The simple answer is no, your American Sailing Association (ASA) certification does not expire. Certifications issued through the American Sailing Association come with lifetime designation, but this does not necessarily mean an individual is qualified to operate a desired sailboat. Alongside certification the most important thing one can have on their sailing resume is experience skippering sailboats at the certification level they desire.
For example, an individual earns their ASA 101 certificate with Harbor Sailboats and then charters the Capri 22’ a half dozen times before moving onto and successfully passing ASA 103. Although this person has passed 103, they are perfectly happy sailing the smaller and very fun Capris and continue to do so.
Fast forward 2-3 years later and now this individual has family in town and wants to charter a larger boat with accommodations for more people. This is where the “old” ASA 103 certification from years past does not necessary come into play. Although this person holds an ASA certification for this boat size, they have never skippered a sailboat larger than 22’ let alone one with a wheel and inboard diesel engine.
While each charter company is different, the general rule of thumb throughout the industry is that all skippers are “vessel current.” Here at Harbor Sailboats, we consider the term vessel current to mean that the captain of the boat has skippered the same size or larger boat in the past 365 days.
In summation, official ASA certifications do not expire but you must stay up to date on your skill level. Every situation is different but in most cases where certification is held without somewhat recent experience, a simple 4 hour “refresher” is all it takes to re-qualify at a certain level. The simple rule is to sail no less than one time per year in the size range you wish to stay “current.”
See you on the water!