Great Lakes Sailing Co. ASA Sailing School


Welcome to the Best Sailing School on the Great Lakes.

Our passion is sailing and our goal is to share the knowledge and feeling of being under sail.  Great Lakes Sailing Co. is an ASA Award Winning Sailing School with a 30 year history of introducing sailing to over 5000 sailors.  We operate from a private marina facility in  beautiful Traverse City, Michigan with shore-side amenities for the students to enjoy including a new boaters lounge and bathhouse facilities.  And after class, visit the many restaurants within walking distance or downtown area just a mile away.  Our roster of instructors speaks for itself. Eleven certified instructors keep the classes fresh and lively. They not only know sailing but they know how to teach it in a relaxed manner.

Our course line up covers everything from Basic Sailing to Cruising to Advanced Sailing, Catamaran Courses, Group Events and more.


Great Lakes Sailing Co. was recognized as a “Top Twenty” sailing school by ASA and has received several "School of the Year" awards.

Four of our instructors received the "Outstanding Instructor" award from ASA - this means they were in the Top 20 of over 2000 instructors worldwide.


ASA Sailing School Course Descriptions, Rates & Dates

Private Instruction & Group Courses – Book 4 spots in any class listed below and you’ll have private instruction with 10% off the regular rate.

Click on the course header for detailed requirements and cost for each course

Basic Sailing - ASA 101

ASA 101 Basic Sailing

Click here to view the course standards.

  • 2-Days
  • A two-day course designed to give you the basic sailing experience with plenty of sailing time as well as on-board instruction and orientation while dockside.   This ASA certification course will provide the necessary knowledge and skills to sail small fixed keel sailboat in light to moderate conditions. Sail theory, safety, tying knots and terminology are just part of what you will learn. The ASA certification test is taken at the end of the 2nd day. This course includes the ASA Sailing Fundamentals text book and ASA log book. This course alone will not certify you to charter the boat you train on but will give you basic sailing experience.
  • 9am-5pm each day, for a total of 16 hours of instruction.
  • $495.00 per student includes ASA 101 certification.  2 students required to schedule a class. If it’s just you, let us know and we’ll try to pair you up with other students.
  • Available dates: 2020 dates coming soon. Our season typically runs from the beginning of May to the first week of October.  Contact us for additional dates that might not be posted here.
  • $1795 for private instruction – up to 4 students, on a private boat with instructor, ASA certifications.

Basic Cruising - ASA 103

ASA 103 Basic Coastal Cruising

Click here to view the course standards.

  • Great Lakes Sailing Co. bareboat qualification up to 32’
  • 4-Days, live-aboard optional – limited space for live-aboard, call the office to reserve your space
  • For graduates of the 101 course or for those that have sailing experience and are willing to test into this course. The 103 course starts with a 101 refresher taught on a 30-32 foot monohull, then move on to developing the skills for independent, short range cruising.
  • $795 per student and includes the text book, study guide, testing and certification.  Discounts for groups.
  • Available dates: 2020 dates coming soon. Our season typically runs from the beginning of May to the first week of October.  Contact us for additional dates that might not be posted here.

Basic Sailing & Basic Cruising Combo - ASA 101/103

ASA 101 & 103 Combo Course

Click here to view the course standards.

  • Great Lakes Sailing Co. bareboat qualification up to 32’
  • 4- Day course, with a live-aboard option during the course – limited space for live-aboard, call office to reserve your space!
  • Our best selling course! Taught on a 30’ cruising sailboat, this course is designed to give you confidence. You will learn everything mentioned in the above courses but in a consistent 4-day format. Anchoring, expanded terminology, heavy weather tactics, harbor handling and docking, person-overboard recovery, general seamanship and weather is only part of the program. You will also be exposed to a wide variety of gear and hardware found on sail vessels designed for more than just day-sailing. At the end of each day around 5pm you will be back dockside in our marina and free to browse the beautiful town of Traverse City. Make it a learning vacation you will always remember. This course includes the ASA Sailing Fundamentals text book and ASA log book. Classes held every Saturday through Tuesday, 9am-5pm, mid May through September.
  • $895.00 per student includes ASA 101/103 certification: discounts for groups
  • $100 for the live-aboard option – private cabin for up to 2 ppl for 4 days.
  • Available dates: 2020 dates coming soon. Our season typically runs from the beginning of May to the first week of October.  Contact us for additional dates that might not be posted here.

