The coronavirus pandemic is causing much angst and distress globally. Here at Sail Nelson we are monitoring the situation to see how it will affect our 2020 sailing season.

Currently we do not have any on water courses until the end of May, at which time we are hoping that this virus will be further contained and we will be able to proceed with our scheduled courses. It is a situation that is still changing hourly/daily, and it is unknown at this time how it will affect us.

We will be in contact with our students closer to their course dates to confirm course status. At this point we hope you are all safe and sound in your community with your family.

Stay healthy and safe,

Captain Penny

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Great Lakes Sailing Trips – Lake Ontario

Back in the 90s, most of my sailing was on the Great Lakes. Predominantly Lake Ontario. I was teaching sailing out of either Hamilton or Kingston. Both areas offered vastly different sailing experiences. It has been years since I even thought about any of my Lake Ontario adventures…

Lake Ontario Facts

Lake Ontario is the smallest of all the Great Lakes. With a surface area of 18,960 square kilometers, but its waters run deep. While the length of Lake Ontario is similar to Lake Erie (310 kilometers by 85 kilometers), Lake Ontario holds almost four times the volume of water, with an average depth of 283 feet. The deepest part of Lake Ontario is 802 feet!

Lake Ontario

The lake’s name comes from an Iroquois word for “a beautiful lake”. Unfortunately, Lake Ontario is the most polluted of all of the Great Lakes as all of the other lakes flow into Lake Ontario, bringing along their pollution.

There are a significant number of islands in Lake Ontario. They are primarily concentrated in the region known as the Thousand Islands. This area is an archipelago of nearly 2,000 islands that line the U.S. and Canadian border. While many of the islands are small or even uninhabitable, the largest is Wolfe Island and is 124 square km. This is where my husband’s family cottage is 🙂

The Thousand Islands Region

Lake Ontario Shipwrecks

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum estimates that there are over 6,000 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes with over 30,000 sailors having lost their lives.

There are about 50 shipwrecks listed for Lake Ontario in Wikipedia. Among them are HMS Ontario a British schooner which sank on October 31, 1780! This is the oldest shipwreck found in the Great Lakes thus far.

Several vessels were used during the War of 1812 and later scuttled in Lake Ontario for diving attractions (primarily near Kingston). These include: HMS St Lawrence, USS Sylph, and HMS Wolfe.

Memories of the Kingston Area

Kingston is known as Canada’s eastern sailing mecha and for good reason! It is always windy! This is also why Wolfe Island has one of Canada’s largest wind farms with 86 wind turbines located on the Western end of the island. Ironically, I used to sail around Wolfe Island often with my students not knowing that my future husband was sitting on the island watching the boats sail by 🙂

Wolfe Island Wind Farm

Off of the Southwestern tip of Wolfe Island you can anchor in Big Sandy Bay. The waters are crystal clear and it is a beautiful anchorage during a calm evening. I took apart a winch once while anchored there to clean up the bearings, good thing the water was like a mirror!

Big Sandy Bay on a windy day has lots of fun waves for the kids to jump over!

Some of my favourite memories of sailing out of Kingston involve sailing to Picton Marina and walking around town. Picton is the administration centre for Prince Edward County (wine country!) and is located on an arm of the Bay of Quinte. Picton has been developed as a harbour and distribution centre for the surrounding countryside.

Waupoos Marina, also located in Prince Edward County Northeast of Picton, was also a fun place for us to dock and we found a small winery/restaurant that was 3 apple orchards south, 2 to the west and 1 winery south 🙂 The Waupoos Marina also had a hot tub, however the most recent guests were all spiders, so we skipped the dip!

Waupoos Marina

Kingston itself has several marinas including the Kingston Yacht Club, Portsmouth Olympic Harbour (where they host the Canadian Olympic Training Regatta in Kingston (CORK)), Collins Bay Marina, Kingston Marina, and Confederation Basin Marina. There are probably others I am missing, but you get the idea. There are several!

Hurrican Isabel Comes to Town

Sailing on Lake Ontario can be a wonderful adventure. Like the Ocean, you can see the weather coming towards you for hours before it hits. You can get some open water sailing, or you can find a secluded anchorage such as in the Thousand Islands area.

One vivid experience I remember is when Hurrican Isabel hit Toronto in September of 2003. I was teaching an Advanced Cruising course whereby we left from Toronto Harbour, circumnavigated Wolfe Island, and headed back to Toronto. We were poised to head into harbour before the storm hit, otherwise we would have had to wait it out in the middle of the Lake. The morning sunrise was one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen (even though I knew what it meant!). We managed to squeak into the harbour just before the gusts increased and we were safely tucked away…

Red Sky in Morning…

Don’t mess with Mother Nature. Even if you are only sailing on a “lake”.




