With dozens of clubs and schools, B.C. is the perfect place for adventurous types looking to get their feet wet
Spring is here, and with that the sailing season is gearing up into full swing.
Boaters across the province get the tarps off their boat, give the deck a good scrub and get that annual oil change done.
The past weekend, you may have strolled along the seawall and longingly looked over English Bay as dozens of sailboats criss-crossed the blue water, their white sails pulling them through the waves.
Sailing in Vancouver is much more accessible than you may think. When I first arrived in Vancouver from Switzerland, it took me three years to realize how easy it is to get involved in boating here without plundering the RRSP.
For many, their first sailing adventure may have been as a kid in summer camp or when a friend with a boat took you along for a ride. For those now wondering how to become their own captain, the next step is often taking sailing classes. There are more than 30 B.C. schools and clubs that offer programs tailored to any sailing needs. BC Sailing (bcsailing.bc.ca) has a list of all clubs and schools offering sailing programs.
The following is a glimpse into what a typical sailing course might look like: A group of sailors joined us for five days of lessons in the Gulf Islands. We had quite an international team: Colombia, Germany, Canada and Switzerland.
A nice breeze on Day 1 made for great sailing conditions to cross the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver to Gulf Islands. The wind was just perfect and everybody had a good time steering the boat and learning the basic manoeuvres.
The day ended with a lamb barbecue at Pirate's Cove, one of the most serene anchorages in the islands. A nice bottle of Australian Shiraz made it the perfect dinner.
We enjoyed summer-like temperatures for the next few days. The winds were light, but the spectacular scenery of the Gulf Islands made up for it. We all agreed that the showers on Thetis Island are in desperate need of an upgrade. It is, however, a great spot to practise getting the boat on and off the dock, centrally located near many beautiful anchorages - and there is a pub.
The third day was filled with more sailing practice, including crew overboard recovery drills. After a long day we arrived at Kendrick Island (near Silva Bay on Gabriola Island) where we enjoyed a spectacular sunset, a Thai curry and a nice bottle of Californian Zinfandel.
Then it was time to cross the Strait of Georgia again, and we set course for Howe Sound, dropping anchor at Port Graves. The HMCS Annapolis, a decommissioned Royal Canadian Navy destroyer, makes for a dramatic backdrop.
On the second last day, the crew was close to a mutiny after running out of chocolate chip cookies. Only cold beers and gourmet curry stew paired with a bottle of Chilean wine averted the skipper being thrown overboard.
After four days of light winds, a stiff breeze finally filled our sails on our last day on course to Vancouver. The crew applied all they learned in the stronger wind and it was a pleasure to see how far they came in only five days of sail training.
Christof Marti is the owner of Simply Sailing School in Vancouver (simplysailing.ca) and is a director on the Board of BC Sailing and the Vancouver Rowing Club. Trained as an engineer and with an MBA in finance, Christof is also a qualified sailing instructor and a certified Yachtmaster. He will be filing reports from B.C.’s coastal waters over the season.
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Last week we cast off the mooring lines for another five day cruise & learn adventure to the Gulf Islands. Light winds prevailed during the Strait of Georgia crossing.
This gave us time to talk about sail theory, collision regulations and navigation. How is that for a class room: Front row, ocean view!
The timing was right to get through Gabriola Pass a slack tide and shortly afterwards we dropped the anchor in Pirates Cove on De Courcy Island.
Done with the sailing lessons for the day, we fire up the BBQ and prepare salad. While waiting for the steaks, we have some appies and a cold drink.
Environment Canada forecast light winds again and we decided to head for Porlier Pass near the northern end of Trincomali Channel. This is the perfect sail practice area: We always find a fresh breeze, even when the seas all around are calm. It is also close to numerous, charming anchorages. Having done the class room sailing lessons the day before, it was time for the practical sailing lessons: Points of sail, tacking and gybing are the first steps to become a sailor. That night we snug down in Princess Cove on Wallace Island, one of the most lovely places one can visit in the Gulf Islands.
For the history buffs among you: Trincomali channel was named after the HMS Trincomalee. Built 1812 in Bombay, India, she can now be seen at the dockyard museum in Hartlepool, England. This makes her the oldest boat of the Royal Navy still afloat.
After the basic sailing lessons of the previous day, it was time to introduce crew overboard procedures. The building breeze at the entrance to Ganges Harbour made for perfect conditions. Ganges, on Saltspring Island, is named after the HMS Ganges, the last Navy sailing ship to serve as a flagship. Snugged down at Ganges Marine, we were treated to a delicious dinner at Calvin’s Bistro, a delightful Swiss restaurant with a gorgeous view over Ganges Harbour.
Please allow me to introduce two of our sailing students: Rebecca Berger & Leanne Zrum. They are currently preparing to cross the Pacific in a rowboat from Monterey, California to Hawaii. 2,100 miles through the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, unassisted they will be the first female pair to have ever done this!
You can visit their website and learn more about their incredible journey as they prepare for the race start in 2014: http://www.rowthepacific.ca
During the last two days we slowly made our way back to Vancouver. Sailing north in Trincomali Channel the next day we were alerted by a May Day call. A power boat ran aground at Panther Point (south end of Wallace Island). Being nearby, we started the engine and approached the Panther Point. When we arrived maybe 15 minutes later, another power boat was already on scene evacuating all passengers to shore. Shortly thereafter the Coast Guard was on scene. With now apparent damage and all passengers save on shore, they departed soon. A commercial towing vessel was called and we left the scene towards Clam Bay.
