If you are considering spending thousands of dollars on sailing lessons; look at the other school in San Carlos. If you choose the San Carlos Sailing School, you will not be treated to sailing lessons but rather to intense personal degradation and be placed in an extremely hostile environment. The instructor has little interest in teaching sailing skills and a good deal of interest in developing your supposedly woefully inadequate personal character.
My wife and I ( who are in our mid-fifties) chose San Carlos Sailing Adventures and got Mr. Baraff as an instructor. In light of our experience, we strongly recommend that you do not use Mr. Baraff and his San Carlos Sailing School . We had an awful experience and we cannot believe we actually had to pay this guy big money to do little more than abuse us both physically and mentally. It is our belief that Mr. Baraff has little, if any experience teaching adults to sail.
We feel you should know a few things about Mr. Baraff. First, he informed us that he is by training, a National Outdoor Leadership instructor. A sort of Outward Bound program with attitude. He is used to instructing college kids not adults in their forties or fifties. Sailing instruction is not his primary focus. He is interested in physically and emotionally challenging individuals in order to develop character. Sailing is incidental to Mr. Baraff and it is a secondary benefit if anyone actually picks up sailing skills from him.
Mr. Baraff seemed determined to find the most adverse sailing conditions available to him and his lessons."
Mr. Baraff refused to allow us to learn sailing skills under fair weather conditions on the last two days of our lessons. He insisted on having us take written exams both mornings when the winds were light and then going out in the afternoons under intermediate conditions. I might mention we were the ONLY sailboat out both days. On the last morning, even though, we asked him to go out early and take the written test in the afternoon, he again refused to go out saying he had some errands to run. He wanted us to demonstrate "Man-Over-Board" skills and we would have happily done that in the A.M. but he wanted it done when it was blowing 25 knots.
As we mentioned, Mr. Baraff was both physically and emotionally abusive towards us. He made fun of my wife Joanne for wanting to use a winch when trimming sails and insisted she pull sheets with her hands. In addition, there was a moment when he forced me to "accidentally jibe" (in order to highlight and make fun of my poor technique.) When doing this, he was not paying attention to where Joanne was and she was injured. She was coming up from down below and her hand was on the traveler when he had me "accidentally jibe." Fortunately, Joanne moved quickly and did not lose her finger, however, she did suffer a severe cut and lost a good chunk of her flesh. Mr. Baraff's reaction was that accidents happen when sailing and went on to list injuries he had suffered.
In the emotional arena, Mr. Baraff simply loved pushing us to do things without fully describing what he wanted us to do. He had Joanne in tears numerous times and seemed to take great pleasure in this. In our opinion, he has a serious case of "little man syndrome."