Sailing Lessons



Sailing Lessons


Whether your goal is to captain your own boat through the Caribbean, or just join with friends on an afternoon sail, Lightheart Sailing will equip you with the skills and experience you need to sail safely, joyfully and confidently.
Our lead instructor is Captain Peter Branning, named one of the American Sailing Association's elite "Outstanding Instructors."  Peter has been sailing, cruising and racing sailboats all his life. He has won six state championships, three national championships and two North American championships as well as many offshore sailboat races. He has coached the American Optimist Dinghy Team, College Single-Handed Champions and PHRF sailors up and down the East Coast.  He currently teaches American Sailing Association courses, sailing team clinics, and individual sailing lessons.  He is a licensed US Coast Guard Captain and Master with endorsements in Sailing, Towing, and Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping.
Scroll down to learn about Individual Sailing Lessons or ASA courses.

Individual Sailing Lessons


Move at your own pace, building the skills you need toward confidence, independence and pleasure under sail. Using your boat or ours, we can create lessons to match your goals, needs and timing. Ideal for:

  • new boat owners or soon-to-be owners
  • out-of-practice sailors
  • experienced sailors wanting to upgrade their skills
  • new sailors who prefer to extend their lessons over a period of time
  • spouses developing skills as a co-captains or mate and captain (no yelling allowed!)

Instruction is booked in 3-hour blocks for 1-2 people.  $250 per block for instruction only.  Boat rental, if required, is extra.



American Sailing Association Courses

Lightheart Sailing is affiliated with Virgin Island Sailing School, accredited by the American Sailing Association.  ASA has accredited over 300 sailing schools throughout the U.S. and abroad, and has certified nearly half a million sailors to date.  ASA courses teach to established sets of standards, and are packed with practical knowledge and on-the-water skill development. 

Our courses are offered on St. Croix, with extended courses available in the US/British Virgin Islands. We also can come to you, to teach you in your own waters on your own boat, or in a location and on a boat of your choosing. We require a 2-person minimum in our courses.  

Whether you are a first-time sailor, or an experienced salt looking to upgrade your skills and knowledge, our ASA courses will take you to new levels of proficiency and fun in sailing.



ASA 101:  Basic keelboat sailing

Learn to skipper a sloop-rigged keelboat of approximately 20 to 27 feet in length by day in light to moderate winds and sea conditions.  Learn basic sailing terminology, parts and functions, helm commands, basic sail trim, points of sail, buoyage, seamanship and safety including basic navigation rules to avoid collisions and hazards. (Note: The United States Coast Guard has granted approval for ASA101 Basic Keelboat Sailing to satisfy certain merchant mariner credential examination requirements and safe boating training requirements.)

Prerequisites: None  
Time: 2-3 days, 9am to approximately 5pm
Location: St. Croix
Cost: $650 for 2 days (2-person minimum). Optional 3rd day $250. Instructor, boat, ASA fees included. You will need to purchase and study the  ASA textbook "Sailing Made Easy," available HERE.


asa 103:  coastal cruising

Learn to skipper a sloop-rigged auxiliary powered 25'-35' keelboat by day in moderate winds and sea conditions. Learn cruising sailboat terminology, basic boat systems, auxiliary engine operation, docking procedures, intermediate sail trim, navigation rules, basic coastal navigation, anchoring, weather, safety and seamanship.

Prerequisites: Basic Keelboat Sailing (ASA101) certification  
Time: 2 full days, 1 night aboard at dock
Location: St. Croix
Cost: $775 per person, 2-person minimum.  Instructor, boat, ASA fees included. Provisioning extra. You will need to purchase the  ASA textbook "Coastal Cruising Made Easy," available HERE.


ASA 104:  Bareboat cruising

Learn how to sail a sloop-rigged, auxiliary powered 30'-45' sailboat during a multi-day cruise upon inland/coastal waters in moderate/heavy winds and sea conditions. Learn about provisioning, boat systems, auxiliary engines, advanced sail trim, coastal navigation, anchoring / mooring, docking, emergency operations, weather, and more.

Prerequisites: Basic Keelboat Sailing (ASA101) and Basic Coastal Cruising (ASA103) certifications.
Time: 2 full days and nights, live-aboard.
Location: St. Croix
Cost: $875 per person, 2-person minimum.   Instructor, boat, ASA fees included. Provisioning extra. You will need to purchase the  ASA textbook "Bareboat Cruising Made Easy, " available HERE. (Note: If you would like to do this course in St. Thomas, St. John or the British Virgin Islands rather than St. Croix, additional fees will apply for repositioning the boat, plus mooring fees and BVI government fees.)


Vacation Package:  ASA 101, 103, 104

If you'd like to have a stunning sailing vacation and at the same time prepare yourself to sail your own boat or bareboat charter, this combination package is for you.  We begin and end in Red Hook, St. Thomas or Cruz Bay, St. John, and sail throughout the northern US and British Virgin Islands, stopping for snorkeling and trips ashore as well as packing in all three ASA courses. (Use the three curriculum buttons above to see what your courses will cover.)

Prerequisites: None.
Time: 7 days, 6 nights, live-aboard.
Location: Northern Virgin Islands
Cost: $2450 per person, 2-person minimum.  Instructor, boat, ASA fees included. Provisioning, mooring and BVI government fees extra. You will need to purchase the 101-103-104 textbooks, available as a bundle from ASA HERE.
Note: You may join in Lightheart's open-water crossing from and/or St. Croix  for an additional $100 per leg. You may sleep aboard the night before and/or night after for an additional $75 per person per night.


