Video and story: Heart of Our City, Sharing their love for sailing

There aren’t a lot of places for young children to get out, explore and learn the fundamentals of boating here in Prince Rupert.

Paul Bull and Leslie Roberts prefer touring the coastline without a motor and together they are offering youths the opportunity to learn how to sail.




Despite an abundance of water around Prince Rupert, whether it be from the skies or surrounding Kaien Island, there aren’t a lot of places for young children to get out, explore and learn the fundamentals of boating.

Paul Bull and Leslie Roberts have decided to change that.

The summer of 2016 will be the fifth time that the duo has brought BC Sailing’s Mobile Optimist Sailing School (MOSS) to Prince Rupert.

Kids aged six to 14 will get the chance to learn the basics of sailing in their own dinghies and small boats. Young instructors from the Lower Mainland will teach the children how to sail on Diana Lake from July 25 – 29.

Sponsoring the MOSS camp is just one way that Paul and Leslie have enriched their own lives and the lives of young or old Rupertites wanting to learn to sail.

Three years ago, the pair started Big Blue Sailing School, a program that offers skills training to Canadian Yachting Association Standards and Canada Sail standards. But it was in their youth that the two of them fell in love with riding the winds and tides of Canada’s waters.

“My grandmother was born here, so I’ve been here all my life but I started sailing because I went to a private school in my teens, and Shawnigan Lake School, they have a laser sailing program,” Leslie said.

Paul learned to sail in Northern Ontario.

“We were in the Lake of the Woods area and we lived in a community that had a lake and a river right adjacent to it and my mom and dad had a little 20-foot sailboat. So my brother and I and my parents, we grew up in canoes and sailboats in the summer-time and we had quite a bit of water exposure,” Paul said.

The two have lived in Prince Rupert for the past 22 years, minus going away and coming back from school for short bursts of time.

For the couple, there’s just something fundamentally different about sailing versus boating with a motor. You need to pay a bit more attention, and plan ahead when you don’t have that safety net of an engine, Paul explained.

“It’s a completely different experience. When you’re sailing you have to be in touch with what’s going on in the environment, so that means [looking at] the direction of the tides, the direction of the winds, how far is it from here to there, how long is it going to take us? You have to be really aware of those kinds of things because you don’t just switch on an engine and power up your 250 horsepower and take off and go. So in that aspect, you’re very in tune with what’s going on.”

The two have a large boat that they use to travel up and down the coast when they get the chance called the Credo III (a Catalina 36) a brand new Albin Vega 27 Sailboat and the Sixpence (a Ranger 28).

The Sixpence and Credo III are used frequently with Big Blue Sailing School’s Basic Crew and Basic Cruising Standard weekend courses and the five-day Cruise and Learn course.

Most recently, Paul and Leslie returned from their first ever 10-day Cruise and Learn course, when they sailed from Prince Rupert to Port MacNeil through the Inside Passage.

“It was a really good experience, because those different environmental considerations come into play – where do we anchor, how far do we go, what does the weather look like? We trip plan our days and look at the charts, look at the tide tables … and we got to see the whales and birds and all the beautiful anchorages and things like that, so on a 10-day run it’s the whole experience of cruising,” Paul said.

“There’s inlets that you can go to and every single one has its own uniqueness. There’s one that’s full of a crazy amount of seals and then the next one has this waterfall area near the ocean where the bears come and grab the salmon in late July. Each one has its own little amazing, natural phenomena that’s just astounding. It’s a powerful, powerful coastline,” Leslie added.

The couple feeds and houses the BC Sailing instructors while in Prince Rupert, and look to give kids the same opportunity they had when they were younger.

“In Prince Rupert, we live around water all the time, but kids don’t have much of an opportunity to get much of an exposure to the water in small boats. They’re really going to learn an in-depth understanding of small boats and how they balance boats in a safe environment. It makes a difference when you’re young and you learn something, it’s a lifetime knowledge. It sticks,” Paul said.

To register for the July 25 – 29 Diana Lake MOSS camp, visit http://www.bcsailing.bc.ca/MOSS.php and for more information on the Prince Rupert-based Big Blue Sailing School, visit http://www.bigbluesailing.ca

“Bringing [kids and people] into nature is just so powerful and so important, I think, for our souls, so it gets them back out and having fun in the big, wide world here,” Leslie added.