Salmon BBQ was on the menu that night. To make slack tide at Porlier Pass, we weighed the anchor at 6 am, made it through the pass in time and stopped at Dionisio Point for a more relaxed breakfast before crossing the Strait of Georgia back to Vancouver.
Another cruise & learn, with four wonderful students came to an end when we docked at back in Vancouver.
Your Simply Sailing Team,
Vancouver is nestled between mountains and the ocean and offers world-class opportunities for sailing.
Not only are some of the world’s best cruising grounds right at our doorstep, there are also more than three dozens of sailing schools, as many clubs and a handful of sailing co-ops offering easy and affordable access to boating.
How do you get on the water if you don’t already own a boat, or have a friend who takes you out? You may think boating must be expensive, but it doesn't have to be tough:
Here are a few ideas on how to get involved with sailing this summer and become your own captain:
If you are interested in dinghy sailing, Mike Cotter, manager of Jericho Sailing Centre, says: “The Jericho Sailing Centre is based on the model of a Vancouver Community Centre and we are all about providing safe, low cost, highly accessible, naturally powered ocean recreation to the people of Metro Vancouver, including our flagship sport dinghy sailing.”
MacSailing, the dinghy sailing school at Jericho, will introduce 3,000 landlubbers to sailing this year.
Discovery Sailing Club and Viking Sailing Club, in addition to offering dinghy fleets, each operate a small yacht for cruising in English Bay and beyond. Other clubs such as Locarno Sailing Club not only offer sailing but also have a fleet of sea kayaks, windsurfers, row boats and standup paddle boards.
These clubs are all conveniently located at the Jericho Sailing Centre. It’s worth a visit — even if you only end up enjoying watching over the bay from Vancouver’s top patio located at the sailing centre.
As much fun as it is to zip across English Bay in a small sail boat, spray in your face, water rushing past the hull, not everybody wants to put on a wet suit and may prefer a ride with some creature comfort.
If cruising beyond English Bay into the Gulf Islands or venturing north along B.C.’s pristine coastline is your dream, then taking sailing lessons on a larger yacht may be your first step. With so many schools offering their different programs, choosing the right one may be daunting. A good starting point is to go to one of the schools registered with a recognized sailing association.
In Canada, there are two sailing associations providing sail training through their associated schools:
The first one is Sail Canada (formerly the Canadian Yachting Association), represented at the provincial level by BC Sailing (http://www.bcsailing.bc.ca). The second association is the International Sail & Power Association (ISPA, http://www.ispassociation.ca). You can go to their respective websites and find a school near you that provides the sailing course which is right for you.
Most schools offer introductions to sailing, weekend classes and liveaboard sailing courses exploring the Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast, or venture beyond into Desolation Sound and around Vancouver Island for more advanced sail training. You can get a good idea about what a school offers online. Choose a few that pique your interest and call them.
Get a feel for if they are a good fit for you. Find out about the instructors you may get and what their experience level is. The cost for a basic sail training course leading to a certification starts around $600 for day sailing classes (three days on the water complemented by classroom sessions) and are about double for a five day,liveaboard course. Discounts for groups and families are often available.
Once you have your basic training, you may wonder how to stay involved and keep going on the water without having to buy a boat. A sailing club or sailing coop - such as Barnet Sailing Coop, Discovery Sailing Club or Viking Sailing Club to name just a few — are all excellent starting points. They range from small one boat clubs to larger clubs with half a dozen or more cruising boats and locations throughout the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and up the coast. The cost, depending on the club, can be as low as $350/year for a family membership.
Those who don’t want to commit to a membership and pay monthly or annual dues, you can always charter a boat. You will need more than just the basic training, however, to take out those shiny and expensive cruising yachts. Some more sail training either through a club or a school will get you there.
For the performance oriented sailor, there is the racing scene. Whether you are into the casual evening races or the more competitive race series, you will get on the water. A smile, some basic sail training and being willing to show up on time for the race will secure you a crew spot. Guaranteed! A good starting point are the Wednesday night races organized by the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, Thursday night races through the False Creek Yacht Club or in the winter the Polar Bear series organized by the Vancouver Rowing Club.
If you have any questions with regards to the options listed here, feel free to contact the author directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of course, there is always the option to buy a boat. The current market conditions are great if you are looking for your dream boat. Prices are very low compared to the past and you will find good deals. Bear in mind though: Buying the boat is only half the story. Moorage, insurance and maintenance can quickly eat a substantial hole into the cruising kitty and maybe chartering a boat or joining a sailing club looks attractive after all. Remember: The best boats to sail on are “OPBs” (other people’s boats)!
I hope I sparked some interested and showed a few ways on how to get sea legs. Check out the next blog entry about cruising destinations in the Gulf Islands and Desolation Sound.
Christof Marti is the owner of Simply Sailing School in Vancouver (simplysailing.ca) and is a director on the Board of BC Sailing. Trained as an engineer and with an MBA in finance, Christof is also a qualified sailing instructor and a certified Yachtmaster. He will be filing reports from B.C.’s coastal waters over the season.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Christof is the owner and operator of Simply Sailing. An enthusiastic sailor he loves to share his knowledge with other sailors.
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