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Metro explores the latest trends emerging on the West Coast of Canada.

Winter sailing has unexpected thrills

Trending: Strong winds, discounted lessons, and fewer boats on the water are all good reasons to take to the high seas.

Crew sailing in Howe Sound this winter.

Courtesy Mark Trankner

Crew sailing in Howe Sound this winter.

A full-speed sail to Bowen Island ending in lunch at a cozy pub, a cruise up Indian Arm surrounded by deep green fjords, or a brisk, wave-tossed race in Howe Sound; winter sailing has never been more popular in the waters around Vancouver.

A wide variety of classes, workshops and racing opportunities mean that sailing in the off- season holds some unexpected delights.

According to Paul Doran of Simply Sailing "winter is a great time to brush up on your skills."  Strong winds, discounted lessons, and fewer boats on the water are all good reasons to take to the high seas. "Cold, clear days usually bring blue skies and a clear view of the snow-capped North Shore mountains," said Doran. He stressed that the right gear and careful attention to weather forecasts are especially important in winter.

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Simply Sailing offers several winter classes, including clinics that teach docking, sail trim, and rescue skills. They also have day sailing courses, and five-day basic and intermediate live-aboard courses. "For people who don't want to brave the cold, winter is a great time to take a coastal navigation or VHF radio course and prepare for the upcoming season."

Strong winds, discounted lessons, and fewer boats on the water are all good reasons to take to the high seas.

Courtesy Mark Trankner

Strong winds, discounted lessons, and fewer boats on the water are all good reasons to take to the high seas.

"We're very lucky to live here; some of best sailing in the world is only a few hours away," said Doran. Favourite local destinations include Snug Cove on Bowen, Silva Bay, and Montague Harbour. "Sailing really is a way to slow life down. It allows you to get away from the noise and escape to a different world," he said.

Katy Campbell, owner and head instructor of Sea to Sky Sailing pointed out that winter is "awesome for stronger winds," so you "gain a very different skill set."

Favourite local destinations include Snug Cove on Bowen, Silva Bay, and Montague Harbour.

Courtesy Mark Trankner

Favourite local destinations include Snug Cove on Bowen, Silva Bay, and Montague Harbour.

Winter is a good time to "start learning and polishing sailing skills, and racing is the easiest way to get started, " she said. Learning to sail in winter also teaches you how to handle a boat in more difficult, windier conditions, preparing sailors for a multitude of challenges. "You're just out in raw nature, " she said.

During winter, Sea to Sky offers a Quicker Crew course, a hands-on, 2-day intro to racing, with participants joining a club race on the second day.  Sea to Sky crew members race in the West Vancouver Yacht Club's Snowflake series every other weekend for the winter season. The Vancouver Rowing Club's Polar Bear series also offers hearty sailors the chance to test their mettle against the elements.

Recalling the first Snowflake race of 2017, Campbell described the almost-deserted ocean, with only a few boats on the water. "You could see all the way up Howe Sound. It was stunningly beautiful. " After the race, they pulled up a crab trap, set by one of the crew members and filled with Dungeness crabs; everyone got to take one home and cook it up for dinner. Such are the pleasures of a good West Coast winter sail.

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