From first mate to the drivers seat

First annual Women’s Day at Toronto boat show

Women make up half of the boating market potential yet, there are still common barriers that women experience when it comes to boat ownership and taking the helm.

Canadian Boat Shows, which is proudly operated by a team of avid boaters who all happen to be women, understand these challenges first hand. In their experience managing two of Canada’s premier boat shows in Toronto and Vancouver, the show organizers have taken feedback from attendees and noted the demand for more boater education – specifically for women, by women.

“Every year we see more women involved in the decision-making process to get out on the water. They see the benefits of a boating lifestyle, spending time with family, friends, quality of life, and a reduced level of stress. As a result, women are taking a lead role in operating boats, moving from a first mate to sitting in the driver’s seat,” says Cynthia Hare, Show Manager, Toronto International Boat Show.

In its commitment to boater education, the 2019 Toronto International Boat Show is excited to introduce Women’s Day on Sunday, Jan. 20, offering a full day of boating seminars and guest speakers designed to educate and inspire female boaters of all skill levels and interests. More importantly, organizers want to create a friendly and supportive environment where women can feel comfortable to ask questions and learn from each other.

Deb Cantrell, a bestselling author, amateur photographer, boater/cruiser, adventurer, and passionate life-long learner, will be the keynote speaker at Women’s Day. Her story and presentation titled, “Build Your Confidence – Maximize Your Fun!” is both relatable and inspiring, having embarked on an ambivalent love affair with boats 28 years ago when her husband, Jim, announced out of the blue that he’d like to “sell everything and sail away.”

At the time, neither were boaters and neither had sailed a day in their lives. The very idea of getting on a boat terrified Deb, in no small part because of the uncertainty of leaving her career and life as she knew it. An impulsive decision to buy a 33-ft classic wooden motor boat in 1991 for its varnished handrails and ‘room to dance on the aft deck’ laid the foundation for building confidence, competence and fear management – and planted the earliest seeds of what could be gained from life on a boat.

Deb embarked on a journey of discovery that has been characterized by moments of agony, stretches of ecstasy, and an overarching sense of bliss. Her experience led to a bestselling book, Changing Course – A Woman’s Guide to the Cruising Life, chronicling her journey and that of dozens of other women who, like her, chose to find ways to make living afloat joyful and fulfilling. Almost three decades later, Deb, her husband, and their four-legged First Mate, Jake, live in Collingwood, Ontario for six months of the year and spend the remainder of their time on their boat in the Mediterranean.

Registration for Women’s Day at the Toronto International Boat Show is online at

Space is limited, so reserve your space early. Tickets are $99, and includes a full day of seminars, presentations, lunch, an end-of-day reception and a gift bag and raffle prizes. It also includes a general admission ticket to return to the Toronto Boat Show, which runs from January 19 to 27, 2019.



The 61st annual Toronto International Boat Show returns to the Enercare Centre from January 18 to 27, 2019 opening to later dates which have historically been very popular with boaters and attendees.

The last time the Toronto Boat Show landed similarly during the third week in January was in 2017, when show organizers and exhibitors experienced a banner year and one of the highest-attended shows in the past five years (over 77,000 visitors).

Exhibitor space is sold out for another year, with more than 550 vendors occupying more than a million square feet of the Enercare Centre. Seasoned boaters can anticipate new product launches in 2019 – more than any other show – free workshops and expert advice, as well as all-new programming tailored to inspire and motivate boaters of all types and levels.

Continuing its commitment (and consumer demand) for more boater education, the Toronto Boat Show is expanding its offerings – in addition to the 250 free seminars offered daily – to present an all-NEW Women’s Day on Sunday, Jan. 20.

Keynote speaker, avid cruiser, adventurer, and bestselling author Deb Cantrell will kick off the full day of programing focused on empowering women to become better and more confident boaters. The women’s-only ticketed event will set a relaxed, judgement-free atmosphere for a great day of learning.


Since 1959, the Toronto Boat Show has grown exponentially to become North America’s largest and most comprehensive indoor boat show, as well as the premier place to find out what’s new and innovative in the boating industry first-hand from manufacturers and dealers. Popular favourites among boaters return in 2019 including The Boathouse “Ask The Experts,” Cottage Country, Mariners Marketplace, Antique and Classic Boats, Winter Wakefest at the world’s largest indoor lake, and the Great Canadian Fish Tank.

Save-the-Date for the Toronto International Boat Show’s Preview Day VIP Experience on Friday, January 18, 2019, with proceeds benefitting the show’s partner boating charities.

The show runs Jan. 18 to 27 at the Enercare Centre, Exhibition Place, 100 Princes’ Blvd. Toronto, ON. Tickets are available online at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *