How one couple learned to sail

Published on August 2nd, 2022

Northern California’s Natalie Wages reminds us how the power of suggestion can be powerful:


Someday, my husband Matt and I are going to sail around the world. Or so we’ve been saying since Fourth of July last year when he became inspired after reading the book Adrift.

It’s the story of the only man known to survive alone at sea for over a month (76 days to be exact). Never mind that his boat sank. When Matt closed the book at our favorite campsite in the Sierra, he said, “We should buy a boat!”

We’ve always been land people. Backcountry people. Van travel was everything. But by the end of that weekend, we were sailing around the world and allocating five years to it. We decided it’ll be just like camping, but at sea.

We had been on sailboats before—you know, the sexy catamarans that cruise the Bay at sunset while you sip Champagne on the trampoline—but we had never sailed one ourselves. We spent the next year reading stories of other people’s journeys around the world, learning to make tiki drinks (when in Rome!), and mapping our dream routes.

When my husband quite seriously suggested we sell our Oakland home to buy a boat, I had to buy some time, so I suggested sailing lessons. What if we didn’t like sailing?

After exchanging a few emails with Wayne Zittel, owner of the Alameda-based performance sailing school J/World, I was more convinced than ever that sailors hold the keys to the good life: He splits his time between California and Mexico (J/World also has locations in San Diego and Puerto Vallarta). Ranked among the top sailing schools in the U.S., J/World offers several certification programs including bareboat cruising and coastal navigation.

We signed up for the basic keelboat course, a four-day series that would take place over two consecutive weekends. We would learn to “responsibly skipper and crew a simple day-sailing keelboat in familiar waters, in light to moderate wind and sea conditions.” We arrive on the first day to meet our instructor, Austin, a not-yet-thirty-something in flip flops who taught himself to sail at the age of six and may or may not live in a converted ambulance. We like this sailor already. – Full report

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