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Old 06-08-2015, 07:11   #1
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Beginner course, Vancouver or BVI?

Hey everyone, me and my lovely wife have been spending the summer getting to know sailing and our boat, a San Juan 7.7. Now that we have a basic feel of things we want to take some live aboard courses.
On one hand since we are Canadian, it feels like we should take the CYA courses in Vancouver. There are several companies to do so and they are 4-5 day live aboard. We love the Puget sound area, but it can be a little damp and cold.
The other option suggested to us would be to go to the BVI's and do a course there. It would obviously be warmer but more expensive.
My wife learns best by being taught by a professional (aka not me) I don't take offence to this and am not trying to ridicule her. It is just the way she is and I'm looking for the best way to build her confidence and experience, and mine at the same time. I know some will suggest that we take separate courses and I understand the reasons, but we do work very well as a team and want to build our knowledge as a team.
So has anyone taken courses in the BVI or Vancouver. Especially as a couple. What company did you use, time of year, and what was the experience like? Pricing seems to change and is easy to look up;-)
Other locations are an option, but these two have (at least to me) obvious advantages.

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Old 06-08-2015, 07:44   #2
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Re: Beginner course, Vancouver or BVI?

Well, if you're in Edmonton you could just as easily take a course on the Great Lakes as Vancouver, the summer weather on the lakes is much nicer than Vancouver.

But if you have to fly any way, why not head to BVI?

I wouldn't get hung up on titles like CYA and ASA, its the content that's important.

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Old 06-08-2015, 14:54   #3
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Re: Beginner course, Vancouver or BVI?

Family van, I hadn't considered the great lakes. But part of the appeal of the course for us is being on the ocean. Plus the closest point on the great lakes,Thunder Bay, is twice as far away as Vancouver.
It is only about a 12 hour drive to Vancouver for us. Doable in a long day drive. That is part of the appeal as it keeps the cost down considerably.
My worry is that I am being cheap(as is my nature) and it won't be as fun or educational as going to a larger, warmer tourist location.
I have researched several businesses from both locations and all look good but it would help to hear some real world experiences from those who have done it.
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Old 06-08-2015, 14:57   #4
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Re: Beginner course, Vancouver or BVI?

The puget sound is absolutely beautiful. I think the sailing is better in the autumn than the summer, but it can be a bit damp and cold then. But that's part of the charm of the PNW - it's hard to beat the sight of mists slowly crawling up the cliffs of the island you anchored near.
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Old 06-08-2015, 15:23   #5
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Re: Beginner course, Vancouver or BVI?

Summer months, Vancouver. Midwinter thru spring, the BVIs. The BVIs have great wind, but Vancouver has more variety, and definitely more beauty.
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Old 06-08-2015, 15:24   #6
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Re: Beginner course, Vancouver or BVI?

Do you mean August in Puget Sound? I think it is called "Fogust."

While I would leave the cold, wet North to travel to BVI for some fun in the sun, if you are looking for an alternative where there is bound to be good sailing and great wind and challenging (better for learning) conditions and LOTS of boats to see on the water, I highly suggest you and your wife go to San Francisco and take a sailing course there.

My recommendation: Contact Club Nautique and ask to be put on a boat going out of Sausalito. They have lots of nice boats, many types of SAIL USA courses and instructors, and the Sausalito location is GREAT for taking a ferry into SF for some night time relaxation when you are not on the boat during the day.

San Francisco has consistent GREAT sailing conditions (it is the windiest city in the USA).


NOTE: I do not work for Club Nautique. I was a member for years, chartered boats from them, took courses there, and consider them the best sailing school/club in SF area that is not private (it is not a yacht club).
Ahoy All Sailors! Need experienced crew for a passage or delivery in Atlantic, Pacific, Caribbean, Med, PNW, ICW, coastal or across an ocean anytime in 2018? I am available on 24hr notice. See my CF Profile "About Me" page for details. Happy to lend a hand!
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Old 06-08-2015, 17:21   #7
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Re: Beginner course, Vancouver or BVI?

I was considering the same thing a few weeks ago, and although I haven't been to either location, or made a final decision, the advise I received from people who had, was that taking the course in BC will build your skill level to a far greater degree than the one located in BVI. They said the weather and environment are more variable and the tides and currents are far more significant. So the consensus around our club was that if you want to learn, go to BC, if you want a holiday, go to BVI.
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Old 07-08-2015, 06:43   #8
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Re: Beginner course, Vancouver or BVI?

