Sailing School Instructors

Our sailing school has been named twice to the Outstanding Schools (best of over 300 schools nationwide) plus we have five instructors who’ve been named to the Outstanding Instructors of the Year by ASA (top 20 out of over 3000 instructors worldwide).  Check anywhere in the Great Lakes and you will not find a better sailing school instructor roster than at Great Lakes Sailing Company (formerly Bay Breeze).

Captain Dirk

“Very professional and extremely experienced. Easy to work with and never felt uncomfortable asking questions.”
Mary E.
Greenwood, IN



Dan Spyhalski

Proud Recipient of the ASA Outstanding Instructor Award!  Dan has been sailing for over 30 years, walks the walk and actually lives on his Cal 40 “Spyke” on Grand Traverse Bay – even sometimes in the winter with wood stove heat! The most important lesson he teaches is confidence. A Great Lakes Sailing instructor for 12 years, Dan says northern Lake Michigan offers the BEST sailing in the world…..summers, that is! Dan was named to the “Outstanding Instructors” list for 2006 by ASA. Congratulations Dan! Licensed USCG Captain.

John Martin

Proud Recipient of the ASA Outstanding Instructor Award!  John and his wife Cyndi have just finished a five and a half year around the world cruise. They departed Beaver Island and headed out the St. Lawrence for what became a 42,000nm and 48 countries adventure. A bit over half the trip on their Moody 46 cutter rigged sloop followed by two years on their Lagoon 440 catamaran. Cyndi is a fantastic chef and is very versatile in all operations onboard.

John has a rather diverse background. Undergraduate from Univ. of Mich., Medical School at MSU, plus 17 years in the USAF/ANG. He is an Orthopedic Surgeon (ret), a Flight Surgeon, and a pilot. He has been racing sailboats from the age of nine and has over 20 Port Huron-Mac and Chicago-Mac’s under his belt. Holds USCG 100 ton Master Captain and is a certified ASA instructor on multiple levels. Personally has well over 50,000nm of offshore experience as captain. John is also author of the children’s adventure sailing story “Tommy Tiller and his Dog Rudder”.

John Waechter

John learned to sail from his future wife Sue when he was seventeen years old.  He was more interested in the woman than sailing, but Sue’s enthusiasm for the sport was contagious and soon John was racing collegiately in Flying Juniors and crewing foredeck on a Pearson 26 during the summers.

After moving to Michigan in 1980, John crewed on a Tartan 37. Canadian Olympian Colin Park introduced John to Lightning sailing in 1983 which soon took over John’s interest.  John has raced in the North American Championship races for Lightnings and J22’s.  Recently, he has begun to race Interlakes at Grand Traverse Yacht Club.

He and Sue are the proud owners of “Inspiration” a Catalina 309 which they dock at Bowers Harbor Yacht Club, close to their home on Old Mission Peninsula.  They enjoy cruising on the Great Lakes and have also sailed in BVI and Key West.  John is a USCG Master Captain NCW and is certified to teach ASA 101, 103, 104.  He loves to teach and looks forward to teaching students of all experience and abilities.

Jenny McCain

Jenny is a teacher in TCAPS, currently teaching 2nd grade at Westwoods Elementary. She loves working with children and their families and is excited to assist them more to take on sailing as a family endeavor. She is a new captain and looking forward to teaching at GLSC, but she also taught children to learn to sail at Traverse Area Community Sailing for 8 summers. Her interests are varied, as she sings and plays percussion with NMC’s Chamber Singers, loves to travel and study history, enjoys many active pursuits like running and swimming, and is a Vice President for a nonprofit organization. But getting out on the water and sharing the beauty of the Great Lakes is one of her favorite things. It brings her closer to God, which is the foundation of her life. She very much looks forward to meeting you and helping you get out sailing soon!

Josh Agripino

Josh began his sailing career in San Diego racing J22s before moving to Charleston SC where he got into delivering boats. After several trips back and forth between the Northeast United States, Bermuda and the Bahamas, Josh traveled north to Lake Michigan. He recently competed in the Chicago to Mac and Ugotta Regatta on a Farr 53, had a great time! We’re happy to have him settle here in Traverse City, one of the best places to go sailing!