Basic Cruising - Learning Cruise

Cruise on your own in protected waters

  • 3-Day charter on your own (no instructor)
  • After successful completion of the Bareboat Level 1 (ASA 101/103), this popular option allows you to take the boat you learned on (or similar model) for a 3-day cruising experience. Practice skills you just learned and harbor-hop on to Suttons Bay, Northport or Elk Rapids. Or anchor out at nearby Power Island Nature Preserve. The boat is yours and the destinations are many. Our boats have many live-aboard amenities such as propane stoves, refrigeration, holding tank head and hot showers. The boat sleeps 5-6 so you can invite your family and friends along.
  • These prices are for the entire boat for 3 days – that’s not per person; that’s for your own private boat!
  • $895 for the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday immediately following your 101/103 course or after Labor Day
  • $995 for any Wednesday, Thursday and Friday Memorial Day thru Labor Day if not immediately after your course
  • Regular pricing may apply if you cannot sail Wednesday thru Friday.
  • Sample 3-Day Learning Cruise Itineraries

Basic to Intermediate Cruising Combo - ASA 101/103/104

ASA 101/103/104 Combo Course

Click here to view the course standards.

  • 7 day course
  • For those just starting out or for those who would like to fine tune their sailing skills. No prerequisites are necessary. Starts out with 4 days on a 32’ monohull sailboat and finishes with 3 days on a 38’-40′ monohull sailboat.
  • This course starts out with basic sail theory and tactics (same as the Basic Sailing &  Basic Cruising Combo above) and evolves into cruise planning, mechanical and electrical systems, advanced anchoring techniques, more in-depth navigation, heavy weather tactics as well as the live aboard experience. This is the course to prepare you for that bareboat charter on a larger monohull or for further your cruising knowledge on your own boat.
  • 7-Day Course $1495 per student and includes ASA 101/103/104 certifications. Discounts for groups of 4 or more and for private instruction.
  • Available dates: 2020 dates coming soon. Our season typically runs from the beginning of May to the first week of October.  Contact us for additional dates that might not be posted here.

Intermediate Cruising - ASA 104

ASA 104 Bareboat Certification

Click here to view the course standards.

  • 3 day course
  • The 3 day course is for those that have completed 101 & 103 or for those with a good sailing background and are competent with the standards posted in the 101 and 103 courses.
  • This course covers cruise planning, mechanical and electrical systems, advanced anchoring techniques, more in-depth navigation, heavy weather tactics as well as the live aboard experience. This is the course to prepare you for that bareboat charter in the Caribbean or for further cruising on your own boat.  Provisioning (food and beverage) is not included in the course cost but provisioning is split between students after a discussion on the topic with the instructor.
  • Prerequisites 101/103 or test out required for 104 certification.
  • Prices are as follows:
      • $795 per student for private cabin
      • $695 per student for settee bunk in main salon
      • Discounts for non-certification or groups of 4 or more and for private instruction.
  • Available dates: 2020 dates coming soon. Our season typically runs from the beginning of May to the first week of October.  Contact us for additional dates that might not be posted here.

Cruising Catamaran Combo - ASA 104/114

ASA 104 Intermediate Cruising & 114 Catamaran Combo

Click here to view the course standards.

