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Cruising Journals - John and Amanda Neal

John and Amanda Neal

Amanda and John NealIn 1982 after several South Pacific cruises on my 27’ and then 31’ sloops starting at age 22, I was presenting Offshore Cruising Seminars and had a small marine importing and retail business to help potential cruisers realize their dreams of long distance cruising.

While presenting at the San Francisco Boat Show, Randy Repass, founder of West Marine, asked if I would consider a series of seminars for West Marine. Two months later I presented the first of more than 450 seminars sponsored by West Marine, all with the focus of educating boaters and empowering them to broaden their boating horizons.

In 1990, to meet the demand for hands-on offshore instruction, I started Mahina Expeditions with the goal of teaching ocean voyaging skills aboard a vessel in a safe and supportive environment. To date I’ve led over 150 sail-training expeditions aboard Mahina Tiare II, a Hallbery-Rassy 42, and Mahina Tiare III, a Hallberg-Rassy 46, sailing 300,000 miles in the South Pacific, Caribbean, Patagonia, Antarctica, Atlantic, Scandinavia and the Arctic.

When preparing to sail Mahina Tiare II from New Zealand to Cape Horn in 1994 I met Amanda Swan; a professional rigger and sailmaker. Amanda had recently completed the Whitbread Round the World Race aboard Maiden, the first all-women Whitbread boat and her experience also included two Sydney-Hobart Races, international yachting regattas intermixed with a ten year involvement in tall ship sail-training plus two Pacific cruises as a teenager on yachts she had helped her parents build.

Amanda has been co-leading expeditions since 1994 and when we returned to the South Pacific after our Antarctic expedition we were married on a tropical beach in Fiji. She is author of The Essential Galley Companion and since 2005 has written the monthly Galley Essentials column in 48 North magazine. Her most memorable relationship with West Marine was in 1995 when Chuck Hawley asked “What could do to get more women interested in sailing? To which she replied “Why make a pink foul weather jacket, of course!” It took 11 years but West Marine delivered and it was a hit with Amanda on our Spitsbergen expeditions.

Currently West Marine co-sponsors our seminars at 4-5 boat shows annually in the US and Canada and we test and report back on new gear for West Marine.

Magazines Contributed to: Blue Water Sailing, Australian Yachting, Cruising World, 48 North, Latitude 38, SAIL, Practical Sailor and Yachting.

Books Written: Log of the Mahina, Mahina Tiare, Pacific Passages (John), The Essential Galley Companion (Amanda), Offshore Cruising Companion (John & Amanda).

Books Contributed to: Surviving the Storm by Steve Dashew, World Cruising Survey by Jimmy Cornell, Voyagers Handbook by Beth A. Leonard, Fifty Places to Sail Before You Die by Chris Santella.

Areas of Experience: Caribbean, Mexico, Atlantic including Azores & Canaries, Patagonia, Cape Horn (six roundings), Antarctica, Pacific including Galapagos, Easter, Pitcairn, Fr. Polynesia, Cooks, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, Alaska, British Columbia. Europe including the Med, Ireland, England, Scotland, Orkney, Norway, Spitsbergen, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Spain and Portugal.

Annually Amanda and John present seminars at three major boat shows as well as conducting several Offshore Cruising Seminars preparing sailors for safe, self-sufficient voyaging worldwide on their own boats.

When not at sea, John and Amanda live on San Juan Island, Washington.

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