Growing up in southern Ontario on the Great Lakes, if you can call Lake St Clair a Great Lake, John discovered his love for the water.
Starting with water skiing behind a 14′ aluminium row boat with a 9.9 HP Evinrude motor, John’s early years were spent behind the wheel of a power boat. As time progressed, and after meeting Ziggy, the love-of-his-life and starting a family, the dream of taking a sailing sabbatical took hold. Step One – purchase a small sloop, Zephyr, a Beneteau 323 to “see if the family could live together” aboard a sailboat.
Step Two – purchase a boat to sail on our first extended family trip. Seeking a balance between comfort, space and off-shore capability, John found the second love-of-his-life (sorry kids). Taking delivery of Windancer IV, Hull #1 of Lagoon’s new 440 line, John and a cast of characters set sail November 1, 2005 from Ft Lauderdale. The six day passage to the BVI would be John’s first multi-day, blue water experience. Windancer stayed in charter at Nanny Cay in the BVI where she would remain until the MacKenzie family was ready to set sail in 2008.
After taking the necessary CYA sailing courses, including marine maintenance, navigation and first aid, the plans were in place to begin the family sailing adventure in April, 2008. Together with Connor (13) and Jenny (10), Ziggy and John completed an Atlantic Circle. Lucky to have friends join along the way, the family spent 6 months in the Med, a month in Morocco, a month getting ready to sail with the ARC in the Canaries and 6 months in the Caribbean. Truly a life-altering experience for the whole family, the MacKenzies returned to Canada in July, 2009 and relocated in Vancouver, BC to be closer to Ziggy’s parents.
Fast forward to October, 2016. Connor and Jenny are both studying (and sailing) at Queens; John and Ziggy moved back to Toronto to renovate an apartment. We head back to Ft Lauderdale to finish the refits started in the blistering August heat. Everything is falling into place for a mid-November departure for Bimini in the Bahamas, to Cuba and the Turks & Caicos chain before heading offshore to the Virgin Islands for the Christmas holidays.
Ziggy’s love of sailing only began after she became first mate on the first of the MacKenzie family sailboats, Zephyr. Now, to be clear, she loved the water and being on the water as a young girl, sailing on the BC west coast. But loving sailing under Captain Bligh, aka her father Bill Walker, didn’t come easy. Direct orders, early to rise to catch the tides, cooking down below in crappy weather were the norm with Bill. But he taught her well and her love for sailing grew over the years.
John and Ziggy will tell different versions of how they decided to pack it all it and set sail for a year in 2008, but the end always follows the same five year path…put the kids in sailing camp, did they even like sailing? Charter a cat in the BVI followed with purchasing Zephyr to sail as a family on Lake Ontario; could we live in close quarters? Buy Windancer and spend every vacation sailing the Virgins; could she get used to crystal clear waters, snorkeling, reading endless books, dreaming of writing her own novel?
Well, after 5 years of planning, they shut down life in Toronto, quit the jobs, rented the house, stored the cars, found someone to love Gryffen, the yellow lab, and started the adventure of a lifetime. Ziggy and kids joined John and Windancer in the Azores and spent the next 14 months sailing the Med, hanging in Morocco for a month, getting ready in the Canaries, crossing the Atlantic over 20 perfect days and then sailing in the Caribbean.
Somewhere along the way, Ziggy developed a small addiction to fishing. There is nothing like trolling a line (or 2, or 3 or 5 – the beauty of a 24ft beam on a cat) and catching dinner. Over the year at sea, Ziggy honed her fish-identifying skills and can tell a dorado from a tuna from 50 feet. There is nothing like fresh sushi followed by seared ahi tuna day 2 and steaks day 3. Hosting a derby with the crew of Chili Oyster became a highlight, with points deducted for hauling in half-fish bitten by brazen barracuda.
Never a racer, Ziggy makes a good first mate, taking on provisioning, kids schooling, on-shore excursions, blog writing and willing to go elbow deep in a clogged head. You can find her on Windancer looking aft, book in hand, watching for the next strike on a Cuban hand reel. After all, her favorite two words, after “love you”? Fish On!
Since he first took the tiller at age 8 at a Port Credit summer camp, Connor has had a deep love for both sailing and the water. After putting several thousand blue-water miles under his belt during Windancer IV’s Atlantic Circle in 2008, Connor began racing 420s in the BC Circuit for the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. After winning a provincial championship, Connor graduated to keelboat racing, and never looked back.
Starting in the Martin 242 and quickly establishing himself as a bowman, Connor raced as the youngest competitor at the Farr 30 National Championships in his first season of keelboat racing. After sailing on any boat and at any event he could manage, Connor co-founded the Northwest Youth Match Racing Team, which went on to be the highest ranked youth match racing team in Canada for 2 consecutive years. After competing at both local and international events and continuing to avidly race on various other programs, Connor started at Queen’s University where he promptly joined the varsity sailing team and began his double major in sailing and sociology.