Alctel, I don't know how but you convinced my wife with the comment of the mist on the islands. So looks like Vancouver this fall or coming spring. Next winter or the one after we will probably bareboat in the BVI.
So does anyone have any firsthand exp with any of the outfits in the Vancouver area? Boat quality, instructor quality, ect. As well as best time for wind quality, and it would add to the trip to time it with killer whales or any large migratory sea life.
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Old 07-08-2015, 07:55   #9
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Re: Beginner course, Vancouver or BVI?

I was in the same situation a few years ago. Basic knowledge but no keelboat experience. I took a course in the BVIs in March. Nice to combine a winter holiday with sailing instruction.
You could check out Wavelength Sailing School at
Learn to Sail a Keelboat, Basic, Intermediate and Advanced Cruising courses in Kingston Ontario and the BVI.

The instructors name is Phil Morris. He also runs live aboard courses in the summer months from Kingston, ON.

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Old 07-08-2015, 08:01   #10
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Re: Beginner course, Vancouver or BVI?

Hi! My husband and I live in Sechelt, B.C. We are going to take the course through water sailing">Blue Water Sailing School in the Bahamas. The reason is, we will be taking a sabbatical in the Caribbean so thought it best to learn there. Hoping to take it in Feb. of 2016 if they get the schedule up soon. There is a lot of reading beforehand and I want lots of time for that. We are also doing the bareboat cat section and there is not one here.
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Old 07-08-2015, 08:30   #11
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Re: Beginner course, Vancouver or BVI?

Hi, My wife and I did the cruise and learn in BC 20 odd years ago and then a bare boat charter in the BVIs. Great combo of challenging currents, tides, reefs and navigation, then great winds, easy navigation and warm snorkeling.
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Old 07-08-2015, 08:34   #12
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Re: Beginner course, Vancouver or BVI?

I'm pretty sure most of the people posting above haven't ever been to Vancouver in the summer. It isn't damp or cold, there's no fog, it's a zillion times more pleasant than the great lakes (5 degrees cooler and no humidity) and it isn't on Puget Sound (that's Seattle).

Whew! OK, maybe I was feeling a little defensive there or something! Sorry for the rant.

Summer in the PNW is gorgeous. You can rely on beautiful weather almost continuously from some time in June to about mid September. The North Pacific high sets up off the coast and we can go 6 weeks without rain (we are currently in level 4 water restrictions due to the drought).

It is certainly Fogist on the west coast and part way down the straight of Juan de Fuca, but that's a long way from here.

The big challenge in the PNW in summer can be a lack of wind. It's better in spring and fall, but then you get more rain. We don't get trade winds here, so if there's a lot of wind, it's usually associated with a front. Late September or early October might be a compromise.

The great thing about Vancouver is that it's right next to Howe Sound where there are consistent inflow winds every day in the 10-20 knot range, depending on how much the land is being heated (more cloud, less wind).

I wouldn't worry about CYA vs ASA. They're both good.

I did all of my sail training through Cooper Boating. I thought they were good and had good boats. I did have one bad instructor, though.

I think it's a great idea to do your training here where it's closer and cheaper and then bare boat in the BVIs. You don't want to spend your time in the BVIs doing COB drills.
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Old 07-08-2015, 08:36   #13
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Re: Beginner course, Vancouver or BVI?

I second what coffeewench said. I believe you'll learn more, in very challenging conditions, in BC. Go to the Caribbean for a charter holiday after you've got your papers. It sounds like you've come to the same conclusion though. Many, many years ago my OH & I did our CYA practical training in the Gulf Islands after doing the classroom work in Edmonton over the winter. You might want to consider a similar approach but would have to source a qualified instructor there.

I completely understand your wife needing to learn from someone other than yourself. That's certainly true for me & I think is pretty common--just encourage her & remember how lucky you are to have a partner who wants to sail. (See multiple threads here about wife hating boats.) Learning from the same instructor will help keep the two of you on the same page for your later cruising. Enjoy!
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Old 07-08-2015, 08:52   #14
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Re: Beginner course, Vancouver or BVI?

My wife and I did a 5-day CYA program in Vancouver and I think that's a great choice. No, it's not going to be warm (really ever), but it is beautiful and provides an incredibly diverse sailing experience that will teach you a lot--significant tides and currents, coastal navigation with many inlets/coves/etc, interesting anchoring opportunities, etc.

We went with Sailcraft but I believe the owner/instructor has now retired.
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Old 07-08-2015, 08:57   #15
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Re: Beginner course, Vancouver or BVI?

My Wife and I have just purchased a Viking 44 in the PNW, and are looking forward to live-aboard cruising Puget Sound, Salish Sea, The inside Passage to Alaska, and all the gulf island and fiords that are there to explore. I think that you will find that Vancouver is a great place to cruise.

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