  • Taught on a twin engine Legacy 35 catamaran
  • 5-day course
  • A fantastic transitional course to seamlessly take a sailor from monohull to catamaran.  For those that have completed 101 & 103 or for those with a good sailing background and are competent with the standards posted in the 101 and 103 courses.
  • Taught entirely on a cruising catamaran, the cruising portion of this course (ASA 104) covers cruise planning, mechanical and electrical systems, advanced anchoring techniques, more in-depth navigation, heavy weather tactics as well as the live aboard experience.  The Catamaran portion of this course (ASA 114) covers docking and harbor handling in a wide, twin engine cat, tacking, jibing, sailing tactics and other aspects that make a catamaran different from a monohull.  This is the course to prepare you for that bareboat charter in the Caribbean or for further cruising on your own boat.
  •  $3975 includes private boat, instructor, books and certifications for up to 4 students. Additional students may be added for private courses at $195 per student.
  • Prerequisites are 101 and 103 or equivalent experience.
  • Available dates: 2020 dates coming soon. Our season typically runs from the beginning of May to the first week of October.  Contact us for additional dates that might not be posted here.

Cruising Catamaran - ASA 114

ASA 114 Cruising Catamarans

Click here to view the course standards.

  • 2-day course taught on a twin-engine Legacy 35 catamaran.
  • Teaches the sailing and harbor handling characteristics that are unique to a catamaran.
  • This course is perfect for those who are looking to charter a catamaran or are trying to determine if a catamaran is right for them
  • Private stay-aboard course – $2295 for the entire boat, up to 4 students.  $195 each additional student.
  • Optional ASA 114 Certification – $95 per person for ASA Catamaran 114 level certification (optional) for those with the proper ASA prerequisites (101 /103 /104)

Catamaran Learning Cruise

  • Offered anytime immediately after the Catamaran Course.  This is special discounted, minimum 3-day cruise on a Legacy 35 catamaran and is designed to get you familiar with life aboard a cruising catamaran (no instructor).
  • $625 per day with a 3 day minimum following your 114 or 104/114 combo course.
  • Sample 3-Day Learning Cruise Itineraries

Coastal Navigation - ASA 105

ASA 105 Coastal Navigation – Special Course!

Click here to view the course standards.

  • 7-Day course.  This course can be combined with the Advanced Coastal Cruising (ASA 106).  See below for details.
  • 5 days of sailing plus 2 days of classroom time.  The first day of the course is classroom.  The following 5 days are sailing and the last day is classroom and testing.  You are welcome to stay aboard the boat the entire course.
  • Class is aboard a 35-45 foot monohull.
  • At least 10 hours of home-study is required to prep for Coastal Navigation. You will receive text books, practice charts and a study guide to further prepare you for the course. You’ll visit quaint harbor towns and scenic anchorages plus hone your skills for live-aboard cruising and navigation.
  • Included in the price; Coastal Navigation text book, CD guide, nautical chart, study aids, practice worksheets and customized study guideline
  • Prices are as follows:
      • $1495 per student for private cabin
      • $1195 per student for private cabin based on double occupancy
      • $1095 per student for settee bunk in main salon
  • Available dates: 2020 dates coming soon. Our season typically runs from the beginning of May to the first week of October.  Contact us for additional dates that might not be posted here.

Advanced Coastal Cruising - ASA 106

ASA 106 Advanced Coastal Cruising

Click here to view the course standards.

  • 6-day course.  This course can be combined with the Coastal Navigation (ASA 105).  See above for details.
  • 5 days of sailing plus one day of classroom time and testing.  You are welcome to stay aboard during the classroom and testing time.
  • Hone all the skills learned in prior classes and add in new experiences including night navigation under sail, MOB drills at night, vessel systems troubleshooting, engineering and much more. Class is aboard a 35-45 foot cruising monohull and includes Annapolis School of Seamanship text book.
  • Prerequisites 101/103/104/105 or test out required. Discounts for non-certification or for groups of 4 or more or private instruction.
  • Prices are as follows:
      • $1295 per student for private cabin
      • $1095 per student for private cabin based on double occupancy
      • $995 per student for settee bunk in main salon
  • Available dates: 2020 dates coming soon. Our season typically runs from the beginning of May to the first week of October.  Contact us for additional dates that might not be posted here.

