INSTRUCTOR/EXPEDITION LEADER

John Neal

I was born on the banks of Africa’s Blue Nile River and my ocean sailing experience started in 1974 when at age 22 I set sail from Seattle, sailing my Vega 27 sloop 15,000 miles through the South Pacific, part of the time singlehanded. Log of the Mahina, the book I wrote chronicling those adventures became a bestseller and I’ve since authored, co-authored or contributed to an additional 17 books and over 150 magazine articles.

I’ve also enjoyed working as a consultant, a writer or on film crews for National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Disney, NOAA and Office of Naval Research.

I’ve accumulated 402,000 offshore miles ranging from Australia to Africa, Antarctica, Svalbard and the Med while sharing my passion for ocean sailing. When not at sea I enjoy kayaking, flying, trail running, cycling, skiing, swimming and yoga. I currently hold USCG 100-ton master and FAA private pilot licenses.

From 1990 to 1996 I owned and operated Mahina Tiare II, a Hallberg-Rassy 42, as a sail-training vessel sailing 70,000 miles while leading expeditions to the South Pacific, Patagonia, Antarctica and rounding Cape Horn six times.

From 1994 to 2021 Amanda Swan (Neal) and I jointly ran Mahina Expeditions. In July 2021 Amanda relocated to New Zealand where she is now a sailing instructor at Great Escape in Opua.

Mahina Tiare III, a Hallberg-Rassy 46, was built for these expeditions and launched in 1997 and until COVID in 2020 we sailed over 230,000 with over 1,150 expedition members.

In 2020 Amanda and I ran 4 expeditions in the Pacific NW sailing offshore and back aboard a Jeanneau 45.1.

In 2021 I conducted 10 expeditions aboard Obelix, a Garcia Exploration 45 and one aboard Misty, all sailing from Bellingham out into the Pacific.

2022 was an exciting season, starting with four 10-day expeditions in Scotland aboard an Elan 434, followed by two expeditions aboard Obelix, the Garcia Exploration 45 sailing from Alaska to Haida Gwaii and a first for me, the West Coast of Vancouver Island, followed by three additional Pacific forays aboard the Garcia.

2023 expeditions included a wide range of experience options starting with another four Scottish Isles expeditions, followed by a circumnavigation of Vancouver Island (two expeditions). The capper of 2023 was two New Zealand training expeditions.

In 2024 & 2025 I’m offering five 10-day training expeditions in the Scottish Islands and two in New Zealand. These are two of my favorite sailing areas in the world and each represents an excellent training ground.

Magazines Contributed:

Blue Water Sailing, Australian Yachting, Cruising World, Yachting World (UK), Yachting Monthly (UK), Cruising Helmsman (Australia), Seilas (Norway), 48 North, Latitude 38, SAIL, Ocean Navigator and Practical Sailor.

Books Authored:

 Log of the Mahina, Mahina Tiare, Pacific Passages, Offshore Cruising Companion, Offshore Expedition Companion, Storm Survival Tactics.

Books Contributed to:

World Voyage Planner, World Cruising Survey by Jimmy Cornell, Surviving the Storm by Steve Dashew, Voyager’s Handbook by Beth A. Leonard, NOAA PVS Safety Manual, Fifty Places to Sail Before You Die by Chris Santella, The Annapolis Book of Seamanship by John Rousmaniere, Boat Owners Mechanical and Electrical Handbook by Nigel Calder, Charlie’s Charts of Polynesia by Charlie Woods, The Essential Galley Companion by Amanda Swan Neal, Diesel Engine Essentials by Amanda Swan Neal.

Areas of Experience:

Caribbean, Mexico, Panama (six Canal transits), Atlantic including Azores, Canaries, and Madeira, Patagonia (Chile and Argentina), Cape Horn (six roundings), Antarctica (as far south as the ice cap), Pacific including Hawaii, Galapagos, Easter, Pitcairn, Fr. Polynesia, Cooks, Samoa, Tonga, Wallis, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, Alaska, British Columbia. Europe including the Med, Ireland, Morocco, England, Scotland, Orkney, Shetland, Norway, Spitsbergen (as far north as the ice cap), Jan Mayen, Bear Island, Sweden, Iceland, Faroes, Denmark, Holland, Germany, Spain and Portugal.

Meet Team Mahina

Nigel Calder

Nigel Calder is best known for Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual, Marine Diesel Engines and How to Read a Nautical Chart plus hundreds of technical articles. Currently Nigel is posting training material on BoatHowTo.
Nigel and his wife, Terrie, built a couple of 70-foot canal boats (on which they lived in England), and a 39-foot Ingrid cutter. They then sailed a Pacific Seacraft 40 for 5 years, following which they had a Malo 45 built in Sweden. This was sold to be replaced by the same boat but with an experimental electrical distribution and propulsion system.
Nigel and Terrie have sailed in the North Sea, the Atlantic as far north as the Faroe Islands and as far south as Portugal, the U.S. east coast, the Bahamas and extensively in the Caribbean, with Pippin (now aged 35) and Paul (34) augmenting the crew along the way.
Nigel is a co-presenter in the October Annapolis Mahina seminars. Additionally, he is presenting his own two-day hands-on workshops titled A Deep Dive into Boat Electrical Systems in Maine, April 17 & 18 and September 29 & 30. BoatHowTo.com

