Popeye the sailor … woman

When Ty first suggested taking sailing lessons in preparation for our upcoming trip, I thought “Hey, yeah – great idea; sun, sea and gliding along the waves in a fast boat” … well, the boat part, at least, turned out to be right … Having signed up for the Crew course offered by Cooper Boating (“Experience the Boating Lifestyle”) on Granville Island, we had two evening sessions in the small, but reasonably serviceable, Cooper classroom located right seemingly in the middle of the Granville Island Boatyard (and the sometimes stench of fibreglass resin to which I’m really allergic).

Our instructor Larry was an engaging fellow, full of anedotes about storms, men overboard, anchoring in rough weather, and prone to wandering off on tangents while telling us about the finer points of points of sail. The Crew course includes two weekend days on the water and, sure enough, Saturday, our first day, dawned wet and miserable … sigh. I had to dig out the woollen cap, rubber boots and fleece from their hiding place in the hall closet.

The sailing day was to begin at 9 and, as usual, we had absolutely nothing to eat in the house but a husk of stale bread and one moldy orange, so, before any sailing could happen, we needed food and the breakfast bagel at Seigel’s in the Granville Island Market anwered the call.

Our instructor for this day was a taciturn man named Janusz; we, and a young couple Brandon and Sylvie, hopped with him aboard the unnamed Martin 244 sailboat which was to be our vessel for the day.

The first order of business was to go through the “Teacher’s Pet”, a case containing all the safety equipment necessary for sailing; this we were taught to remember by the phrase “Peter’s Boat Disappears Nightly”, each word referring to a category of equipment necessary when venturing out on the water.

The second order of business was for each of us to practice steering the boat while under power and turning it around in the space available in the smallish harbour area without ramming into any other vessels, a feat which all of us managed quite nicely.

The water channel was quite busy with aluminum fishing vessels (most with Vietnamese names), power boats, sail boats and small water ferries buzzing around.

The weather, while not pouring rain, was wet and coolish, with inky, threatening black clouds hanging low over the city.

Even the heron stationed on one of the pylons seemed less than pleased about the weather, drawing his neck and head down closer to his body while waiting for fish to swim within his range.

After lunch we headed out to sea, hoping for better weather farther away from the cloudy downtown core.

Each of the four of us took turns cycling through the various sailing duties, including helming the boat (operating the tiller/rudder), hardening and easing the sails, and raising and lowering the sails. Unfortunately, while the weather did improve, the wind did not – as the clouds parted, the wind completely died, leaving us out in the bay in a gently rocking boat.

While we could have used the time without wind to study for our pleasure craft operator’s licence … we did not, choosing instead to have a little nap. Well, all except Sylvie who did crack open the Safe Boating Booklet.

While Janusz clearly knew his stuff, when the wind died he was a man of few words (basically nada) and, once we docked the boat, disappeared like a bat out of hell.

While we hoped for better weather on the second day, Sunday dawned as miserable as Saturday had been; thankfully, after we had taken our pleasure boat operators test (a 50 question multiple choice exam), which thankfully both Ty and I passed, the weather did clear a bit and the rain stopped. Our instructor this day, Marco, was a much more voluble and interactive teacher and had us begin our day by practicing touch and go docking in front of the market. My first attempt was lame; the wind – thankfully it was windy – was strong and pushed the boat back away from the dock as I was trying to bring it in, almost pushing us into the large charter boat behind.

All of us were a bit antsy, afraid that the wind would die, and so were happy when we headed out to sea under sail.

Out in the bay the wind was brisk and we greatly enjoyed zipping around, practicing tacking and heaving to (stopping the boat at sea). I took the tiller when the wind was blowing quite hard and it was flying along at a sharp angle and good clip.

Since he comes from good Viking stock, Ty loves the wet and wind and really enjoyed his time helming the boat.

After having practiced a “crew overboard” drill, and seen how far a buoy drifted in the time it took us to turn the boat around to return to get it, I had renewed respect for the importance of not falling off the boat! For more information on the “Crew Overboard” procedure, read this.

Once back in the harbour, we once again practiced docking under power and this time, my effort was much better and received the approval of Marco. This time the traffic in the harbour was even busier; in addition to power boats, fishing boats, tugs, ferries and sail boats, we also had kayakers and sail boarders, one with dog, to contend with – a bit hairy!

After arriving back at the dock, we had a debriefing session with Marco and headed home, well pleased with our day.

See more pictures here.

More information about Cooper Boating here.







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