After first year at school and season as bowman for the Queen’s team, Connor spent his summer training with an International 6 Metre Team. In September 2014, the team came out on top in the North American Championship, as well as the 108 year old Alexandra Cup Challenge with the 6 Metre Team. During 3rd year university, as the captain of the Queen’s Keelboat Team, Connor and his team won the Canadian National Keelboat Championships, which qualified Queens to represent Team Canada at the Student Yachting World Cup, in La Rochelle, France. Travelling to La Rochelle in November 2016, Connor and the Queen’s team, representing Team Canada, became only the second North American and first Canadian team to ever win the Student Yachting World Cup!
Connor has also sailed for Digicel Team Bermuda and various one-design teams, sailing events across the globe, in cities such as Annapolis, New York, Chicago, Long Beach, Aukland, La Rochelle and Vancouver.
After spending a hot and humid August, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale working on the family catamaran, Connor is very excited to spend as much time as he can adventuring on Windancer, and plans to sail as many of the bluewater crossings as he can.
Ever since starting with optimist dinghies at the age of 6, Jenny, or Elle as she is now know, has had a knack for the water. However, it wasn’t until after Windancer’s first voyage that she began to really pursue sailing.
From summer camps to training camps, Jenny has grown to become a force to be reckoned with on the water. Skippering her way to countless regatta wins in the 420 class, Jenny made a name for herself in the B.C. sailing circuit. After competing in events all across North America, Jenny capped off her 420 racing career with a gold medal at the B.C. Summer Games in July of 2016.
Jenny is now studying sciences at Queen’s University where she is also a member of the Varsity Sailing Team.
My love of the water began at an early age while power boating with my family on Georgian Bay. I took up sailing at the age of 9, however it wasn’t until the age of 16 while going through my White Sail Instructors course, that I truly fell in love with the sport. I continued to sail throughout high school, preferring to teach and cruise but never really participating in the racing side of things.
Upon arriving at Queen’s University I joined the Varsity Sailing Team. After a year of racing 420’s, I received an email asking if anyone was available to join the Queens Keelboat Team for a regatta (I had never sailed a big boat before, but I was free so I agreed). While on the trip I met Connor who took me under his wing and taught me how to sail and race keelboats. Since that weekend I have sought out any opportunity to race, sailing in regattas in Annapolis, New York, Vancouver, Kelowna and Georgian Bay.
While working for the Disabled Sailing Association of Kelowna over the summer of 2015 I had the opportunity to meet the rest of the Mackenzie Family. Last Christmas I was fortunate enough to join them aboard Windancer IV for two weeks in the BVIs which was an incredible experience! Upon graduating from Queen’s with a BSc(H) in 2017, I found myself with the opportunity of a lifetime, to join the crew of Windancer IV sailing from Curacao, Colombia, Panama Canal, and onwards to the Galapagos and French Polynesia.
I am extremely excited to be aboard Windancer and look forward to the journey ahead!!
My love for the water began at age 8 when I helped build a Mirror Dinghy with my father. I subsequently raced and cruised dinghies, windsurfers, kiteboards and keelboats throughout the world. A career in the Royal Canadian Navy gave me my formal training, travel opportunities and set up sailing adventures that include Vic-Maui and Swiftsure races, as well as both Canadian and US coasts, the Arctic, Caribbean, Mexico, England, France, Bermuda, Hawaii, Australia and Japan. My biggest sailing highlights have to be the 21 sunrises during ARC 2008 aboard Windancer IV. Now fully retired since 2014, I am trying to take every opportunity to crew Windancer before buying my own boat and following sister Ziggy’s example and running away (again) to sea.
I credit my parents, Frank and Joan, for any interest or knowledge I have about sailing. And it was not by choice! Summers on the Bras d’Or Lakes were for sailing and every weekend was spent aboard the family boat, heading (and tacking) to whatever yacht club was holding a race. We racked up a lot of brass over the years (the bulkhead is thickly adorned with 1st place plaques). I still return home every summer to cruise and race and still my father has another nugget of sailing knowledge to pass along.
There are other highlights in my history of sailing experiences: skippering the Yael in the East Bay Sailing Regatta Schooner Classic two years in a row (and winning the division both times!); sailing, in 2005, aboard The Spirit of Sydney out of Ushuaia harbour, around the Cape Horn and (omg! thankfully!) back again; being aboard Windancer IV during the Atlantic crossing in 2008 (without my luggage); cruising and enjoying the Whitsunday Islands in 2013 (as I wasn’t the one who broke their leg!) and match racing in 2014 with a Japanese crew out of Hayama Yacht Club (not understanding a thing anyone was saying!)
I feel very lucky being aboard Windancer IV again with Zig and John. It’s always a treat to be in their company and an adventure to travel with them. I’m happy to lend a hand swabbing the deck, pumping the heads or mixing the drinks… especially the drinks!