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By Katherine Stone

“The best kept secret in the city”

Ever thought about joining a year-round boating club where you didn’t have to own a boat to be able to cruise or race with friends? How about placing yourself in an environment where learning is the focus of the club? Imagine coming down and hopping on a boat that is already set to go, with no maintenance worries? I can see that I am beginning to pique your interest, especially the part about being able to go boating without the expense of purchasing and maintaining a boat!

Enter Humber College, where award winning faculty and flexible learning are at the heart of the Humber College experience. Courses in boat handling and navigation were offered in the college classrooms starting in 1972. The college knew that if this was to be successful, they needed to acquire some access to water to include the practical aspect of boating. So, a parcel of land was leased from the city of Toronto (formally Etobicoke), upon which a small building was erected just off Lake Shore Blvd. West on Humber Bay Park Road West in 1984, opening their doors as a year round facility to be known as the Humber Sailing and Powerboating Centre (HSPC). The idea of the club soon followed in 1988. Together they form the largest sail training centre in Eastern Canada.

The picturesque Humber Bay Park is actually two parks divided into an east and west portion joined together by a pedestrian bridge of unusual design. The park is west of downtown Toronto on two spits that straddle the Mimico Creek. Over 5 million cubic metres of land fill were used to create the park which is bordered on the east by the Humber River and was opened in the summer of 1984.

Adam Saunders, a local real estate agent recounted that, “After the fall of New France to the British, M. Rousseau received permission from the British to settle with his family on the site of the French Fort in Toronto at the foot of the Humber River. When Lord Simcoe arrived from Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) with a number Loyalist soldiers, M. Rousseau guided the ships into the Toronto Bay (now Toronto Inner Harbour). Lord Simcoe renamed the Toronto River the Humber after the Humber River in England.

The history of the Humber Bay neighbourhood began when a schoolhouse was built and with thirty-five eager, freshly scrubbed students, it opened its doors in 1888. When summer arrived the children would tend their family vegetable and fruit gardens. It is not a coincidence that the first Farmer’s Market for the Toronto area began in Humber Bay at Park Lawn Road and the Queensway where the Ontario Food Terminal is now situated (www.torontoneighbourhoods.net). The Humber River provided the growing city of Toronto with the energy source and a communications link that it needed to flourish. Humber College, which now services more than 83,000 full-time and continuing education students has taken on that heritage, dedicating itself to the communication of ideas and energy that will foster lifelong learning. Their new president and CEO, Chris Whitaker, is very supportive of the HSPC that owns the building, docks, and boats that service the club and students.

Tim Kendall, Manager of Operations for HSPC, explained that the Centre operates all year, with unlimited sailing on the club boats from the beginning of May to the end of September, as well as sailing and social events being held throughout the year. The members organize and direct the activities of the club, working alongside the commodore, the Advisory Committee and the HSPC staff. The members also help with dock and boat maintenance, as well as launch and haul-out.

Sailing instructors and club members provided the crew for two sailboats to assist 14 year old Annaleise Carr with her non-stop swim across Lake Ontario in August 2012. 

HSPC has three main focus areas: Training in sail and power boating skills, corporate team building and the sailing club. With private and group instruction, corporate events and the club activities of mentoring, racing, weekend flotillas and casual sailing, there’s always a lot going on when you have a site that is in operation 12 hours a day, 7 days a week!

Tim and his team are committed to promoting the boating industry as a whole, from yacht clubs to the chandleries. HSPC is often the first stop a prospective boater will make and Tim feels that it is their responsibility to ensure that the experience is a good one.

A member since 1984, Alistair MacKenzie, says that, “You gain experience without owning a boat and build your sailing hours. We teach them all, even the nice lady who showed up for her first day of sailing classes on the water with only her high heels to go on the boat. We end up with three types of members who go on to own their own boats, take more courses, or become instructors themselves.”  In fact, on my way in to meet Alistair and Tim, I ran into Diane Reid who had just finished teaching a Basic Cruising course at HSPC. Diane is sailing the 2013 Mini Transat Race from France to Guadeloupe as the One Girl’s Ocean Challenge.

Sail Canada (formally CYA) courses are offered in Basic, Intermediate and Advanced Keelboat Cruising, Introduction to Keelboat Sailing and Coastal/Celestial Navigation, with courses in basic power boating, diesel engine maintenance, performance sail trim, docking, and manoeuvering.  You can even acquire your Toronto Harbour License, VHF Restricted Operators Certificate (Maritime), Pleasure Craft Operator Card, or International Certificate of Competence. Hunter 31 sailboats (all under five years old) are used for the Basic sailing courses, while a Hunter 39 is used for the Intermediate and Advanced courses. There are also Catalina 309s, J/24s, Martin 244s and Sharks to round out the fleet.

Although casual sailing is offered seven days a week, on Wednesday and Friday nights you can roll down to the club after work and take out the Martins, Sharks, and J/24s to race. The Club’s policy of “never leaving anyone on the dock” ensures that you will always get to participate, with everyone taking a turn at the helm. Prospective Club members require their Basic course or equivalent experience and can progress toward achieving Club skipper by participating in the Club’s Mentoring program to improve their skills. The Club is very safety conscious and all club boats must have a qualified skipper and at least one qualified crew.

Sue Tucker says it is, “The best kept secret in the city”, but one that everyone should know about. Over 300 students/year come through HSPC’s doors to learn to sail, improve their skills, and/or become Club members. Because they are tied to Humber College, the focus is always on learning in a fun and safe environment. 

Sue was thrilled to mention that they put a proposal together to the Club’s Advisory Board and entered a boat in the Women on the Water (WOW) regatta this past June and had a blast!

For only $2,485/year or $800 for one month to join the club for adults and only $350/year for juniors, they certainly have a great deal going! Best of all, the club has reciprocal privileges. As Humber Sailing Club (HSC) is not a “traditional” club with visitor docks, recreation amenities, food, and beverage facilities, there is little that they can offer other clubs. However there are a dozen local clubs that offer friendship rights or reciprocal privileges. In return, what do these other yacht clubs receive?  Not only do they get a discount on courses, but also the opportunity to introduce potential new members to their club. Not a bad arrangement, for sure!

HSC members become not only life-long learners, but also friends (and yes, they have had their fair share of weddings that have happened because of this). Each winter they get together to charter a sailboat down south for a bit of warm weather sailing. Every day you come sailing you can sail with different people or the friends you met the week before.  Help make their “best kept secret” something that everyone wants to know more about! Come to share your passion by taking a course or end up staying for a lifetime. You have the choice and can check it out yourself at:

Humber Sailing and Powerboating Centre; 100 Humber Bay Park Road West; Toronto, Ontario  M8V 3X7  or contact them at 416-252-7291 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or www.humber.ca/sailing or www.humbersailingclub.com.

Photo Captions
Photo 1: Sailing upwind in Humber Bay
Photo 2: Floatillas are a great time to put navigational skills to the test
Photo 3: All hands on deck makes short work of maintenance
Photo 4: Open house guests get their first taste of sailing
Photo 5: Fleet includes 31' Hunters and Catalinas as well