Lake Ontario facts retrieved from: https://www.livescience.com/34571-lake-ontario.html

Lake Ontario image retrieved from: https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/468374429967977815/?lp=true

Thousand Islands image retrieved from: http://boatingtales.com/history-and-facts-of-the-thousand-islands/

Wolfe Island image retrieved from: https://www.inspirock.com/canada/wolfe-island/wolfe-island-wind-farm-a3489392957

Waupoos Marina image retrieved from: https://marinas.com/view/marina/vgcqlq_Waupoos_Marina_Picton_ON_Canada

Big Sandy Bay image retrieved from: https://www.tripadvisor.ca/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g1368174-d4184583-i375215334-Big_Sandy_Bay_Conservation_Area-Wolfe_Island_Ontario.html

2019 Travis McGregor Seamanship Award Recipient – Graham Toews

Congratulations to Graham Toews who is the recipient of the 2019 Travis McGregor Seamanship Award!

Graham joined the Sail Nelson family in May of 2018 when he took his Basic Cruising course with his wife Pauline. He was so enthused with his sailing experience with us that he purchased his boat Ringo in the middle of the course!

Following his course, Graham tore Ringo apart and overhauled everything including building a new rudder, refinishing her decks with kiwi grip, polishing the hull and replacing many pieces of hardware. Talk about a crash-course in boat repair seamanship skills! 😉

Since Graham could not sail Ringo, he joined the Kootenay Lake Sailing Association (KLSA) where he joined a team for weekly beer can races. His sail trimming skills were increasing with each race and he also went to the Giant’s Head Regatta held at the Summerland Yacht Club in 2018.

In 2019, Graham launched Ringo and spent many an evening and weekend sailing with Pauline and getting to know his refurbished boat! He completed his VHF Marine Radio course and is currently working towards completing his Coastal Navigation course in an effort to move up to the Intermediate Cruising level. He also raced in the Father’s Day Regatta, the Nelson Regatta and the Grey Creek Regatta. All fun, and challenging, local KLSA sailing events.

Graham also volunteered many hours to help create informative booths for the Nelson Safe Boating Event held in May 2019. Graham took particular interest in researching accidents and hazards on Kootenay Lake and was an invaluable member to the Safe Boating Team.

Prior to moving to Nelson, Graham served with the Canadian Forces with the 1st Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light infantry. He was deployed to Afghanistan in September 2009 and completed his tour in May 2010. In the future, Graham hopes to create a sailing group for any first responders and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is a venture that Sail Nelson looks forward to assisting with and supporting.

Thank you Graham for your service to your country and congratulations on being the recipient of the 2019 Travis McGregor Seamanship Award!

Canadian Safe Boating Awards —> WINNER!

Nelson Safe Boating Event

I am very proud to announce that Sail Nelson is the recipient of Canada’s Best Boating Safety Initiative Award for 2019!

What is the Best Boating Safety Initiative Award?

The Best Boating Safety Initiative award is a Canadian Safe Boating Council award. This award is presented to an organization that creates an event or a new initiative promoting safe boating practices in Canada. There were several other nominees for 2019 and the competition was tough! However, Sail Nelson pulled through for the win and we are bringing this prestigious award to our little community!

Why were we nominated?

Sail Nelson was nominated by BC Sailing for our Nelson Safe Boating Event, which we held in Nelson at Lakeside Park on May 25, 2019.

What is the Nelson Safe Boating Event?

The third week of May is the National Safe Boating Week for Canada and the US. This is when most of us boaters launch our boating season and get out on the water. It kicks off with the May long weekend.

I decided that Sail Nelson should bring together some of our safety partners to help the community learn more about safe boating practices. And so, the first annual Nelson Safe Boating Event was born!

Who are our partners and supporters?

Well let me tell you that when I sent out the call for participation, we had a great number of organizations and partners that wanted to join Sail Nelson with this initiative! These partners made the event a great success and brought so much valuable information to the public. They include:

  • Nelson Search & Rescue
  • Nelson Fire Rescue Services
  • Osprey Foundation
  • BC Sailing (who nominated us for this award!)
  • Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society
  • OneFire Safety
  • BC Conservation Officer Service
  • Canadian Power & Sail Squadrons
  • Kootenay Emergency Response Physicians Association (KERPA)
  • AdventureSmart
  • Nelson Paddling Club
  • Nelson Police Association
  • Jones Boys Boats
  • Christina Lake Marina
  • Nelson Rowing Club
  • Canadian Hydrographic Service
  • Canadian Safe Boating Council
  • and many more!

Sail Nelson could not have made this event possible without all of your participation and enthusiasm so THANK YOU! We also could not have made this event possible without the help, determination and support of our key volunteers including Graham Toews, Kim Green, Ginger Lester, Leanna Andrews and Will Halleran. There were many other people behind the scenes as well, so thank you to you all!

Who else has won this award?

