The History of the American Sailing Institute
The history of ASI really begins with its origins in another organization, American Youth Hostels. The mission of American Youth Hostels – now known as Hostelling International – was to provide inexpensive accommodations and recreational opportunities for men and women (not all of them young; ‘Youth’, in the name, is something of a misnomer!) The Detroit chapter of AYH in Berkley, Michigan successfully operated several hostels in and around the Detroit metropolitan area, and also offered programs in hiking, canoeing, skiing and cycling.
Birth of ASI/AYH
In early 1961 – fifty years ago – they decided to also try a pilot sailing training and education program. This program was hugely popular; the first year of its operation almost a hundred men and women learned to sail in a couple of small borrowed sailboats. Over the next few years the saiing program expanded, and eventually, AYH acquired a small fleet of centerboard boats – all Interlakes, thanks to generous support from the Interlake builder, Customflex, in Ohio – and also began to offer sailing instruction in larger keelboats.
As this scope increased, AYH developed four classes, or ‘levels’ of sailors; Skippers, Captains, Ensigns and Voyagers. An AYH member became a ‘skipper’ when they became certified to sail the small Interlakes. Then, when they gained more skills in the mid-size keelboats on Lake St Clair, they became ‘Captains’. With further instruction, practice and certification, they moved up to the bigger, inboard-powered keelboats and became ‘ensigns’. How did an AYH sailor become a ‘Voyager’? Early on, AYH sailors wanted to venture farther northward into Lake Huron, Georgian Bay and the North Channel. But how to ‘certify’ those sailors that wanted to sail in those magnificent waters?
The Transfer Trip
That is how the ‘transfer trip’ came about! Those Ensigns that wanted to become Voyagers were required to crew on those keelboats that were taken northward, each year, to the North Channel. Upon successful completion of that three hundred mile cruise, those Ensigns became Voyagers! This successful sailing program continued to evolve over the next thirty years, at which time it was determined that the sailing program was actually not a good ‘fit’ for an organization that was principally focused on hostelling.
ASI and AYH part ways
After many months of study and preparation, a brand-new, free-standing non-profit 501-c-3 organization was formed; the American Sailing Institute! In 1992, as this new organization split off from AYH, it took with it not only the entire sailing program, but also all the same people, boats, and equipment. The ‘Skipper’ rating became ASI’s ‘Level 1’, ‘Captain’ became ‘level 2’, ‘Ensign’ became ‘level 3’ and ‘Voyager’ became ‘level 4’. At the time of ASI’s incorporation, we began operating under a different organizational structure also. Our nine-member governing board consists of members serving staggered three year terms. Each year the new board members self-elect our President, Vice president, Secretary and Treasurer.
Happy 53rd Birthday to American Sailing Institute!
Though ASI goes back to 1992, our sail program is actually over fifty years old! In those fifty+ years, literally thousands have gone through our sailing instruction and have become smarter and safer boaters. And we continue to grow and evolve.
Come sail with us at on Kent Lake at Kensington Metropark in Milford, MI or at Stony Creek Lake at Stony Creek Metropark in Shelby Twp. or take a ride on our big boats at Jefferson Beach Marina in St. Clair Shores!