2018 Sailing Season Starts on June 1st

9 04 2014

Watch this cool lifejacket ad:

26 03 2014

I have also re-posted a new version of “Cold water Boot Camp” (first blog post). Really worth viewing!

I have just finished 10 days at the Toronto Boat Show explaining what a sailing coach does… without talking about sailing.

21 01 2014

IMG_1398This was my first attendance at the Boat Show as a sailing coach, and I am very pleased with the overall result. “We need your help” is what I heard most from folks who stopped by.

Their issues ranged from docking or retrieving a crew overboard, to reaching a dream to add sailing to their bucket list, and the conversation always revolved around words like: Anxiety, Confidence, Communication, Dreams, Fear, Flexibility, Fun, etc.

What I do as a coach is different from a sailing instructor who must comply with a rigid curriculum and fit all the required maneuvers into the allotted time. I listen first to people’s needs, and then address the human factors to meet these needs.

Take docking for instance: The typical scenario would picture a man at the wheel and his partner on deck. A strong wind is making the maneuver somewhat difficult and the dock is full of shiny, expensive yachts.

If the confidence level of either party on the boat is low, you can immediately predict the outcome: The tension will rise, voices will become louder, panic and anxiety will follow, a hit may occur followed by all kinds of nasty words and comments. People onshore are watching the event unfold with smiles of recognition, and our frustrated couple onboard has ruined a perfect day with yet another argument.

This docking mishap could have been easily avoided, by coaching the following philosophy:

  • When Confidence goes up, Anxiety goes down: Practice, practice, and practice.
  • Communication is key: Create and learn your own sign language to communicate. Learn to dock in silence. It is magical… and fun.

You see, it is not about sailing, it is all about you.

Good Bye Toronto, Hello Georgian Bay

4 06 2013

Tuesday May 21

From L to R: Tom, JL and Wood

From L to R: Tom, JL and Wood

By 2:00 pm, the boys (Tom, Wood and JL) are ready to cast off to sail Malaika to her new harbour: Meaford in Georgian Bay.

We sail through Toronto Harbour and tip our hats off to salute the skyscrapers of Toronto: “Good Bye Toronto, you have been good to us!”

The first leg is a breeze: Beam reach in a 12 knots wind, full main and genoa. 4 hours later, we dock in the Welland canal.

Wednesday May 22

First thing, go to the Seaway administration phone booth and register our vessel to get in Lock #1 as soon as possible. First time available: 10:00am.

Seaway phone booth at Lock #1

Seaway phone booth at Lock #1

Then, we have time to register and pay our dues: $240 to sail through 8 locks and reach Port Colborne on Lake Erie. This canal will lift us 326 feet over the Niagara escarpement. The Seaway requires that we have 3 adult crew onboard and rightly so since a lock fills with approximately 91 million litres of water (24 million gallons) in just 7 to 10 minutes. Getting through a lock takes about 45 minutes. The first lock gets your heart racing but by lock #3, you act like a pro.

Commercial traffic on the Welland canal

Commercial traffic on the Welland canal

Despite the reservation at 10, we finally enter the lock #1 by noon and we reach the end of the canal (Port Colborne) by 8:00pm, monitoring our VHF on channel 14 all the way. The Seaway staff is extremely helpful and courteous. It is a unique and enjoyable experience.

Thursday/Friday May 23/24

Leaving Sugarloaf marina in Port Colborne by noon, we set out on lake Erie with a strong headwind, forcing us to tack all afternoon in a misty, cold and grey environment. Fortunately, a favorable wind shift to the North which was forecasted to happen during the night, decides otherwise and starts to blow by 5:00pm. By sunset, we cross the wake of US Navy training brigantine, Niagara, under full sail. Majestic sight. All the same, the night is still pretty miserable for us all. Tom and I relay each other for a 2-hour shift while Wood is getting his sea legs the best he can, despite being freezing, wet, and tired. Sunrise does not bring any respite. We are still cold and tired with chaotic waves so typical of lake Erie.

Malaika on Pelee Island

Malaika on Pelee Island

We have to wait for the afternoon to enjoy a bit of sunshine, with the appearance of Pointe Pelee in the horizon. By sunset, we are gliding through the entrance of Scudder marina on the north side of Pelee island for a well-deserved rest. Fish & chips ashore and a good night sleep.

