Rare is the person who declares “I’m bored” during a fleeting Yellowknife summer. But for people who’ve exhausted their usual outdoor pursuits and are looking to test the waters with a new challenge, the Great Slave Sailing Club offers lessons starting from classes for absolute beginners as young as seven, to advanced adult instruction. Located on Back Bay next to the old Giant Mine site, five kilometres north of the city, the club is a relaxed way to learn new skills and a new lingo to boot – sculling, dry roll, tacking, jibing, boom push.
Club Vice-Commodore John Carr races his Kirby 25 sailboat with Paul Clyne and Kevin Cull.
“I always wanted to learn to sail and it was a great excuse to get out on the water a couple times a week,” says Kelsey MacDougall, who joined July’s evening beginner’s class with her partner Kevin Chapman. Now in its fourth year, sailing school director Tamlin Daniel says students are provided with Topper dinghies – solid 1-2 person boats which, like the club itself, are not too imposing.
Lead instructor Etienne Moiroux says Back Bay is ideal for beginners, no big waves or tides or salt to contend with, but lots of wind.
If you envision sailing clubs as posh places where people nibble watercress sandwiches and sip Pimm’s Cup, one trip to the outhouse will dispel any such misconceptions about ours. “We’re not like a sailing club down south,” says Daniel. “I come from England, where a sailing club is a very status thing. Here we have a trailer that’s not a magnificent clubhouse.”
What the Great Slave Sailing Club does offer is superb water and winds, coupled with certified instructors both homegrown and from as far away as France. With a little bit of time and practice, who knows, you may someday find yourself participating in the regular open race events Wednesday nights at 6:30.
Race marshall Heather Durkee flags the start of a Wednesday evening open race.
Paul Clyne pulls on a sheet during a race while Kevin Cull steers.