Years ago I started flight training at Coastal Pacific Aviation, in Abbotsford BC. I had been inspired to become a pilot from the moving stories of family friends in the industry and my dad’s own tales from his time in the Royal Navy. One particularly memorable family friend had connections to Coastal Pacific and it was upon Dave’s recommendation that I had ended up there. With all off my 17 years of life experience, I showed up bright eyed and excited for a whole new world. My only real life experience up to that point consisted of countless days on the the water either on my family’s Beneteau or racing dinghies, which I had done since I was eight. I didn’t even have a drivers license.
Aviation was inspirational…and terrifying. Its a refined industry that has mitigated risk in an incredibly structured fashion over the years, possibly unlike any other industry. Right from the outset, flight training commanded a discipline and situational awareness unlike any I had experienced before. It was inspiring to learn of techniques and methods that had matured over years of incidents and, in some cases, accidents to be the basis of improved pilots habits and techniques. It was also terrifying how challenging flying could be, and how quickly one could get “loaded up” and task saturated when new risks or unplanned factors were introduced.
One mitigation strategy, that the Canadian government introduced, was to document all the risks, facilities and services available at every airport in Canada. This eventually became the Canada Flight Supplement (CFS) – there are similar publications in America and other countries like the inspiring story of Elrey Jeppesen. The idea behind the CFS completely amazed me, because somehow they were able to document, record and update the pertinent information for all certified airports in Canada – from the majors like Toronto and Vancouver all the way to unknowns like Tipella (a tiny and barely used gravel logging strip in BC). A pilot could find out about what % grade the landing strip was, if there were any trees near the approach, what type(s) of fuel was there, how to file a flight plan and everything else you could want to know – all in a fat, but surprisingly useable book.
Fast forward twelve years later and I was now working as a Captain at my third airline job on a Beechcraft 1900D. I had lived in Whitehorse, Smithers, Calgary, and Prince George I was finally settling down in a job I liked, in the city I had been trying to reach (Vancouver), at a salary that didn’t rival working at McDonald’s. Life was good and my life was finally conducive to getting into boating again.
I was particularly excited about getting into cruising on my folk’s boat Bagheera, something I didn’t have much experience doing as an adult. I had done a lot of racing, and had cruised as a kid for six years sailing around the world with my parents, but my experience on my own was minimal. I was also eager to embracing the more leisurely side of boating, because my work schedule was pretty fatiguing at the time, as well as introduce my wife and son to the boating lifestyle.
We started cruising a lot, borrowing my parents 38’ Beneteau initially, then on our own Beneteau. We loved boating and the experience was great, however, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, and after years of having good quality, accurate information about airports, I was feeling unequipped not having something similar in the boating world. I started canvasing yachting friends and we realized that there were many modern solutions to getting better information while boating, just none of them had really been explored yet.
The general consensus was that we all had similar habits. Realistically we frequented about 20 or so spots a lot when we cruised locally. When we were going somewhere new, our planning included talking to friends who had been there, looking up information online, reading a cruising guide or a magazine article (if the info was in date), cross checking the chart, inspecting the tide tables, and reviewing a variety of sites for weather info. In aviation, resources are available at the big companies where we are literally looking at two, maybe three resources and the information is top quality – and there are now solutions in the consumer sector to do it all in one place. I couldn’t help but wonder how our boating lives would change if we had similar resources for on the water. Now I know what you are thinking, solutions already exist in the boating world. What about Navionics, ActiveCaptain, Navily, Bloosea, Garmin etc? And you’d be right, these are great resources. I use them a lot, particularly Navionics (an excellent product in my opinion). They are all fantastic…when you know where you’re going; but how about discovering that spot in the first place and assessing its suitability for your specific needs? What if you want to find a spot that allow for great activities that the kids can enjoy, or if you want to go to an area that offers great views of marine life. On the safety side, what about when someone gets injured and need a hospital or clinic that is accessible from the water? That is the information that can be hard to find and that’s what we’re trying to fix with yachtingsbest.com.
To achieve these goals, I have now been joined by a fantastic team (see the team page) of like-minded partners who are committed to making this something special. Our common purpose is to provide a community resource that offers huge benefits to boaters and provides the marine industry with a much needed boost that hopefully supports the community’s needs as much as our own.
I sincerely hope that this will be a tool that we can all use to make our boating lives even more fulfilling and safer.