Coastal Navigation Home-Study - ASA 105

ASA 105 Coastal Navigation Certification optional

Click here to view the course standards

  • A comprehensive and in-depth study of navigation designed to fit most skill levels from beginners to experienced navigators looking for a refresher. In fact, more than a few “old salts” commented on how much they didn’t know after taking this course! You’ll receive the Coastal Navigation text book, CD guide, nautical chart, study aids, practice worksheets and customized study guidelines.  Our 105 study guide is written by one of our veteran ASA instructors and is very, very helpful in learning the material and passing the course.  You will also have an email and phone number to contact one of our instructors for support.
  • Students will become proficient in the use of navigational aids, chart reading, use of navigational tools, determining courses, taking bearings, plotting fixes, variation & deviation, dead reckoning, use of tide & current tables and more.
  • Cost is $179 and includes the materials mentioned above.
  • For ASA testing and certification – $250 for one student, $175 per student if two or more test.  This fee does not apply if you are taking the 105 during one of our special event courses.  Contact our office to verify.

Sailing School Policies & Paperwork


The following forms are available for download. We can also mail these to you upon request:


  1. Call the Great Lakes Sailing Co. office (231) 941-0535 to check availability.
  2. A confirmation deposit for each student will reserve your spot on board. Deposit amounts are $400 for courses of 4 days or more, $200 for courses of 2-3 days. We prefer checks and accept most major credit cards. We will hold your spot for 7 days to allow time for a check to arrive in the mail.
  3. We’ll send your student packet in the mail after your deposit has been received (text book(s) and other study material).
  4. Complete the Student Application and mail, fax or email it to us at your earliest convenience.
  5. Download the Arrival Information as its very helpful to plan for your class.
  6. The Student Release & Indemnification Form is required before you board the boat for class.
  7. All forms can be downloaded or we can mail them to you. After completing the forms, mail, fax or email back to the Great Lakes Sailing office.
  8. The balance is due 30 days before you start class

In our short but very busy sailing season, sailing school spots are in high demand. Please keep in mind that we do not refund deposits or balances for Sailing School courses.

We understand that “life happens”. And this is why we highly recommend that you look into a trip insurance policy. Trip insurance can be very cheap and very helpful when “life happens”.

Cancellation MORE THAN 30 DAYS prior to class start date:
  • No refund is available, but we can transfer your payment towards another course this season or the following season.
  • Not rescheduling this season or the following season will result in the forfeiture of the deposit and/or balance payment.
  • A course can only be rescheduled once, otherwise your deposit and/or balance will be forfeited.
Cancellation LESS THAN 30 DAYS prior to class start date:
  • No refund will be available.

Weather:

We do not consider inclement weather a reason for canceling or rescheduling a sailing school course. The courses are comprised of group study, dockside, below decks and on-the-water instruction. The instructors consider the weather forecast and design the class around it. As policy, we will not sail in any conditions we deem to be dangerous such as lightening, thunder, and excessively high winds. But keep in mind that dangerous weather conditions move out of the area as quickly as they came in which is why our classes are rarely affected by them.

We highly recommend purchasing trip insurance in the event you should have to cancel.


Live-Aboards for 101 and 103 Courses

Students are welcome to stay aboard each evening for the 101 and 103 courses. The boat will return dockside each afternoon around 4-5pm and thats when the live-aboard experience starts. We make both cabins available for sleeping which means you may not have the boat privately during the live-aboard experience (unless you’ve booked it privately). You do not have to share a bunk with a stranger! But another student (individual or couple) may occupy the other double bunk on the boat in the other cabin. We will try our best to accommodate students overnight on other empty boats to give students their privacy but cannot guarantee a private live-aboard boat during the class (unless you’ve booked the boat for private lessons).

Live-Aboards for 104, 104/105, 106 and Catamaran Courses

You will be away from the Great Lakes Sailing Co. docks for the duration of your course which is why we recommend packing wisely. The Captain/Instructor has the authority to assign staterooms as he sees best. Couples may get the larger staterooms, etc. Some berths (beds) are not located in private staterooms and are open to the boats layout.

