The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

Great New BCA Courses 2018-2019

Joan & Ken Newman

Caliber 38
May 21st, 2019

Ken and I are pleased to have participated in four new courses offered by the Vancouver Island Chapter this year. They all enhanced BCA’s already extensive educational opportunities. If you’re preparing to get off the dock, we encourage you to engage in some fun learning with these courses whenever they are offered again. Thank you very much to VI Education Watchkeeper, Lionel Dobson, for his organization.

Here’s a summary of their content so you can ask for them during next year’s learning season:

Keeping Healthy Bodies on the Boat (March 2, 2019)

Three instructors–Barbara Erickson, Camie Bentham and Jennifer Letham Sobkin–gave us the benefit of their expertise and experience.

Jen, a registered dietician, focused on the importance of a balanced food intake for staying healthy, and on the benefits of each of the food groups. She shared lots of tips and some great recipes for healthy snacks and meals to keep our energy stores and immunity levels up.

From Upper Left: Stove-top bread; Fish for the tacos; Tortillas for the Tacos; Ready to fill the Tacos

Barb put us all to work in the “galley” to prepare a fantastic meal of fresh bread, fish tacos (she/we even made the tortillas too!), and a vegetable curry. The bread was baked in two ways—in the oven and in a cast-iron pot on the stove. The fish was freshly caught white Spring Salmon, donated by Camie’s husband—thank you, John! A bonus was Barb’s list of galley equipment must-haves.

Ready to enjoy our very own home-made tacos

Camie and Barb had us working out with exercises that combined aerobics, strength training, and yoga stretches—all important for keeping our bodies working well on the boat—and gave us ideas for doing the exercises in the confined space of a boat.

Yoga moves for the boat

We all came away from the workshop with great ideas and feeling inspired to keep ourselves healthy with good food and exercise.

Casting Off—Breaking Free on the Home Front (January 19, 2019)

This full-day workshop was led by Rick Ellis, who facilitates lots of healthy reflection and discussion in his courses. By giving us a safe space to reflect, he encourages us to open our minds.

In this course, Rick was encouraging us to think of how we maintain a life on land while we plan for the cruising life. He pointed out that stopping what we’re doing can be harder than starting the dream—and the longer we leave the cruising life, the harder it is to leave, with the myriad of things that anchor us to our lives. We need to include this personal planning as we prepare ourselves to get off the dock.

Rick talked about this transition as being a process of letting go and de-cluttering. He then led us through a series of introspective questions and had us rank ourselves and compare that to our crew’s self-ranking. Understanding ourselves and each other’s approaches can help us work through the stress of letting go and the sense of loss that may come with it. We reflected on our communication and conflict styles, as well as multitasking and procrastination.

Rick helped us think about the practical aspects we must deal with on land before we sail away—deciding whether to sell up everything or leave a land base; how to maintain that land base while away; cleaning out the clutter and arranging storage for all that we are not ready to let go of; making arrangements for finance and banking and insurance, planning for maintaining contact with family and friends, etc.

Rick Ellis’s courses are always well-received—we leave feeling enlightened. One course participant remarked “If Rick Ellis is teaching the course, I’m taking it!”

Abandon Ship: Stay Alive in Your Life Raft (February 16, 2019)

Our half-day course started in the classroom with Captain Jim Steele, who delivers intensive training to coast pilots. Jim covered the essentials of PFDs and life rafts, survival packs and ditch bags. He discussed how to handle ourselves both in the water and in the life raft, along with the most effective ways to signal for rescue and the type of equipment used in rescues.

The practical component of the course started with a bang as we jumped into the pool with all our gear on and the inflatable PFDs went off with loud bangs—startling but comforting to know that they worked so well. And it reinforced the need for leg straps to prevent the PFD from sliding up and over our faces and heads.

Once we acclimatized to being in the water laden with our gear (and discovered that our boots did stay on!), we found the ways that worked best for each of us to navigate to the life raft.

And then the fun started with climbing into the life raft—what a challenge! We also learned the technique to right an overturned life raft.

From Upper Left: One, two, three and we’re in the pool; Life raft fully inflated; Now how do I get in; and Hooray, in she goes!

The conditions in a pool with calm, warm water and helping hands were no comparison to what we would face in an open-ocean experience; nonetheless, it was very helpful to have a sense of what to expect and how to keep ourselves safe. This was a great opportunity to build confidence through knowledge and experience in a controlled situation.

Extra thanks go to Lionel Dobson for all his life raft handling, both before and after the course!

Introduction to Boat Systems for Women (October 20, 2018)

This course was another first-time offering in Fall 2018, coordinated by Kathy Swangard, VI Mid-Island Rep, that also received kudos from the participants. It was presented by Pamela Bendall (author of What Was I Thinking) and Steve Nash, both highly experienced skippers. Tricia Nash gave opening remarks, summarizing how she came to the cruising life with no previous sailing experience.

Introduction to Boat Systems, with Kevin Nash, Tricia Santos and Pamela Bendall

During the morning session, Pamela and Steve did a great job of leading us through the theory behind a boat’s propulsion system, peppering their presentation with lots of examples and show-and-tell of parts and tools. Pamela also shared her tips for practical maintenance. The two instructors gave an introduction to electrical systems as well, and then took us on board a couple of boats to give us the opportunity to discover and identify the components that we had been discussing earlier.

The course was enthusiastically received by all present, and we were energized to apply our learning on our own boats.



  1. Hiromi says:

    Wow, so many great new courses that are so relevant. Looks like a lot of fun too. Look forward to seeing you in Mexico. We are in La Paz now and it’s all been great so far.

    1. Joan Newman says:

      Great to hear from you, Hiromi. We will look forward to hearing about your and Brian’s experiences. I’ve sent an email to your personal email address with some questions.

  2. Al Kitchen says:

    Good article guys! I hope it inspires next years gang to take advantage of the education offerings Lionel & Trina do such a good job of organizing.

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