Teaching a Salty Dog, New Tricks


“I am learning all the time.  The tombstone will be my diploma.”

  ~Eartha Kitt

A new friend and neighbour in the marina needed to take some sailing lessons and also do a shakedown cruise on her Jeanneau 42. Vancouver Island Maritime Academy’s (VIMA) Cruise and Learn course was a perfect solution.  So in early April in the middle of an unusually cold, spring we slipped the docklines for a 5-day sailing course.

Double reefed

Our crew of 3 female students and VIMA’s founder and instructor extraordinaire, Katy spent the first day doing touch and go docking practice, boat handling and reviewing navigational basics. I learnt how to  hove-to- a handy maneuver when in rough conditions or if you need to stop the boat suddenly when under sail.

We then applied this knowledge to do a man-over-board (MOB) drill when under sail. Practice makes perfect and Katy wanted us to be perfect. So each time, she threw the MOB pole off the stern, followed by the lifebuoy ring – we got faster at retrieving the pole – now affectionately called Peter. Each time, Peter ‘fell’ off the boat, we worked as a team to stop the boat’s forward motion, furl the headsail, start the engine and pick up Peter. My best time was 1 minute, 35 seconds.

We also learned how to spring the boat off the dock. I had never seen this done, let alone do it, but what a handy technique to get yourself off the dock in windy conditions or when you don’t have much room to maneuver. Brilliant!

Poets Cove Resort, Bedwell Harbour

On our final evening, we docked at Poet’s Cove Resort and treated ourselves to a lovely shower and soak in the outdoor hot tub followed by a great meal in the pub. A weather system was approaching the next day, so we decided to get an early start. Katy had us sailing in strong winds with confidence and no drama under double-reefed sails. We learned more boat handling techniques to ride through swells and gusts of wind.

There is so much to learn about sailing – boats, weather, tides, current, navigation and sailing. I am not sure that you can ever know everything about sailing. This experience was amazing – living, learning and breathing sailing.

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