Sail Canada Courses

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to sail? How it feels to float and sway among the waves in your sailboat? What an amazing feeling it must be to travel solely thanks to the wind, sails, and your own skill? Join us to experience all of this while learning and exploring the beautiful waters of Desolation Sound.
1 day

Introduction to Boating

2/3 days

Start Keelboat Sailing

5 days

Basic Cruising Skipper or Crew

5 days

Basic Cruising Skipper or Crew

duration &
start/end point

5-days & 4-nights (live-aboard). Cortes Island, + *Quadra Island or Lund if private live-aboard group.


Course on Beneteau Oceanis 400. All meals in live-aboard format. Sail Canada exam, textbook & certificate. Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) training.

Live-aboard format
$1800 CAD/person (double occupancy) for the aft-cabin.
$1950 CAD/person (double occupancy) for forward-cabin with private washroom.
Max. 4 participants.
day-sailing format

$900 CAD/person. Max. 4 participants. Stay on beautiful Cortes Island and save. Includes 5-days on the sailboat as our classroom.

Available dates - 2024:
This Standard is recommended for those who want to be certified to cruise safely as skipper or crew on a sailboat in moderate wind and sea conditions by day in tidal waters.
This is one of the entry-level Standards in the series of Sail Canada Standards, which allows a candidate, even without any previous experience, to attain the Basic Crew or Basic Cruising Skipper certification. Certification as a Skipper will allow the successful candidate to take command of and operate, with the assistance of competent crew, an auxiliary-powered sailing vessel. Certification as Crew will provide the ability to assist in the operation of a sailing vessel as competent crew. A Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC), the required document used in Canada as proof of competency to operate a recreational boat with a motor, can be obtained by a successful candidate upon completion of this course.
The course covers basic seamanship skills under sail and power with a focus on operation of a cruising keelboat as both crew and skipper. The course will cover terminology, simple maneuvering skills under power, basic sailing skills, sail selection, use and positioning of sails, safety equipment and dealing with emergencies, rules for avoiding collisions, marine weather, the buoyage system, basic navigation, interpretation of nautical charts, and understanding of tides and currents. The emphasis of the course will be on practical experience with as much participation as possible in the handling and living aboard a 40-foot sailboat.
This five-day course can be taken in a day-sailing or live-aboard format. The live-aboard format allows for the complete experience of cruising on a sailboat and being a full-fledged member of a crew. It includes sleeping at anchor, taking care of the vessel, and enjoying meals together to fully immerse yourself in life at sea. This is a great option for a vacation in the beautiful Desolation Sound area, which includes all meals and lodging while achieving your sailing certification, even for a whole family. The day-sailing option can be completed over five consecutive days or broken up over weekends, with 6-hour sessions per day. This will take us to the nearby waters of Cortes, Marina, and Mitlenatch Islands, allowing you to learn in the unique natural surroundings of Desolation Sound. For the live-aboard format, see the sample itinerary below, as this course will take us on a further exploration of the Desolation Sound area. The day-sailing format will cover the same topics, with Mariah and the waters around Cortes Island serving as our beautiful classroom. Camping on Cortes Island is a very inexpensive accommodation option, and there are many rentals available on the island.

Private cabins, meals & the course

Our sailboat is a comfortable, modern, 40-foot sailing vessel (Beneteau Oceanis 400), with all the required amenities and safety equipment.
In the live-aboard format, there is a choice of a forward double-bed private cabin with a private washroom (head), or a double-bed private aft cabin with a shared head. Rates are shown for double occupancy of a cabin. Single individuals occupying a double cabin pay double occupancy minus 10%. The live-aboard price includes high-quality provisioning for all meals, centred on mostly organic and locally sourced vegan, vegetarian, and seafood items.

The Sail Canada Basic Cruising Skills textbook, a Sail Canada Logbook to record your certificates, all course materials, the exam, seal and certification fee are all included. PCOC certification, if required, can be obtained for $25, which covers the processing and card application fees.

*If you book as a private live-aboard group, we can optionally start and/or end the course at Quadra Island or Lund for a fee of $150 CAD per person.

See the Sail Canada website links below for more information and a detailed outline of what is included in the training and what is required for certification:

