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

2019 Sail Nelson Season Review

Smooth Sailing

Where we started…

Well Sail Nelson had another great sailing season this year! The forest fires held off and we were able to have wonderful, clear, sailing all season long!

This year’s focus was really on our core Basic Cruising courses. Once again, we had over 30 students take our courses to become Sail Canada certified and competent sailors! So proud of them all and happy to have made some new friends!

We were not able to get an Intermediate Cruising course scheduled due to other outside factors, but Penny is certified and ready to go. We are hoping that 2020 will be the year to add one or two Intermediate Courses to our schedule out on the Coast. Contact us if you are interested in taking this course!

What’s new?

Spindrift is now happily located at the Prestige Marina! Our new
home right here in downtown Nelson. This has been a very welcome change for us as it has added stability to our programming, as we do not need to worry about water levels as much as we did when we were at Kokanee Marina or out on a pin!

The access for our students is a welcome change as well, and the sailing is proving to be a good challenge with the mountain affect being so pronounced in one of the narrowest parts of the West Arm of Kootenay Lake.

Where we are headed…

Penny is completing her Coastal Navigation instructor level and will be offering the Basic Coastal Navigation course in April. This course is a prerequisite for the Intermediate Cruising live aboard course. We are excited to be able to offer this course in the area! Penny has the benefit of having Gillian West as her mentor. Gillian has been a long time contributor and creator of many of the Sail Canada certification levels. She is the author of the Basic Cruising, Intermediate Cruising and Coastal Navigation course textbooks, and is providing valuable support to Penny as Penny completes her curriculum and lesson plans.

Sail Nelson is branching out in 2020 to offer more compressed courses as well as charter type sails. We have had many people reach out who just want to go for a sail and not necessarily be in charge of the boat, so we are happily offering this option for 2020. We will have a new online booking system available in the Spring to book these types of sails.

What we have accomplished…

And finally, Sail Nelson was nominated by BC Sailing for the Canadian Safe Boating Council 2019 Best Boating Safety Initiative Award. Guess what? We won!

We are proud to announce that out of all of the boating safety events held in Canada in 2019, the Nelson Safe Boating Event was deemed the most progressive and impactful for our community! Penny will be going to Toronto in January for the CSBC Awards gala to accept this prestigious award! We could not have done it without our core team of volunteers including Graham Toews, Kim Green, Will Halleran, Leanna Andrews, and Ginger Lester. Also a big thank you goes out to all of our partners and sponsors who stepped up and made this first event a great success! You have not seen the last of the Nelson Safe Boating Event and it will only get bigger and better each year!

And finally, Sail Nelson has created the Travis McGregor Seamanship Award which will be presented annually to a student who demonstrates and exemplifies continuous boating safety. For our 2019 season, the award winner will be announced on January 15, 2020.

Cheers to another great year and Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Captain Penny

Saying goodbye…

This past long weekend I received some very tragic news. My friend Travis had been involved in a scuba diving accident and lost his life.

Many of you actually know of Travis. He was known to you through my blog posts as “Turnagain Travis,” the skipper who convinced me to join him on his boat delivery from Hawaii to Victoria in 2018. We sailed his boat Turnagain to Canada after he successfully completed another Vic-Maui International Yacht Race.

I met Travis in Vancouver a little over 3 years ago when I recertified my Basic Cruising Instructor level. We quickly hit it off having a similar sense of humour and a love for all things water. I quickly realized that Travis was a vault of knowledge and he had a character and passion for business that I needed in my life.

Travis was a very successful business owner, having recently sold his company Xprt Integration, and he took great interest in my plans to start a small sailing school in Nelson. He was always willing to chat about some of the hair-brained ways I was thinking of introducing sailing to new people. I asked him once why he was always willing to help me, and he said “because I love sailing and I love small businesses.” That seemed like a good enough reason to me!

And so, I asked Travis if he would be my “official” mentor and I could pay him something, to which he declined and said his advice was always available, and free, for me.

Travis was the kind of sailor I want to eventually be. He was confident, but not cocky. Knowledgeable, but humble. A leader, but kind and patient. We had recently planned for him to come to Nelson in April to teach an Intro to Racing seminar. I was also planning an offshore sailing pub night for him to share his offshore sailing knowledge, as that married two of his passions: sailing and beer.

He has gone too soon and I was not ready. I am still not ready. But I am comforted with the times we did have together and the mark he has left on me to become a better sailor, and a better person.

Fair winds my friend, and may you find your safe harbour.


Captain Penny