Jan 10

The Toronto International Boat Show

This weekend I checked out the boat show in Toronto (pictures below). This was my first time at the boat show since I was a kid, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew there would be some boats to check out, but the sheer number of boats blew me away. This show is massive and there is a lot to do. We only gave ourselves 3 and a half hours, but you could easily spend more time. There are no sailboats on display, probably due to their keels I assume (Apparently there are sailboats there and the show is just so huge I missed them. I may check back this week again), but the big motor boats were still cool to check out, and I kept imagining the interior to be how my future sailboat might look.

The show is huge!

If you didn’t attend the show this weekend, there is still lots of time to see it. It runs from January 9 to 17th, so you have all week or next weekend to see the show. I think it’s really worth seeing, even if you are not really into the boating, it’s a fun day, and it’s only 15 dollars to get in. There’s also some sports cars and racing boats there with massive engines on display. A huge indoor lake with over 1 million gallons of water, apparently the world’s largest indoor lake according to the boat show is also open for water activities.

The Lake will host a variety of on-the-water activities showcasing The Winch Jam,  fishing, personal watercraft, kayaking, canoeing, boat handling demonstrations and more. Activities on the Lake will entertain, educate and invite you to get active and get boating!

The show also has everything from canoes and kayaks to specialty hot sauces and dips. There’s a ton of boat gear to be found, but also things like waterproof cameras. Lots of information booths, clubs and magazines to be found also.  I thoroughly enjoyed the show, but the highlight was definitely taking ones shoes off and checking out some of the gorgeous boats. It’s a nice break from the snow and ice that now covers the Toronto Harbour; time to think of the summer, and for me another step of anticipation while I await February for my week of Caribbean sailing in Guadeloupe followed by a second week long getaway in St. Lucia.

We managed to snap a few pictures

The main boat room

Toronto International Boat Show

Toronto International Boat Show

Toronto International Boat Show

One of the larger boats on display

Large boat interior

Me relaxing on my dream boat

Large boat interior

Claudia and I relaxing in some very comfy chairs

Comfy chairs

Claudia takes the helm

Claudia at the helm

Dec 09

Beginning to sail, learn to trust the boat

Sailboat out of water displaying keelI’ve been off the water for about two months now (the Canadian winter is upon us) and was thinking about things I learned this summer while sailing for the first time. One of the biggest fears or insecurities some of us new sailors might feel the first time they experience any real wind is boat stability, or the fear of instability. I want to share my experiences with anyone new to sailing in hopes of reassuring them that you can trust the boat.

Most sailboats have big heavy keels and look like the one pictured to the right. Without a keel a boat can capsize in high wind much easier. If you are new to sailing then the first time you feel a real gust of wind, the boat will indeed lean to one side from the force. The sailing term for this is heeling. Your first instinct might be to think the boat is actually going to capsize, since it probably would without a keel. Learning to trust the boat is the first step towards really enjoying your sailing experience. Everyone will probably have a different adjustment period, but rest assured you will get used heeling, and even enjoy it, maybe even crave it.

My first real heeling experience

Keel resistanceDuring my introduction to sailing we had very little wind for the first three days. This made it actually harder to learn the points of sail, since it was very difficult to read the wind direction. It also left us ill-equipped for real winds. On our last day we had a few gusts and a time when we all jumped out of our skin, but none of this was even close to my first race night.

We were sailing J24′s and the wind was really good, perfect for racing in fact, but kind of scary for a first timer like myself. I remember grasping on to the the cabin roof above the hatch for dear life. I was way more tense than I need to be, but you couldn’t tell me that at the time. I really thought I was going to go overboard at any moment. Now I know the boat is not going to capsize in wind like that and I have much more confidence in my balance and feel for the boat.

You can still capsize

That said you can still of course capsize in high winds, but the winds needed to do that are much higher than you will think at first, and you will learn how to cope with higher winds as you gain more experience. The last sail of this year for me was actually the strongest winds I’ve sailed yet. It was challenging and every time I go out I gain more skill, but I can see that there is a point where it no longer becomes fun. I’m sure on a bigger boat you can deal with stronger winds, and maybe I’ll find out this Winter while I’m sailing in Carribean!