Sail Nelson has joined the ranks of some very high-level safety organizations who have won this award in the past. Past winners include: Canadian Red Cross, ICOM Canada, Canadian Power Squadron, Kid’s Don’t Float, and the Lifesaving Society of Alberta. I am humbled and grateful that Sail Nelson is joining this list of professional boating safety organizations

The little school that could…

Sail Nelson has been a dream of mine since I started teaching in Hamilton at Harbour West Sailing Adventures in the 90s. I saw what a professional boating education could do for people and the adventures it could provide. Education is freedom, and sailing education is freedom of adventure. I am passionate about helping others to live out their water adventures and I could not have asked for a better community to help me achieve my boating education goals. Thank you Nelson for helping my little school be on the big Canadian boating map!

What’s next?

This is just the beginning for Sail Nelson. I am just warming up and I have so much more to offer, but this is a darn good start! Join us on May 23, 2020 at Lakeside Park for the next Nelson Safe Boating Event!

Captain Penny

The beginning… my teaching philosophy from 2017


I am currently finishing up my BC Provincial Instructor Diploma. In writing up my final essay I came across my teaching philosophy statement that I was asked to write when I started the program. This was back in 2017, before I launched Sail Nelson and before I started back down the road to teaching sailing again.

I’m surprised at how much it still resonates with me today. I would have thought that things would have shifted over the years now that I have my school and am teaching in a new environment. Thought it would be something fun to share with you. Enjoy.


What are your objectives in writing the statement?

I am writing a teaching philosophy, as I want to become the best possible instructor for my students. It is often said that the best way to master a subject, is to teach it.

I began teaching sailing at a young age and I accelerated through the teaching levels quickly. I was absorbing everything I could and loving it. I then went off to teach and apply what I had learned. Again, I loved it all! I then realized that I needed to save up money for University as my parents did not have tuition money set aside for me. So, I taught, and taught, and taught, and taught… then it became a job. The love was lost. The lesson plans were recycled, the paychecks were cashed and on to the next class I went. I taught day, night and weekends. Finally, I quit teaching altogether. I went from living on a boat for 5 months of the year to not even stepping on a boat for 5 years. I had officially killed my passion. 

Fast-forward to today and I am now living in Nelson and I am ready to start over. I am ready to re-learn my lessons and to add more flare to them. I have realized that my love of sailing is still there. It was just buried deep.

My objective is to re-write my lessons and to find my fire again and to pass it on to others, bit by bit.

What methods do you use to achieve your objectives?

Sail Canada is the certifying body that I teach for and they provide a tremendous number of resources to us instructors.  I plan to leverage those resources and my contacts within Sail Canada as much as possible. I am hoping to assist to revitalize the sport here in BC. I will focus on the Kootenays and expand over the next few years to surrounding areas. I am currently “testing the waters” so-to-speak with Selkirk College as I can teach through the Community Education department with little risk on my part.

Many of the courses that I will teach can lead to certification through Sail Canada. However, in an effort to make sailing accessible to many different people, I have created smaller courses based on different topics that I think people would be interested in (3-hour courses). I intend on creating specific feedback forms for each course in an effort to solicit as much pertinent feedback as possible from my students.

How do you measure your effectiveness in achieving your objectives?

I measure my success in a few different ways. One area is the direct verbal and non-verbal feedback I get from my students as I am teaching. Do they look engaged? Are they falling asleep? Is there a lot of participation? Etc. I also use feedback forms in my courses. Currently I have a generic Selkirk College feedback form, however I have decided to try and make new forms that are more pertinent to each individual course. I am especially interested in feedback at this point, as these are new courses being offered to the area and I am revamping my lessons, so it is an ideal time to solicit feedback from students.

As noted above, several of the courses will lead to a certification. Therefore, I have a marking rubric that I will be using for theory and practical assessments. I rarely fail people in my courses. Often, if they require extra time on something I will go above and beyond and provide them with extra learning time or one-on-one class time. There are also a couple of textbooks required for the courses and these textbooks have built-in take home assignments and quizzes that the students can work through prior, or during, the courses.

Why is teaching important to you?

This is an interesting question. I teach my children because I love them. I teach my friends because they are interested. But, why do I teach strangers to sail? Why will I live on a boat for a week with four people I know nothing about? I think it is for my love of sailing itself. Sailing is something that brings me closer to my grandfather who taught me how to sail. It was what I spent my summers doing at the cottage that I love. It is where I have felt most at peace with the world around me. It’s what I use to get away if I need to escape the chaos of the city. I enjoy teaching because I enjoy the thought of imparting some of this excitement and peace to others.


So there you have it. My passion is still alive and well and my motivation is still firmly in place. If anything, my love of sailing has increased since I now sail my grandfather’s boat, Spindrift, and I now have a new area to explore. I am looking forward to stepping up and taking on more responsibility with Sail Canada as well, and to helping the organization grow and shift to promote sailing further. Here’s to many more adventures!

Captain Penny