Sea Survival seminar a success in Toronto

Eric Hill leading the review session after the in-water section of the program
Greg Nicoll
Safety took a more aggressive stance at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club this past weekend. After the success of the 2010 Safety at Sea seminar where 300 sailors signed up for a one day introductory session under the guidance of the US Sailing Association, course organizers immediately saw the demand for a more hands-on course in the Great Lakes region. The course moderator was Halifax based Yachtmaster instructor Eric Hill who took 15 sailors on Saturday, followed by 11 more on Sunday through an in-depth course that included a visual presentation, flare training, a competency exam and an in-water participation exercise.

Hill, who by day is known as Captain Eric Hill, Maritime Helicopter Tactics, and Canadian Forces Maritime Warfare Centre, has a great deal of experience in marine rescue. Noy only a rescuer, Hill is the offshore training skipper for the Royal Canadian Navy and holds a commercial endorsement for sailing vessels to 200 t and is a qualified RYA/CYA radar, diesel, and commercial Yachtmaster instructor. As Canada’s only Yachtmaster Instructor, he is an endorsed ISAF Sea Survival instructor for offshore racing and is a qualified Advanced Medical First Responder.

In 2010, the Nova Scotia Yachting Association named him Male Sailor of the Year for outstanding contribution to the sport of sailing. In 2011, he participated in Transport Canada’s revision of safety requirements for pleasure craft used for commercial purposes.

The instructor keeps a wathcful eye on the flare practise session

Instructor Eric Hill helping husband and wife sailors David Weatherston and Sue Howson with equipment
Greg Nicoll

Both days, the sessions moved at a quick pace, were very informative and were laced with many of Eric’s personal stories and anecdotes that demonstrated a clear understanding of the need to prepare well in advance for the unexpected that can happen at sea. The highlight of the day took place in the pool where the participants experienced the challenge of swimming lengths in foul weather gear and boots. Then, donning PFD’s (personal flotation devices), they practised safety manoeuvres first by themselves, then with team members. In his presentation, Eric emphasized that the last place you want to be was in a life raft, that said, he gave everybody the opportunity to see how to inflate a life raft, climb into the raft, assist others getting in the raft and how to right an overturned raft.

One Girl's Ocean Challenge Diane Reid shows the proper way to enter the water, one arm holding her PFD down while protecting her face
Greg Nicoll

Swimmers working as a team to stay together
Greg Nicoll

One interesting note was the number of couples taking the course. It was most encouraging to see both husband and wife working together to understand the needs and preparedness required for a lengthy passage in open waters.
Course organizer Carson Wood, also the Safety Officer for the Lake Ontario 300 Race, was very excited to see the direct instruction provided by Hill and active participation of all attendees. Carson also commented that all students who successfully completed this component of the course will be issued an ISAF Survival at Sea Certificate that can pre- qualify them for major international races such as the Newport Bermuda and the Sydney Hobart Race.

Participants help each others boarding a four-person liferaft

Instructor Eric Hill gets in the water to explain the best way for six people to keep a liferaft balanced
Greg Nicoll

The Canadian Yachting Association ( has endorsed Halifax based Yachtmaster instructor Eric Hill to provide training that leads to CYA-ISAF certificates of competence in personal offshore safety and sea survival for crews involved in distance racing. This new and exciting course will elevate the skills of Canadian distance sailors and the performance of their yachts to levels of international seaworthiness recognized around the world. The course also provides value to cruisers or any sailor contemplating navigating open water with any degree of self-sufficiency.

RCYC's David Medhurst and Eva Innes enjoyed their time in the pool!

To assist reaching sailors across the country, the new CYA-ISAF certificate of competence training has been developed over the past year into a mobile self-contained format available anywhere a suitable facility can be provided. The first CYA-ISAF certificate of competence training sessions have been held this Spring in BC, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. To organise a course locally or to register for a course visit the training website at or through the CYA website at