North Sails LOFT NEWS

Story Contributors: Sarah Unwin


Sailing Fun And Adventure For The Whole Family

Jamie and Cathy Copeland cruise the PNW with their two kids Will and Belle. Jamie and Cathy are both airline pilots and the founders of the Online Booking Platform and the home organization app for iPhones

How did you and Cathy get into cruising?

Jamie – My folks had long been into the sailing and racing scene after moving to Vancouver from Antigua. In 1985 after selling his portion of Specialty Yachts, my father picked up the family Beneteau First 38 Bagheera in France and we started a 6 1/2 year circumnavigation. I was 2 when we started, and I’ve found that my passion for boating has only really increased with time.

Cathy – I was born and raised in Winnipeg, so cruising and racing was not a natural thing for me. My Aunt and Uncle cruised offshore and we had spent time on their boat, but it certainly wasn’t something I did much of before Jamie and I met. Within 6 months of meeting in Smithers, BC, Jamie and I were in the Caribbean cruising on Bagheera, and that was the beginning of my falling in love with boating.

What type of boats have you owned and what is your favourite?

Jamie – We started with a Martin 242 that we used to race and occasionally camper cruise on. It was a great boat for us as a couple, and great for Cathy to learn on.

From there, with the arrival of our firstborn, Will, we moved into our Beneteau First 285, Sundowner. The 285 is a small, big boat, with an inboard diesel, running water, proper head with holding tank and separated cabins. It’s a lot of boat for a 28 footer, and the majority of our family cruising memories were on Sundowner. We lived on her for 2 months of summer cruising in 2015, with a 3-year-old and a 10-month-old,

and it was magical. Cathy and I were doing so much flying locally at the time and Sundowner gave us the chance to explore all the areas we were flying over from the water. We loved that boat and I still check on her when I’m in False Creek where her current owners keep her looking beautiful.

What boat are you currently cruising on?

Cathy – In 2017, Jamie’s parents began pondering the idea of selling Bagheera, which by this point was back in Vancouver after approximately 115,000 nm of offshore cruising visiting 114 countries with no plans for more. After some family discussions, we elected to sell Sundowner and purchase Bagheera to keep her in the family.

Bagheera has been a nice upgrade for us. She is very comfortable in heavy seas, sails beautifully and has a lot more space than we were ever used to in our previous boats. She is great for longer-term provisioning so we can get away for longer and also take guests. The more we get to know her, the more we love her.

What are your favourite family cruising spots?

Jamie – I think we share many popular favourites with the local cruising community in the Southern Gulf Islands, Desolation Sound, San Juans etc. There is just so much to love cruising in these waters that are so unique to this part of the world. After flying up and down the coast, and now overseas, Cathy and I have come to realize how lucky we are with the destination options at our doorstep in BC.

Cathy – So much of our cruising is now influenced by the experiences that our kids will enjoy and the somewhat limited time we have off in the summers (the historical busy season in the airline world). Locally we’ve had some magical experiences on the little beach on the north side of Montague Harbour, stern tying in Princess Cove on Wallace Island, enjoying the summer scene in Plumper Cove, and visiting the numerous communities in southern BC by the sea. One of our top spots, if we have a bit more time, is Princesses Louisa Inlet, and of course, along with most boaters we always endeavour to visit Desolation in the summer.

Any tips or tricks for parents wanting to start cruising with kids?

Cathy – Firstly, for anyone new to cruising, the more you do it, the easier it gets. It’s the first few times that feel daunting, but it just gets better and better. Second is the high-level importance of safety. There is a solution for every stage of development for kids. You can, with creativity, child-proof for any age. We had both kids on the boat as newborns, through the toddler stage and beyond. The key is not to commit to one style of doing things and to keep adapting with your kids.

A trick we have learned is the power of audiobooks on long passages. The kids seem to soak them up and it’s a nice way for them to enjoy a day at sea in a unique way. We also have little boats (and an airplane) that we often tow behind the big boat and the kids have spend hours jumping them over waves and making them bob in the wake.

Jamie – Spending so much time around boats in my life I’ve heard a lot of first-hand stories about safety issues at sea and been part of a few too. The theme always is that safety always needs to be taken seriously and be at the front of one’s mind on a boat, particularly with kids. We take quite a conservative approach overall and focus on both ensuring the kids are well supervised, have knowledge of risks (as age-appropriate) and operate carefully. They live in their life jackets, we often have them wearing life harness teathers connected to a padeye or jackline. We have some quite strict rules about where they can go and what they can do while underway particularly if the sails are up, and ensure that they understand the why’s of how things operate, what’s safe and what’s not.

On a lighter note, kids soak up the passion we all feel for being on the water and almost always embrace that passion themselves. There are so many fun activities to do. Boating is one of the few pastimes that seems universally fun for all ages – even teenagers seem to enjoy cruising with parents – and something that they very likely could continue for life. It’s such a cool thing.

You grew up racing on the RVYC sailing team, do you still race and what are your favourite races to do these days?

Jamie – Yes, but never as well as I would like. We were a pretty strong team of little sailors on the Royal Van Race Team back in 90s and I would love to race on one-design circuits again and refine my craft. The racing we do now is a lot of fun though, and in normal years I charter a boat with 3 other old race team friends which is a blast. Cathy and I also love participating in the Round Bowen Race hosted by one of all time favourites the Union Steamship Company Marina. Now that the America’s Cup is heating up again (with the great Kenny Read in the commentator’s booth), I can’t wait for some racing, any type of racing, to get started again.

Cathy – I crew with Jamie from time to time on Royal Van Wednesday nights and enjoy getting back into it again like when we used to own the Martin.

Have either of your kids gotten into racing?

Yes, our eldest Will is in his first year of racing at Royal Van in the Optis. He seems to be enjoying it and the program and coaching staff have a well-structured and professional program while they manage the challenges of COVID. I think soon it will be time to buy Will his first proper racing sail from North Sails.

Story Contributors

Cruising The PNW With Kids headshot
Sarah Unwin

Office Administration — Vancouver, British Columbia

Sarah grew up in Vancouver, BC. Sarah spent summers in the Royal Vancouver YC learn to sail program, cruising on her family's boat, and winters downhill ski racing. Sarah moved to Whistler, BC after high school to coach and instruct...

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