by Geoff Girvitz

Learning to sail was an idea that had drifted across my mind on many occasions. I was put off by concerns about the “yachting crowd”; a white captain’s hat and knee length socks were not my idea of comfortable dressing. I didn’t know very much about the sport; I thought a “bow” was a formal greeting, not the pointed end of a boat. How did I get committed so quickly?

It’s quite possible that I would not have set foot on a sailboat, if it weren’t for the fact that I live very close to Queen’s Quay. Over the past few years, I’ve spent more than a few minutes standing by my window gazing out at beautiful sailboats with brightly coloured spinnakers gliding across the lake. It looked relaxing and peaceful. A perfect escape from everyday life!

Last summer, despite my concerns about the ‘sailing experience’ (the money, the snobbery, the skill required), I decided to throw caution to the wind and made a half serious inquiry at Queen’s Quay Sailing and Powerboating . Soon I was sitting in a classroom with seven other people. A few minutes of conversation revealed as disparate a group of people, as you’d expect in Toronto. We immediately had a common interest in sailing and it seemed a healthy appetite for adventure. My anxiety in coming alone was unfounded, and I quickly became part of the group.

We were told that after completion of the course, we would be able to skipper a 20’ boat in light to moderate winds. The instructors, Katrina and Clive, seemed confident and friendly. The duo explained the basics, we put on personal flotation devices and began preparing the boat to sail. At first, terms like tack, gybe and trim the jib seemed . . . well, bizarre. However, they soon became second-nature and more importantly, imminently useful.

Reasons for learning to sail were as different as the personalities. One woman was following her dream: she hoped to sail around the world in the future, while a couple that had arrived together revealed that they had actually met on a friend’s boat and wanted to learn to sail. United by a common interest, we found ourselves with more than enough to discuss.

Our skills developed at a rapid pace and our instructor kept careful watch—guiding us, informing us and, at times, pushing us beyond our comfort-zone. Although we were the ones doing the sailing, having an instructor aboard provided a “safety net”. With four students per boat, it was a great student-to-teacher ratio. As I learned later, all the instructors are certified through the Canadian Yachting Association (CYA). Their training allowed them to address individual questions easily.

While I was “driving”, the wind picked up suddenly, and the boat began to lean. It unnerved me at first and my initial reaction was dignified panic. A reassuring word from Katrina, the instructor, and fears gave way to excitement.

As the confidence level increased, so did the angle of the learning curve. It was correct to say I would be a “skipper” by the end of the course. There were still five months of good sailing left. The Queen’s Quay Sailing and Powerboating membership option provided unlimited access to the club’s fleet of high-performance keelboats.

In the end, six classmates joined as members of the club. Wednesdays are race nights, social sailing is Friday nights and in between I have been able to share the sport with friends, family and business clients.
I can confidently say that I have become a sailor. Best of all, I did it on my own terms. Future plans include advancing my skills and eventually sailing in the Caribbean. Maybe buy a boat…some day!

Queen’s Quay Sailing & Powerboating provides unrivalled access to the water from its downtown Toronto location immediately south of the Skydome. Its range of services includes instruction, rentals, membership, local & worldwide yacht charter, Caribbean sailing, corporate teambuilding and kid’s sailing camps. Its fleet of almost 50 boats ranges from 7′ to 49′ in length and includes 11 J24’s and 3 powerboats between 21′ and 26′. They are dedicated to delivering excellence in boating instruction as well as making boating accessible to Toronto residents and visitors from around the world through membership and rental programs. Visit them at or call 416-203-3000 to find out how you can get on the water this summer.