Episode #038: Your Pocket Sailing Instructor Podcast What is my sailing journey? How did I get here?

I absolutely love this picture. Some people say I look furious, but I am in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, on the helm by myself, and feeling completely at peace. Not another boat around for days and I’m watching an Albatross glide over the water as we motor along. How did I get there? This week I am talking about how to become Penny! LOL. I get asked this question A LOT. As in, how did I become an instructor, how do I get to sail offshore, how do I get people to pay me to teach them, etc. So many questions about my sailing journey, so here it is!

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Here are my most recent episodes:

#61: Sails – Finding a Sailmaker Your Pocket Sailing Instructor Podcast

  1. #61: Sails – Finding a Sailmaker
  2. #60: Sails – Maintenance and DIY Repairs

Where it all started…

I am one of the lucky ones. I started my sailing journey (apparently) at about a year old when I was tucked under my grandfather’s arm and shot off into the St Lawrence River on our laser. There are variations of this story including me being tied off to the mast, but I doubt that! Anyway, I was baptized by the salt water at an early age and moved up the ranks bailing the bilges of the boats I was sailing on. I spent my summers sailing in the Gaspe with our neighbour, Betty Cornell. She had two beautiful wooden boats that needed A LOT of bailing between tides. I soaked up every bit of knowledge from her and my grandfather and eventually began formal sailing lessons with the Canadian Yachting Association at the ripe old age of 5.

I absolutely loved dinghy sailing and I worked my way up to Silver Sail V before switching over to coaching. At first my interest in earning money outweighed my interest in actually coaching, but eventually I discovered a love for teaching others. I loved the challenge of trying to explain something to someone in different ways. It kept my skills as a sailor growing.

The path to success

At the age of 15 I volunteered to coach for a summer because I was too young to officially be hired. I also started exploring keelboat sailing at this age and realized I enjoyed going home dry and unbruised. So, by 17 I completed my Bareboat Skipper certification (Intermediate Cruising), and by 21 I was an Advanced Cruising Instructor living on a 40′ CS Merlin (Great Habit) up in Georgian Bay. My summers were spent cruising around Beckwith Island, Giants Tomb Island, Beausoleil Island(s), and so many other beautiful places. I was teaching for Harbour West Sailing Adventures, and in order to get our boats from Hamilton up to Georgian Bay each season, we would offer an Advanced Cruising boat delivery course.

We would start off in Hamilton, head out to Lake Ontario, then south through the Welland Canal and down to Lake Erie. Lake Erie was always fun with the shipping. fishing, UXOs and shipwrecks, nevermind if the winds picked up. We would head West along the length of Lake Erie then head north to the Lake St Clair and through the St Clair River. Navigating up that river at night will cause seizures! So many navigational aids all blinking at different intervals. Then we would arrive in Lake Huron and make our way North-East to Georgian Bay. Our home base in Georgian Bay was the Midland City Harbour, so we would go past Tobermory and Flowerpot Island, and we’d give the inmates at the Penetanguishene Correctional Facility.

All the extras…

I am a lifelong learner. I have always really enjoyed learning new things, so when I jumped into the world of keel boating, naturally I also jumped into navigation. When I was 17 I completed my Coastal Navigation course and 19 when I took Celestial Navigation. Now Coastal Navigation has continued to be used over the years, however Celestial has not, so I’ll be redoing that course this winter with a colleague Lars.

As I’ve always been around water, swimming is also a big part of my life. I completed all of my swimming levels and became a swim coach and lifeguard when I was 16. For some of the youth sailing camps I would coach sailing in the morning and then coach swimming in the afternoon! It was a great program to get kids comfortable on the water. I also take a first aid course every two years and I was a ski patroller for a few winters (to help get through the cold months!).

New challenges and learnings

When we decided to move our family to Nelson BC, I planned on teaching for whichever school was here. Well, there was none, so I started my own! I’ve been having fun deciding which courses to offer and how to run my business. I’m not great at it, but I am learning and improving. At this point I have probably realistically taught hundreds if not thousands of people to sail. I don’t keep track of names, but I do keep in touch with many of my students over the years. We reconnect on Facebook or email and they tell me all about their adventures and how they applied what they learned through me on their boat. It is SO rewarding.

I don’t know where my sailing journey will go from here. Some days I want to close my business and just sail. Other days I’m plotting world sailing domination! Like everything, there are ups and downs. However, as a lifelong learning I do know that I will continue to grow personally and professionally. The sky is the limit!

Now I have embarked on the journey of being an Instructor Evaluator which means I’ll be coaching other people on how to coach! This will open a whole new world of possibilities for me as well…

PS. If you are looking to get into “professional” sailing, it is a good idea to create your Sailor Resume. I have several different ones floating around, but here is a list on my website, and then here is a PDF version I created for my application to eXXpedition.

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