Course itinerary

day 1
We meet at 9:30 am at the ferry terminal in Whaletown on Cortes Island and drive you to our sailboat. We start with a familiarization of the boat and its living quarters, a safety briefing, and begin learning sailing terminology in practice while examining our sailboat. After checking the weather and going over the plan of our trip with some navigation basics, we discuss how to work together as a crew and set off, sailing around 25 nautical miles to our evening’s destination, the picturesque bay of Prideaux Haven.
As we travel, everyone takes turns at the helm, getting a feel for the boat, while learning the rules of the road, basics of sailing and navigation, and finally anchoring.
After dinner, you will be able to relax, swim, or explore the pristine natural shoreline by zodiac inflatable. Relaxing on deck, in your private cabin, or outside in the hammock while the boat gently rocks is a fantastic feeling and provides the best night’s sleep, which indeed will be well-earned after such an exciting day.
day 2
The next day, after breakfast and a good coffee, and a weather assessment, we sail up north through scenic Homfray Channel.
While enjoying the picturesque views of the snow-capped Coast Mountain range, we learn the finer points of sail selection and sail trim, and practice our sailing maneuvers as a team. Although the winds are always different, we will try to sail as much as possible, mixing our time to also work on our navigation skills using modern electronics and classic methods.
Between May 25th and September, we spend the evening and night at Toba Wilderness Marina, a very special small-sized marina accessible only by water, nestled at the foot of steep mountains in a picturesque bay at the mouth of Toba Inlet with spectacular mountain views in every direction. Here, you will also be able to explore pristine forest trails and stretch your legs doing a short hike up to a cascading waterfall.
In April and until May 24th, we will instead anchor nearby in the pristine Walsh Cove Marine Park on the east side of West Redonda Island. In the evening, we will hop into our zodiac inflatable to pick our own mussels for the evening’s well-deserved dinner and to admire First Nations petroglyphs on the towering granite cliffs surrounding our anchorage.
day 3
On this day, we spend some time on theory, covering navigation, sailing theory, tides and currents, weather forecasting, and how to handle different types of emergencies.
We then put all of this into practice as we sail south to Von Donop (Háthayim) Inlet, a long, narrow sheltered anchorage on the northwestern tip of Cortes Island. On the way, we also practice more sailing maneuvers and crew-overboard drills.
At our peaceful destination, we enjoy a great dinner, possibly composed of our own harvested oysters or mussels, and we relish the evening with sights of wildlife, exploring the inlet by dinghy, swimming in the warm waters, or simply relaxing.
day 4
On day four, we head south through Sutil Channel. Starting with checking the weather and weighing the anchor, we put everything you’ve learned into practice. The focus is on experiencing everything hands-on, experimenting, learning from mistakes, and therefore becoming more independent, allowing you to gain confidence in taking control of the vessel on the way to becoming a self-reliant skipper.
The route we take is also a great place to search for and see humpback whales, orcas, and dolphins known to frequent these nutrient-rich waters as they gather to feed annually. We make a stop for lunch on the beautiful white-shell-lined beach of Marina Island, and in the evening, anchor in the picturesque Mansons Landing bay. The afternoon is spent going over the material and preparing together for our assessment the next day.
day 5
On our final day, we practice docking maneuvers and head out for a final sail, planned by the students. We spend time going over any theory or practical aspects we feel need strengthening.
In the afternoon, we complete the written assessment and together mark and discuss the results.
We celebrate our success over a final dinner together and conclude our trip in the evening at 5 pm at the arranged destination, with our newly recognized Skippers and Crew.


Things to know

Click to read the details.
This program is delivered by a Sail Canada Certified Instructor through our Calma Sailing school, a Sail Canada registered, and Transport Canada licensed Recreational Boating School. Participants will be issued a Sail Canada certificate upon successful completion of this course. The course cost includes the Basic Cruising Skills textbook, the Sail Canada Logbook, exams, seals, and Sail Canada certification fees. A Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC), the required document used in Canada as proof of competency to operate a recreational boat with a motor, can be included if required by the participant for $25, covering the PCOC processing and card application fees. In the live-aboard format, all meals are included, as well as marina costs. Safety equipment such as PFDs will be provided. Our sailboat is a comfortable, modern, 40-foot sailing vessel (Beneteau Oceanis 400), equipped with all required amenities and safety equipment. In the live-aboard format, pillows, pillow covers, and bed sheets are provided, and guests are only asked to bring their own sleeping bags.
Participants aged 16 and up can attend, with a maximum of 4 participants. Those under 19 years of age must be accompanied by a guardian. These training sessions will involve short periods of moderate upper body exertion and a moderate level of arm strength. Participants may experience sun, wind, spray, rain, and temperatures consistent with the season in southern coastal British Columbia. While underway, the vessel may exhibit irregular motion due to wind and waves. We ask participants to refrain from smoking while aboard the vessel.
A sleeping bag rated for summer or a three-season type, depending on the season. Towel and personal items. A spare warm sweater or fleece. A windproof and waterproof jacket. Hat or toque. Sunscreen. Sporty, comfortable shoes with non-marking white/light soles. Water shoes and hiking shoes. Long and short pants depending on the weather. Long hiking pants, preferably waterproof. Spare clothes for 5 days. Thermal underwear. Toiletries and personal items. Camera.
Fully refundable for the first 7 days after your booking so you can calmly plan your trip, if the booking is made more than 30 days before the lesson start time. Cancel more than 45 days before the start time for a full refund minus a 5% booking fee. If you cancel 45 days or less before the start time, you will receive a 50% refund. A 30% deposit is required at booking. Full payment is due 60 days before the start time. A 100% refund will be given if we cannot sail due to extreme weather conditions or safety issues. See our Terms of Service for details.
Price rates are shown as price per person and are based on double occupancy of a double-bed private cabin in the live-aboard course format. Single individuals occupying a double-bed private cabin are charged as per double occupancy minus 10%. Prices are in Canadian dollars and are subject to a 5% Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST). All prices are subject to change without notice.

Sailing is the ultimate expression of freedom. Join us and begin your sailing adventure.

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