ASA 105:  coastal navigation

Learn the the navigational theory and practices for safe navigation of a sailing vessel in coastal and inland waters. On-water coastal navigation skills elements are contained in the ASA103, Basic Coastal CruisingASA 104, Bareboat Cruising, and ASA 106, Advanced Coastal Cruising, in progressively increasing levels of detail. Contact us for additional information.


Preparation for Your ASA Class

Preparation for Your ASA Class


ASA 101: Basic Keelboat Sailing

We'll be at the St. Croix Yacht Club on the east end of the island (Google Maps will get you there).  We start promptly at 9am each day and end between 4 and 5pm.  Here's what you need to know to be prepared: 

* Read the ASA textbook Sailing Made Easy in advance.  You can buy it HERE, either in hard copy or iBooks format.  It provides the knowledge to support all the practical skills you'll be learning, and you'll need to pass a 100-question written exam to receive your certification. Bring your book to class.

* Wear get-wet clothes:  a swimsuit with a long-sleeved rash guard and quick-dry shorts is ideal.  If you don't have your own lifejacket to bring, let us know and we'll bring one for you.  

* Wear sunscreen (reef-friendly, no oil or spray), a stiff-brimmed hat with keeper strap, sunglasses with keeper strap.

* Bring a towel, light jacket and lunch money for our onshore lunch break.

* Bring a change of clothes for your drive home if you like.

* You can see the curriculum for your class HERE


ASA 101, 103, 104 Vacation Series

  • You'll receive information directly from Captain Peter Branning about where and when to meet him aboard Lightheart. This will depend upon the port you've chosen and the timing of your arrival. 
  • If you haven't done so already, get and study your ASA textbooks right away (Sailing Made Easy, Coastal Cruising Made Easy, Bareboat Cruising Made Easy).  You'll need to pass a 100-question exam for each course, so the more prepared you are before arrival, the better use you can make of your time aboard.  Read the books, work the test questions, and imagine yourself as master of your ship!  You can order the books in either hardcopy or iBooks format HERE. Bring your textbooks with you so you can use them in preparing for your exams. You can see the curricula for your courses HERE.
  • Plan to pack lightly - a soft-sided duffle is ideal, with perhaps a daypack for going ashore.  You'll need very little - a couple of pairs of shorts, several t-shirts, a lightweight long-sleeved shirt and long pants for sun protection or perhaps a cool evening, a swimsuit or two. For dinners ashore, nothing more formal than shorts is typically required.  After a day in the sun, the evening breezes may feel cool, so it's a good idea to bring  a light jacket or sweater. You definitely will want a rain jacket, so it could do double duty. Bring a sunhat with a chin strap, sunglasses with a keeper strap, reef-friendly sunblock (no oil or sprays please). You'll need a pair of sandals for going shore.  Aboard, either bare feet or shoes/sandals with non-marring soles are the order of the day. Electricity is at a premium, so please leave hair dryers, etc. at home.  Make sure you pack your personal toiletries and medications - they will be difficult if not impossible to replace. 
  • Bring cash - you'll need it for mooring fees, tips, souvenirs, etc. (In addition to any personal purchases, count on about $150 total for mooring fees, and $70 per person for BVI immigration/customs/cruising/parks fees.  Provisioning typically runs between $80-$125 per person, exclusive of alcohol, depending on your palate and how often you wish to eat ashore.  A 10-20% tip to the captain is customary in the industry, but that is totally up to you.) Both US and British Virgin Islands use US currency. Most restaurants and larger shops accept credit cards, and ATMs are scattered about; but you may pay higher bank fees for their use in the BVIs. 
  • Be sure to pack your passport.  Although you can travel among the United States Virgin Islands with only your drivers license, you'll need a passport to enter the British Virgin Islands and to return to the U.S.
  • Part of bareboat cruising is learning how to provision and stow - so that will be part of your first day. However, if you have any "must-have's" in the are of food and drink, you may want to bring them with you as island stores are not stocked like mainland stores.  Ask us if you have any questions about that.  Remember that it is customary to provision for the Captain as well, both aboard and ashore.
  • If you think you might have any tendency toward seasickness, prevention is in order.  Most people have very good results with Scopalomine - a transdermal patch applied behind your ear.  It requires a doctor's prescription, but we've seen it be far more effective for most folks than anything you get over-the-counter.  Apply your patch at least 3 hours before boarding the boat, and avoid heavy or greasy foods until your sea legs are established.
  • There's no smoking aboard Lightheart and absolutely no illegal substances are allowed aboard.  You'll have plenty of opportunity to enjoy our local rums or whatever spirits you like after hours, but we encourage you to drink in moderation as over-indulgence can interfere with your learning, your safety, and your ability to enjoy your trip with the highest level of participation.
  • Here are three things we've watched people learn the hard way:  (1) The sun will likely be much stronger than you are expecting, and you are likely to burn more easily than you are expecting. A good practice is to put on sunblock first thing in the morning before you dress, and reapply frequently throughout the day. (2) You'll need to drink lots more water than usual, as the sun, wind, and heat (and alcohol!) can be very dehydrating.  (3) You'll probably use far fewer clothes and "stuff" than you think - but they will demand space and attention if you bring them.
  • Plan on a week of learning, laughter, challenge, and camaraderie.  Be willing to try new things and make mistakes, to be flexible yet committed to your success.    Let a "light heart" be your guide.

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