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

Sail Selection Part 4 – New Sail Love

Precision Sails

Well I have had my new Precision Sails 110% jib for about two months now. Receiving that shipment in the mail was like Christmas!

Sheet Position

So far I am figuring out the best position for my sheets relative to my standing rigging and fairlead track. Spindrift has a wonderful long track so adjustments there are not the concern. It is my standing rigging that is causing me a bit of grief.

I originally had the sheets running outside of my shrouds, but then I could not trim the sail as close as I needed. I then brought the sheets to the inside of the shrouds… however, the leech was chaffing too much on the shrouds… So, in between the upper and lower shrouds seems to be just right 😉

I think the only thing that I need to get used to is the noise! When we are tacking it sounds like a helicopter is in the area! Needless to say, I have been teaching my students to be quicker and more consistent with their tacks and trimming to decrease the luffing time. That way they are being more concise with their trimming and more efficient sailors, and I am increasing the lifespan of my Precision Sails investment! Win-win!

Sail Cut & Foot Skirt

As I noted in a previous post, I went with a tri-radial dacron sail. The tri-radial cut will help decrease the uneven stretch over time. I have 2 sets of ticklers on the luff and I opted not to have a tickler window.  I had a window on my old sail and I found it to be more challenging for students to figure out which tickler was windward vs leeward. Now we just use the “shadow” of the leeward tickler when trimming and it takes all the guesswork out for new sailors.

I am debating adding a line on the foot of the sail for when the sail catches on the lee side of my lifelines. I will see how that progresses over time. It does not catch often enough to be a concern, but something I will keep my eyes on. POST UPDATE: Precision Sails owner Darryl Hodgson got in touch are suggested I look into a jib roller for the lifelines. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that!?


Overall the my 110% Precision Sail fits like a glove and Spindrift is loving her new found power! When I went through my measurements you may recall that my luff measurement seemed so much longer than my old sail.  Well that is because it was! My previous headsail was a hank on and had been cut to accommodate the new furling system that was installed. This in turn reduced the luff by over 2 feet, which significantly decrease my overall sail area. I am really happy that I have now recovered that area with the new jib and Spindrift is pointing much higher and my draft position is significantly decreased resulting in a much better helming experience.

Sail Selection – Part 3 Measurements

Alright so I’m not going to lie, it has taken me a couple of weeks to get organized to do my sail measurements. The Headsail_Staysail Measurement v1.3 guide I was asked to fill in is comprehensive and with Spindrift being out on a pin I was having issues getting accurate numbers and photos.

What did I need?

You only need a few tools to get the sail measurements done: measuring tape, pencil, extra hands, drill bit, nice flat space, and a camera.

Where did I start?

Several of the measurements are just taking your overall boat dimensions. Some of these can be found in your owner’s manual or online.  Once you have your general rig specifications filled in, we move into the freeboard measurements. The freeboard is the distance from the waterline to the deck. For Precision Sails they wanted the distance at the shrouds as well as the distance at the bow.

Things then got a little more exciting as I had the kids hold the measuring tape while I measured my fairlead (jib sheet) track. Spindrift has a really long track bolted to the deck, so it took some finesse to get the measuring tape to cooperate. I was surprised to see that my track is over 7 feet long. That’s a great amount of sail trimming I can do!

What did I find challenging?

The only measurement that stumped me a bit was the furling drum height measurement. I had to measure from the base of the forestay up to the tack attachment point. However, my bow plate has a 2 inch chainplate attached to it, so do I start where the turnbuckle is or where the deck is? I decided to provide them with both numbers and several photos so they could figure it out.

The last part was measuring my old sail. I stretched it out on the grass in between rain storms and got my Wendy weight on one end and measured the other. At this point they do not want you to stretch the sail or try to account for any curl or contour. They want a straight line measurement for each side (foot, luff and leech). Again, photos were taken of each and we were off to the races.

At this point you are probably wondering why I needed drill bits? Well, Precision Sails requests that you use a drill bit to determine the gauge of the furling slot. So my furler fit a 7/32″ drill bit, so I am a #7 tape size for them. I also used calipers to take a couple of measurements for them.

And so it begins…

Measurements and photos have been sent off — along with a few upgrades of course! Now I just wait for the design team to let me know if they need anything else!