day before the course begins. Barb
and Vic will even schedule courses to suit vacation
schedules. It is this kind of customer-driven flexibility
that drives the success of Florida Sailing and Cruising
Courses in powerboat safety, handling and cruising
are held at company headquarters at Marinatown Marina
on the Caloosahatchee across the river from the city
of Fort Myers. The "classrooms" are single and twin-engine
cruising boats from 32 to 42 feet long.
Sailing courses are held at the sailing fleet headquarters
-- Burnt Store Marina in Punta Gorda where the boats
are in the water and ready to sail.
Barb and Vic Hansen learned long ago that their
students are motivated to go to boating school by
any number of reasons.
Many students are repeat customers who understand
that education is never complete. "With boating, just
like any subject, there's always more to learn," said
Barb. Like virtue, education is its own reward. "There
is immense satisfaction in learning to do things the
right way," she says.
Some have modest or no boating experience at all,
but want to "see if they like it." Many are retired
couples and finally, in retirement, have time to do
what they have always wanted to do. Boats, almost
by definition, mean shared experiences.
Others are thinking about buying a boat and want
to learn how to handle it. Some are getting a larger
boat and need to upgrade skills. Some just want to
charter a boat without a captain. Passing courses
at Florida Sailing and Cruising School qualifies them
for bareboat chartering through Southwest Florida
Yachts, Inc., an FS & CS sister company.
And some just want to combine learning and adventure.
FS & CS offers an intensive, 12-day course that advances
the student from the basic sailing course through
the advanced cruising course.