Hopefully you will slowly work your way up to stronger winds. Once you learn how to handle the boat you will realize that you have much more control than you think. If you panic you can always sail head to wind, this will slow you down quickly, but pay special attention to your boom and your crewmates. Windy weather and panicking are when you will most likely get yourself or an unsuspecting crewmate smacked in the head or thrown overboard by an angry boom. A better way to slow down is to let out your mainsheet a bit, sometimes you will only need a few inches to stabilize your boat. You can also replace your the sail at the front called a gib or genoa with a storm jib or none at all. Reefing the mainsail is another option. All of these tactics reduce the area of sail, thus lessening your heel.

Practice makes perfect

Like anything, practice makes perfect. I have only been sailing for one summer, but it really is amazing how fast you start to become comfortable on a boat. If you feel intimidated by sailing, don’t give up, you can conquer this feeling; trust your boat, trust your keel, once you do this you will truly be free to enjoy this incredible outdoor activity.

Sailboat heeling

Sailing terms in this article:

Oct 09

Last Toronto Harbour sail of the year

Today was the last day that you could take a sailboat out at our club and I managed to get out one last time. The day started cold and just got colder, especially once on the water. A friend and I actually had to grab more clothing from my place before we could proceed. We rigged up a J24 boat with a jib (small front sail) and full mainsail. Unfortunately the J24′s we have access to have no reef points. In sailing reefing is a process by which you reduce the area of sail in high winds. We had been warned it was windy out, but that’s what sailing is all about

We motored out onto the Toronto Harbour and put our self in head to wind to set up our sails. The first thing we noticed was that the wind was all over the place and strong gusts were constantly bombarding us every few seconds. This was the most radical wind I have ever sailed in and while it was a great experience it was a bit nerve wracking. It’s actually pretty easy to sail even in high winds if the wind is consistent, but when it is gusting and acting unpredictable it is very hard to set the sails, in fact, you must constantly adjust them.

The mainsail went up quickly without incident, followed by the jib. As soon as we got the sails up our boat started heeling big time. This is when the boat tilts to one side. It’s a natural thing in sailing and even fun, but if it heals to much you can have trouble staying on the boat, and if it heals enough you can capsize. As I was hanging over the back to pull the motor up we got one great gust of wind. I looked back smiling at my friend and happy to have the lifelines and stanchions behind my back to lean against as she struggled to stabilize the boat.

The next 30 minutes was pretty much along the same lines. Some serious heeling and at one point water even splashing up over the side, but not enough to get into the cockpit. This is when we decided to take down our jib. I crawled to the bow and quickly pull down the jib which I then had to tie down to stop the wind from blowing it all over the place.

Time to go home

Once I got back into the cockpit we decided we should start heading back, we were getting incredible speed, but the wind was completely unpredictable. A few times the boom swung violently across the cockpit and I made the mistake once of grabbing the main sheet (rope attached to it) only to get some rope burn on my wrist and a sharp yank on my arm. This is how you learn; never ever, ever touch the boom or main sheet in high winds, it’s a good way to break your hand, arm, or dislocate your shoulder.

We saw the few other sailboats heading in too, and one had a reefed main. It was time to lower the motor, start it up and get back home. The motor started flawlessly and up until now everything had gone pretty well. Here’s another tip, when using old rickety motors keep your mainsail up until you are close to your marina. I wanted to take it down just in case things got more hairy or we had trouble, better to get it out of the way now. I ran up and took it down fast and stuffed it into the cabin.

With the sail down and the motor running we could draw a sigh of relief, that was until the motor chugged to a stop. The boat quickly changed it’s direction and we were heading away from our intended destination. Without a motor it would be hard to raise the mainsail again since it would be hard to get into a head to wind direction.

Looking down at the motor I could see that the fuel line had fallen off. I stuck it back on, but the motor wouldn’t start. After fiddling around with the fuel line and trying a few more times we called the club for assistance. The biggest worry now was ground on the Toronto island. About a half hour passed from the time we took the sail down to the time we saw the boat coming to tow us, and that’s just when the motor decided to start up. We got a thumbs up from the guy coming out to get us and motored back in. What I think happened was that the fuel line got a bit of water in it and this messed up the motor. After several false starts eventually the motor cleared itself out and sputtered into action. I will always check the gas line after starting the motor now.

All in all a great day

This trip probably sounds pretty awful to someone thinking of taking up sailing, but it was actually thrilling. We learned a lot, and we have slowly worked our way up to strong winds throughout the year. Lake Ontario is a great lake to learn to sail on, because the winds start out weak in the summer and gradually built up to much stronger winds around September and October. Sailing is all about reacting fast and adapting to anything that nature throws at you and keeping your cool all at the same time. The only real bummer about today was that it was our last sail of the year. Now I have Guadeloupe to look forward too and next year.