Tipping the Captain / Instructor

It’s also customary, but not required, to tip your Captain/Instructor after a course if you feel he or she did a great job instructing. Just like any service industry job, they make the extra effort to deliver a great service. And if you feel they did, a tip is always greatly appreciated!

The Care and Feeding of your Captain / Instructor

For intermediate and advanced courses where you will be away from our docks during the duration of the course, students are responsible for including the Captain / Instructor into the meal plans. When provisioning the boat with groceries, the Captains should be factored into meals. If the group decides to eat ashore, it is customary that the students split the cost of the Captain’s meal. It’s never a problem if you’d like to go ashore and have a meal on your own but just make sure the Captain has food aboard to prepare a meal for himself (and don’t forget to fill his water dish!)


Sailing School FAQs

1Why should I attend a sailing school?
It’s the best way to learn. It greatly sharpens the learning curve by exposing you to situations that most sailors avoid. When learning informally from a friend or family member, chances are they only sail when the weather is nice or maybe got lucky when things didn’t go as planned. Informal instruction can require years and years before you might actually learn the proper techniques. If you’ve ever had a bad experience sailing, chances are it could have easily been avoided. Formal training, like the ASA courses, accelerate your learning by teaching you the correct methods the first time. Additionally, bringing the family along is a great idea. You’ll learn the same techniques and learn how to properly handle situations together without the panic or chaos!
2What if I already know how to sail?
Most people have been on a sailboat of some kind. Whether a beach cat at your parent’s summer cottage, a sunfish at your friends or a bigger boat you were a guest on. There is more to sailing than just “sailing”. All of your experiences are good to have. But taking it to the next level and learning navigation, rules of the road, sail plan theory, safety at sea are just a few of the skills and information that make you a competent and confident sailor and skipper. Sailing is one thing but when is the last time you “hove to” in heavy weather? Or recovered a man over board under sail in under 4 minutes?
3What if the weather is bad during the course?
We will not sail in “dangerous conditions” determined by the Instructor (lightening, thunder, very high winds…). But in Northern Michigan, the weather changes constantly. Ten-day forecasts are pretty much just for entertainment because a forecast for rain is only taken seriously if it’s actually raining! Your class will involve a combination of on-the-water exercises, classroom review and on-board-below-deck review while anchored or dockside. The instructors can pick and choose what to teach on a particular day to maximize the best weather and try to get you out of the elements when the weather isn’t so good. Keep in mind, our goal is to make you a competent sailor. Learning the techniques in windy, rainy conditions will simply make everything else seem like a piece of cake!
4What is included with the cost of the class?
The only thing you will be responsible for is your food. Provisioning is easily done at our facility with ample stores and specialty stores very close by. We have shore side facilities for showering and a number of great restaurants very close by for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
5Can I stay on the boat during my class?
We offer a sleep aboard option for any class taught aboard our boats over 30' in length. The charge is $100 per student. There is limited availability, so please call our office to reserve your cabin.
6Who is ASA and what does the certification mean to me?
harter companies and Sailing Organizations recognize the ASA. The American Sailing Association (ASA) has been in existence since 1983. We feel ASA offers the best all around learn to sail program available. Here are a few facts regarding ASA. 1. Over 270 professional sailing schools use the ASA system worldwide. 2. ASA has certified over 7,000 professional sailing instructors. 3. ASA has certified over 300,000 students. 4. ASA has had a functioning, nationwide keelboat program since 1983. 5. ASA certification is recognized by major charter boat companies as well as other ASA facilities around the world.
7Will I be able to charter in the Caribbean after I take the class?
No charter company is going to give you the key to the fleet unless you have some history with them or another reputable charter company. Taking the ASA classes and progressing through the upper level classes give you and the charter companies you want to charter from, peace of mind, the training and experience they look for. It also depends on the size of the boat you are looking to charter. Do not expect to be given a 45′ vessel if you have experience on a 30′ vessel. All charter operators will look favorably on experience in a sailing school with ASA certification but charter companies all have their own requirements.
8What physical requirements are required for the classes?
Mobility and range of motion are two key physical attributes to have. During your classes, you will be moving around, getting on and off of the boat, reaching for and stepping over gear and lines. It’s a sailboat. There is more to it than a powerboat. It’s difficult for us to judge what will and will not be ideal for you to have a good time and learn how to sail at the same time. The physical attributes have in the past made it a challenge for some people. If you have any questions as to your physical capabilities, please call us so we can discuss it with you personally.
9Are my children able to attend classes with us?
Yes and we have had many families attend our sailing classes together with their children. A couple of key considerations are to be addressed. Attention span during the class. We’ve found that children under the age of 15 generally do not seem as interested to learn to sail as their parents. There are exceptions to every situation. If you are taking the class with other people you do not know, be considerate to your fellow classmates before you make the decision to enroll your child. If they have a genuine interest in learning to sail with you and they will be able to be a part of the class the entire time, by all means bring them. Sailing is one of the best family activities to get your kids involved with.
10What is there to do after the class?
Plenty. Many of the best reasons to attend sailing classes in Traverse City is because of Traverse City. Our facility is far enough away to concentrate but close enough to bike or even walk to the downtown district. Abundant shops, restaurants, art galleries, parks, theaters, night clubs and just the scenery are just a few of the reasons to come to Traverse City to learn to sail. You might even have a chance to see the new Frontier League Traverse City Beach Bums play a ballgame. Of course there is always some studying to do as well.

