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Meet Ellen - Head Instructor

Lead Instructor Ellen MacPhail, is a Sail Canada (formerly known as Canadian Yachting Association) certified instructor. She has over 20 years of experience with well over 40,000 nautical miles of cruising and racing experience.  Ellen is PEI’s first ever certified instructor for keelboats teaching levels from Basic to Advance, to Personal Offshore Sailing courses. Sail Canada is the premier sailing authority in Canada.

In a recent trip to British Columbia, Ellen became one of two women in Canada certified to teach the World Sailing Offshore Personal Survival Course through Sail Canada.  This unique course offers a practical liferaft experience, deploying flares, extinguishing fires, cutting rigs and so much more. 

Ellen also received a RYA/MCA Yachtmaster level with a Commercial endorsement from Royal Yachting Association from Britain during the timing of Hurricane Earl.  This certification permits skippering sailing vessels up to 70 feet long, worldwide in professional settings. RYA is the global leader in yachting education with programs in over 40 countries.   To instruct in Canada, Ellen currently holds CYA Basic, Intermediate, Advanced, Race Instructor, ROCM and Coastal Navigation instructor levels through Sail Canada.

 Her instructor evaluators had skippered in such events as the world renown Volvo Ocean Races, Sydney Hobart, Fastnet, and Clipper Around the World event races and brought a new height of excellence to training.   RYA demands self-discipline along with excellence and unveiled new methods of sail handling to which Ellen is excited to expose to her students in addition to Sail Canada 's standards.

Ellen has been active in the boating community fulfilling several roles, including past director of Canadian Yachting Association, Past President of PEI Sailing Association, Past President of Northumberland Strait Yachting Association, Bridge Member with Blue Heron CPS Squadron and Past Director of Charlottetown Yacht Club. She now serves as Executive Director of Sail Prince Edward Island and is an active member of Civil Air Search and Rescue (CASARA).  


With Ellen's commitment to developing sailing in Prince Edward Island, she was presented the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Award from the Lieutenant Governor in 2012.  


As one of the few females certified as an instructor at Advanced levels aboard keelboats, Ellen takes a great interest in encouraging and introducing other women to the sport of sailing - but stresses sailing is for both male and females, and age is not a factor!  


Ellen and her crews aboard PicturePerfect were declared Overall Champions for the NSTYA Championship Series in 2005, as well garnered all but one Class Winner title in the Northumberland Strait Yachting Association's yearly sailing competitions since then. The latest Class Championship was occurred in 2016. The NSTYA racing series encompass several distance races between NB, NS, and PEI with up to 60 keelboats participating in sizes from 22 to 45 feet.  Trophies, marked with student's names, over the years are fun reminders of past seasons in great sailing areas.  Where possible students of WaveSkills have joined in each year aboard as racing crew. Besides safety as the top priority, Ellen's crews are known to laugh louder, then sail harder, as it is all about fun!  


Who are the other instructors?
We are fortunate to have guest instructors and are pleased to have Grant Gordon, from Dartmouth Yacht Club, NS join us on an annual basis for special weeks such as when we host Soldier On camps.  Grant is an accomplished Offshore racer and sailor garnering many sailing accolades.  Grant obtained his RYA Yachtmaster offshore level and instructs up to Intermediate keelboat courses for Sail Canada and spends his winters aboard his boat Vagrant in Caribbean waters. Our latest instructor to join WaveSkills is Tom Power. Power was part of our Soldier On Team and is a newly minted instructor. He brings lots of great stories and skill to his new position. In 2023, Judy Robertson from the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron rounds out instructor collaboration and brings years of nautical education and international cruising experience. During our Offshore Personal Survival courses we have a variety of gifted sailors and top offshore facilities to ensure a well rounded and through knowledge takes place for each participant.  


Who are our students?
WaveSkills have had the pleasure of teaching students from over four continents, 20 countries as well as local, regional and national residents.  Although instruction is only in English, language issues have always been overcome, as sailing is a brand new language to everyone!


Our students have a wide variety of interests, curiosity, and spark.  Age and ability range dramatically, and we can easily boast pleasant experiences with all the personalities aboard as each and everyone, new or old to sailing, has added to the richness of the courses.   



MORE From Our Logbook


For a number of years I had being thinking about learning to sail. Time, work and family seemed to get in the way, but it probably was more finding the right instructor who could make me feel comfortable, have fun and be flexible to consider the demands on peoples time. Ellen is an example of one of the best adult educators I know, taking into account all the issues, providing a flexible schedule and promoting a practical fun environment to her learners. I had the priviledge of watching her work with young adults and older learners and she was amazing with both. I recommend this experience to anyone old or young, a learning opportunity I will not soon forget. Great times!!! 

Stephen Murray, PEI


"Thanks for your patience, guidance, wonderful sense of humour and joie de vivre!" David Parker, NS 


"Many thanks for your help and patience while I was taking your sailing course. I have taken many courses of different types and have never enjoyed any as much as that. Your a born teacher. You made us focus on how to do things better and feeling good about that as opposed to what we did wrong. Learning to sail became a pleasent adventure rather than a problem.  We had a ball.  I am looking forward to take the next course with you." 

Barry Hunt, PEI


I never sailed before, but I always wanted to learn so I contacted Waveskills. Ellen told me at the end of the course I would feel confident sailing a 20 to 30 foot sailboat. As someone new to sailing, I was a bit skeptical, but Ellen makes the course fun, interesting, and most importantly "hands on." It is a great course and at the end you are not only confident but competent as well." 

Jack Hanley, Boston


We took the CYA Basic Cruising Standard with Waveskills late last summer, and are now hooked on sailing! It was a great course - we're now in the market for our own sailboat.  We would highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to learn the basics of sailing and cruising. Thanks Ellen for sharing your excellent skills and knowledge with us!   

Michelle MacDonald & Dr. Jay Adamsson, PEI


Dear Sweet Ellen, Thank you so much for a great couple of weeks aboard "Picture Perfect". Sailing in October....who would have thought it would be so beautiful. 

Linda Ford, PEI



 "You were probably the best first sailing instructor I could have for Basic Cruising. Your patience, confidence, and easy going attitude made a vacation well spent. Thank you."

Keir, BC"


Thanks Ellen for your patience and good humor while showing me the ropes. Hope to try them soon on my boat". 

Paula MacLean, PEI


WaveSkills offers a unique approach that allows you to get hands on experience while learning proper technique. The fact you are learning on the boat helps you to become confident in your abilities while having fun! I would strongly recommend the course to anyone interested in learning to sail. 

Shane Mac Kinnon, PEI


"Thank you so much Ellie! I had so much fun this weekend. But I am afraid I think I caught the sailing disease." 

Thanks again. Liam


"Ellen kindly accommodated our family's vacation. Beautiful boat, wonderful time, looking forward to repeat next year."

"Thanks Ellen for a truly wonderful outing. You are a great host and captain and we enjoyed your boat and company!" Isabelle and family, Quebec


"Would highly recommend to anyone, whatever your thrill or trepidation level." 

Rob English, NB.


"Thanks Ellen, Great Experience - Hoping my son will get the sailing bug."

Sam, Ireland 


"It never felt so good to go nowhere fast!  My first sail was amazing!"

Mark, PEI


"Had a wonderful time, Ellen was a terrific host and teacher." 

Rob, NB


"Thanks so much for a great sailing adventure! You were a great teacher."

Tyler, Toronto.











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