Kip Nickel

Kip lives on Old Mission Peninsula overlooking Power Island and West Bay. He has been sailing since he was 12 yrs old, beginning on a Sunfish and progressing through racing and cruising sailboats over the years. Kip is an experienced cruiser, he and his wife are owners of “Ruach” a Jeanneau 45 located in Charlevoix and have cruised Lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie over the last 15 years. He also enjoys his Catalina Capri 14 day sailor and teaching his grandkids to sail.

He is excited to share his love and knowledge of sailing and his experience on the Great Lakes; the best cruising ground anywhere. Kip is a USCG Master Captain NCW and is certified to teach: ASA101,103,104,105. He looks forward to helping you expand your knowledge and love of sailing.

Loren Newton

Proud Recipient of the ASA Outstanding Instructor Award! Loren is a student favorite for ASA 101/103 classes. His calm and knowledgeable approach creates a great learning environment. When Loren is not teaching you’ll see him on the water sailing or working on various projects for his own boat.

Paul Davis

Paul Davis moved to Traverse City after graduation from Western Michigan University.   In 1982 he met Dan Spyhalski (long time GLSCo sailing school instructor) and Dan proclaimed “You need a boat.”   He has been sailing and racing on a variety of boats including the Lightning ‘Holeycow!’ ever since.  Paul has done numerous deliveries in the Great Lakes as well as a delivery from Manzanillo, Mexico to LA and is a veteran of numerous Port Huron to Mac and Chicago to Mac races.  In addition to his two sons, he has a daughter that also enjoys sailing and cruising.  When he’s not working, you’ll find Paul and his wife, Kay, sailing on ‘Holeycow!’, or riding his classic motor cycle in Leelanau County.   Currently Paul and his two sons crew for Dan on his Cal 40, ‘Spyke’.  Paul has a 50 ton USCG Captain’s License and is certified to teach ASA classes 101, 102, 104, and 105.

Keith Forton

Keith and the Forton family has been involved in the sailing community of Traverse City for a very long time. A licensed USCG Captain, Keith is a veteran racer with many Chicago-Mac’s under his belt, an avid local racer and just to slow things down a bit, he cruises with his family occasionally. In the real world, Keith’s been teaching High School physics for over 20 years which is why he’s a natural passing on his knowledge in the sailing world.

Jerry Hardin

Jerry cruises the Great Lakes on his Catalina 40 and been a great asset to GLSC.  Jerry instructs 101 thru 105 courses and assists with fleet maintenance and projects.  A full bio on Jerry is coming soon!

Bryan Smith

Proud Recipient of the ASA Outstanding Instructor Award!  Bryan has taught at Great Lakes Sailing Co. for over 20 years and has certified more than 500 students and logged thousands of miles on the Great Lakes. He feel’s GLSCo’s winning program is due to sound methods and exceptional instructors. Bryan’s upbeat personality makes him one of the most popular instructors. In the off season, he teaches USCG Captains courses around the Midwest. Licensed USCG Captain. Check out his website and you too can become a Captain. US Captain’s Training

Dirk Wissbaum

Dirk is a native of Illinois and has been working and sailing for Great Lakes Sailing consistently since 1996.  Dirk started his maritime career in 1986 when he joined the Navy working as a Boiler Technician onboard the USS Trenton; a ship which was “Haze Grey & Underway” most of the time. From there he worked on the President Riverboat Casino in Davenport, Iowa as a deckhand. He moved to Traverse City after graduating from college, and sailed for the Tall Ship Company aboard the Malabar. He attained his Captains license in 2000, and has been an active ASA sailing instructor & captain for GLSCo ever since. Most important lesson he teaches; “Underway Safety and safe harbor handling techniques.  Dirk also has a passion for “The Blues” and is a talented musician who attends Bluesfests all over the country.

Dave Conrad

Dave’s experience in the boat business includes captaining charter yachts, maintaining cruising vessels and managing charter companies in the Caribbean and on the Great Lakes.  Currently he’s the chief pencil-pusher, wrench-turner and shop-vac operator at Great Lakes Sailing (all the glamour of owning a charter company).   Dave says that teaching sailing is the most rewarding aspect of the boat business and is always trying to get out of his other responsibilities to teach people to sail.  Dave has a USCG 100 ton Captain’s License plus ASA instructor certifications 101 thru 105.