Saturday May 25

Up at 4:00 am, we are quietly leaving this peaceful island under full moon and a gentle breeze from the north. 5:30 am: The sun rises, and projects an amazing array of colours. This is one of those magical moments one will never forget. 4 hours later, we enter in the Detroit River while two dozen sailboats are sailing out for a week end regatta.

The Detroit river

The Detroit river

The river is calm but we are already facing a strong current that is slowing our route. We would like to be in Sarnia before midnight. Chances are diminishing by the minute. The river is actually quite pretty and wild and it is interesting to see the Detroit towers in the background while watching blue herons fishing on the banks of the river.

The Peace Bridge

The Peace Bridge

We sail under the Peace Bridge early in the afternoon,  and stop at the Lakeview Park marina to refuel and share an ice cream with Tom’s cousins who live in La Salle.

Under way again by 5:00 pm, under power, to cross lake St. Clair. Wind dead on our nose at 14 knots, making life very uncomfortable onboard, with choppy water and heavy commercial traffic. By 8:00 pm we finally find the restful water of the river St. Clair, bordered by beautiful properties on both sides. The full moon rises as the sun goes down. What a peaceful sight. By midnight, Tom takes over while Wood and I are getting some rest.

Sunday/Monday May 26/27

Tom does not wake me up at 2:00 am, as scheduled, but keeps going until 4 when we arrive in Sarnia. It takes a while to find the entrance of the marina, tucked away behind a large red freighter. We find a vacant dock and fall asleep until 9:00 am. I have rarely seen a marina so disorganized where the fuel pump does not open until noon on Sunday and you must clear two underwater pipes to reach the fuel dock. In doing so, we also manage to run aground 10 feet in front of the fuel dock… So long Sarnia. We got to go.

Guess what? Yes, the wind is, once again, dead on our nose. What have we done to deserve this? Motor-sailing on port tack aiming towards the Canadian shore, it looks like it is going to be a long leg to Tobermory (125 miles).

Wood at the helm

Wood at the helm

Fortunately, the wind shifts to the West in the afternoon and we can aim towards Bayfield, then, later on, towards Point Clarke. Good, the gods are with us for a change. By dusk, the wind disappears. We take the sail down and, under auto pilot, we point straight to Tobermory. But how is our fuel situation if we have to power all the way to Tobermory? According to the specifications, an Elite 30 has a fuel tank capacity of 57 Litres. According to our past 2 days in the river, our consumption is 1.6 L/hr at 6 knots under heavy current. Since we re-fueled in Sarnia, we should have enough fuel for, at least, 35 hours and this could be a 28-hour trip, leaving us with 7 hours of fuel to spare. We are in good shape.

By 10:00 am the next morning, 25 miles from Tobermory without a breath of wind, the engine has sucked all the fuel from the so-called 57L tank, and leaves us in dead silence. We are out of fuel… We have to face the evidence: the specifications onboard were wrong and the capacity of the fuel tank is indeed 24 L, not 57… Lesson learned.

Dead calm

Dead calm

Up goes the main sail, then the light spinnaker, moving the boat to a grand 2.5 knots. The next 8 hours is a battle against shifty zephyrs and change of sails to move at a slow speed, most of the time in the wrong direction.

Running with the wind

Running with the wind

The good news is that we remembered that we have a 2L reserve of fuel in the anchor locker dedicated to the indoor stove.  After bleeding the system and carefully pouring every drop of the 2 litres in the fuel tank, it is time to start the beast again. The sun is down now and we need to proceed (very slowly) through all the rocks surrounding the top of the Bruce Peninsula. Tom is a master of GPS navigation and puts us between each green and red buoy, choosing main channels, short cuts and safe routes, all the way to the harbour. By 11:00 pm, we tie up at the fuel dock. We have power-sailed 3 hours on 2 L of fuel. This is the best engine: A good old 1 cylinder Volvo. I swear I will start pampering this sweet little green thing, starting tomorrow, with an oil change because we have already  logged about 60 hours since we left Toronto.

Tuesday May 28

Weather forecast for today: Wind South East (on the nose again) 20-25 knots, rain starting in the afternoon. Wind shifting to the South West on Wednesday. It does not take long to convince the crew to postpone our final leg until Wednesday.