Sailing School News, Stories, Video & More

Sailing School Instructors

  • Rorke Miller

    Captain Rorke started sailing olympic class keelboats 25 years ago.  After graduating from Chapman School of Seamanship in 1997, he crewed on vessels on the East […]
  • Paul Davis

    Paul Davis moved to Traverse City after graduation from Western Michigan University.   In 1982 he met Dan Spyhalski (long time GLSCo sailing school instructor) and Dan […]
  • Kip Nickel

    Kip lives on Old Mission Peninsula overlooking Power Island and West Bay. He has been sailing since he was 12 yrs old, beginning on a Sunfish […]
  • Keith Forton

    Keith and the Forton family has been involved in the sailing community of Traverse City for a very long time. A licensed USCG Captain, Keith is […]
  • Josh Agripino

    Josh began his sailing career in San Diego racing J22s before moving to Charleston SC where he got into delivering boats. After several trips back and […]
  • John Waechter

    John learned to sail from his future wife Sue when he was seventeen years old.  He was more interested in the woman than sailing, but Sue’s […]
  • John Martin

    Proud Recipient of the ASA Outstanding Instructor Award!  John and his wife Cyndi have just finished a five and a half year around the world cruise. They […]
  • Jerry Hardin

    Captain Jerry is licensed by the United States Coast Guard (USCG), holding a 50 ton Master on Inland Waters and Great Lakes with Sailing endorsement. He […]
  • Jenny McCain

    Jenny is a teacher in TCAPS, currently teaching 2nd grade at Westwoods Elementary. She loves working with children and their families and is excited to assist […]
  • Dirk Wissbaum

    Dirk is a native of Illinois and has been working and sailing for Great Lakes Sailing consistently since 1996.  Dirk started his maritime career in 1986 when he […]
  • Dave Conrad

    Dave’s experience in the boat business includes captaining charter yachts, maintaining cruising vessels and managing charter companies in the Caribbean and on the Great Lakes.  Currently he’s the chief […]
  • Dan Spyhalski

    01Proud Recipient of the ASA Outstanding Instructor Award! Dan has been sailing for over 30 years, walks the walk and actually lives on his Cal 40 “Spyke” […]
  • Bryan Smith

    Proud Recipient of the ASA Outstanding Instructor Award! Bryan has taught at Great Lakes Sailing Co. for over 20 years and has certified more than 500 students and […]

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