The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

Why I'm a Member of BCA

Pamela Bendall

Precious Metal
46 Kristen, steel hull, cutter rigged sloop
October 19th, 2015

My goodness. It has been 30 years since I joined Bluewater Cruising Association, and I have been a proud and privileged member since then. Why? Because BCA supported me in so many ways in my early offshore sailing years, and continues work actively to assist me and so many current and future offshore cruisers to fulfill our offshore dreams.

Few offshore cruisers in the world have the benefit of a local knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and supportive Association such as BCA.

I still remember my grueling BCA weekend lectures on celestial navigation in 1986, among other courses, with onerous reduction tables and extensive calculations in advance of my first offshore ocean sail with my former husband and two young children.

Sextants and reduction calculations were all we had for navigation in those days – we had no GPS, satellite, chart plotter, or fancy technology. “And when it’s cloudy with no sun or moon sightings you will have to keep close track of your speed, set and drift,” advised our instructor. That’s what we did. As navigator I dutifully tracked every movement of our boat Kluane on our charts, and scanned the skies constantly for a siting from the sun and moon. We once went for an entire week without a celestial sight. BCA was responsible for most of our training and my family returning to Canada safely.

With thanks to BCA, we nailed every destination dead on throughout the South Pacific to New Zealand, Micronesia, and Japan. We arrived home safely after nearly 3 years offshore, and our entire family was greeted with tremendous fanfare, together with allowing us to stand on stage, tell our epic story, and receive a truly meaningful reception and award – which meant a lot to us. I am forever grateful to BCA. And, although we are no longer in an era of celestial navigation, I’m confident that all of our offshore members can attribute a lot of their success and knowledge to the extensive preparedness provided by BCA.

Since I first went offshore, BCA has supported my 100,000+ offshore ocean miles in so many ways: education, Fleet in advance of my recent offshore sail to South and Central America, soliciting and selling boat parts, excellent and informative Currents articles, local social and rendezvous events, offshore gatherings, camaraderie, monthly presentations, BCA online Facebook group discussions and website, and members even offer to loan their car or home when I’m periodically back in BC. In my experience BCA will do anything and everything they can to assist their members.

Precious Metal under sail in BC.

Precious Metal under sail in BC.

I recently met with our remarkably dedicated Commodore Jennifer Handley over coffee and asked, “How are things going at BCA?” While optimistic and positive in her account, one of her comments struck a chord insofar as she was curious to know from an experienced offshore sailor “how to maintain members once they set sail?” After all, we enjoy outstanding Fleet and other assistance in preparation for our departure, encouragement and enthusiasm, a meaningful offshore package which costs BCA precious funds, and a wonderful Bon Voyage. Then, once we are sailing the high seas there’s a temptation to “no longer need BCA.” Attrition by our offshore members is apparently higher than the Association would like.

The big conundrum is that the very mandate of BCA – to safely send us away on our dream – is one of the major contributing factors for this attrition. Yet, if we all “eat and run” there will be no one left to man the ship and pay the bills. I committed to Jennifer that I would ponder and investigate ways to “add value” for members once they’ve cut the umbilical cord.

A special feature of BCA is that once we set sail, our annual membership can be reduced substantially and entirely by our submissions to Currents. This is where we can contribute in a meaningful way by sharing our stories, photos, advice, and enthusiasm. We can also become Mentors, host educational seminars, and do presentations at monthly meetings. I’m reminded of the adage, “You only get out of something what you put into it.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, our devoted volunteer BCA members and administrators are supporting us as we sail to exotic places:  operating the Boat Show booth to attract new members, organizing compelling presentations, Fleet, the BCA website, Currents, and many, many other important facets of BCA that keep this precious Association alive – for us and future offshore sailors.

I’m writing this BCA pitch for several reasons:

  • To remind our offshore members of the tremendous value that they gained from BCA prior to sailing offshore when they consider renewing their membership. (AND that BCA relies on all of our memberships to support future offshore sailors.)
  • To solicit ideas specifically from offshore sailors, those previously offshore, and others, as to what BCA can do to continue adding value once you’re offshore.

Please write to me with your ideas at:  or send a note to Jennifer.

Importantly, I would like to recognize, congratulate, and thank all BCA volunteers and administrators for your tremendous contributions. You work incredibly hard for the benefit of BCA members, allowing us to fulfill our offshore dreams. I sincerely hope to be around another 30 years to enjoy all the terrific benefits offered by BCA.

Thank you!


  1. Karen Thomas says:

    once again, Pam has encouraged and inspired me with her words. Thank-you Pam. We look forward to seeing you in further down the line. The BCA has always been important to us as sailors. our busy schedules have given us many excuses as to why we could not and have not participated as much as we would like. However, now we are both retired and on our way to a full time life on the Katie G, we hope to share some of our adventures along the way.

    1. Karen,
      So great to hear that you plan to share your adventures with us. Please send me an article at and I would be happy to publish it to share with our membership.

  2. Sonia Crawshaw says:

    Dear Pamela
    Brought ‘What was I thinking?’ on holiday to Croatia… started reading and couldn’t put it down😀
    Brought back many memories…
    Thanks xo
    Sonia Crawshaw

  3. Ken Christie says:

    Hi Pamela,
    In my search for BCA and Celestial Navigation , I found you ! And more, I think your encouragement is good as gold. 1986 !
    Quote: “I am forever grateful to BCA. And, although we are no longer in an era of celestial navigation, I’m confident that all of our offshore members can attribute a lot of their success and knowledge to the extensive preparedness provided by BCA.”
    Sounds good to me. Interested in developing more resources or information specific to: Women and the Realities of Voyaging kind of theme.
    But shall we present the Celestial Nav Course in a Simplified manner once again. What if some nut turned all the satellites off ? or a Solar Flair ? all your electricity goes down, and so on….

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