Sailing terms in this article:

Oct 09

Sailing Lake Ontario in cold October

A sailing friend and I managed to get out in our favourite boat, the J24 earlier this week before the closure of our club. There is actually still one more weekend to go, but if the weather doesn’t co-operate this one might have been the last. If so it was a great end to the season, even if it was rather cold. It really is amazing how much colder it is on the water than on land and I don’t think you really realize it until you try it, but take my word for it, October is cold on lake Ontario.

The weather was kind of mean looking all around us, so we didn’t venture too far out onto the lake. While we were out I managed to snap these quick shots of the stormy skies and our very wet bow on the J24. The storm clouds never did hit us, but they did provide strong gusts and an exciting day.

j24 after some big waves hit it

j24 with stormy weather

I also took two pretty cool video’s and this time I held the camera correctly. I’ve never taken much video of anything before, but I think sailing videos are just so cool, especially when they are mine. I’m even thinking about buying a Flip Mino HD for the future, which is a mini HD video recorder. The one thing photos and video don’t really show is the size of the waves and the heeling of the boat. Heeling is how much the boat is tipping or leaning to one side due to the wind, and in these videos we had some really good heeling happening. The first time you ever feel a really strong heel can be quite unnerving, but eventually you learn to love it, as these videos show.

Oct 09

Sailing on Lake Simcoe

A few weeks ago I went up to Barrie Ontario with the hopes of finding a place somewhere on Lake Simcoe to rent a sailboat for the day. A search on the Internet brought up nothing and a talk with someone at the Barrie marina informed me that there was nowhere on the entire lake to rent one. I was a bit shocked to hear this, I know it’s not as big as any of the great lakes, but it’s still a pretty big lake. This seems like a missed opportunity. If I am mistaken please let me know, I would love to be wrong about this as my parents live in Barrie and it would be nice to try some new waters. It’s also a beautiful area.

Barrie Marina

Sep 09

Great website: Marinas.com

I found this excellent website the other day called marinas.com. It has an astounding amount of information on it, covering countries all around the world with access to marina directories, videos, charts, weather and more.


The marina data has been extensively integrated with Google Maps. You can quickly toggle map overlays like Marine Services, Bridges, Locks, Ferry Terminals, Anchorages, you name it. What’s really interesting in Google Maps is the nautical charts. If you zoom in close enough many area’s have chart data like this one of the Toronto harbour.

Toronto chart

You can also view the charts in Google Earth which I have not tried yet. Google Earth is addictive enough as it is. In the huge marina database there are thousands of aerial photographs, you can really get lost on this site, highly recommended.

Sep 09

Ready for Guadeloupe in 2010

Guadeloupe mapToday I took the plunge and dropped the deposit for my CYA Intermediate Cruising certification in the Caribbean. I could have taken it here in Toronto out on Lake Ontario, but I can sail on Lake Ontario anytime. The cruise starts in Guadeloupe and we sail to Îles des Saintes. It will be my second time to the Caribbean, but my first time sailing there. Last year I was in Grenada and got a wicked sun burn and brought a cold with me, but it was still a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to visit another Caribbean place. I also plan on visiting Grenada again sometime, possibly on a boat, the people in this country are amazing.

The trip is in February when it is blisteringly cold here in Toronto, so it will be a nice retreat. I hope to bring back parts of my experience and share what I learn here. If you are interested in sailing to the Caribbean and live in Toronto then check out Queen’s Quay Sailing and Powerboating for details on the trip.

View Larger Map

Last years trip to Grenada on Flickr.

Sep 09

An introduction to Wind and Sail

Welcome to Wind and Sail. This being the first post I though I would share my first YouTube video with you. At the time this was shot it was the roughest waters and highest winds we had sailed on yet and I was having trouble holding on to the camera and getting the right orientation. I have promised myself next time will be better, but it’s actually hard not to feel a little queezy behind a camera when sailing. About twenty minutes after this photo was taken my girl friend got a bout of severe seasickness.

They say there are 3 steps to seasickness.

  1. You think you are going to die
  2. You want to die
  3. You realize you are not going to die

Luckily for me I have not experience bad seasickness yet.

Video is outside of the Toronto Harbour circling the island in mid September of 2o09.