So today is a restful day, enjoying a long and hearty breakfast, catching up on email and changing the oil of the good old Volvo. By 5:00 pm, we decide to push on and sail to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, to Wingfield Basin, which will give us a head start for the final leg to Meaford. The weather is grim, rainy and cold, and the fog has settled in. After 3 hours of motoring along the peninsula, I surprise the crew by offering a ration of Port along with a platter of cheese. “Isn’t this against the rules” says Wood. “There are no rules, I reply, just guidelines, and guidelines must be bent in grim time”. This is a perfect situation where a shot of Port goes a long way. Energy is now flowing and, in no time at all, we line up the range guiding us to a cosy anchorage. With the wind whistling in the rigging, thick fog on land, desolation all around, it feels like we are in some remote place in Patagonia.

Wednesday May 29

Wind has shifted overnight to the Southwest as predicted. Temperature is still way below normal and visibility is nil. One reef in the main and the blade up, we are on our way to Meaford. A magnificent sail down the coast that we can’t see, moving in flat water and gentle breeze. Cape Crocker emerges from the fog for 5 minutes, followed by Cape Rich. Then a gorgeous final tack down to Meaford harbour with sunny skies and even warm temperatures.

Hello Meaford!

Hello Meaford!

Hello Meaford! We are happy to be here. 550 nautical miles of challenging and interesting sailing with good friends, great boat and a trusty  diesel engine. Got to thank the silent crew too: The auto-pilot that kept steering in the perfect direction for days and nights, allowing us to warm up in the companionway during our shift. Great invention!IMG_0973

Track from our GPS

Track from our GPS


Next winter, remove your rudder.

13 05 2013

The first inspection in the spring revealed a foot long crack on the leading edge of Malaika’s rudder.

Cracked rudder

Cracked rudder

The problem with rudders is that they become filled with moisture during the sailing season and the moisture remains during  the winter. Freezing temperatures change the moisture into ice, which expands and cracks occur on the rudder.

An easy solution to avoid this, is to simply remove the rudder altogether in the fall and keep it in a warm place over the winter.

But now, we are faced with fixing it, and we decided to reinforce all the edges with Kevlar. The best place in town to buy the material to do this, reasonably priced, and to get great advice on how to use it, is COMPOSITES CANADA on 1100 Meyerside Dr. in Mississauga.

Not only they carry everything you want, they are also very willing to explain the process to make it a successful repair.

The repair kit includes:

All the stuff you need

All the stuff you need

System Three Epoxy #2 Medium

Cabosil N-20 Fumed Silica

Kevlar tape 5OZ x 2″

Airtech Econostitch Peel Ply

And all the brushes, mixing cups and sticks you can dream of.

After sanding the edges of the rudder, we mixed the resin and Cabosil into a paste as thick as peanut butter and filled the crack.

Then, we applied a coat of resin along this filled edge and laid the Kevlar tape on top, followed by many coats of resin. No need to wait for it to dry.

Kevlar tape around all the edges of the rudder

Kevlar tape around all the edges of the rudder

To finish it off, we laid the Airtech Econostitch Peel Ply on top, leaving one end loose, applied one more coat of resin, waited about half an hour, and then peel that last ribbon off to obtain a nice smooth finish.

The process took about 3 hours to complete on a warm sunny day (20 degree celsius)

We finished the repair with a coat of primer — Interlux VC Epoxy/Teflon V127 — followed by a coat of VC 17.

Of course, many sailors went by during the process, each one offering their own piece advice or solution to the problem. We just had to carry on with our plan and we will report later on in the season with the result of this repair.

We are confident now that the repair will hold. The first test will be next week when we set sail to bring Malaika from Toronto to Georgian Bay.

Ready to be lauched

Ready to be lauched

This blog will keep you updated on this exciting trip.

Sailing from Tobermory [Lake Huron] to the British Virgin Islands

10 01 2013

We deliver a Hunter 41′ from Tobermory on September 8, 2012 to the British Virgin Islands where we arrived on December 7. Then, we had a chance to sail through the islands for the rest of the month. Fantastic!

We had to deal with Hurricane Sandy in New York City, and strong wind, 25 to 35 knots, in the Atlantic. Strange to think of a 20 knots wind as a gentle breeze when, in Toronto, they won’t allow to take a boat out when the wind reaches that speed.

Here is a video of our leg from NYC to Bermuda: http://youtu.be/JErqGc0snN8

Cold Water Boot Camp

19 04 2011

Before you go sailing this season, watch this amazing video. It might save your life.

Have you heard about the 1 – 10 -1 principle?

  • You have 0ne minute to get your breathing under control
  • You have ten minutes of meaningful movement for self-rescue
  • You have one hour before you become unconscious
Watch this: