Shearwater University Mission

The Shearwater University mission is to increase the skills, safety and enjoyment of boaters on the Salish Sea.

Our Mission is Addressed through two major Goals:

Provide rigorous, effective and enjoyable classes taught by professional educators and equal to the challenges of the Salish Sea.  In doing so we educate boaters who can cruise anywhere in the world.

Make maritime education accessible to anyone wanting to learn.  We do this by providing a range of class and scheduling options, customizing classes to individual needs & goals, and keeping tuitions affordable.

The four schools, and the structure of our curriculum, are designed to meet these goals in the areas of sailing, powerboating, kayaking and navigation.


The class we took covered all the essential aspects of sailing over a three day period.  Our sailing experience before the class was quite minimal, but by the time we were done, we felt ready to day sail unsupervised.  Phyllis Woolwine, the owner of Shearwater, taught us herself.  Her technique was fantastic, blending lecture and hands on in perfect proportion.  She was both direct and reassuring, willing to meet the class where it was and guide us to a satisfying conclusion.  We have no hesitation recommending Sailing Essentials and Phyllis to anyone looking for a class that will leave you ready to sail your own boat.  We intend to take many of the more advanced sailing classes from her in the future.

Mike and Lisa, Orcas Island

Sailing Essentials


Lori & I are first time sailboat owners with the recent purchase of a 34 foot Beneteau this past summer.  We have both had experience sailing with friends and each of us has owned and operated small runabout lake boats and other small water craft over the years.  We have not, however been responsible for a large boat designed for cruising on the inland sea.  

Once the purchase was made the reality of what we had signed up for stared us in the face.  Owning a sailboat is a ton of responsibility and requires broad knowledge of the on-board systems, navigation, charts, currents, weather, and maintenance.  It’s truly a daunting task if you haven’t had years of experience sailing around the Puget Sound.  

We signed up with Shearwater on the recommendation from our yacht broker and we couldn’t be happier with the decision.  Phyllis has years of experience sailing a variety of boats and her depth of knowledge, patience, and teaching methods really prepared us to get the most out of sailing and enjoy the waters around the incredible region we live in.

The lessons were structured but flexible enough to ensure that we were first and foremost comfortable with OUR boat.  I can’t stress enough how important this was to get us confident in using our boat rather than an unfamiliar vessel that’s a different size and brand.  We were quickly able to identify unique features of the Beneteau, including its systems, maneuverability, sails, and the way it moves through the water.

Phyllis’s teaching experience and patience really helped keep us focused and ensured that we get the most out of each day to maximize our time with her.  The lessons were a combination of on the water instruction, plus “class time” in the cabin on the boat.  Both aspects proved invaluable as we not only practiced driving and sailing the boat, but also learned about navigation, points of sail, currents, knots and other important theoretical aspects of sailing.

I would highly recommend this course for anyone who wants to feel confident, safe, and responsible with their boat.  You’ll get so much more enjoyment if you make the commitment.

Lori & Brad, Seattle WA

Customized Lessons On Your Boat


5 Stars to Phyllis Woolwine & Shearwater University!  The Sailing Essentials class is FUN and packs in an amazing amount of learning & practical on-water experience.  

Phyllis is exceptionally well organized.  She leverages her years as a public school educator to customize her teaching approach to the learning style that works best for each student.  The experience is FUN & encouraging!  It was an amazing experience to learn all of the “sailing essentials” quickly, complete the US Sailing Basic Keelboat certification that weekend, and apply what I’d been taught on sailboat outings over the following few weeks.

I’ve already recommended Phyllis & Shearwater University to my friends.  I’ll be back for sailboat rentals & to take more advanced sailing classes. 

Scott, Redmond WA

Sailing Essentials