Gio & Julie Cappelli

Gio & Julie Cappelli are graduates of SVC’s Marine Maintenance Technology Program who completed a Mahina offshore sail training expedition with John in the Pacific Northwest and recently returned from a 10,000-mile loop sailing from Mexico to Hawaii, and Hawaii to British Columbia aboard their Malö 39.
Gio is ABYC certified in diesel engines and marine systems and previously worked as a fishery biologist and motorboat operator instructor. Julie is ABYC certified in marine electrical, a NMEA certified marine electronics installer, and NMEA 2000 installer and has worked as a scuba instructor, marine biologist, and expedition leader.
Both hold USCG 25-ton Masters licenses. They have backgrounds in marine biology and fisheries and are keen to share their knowledge about the ocean, cruising, and boat maintenance. Julie organizes and produces offshore cruising presentations and corresponding materials for Mahina workshops, boat shows, and seminars. Julie and Gio are co-presenters annually in the Anacortes Mahina Workshop. Additionally, they conduct their own Cruising Boat Electrical Basics hands on workshop every April 13 & 14 in Anacortes. www.pelagicbluecruising.com, connect@pelagicbluecruising.com.

Michael Beemer

Michael Beemer is the department chair for Skagit Valley College’s marine maintenance and repair program. Michael has been presenting and teaching professionally for 20 years and holds a master’s degree in education.
He and his wife have cruised extensively from Anacortes to southeast Alaska for many years on their motor sailor. Mike teaches Diesel Engine Systems every March at the Mahina Offshore Workshop and through Skagit Valley College offers several types marine training, every year having cruisers in the program whose end goal is to be out sailing but know how to fix their own equipment.
https://www.skagit.edu/academics/areas-of-study/industrial-technology-transportation/marine-maintenance-technology/, Mike.Beemer@skagit.edu

Pete McGonagle

Pete McGonagle is a lifelong sailor, cruiser, racer, and professional mariner with over 1,000,000 offshore miles. After graduating from the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY he worked for 13 years as a deck and engineering officer on large ships all over the world. In 2003 he founded Swiftsure Yachts in Seattle to help hundreds of client’s purchase, outfit, cruise, and sell new and used bluewater cruising yachts. In 2007 he, his wife, and young son enjoyed a two-year cruise on a 51’ custom steel sloop.
His racing experience ranges from Lasers to offshore races from Victoria to Hawaii and Newport to Bermuda. He’s logged thousands of ocean miles on a wide selection of blue water cruising monohulls and catamarans including a transatlantic trip aboard an Outremer 49 in 2012 and Antigua to Newport on an Allures 45.9 in 2023. He’s been a co-presenter at Mahina Offshore Cruising seminars since 2010 and is a co-presenter in the Annapolis Mahina Offshore Seminar. Pete now works and sails out of Rhode Island.
www.swiftsureyachts.com, pete@swiftsureyachts.com.

Erica Georgaklis

Erica Georgaklis grew up sailing and racing in New England before moving to the Pacific Northwest where she started working at Hasse and Co. Port Townsend Sails in 2017. Erica now manages Port Townsend Sails, working diligently to build the longest lasting, most durable bluewater cruising sails available. Erica and the crew take serious sailors’ reliance on their craftsmanship and their need for self-sufficiency.
While not at the sail loft Erica enjoys spending time with her partner and young son sailing her 1938 Ed Monk sloop. Erica teaches Sails & Rigging at the Anacortes Mahina Workshops and will instruct aboard Leg 3-2023 in Scotland. Port Townsend Sails is co-host of the annual October Bluewater Rig & Sail Seminar.
Port Townsend Sails | Erica@ptsails.com

Sarah Kolbeck

Sarah Kolbeck, owner and head of operations at PTR, grew up in SE Alaska and Port Townsend working alongside her parents Dan and Lisa, the founders of PTR. PTR is a full-service mast and rigging business located in Port Townsend, WA. Sarah continues the legacy managing PTR which specializes in trusted innovative rigging solutions including mast repairs, layout, design, electrical, high-quality wire and rod rigging.
Sarah works regularly with numerous sailmakers and her clients from beginning to end of their project, to assure their vessel is ready for coastal and offshore sailing. When not at the rigging shop, Sarah enjoys completing her own boat projects or sailing her Thunderbird sailboat with family and friends. Sarah is a presenter in the annual October Bluewater Rig & Sail Seminar which PTR co-hosts.
porttownsendrigging.com sarah@porttownsendrigging.com

Brent Jacobi

Brent Jacobi grew up sailing British Columbia waters with his family and has worked as a professional rigger for 38 years, starting Blackline Rigging 23 years ago where he has helped many Mahina grads and clients with standing rigging replacement. Brent has completed numerous ocean passages in the Atlantic and Pacific and currently sails his Passport 37 out of Victoria, BC.
www.blacklinemarine.com, brent@blacklinemarine.com

Elizabeth & Max Shaw

Elizabeth Shaw is a retired Canadian Forces engineer who took early retirement to set off with her husband Max on a 37,000 nm Pacific circumnavigation, adding a third child to their family while passing through Mexico. As a consultant for Fluenta Marine Services, she synthesizes these experiences to equip others to embark with confidence on their own cruising adventures.
Elizabeth is a co-presenter annually in the Annapolis Mahina Seminar, frequently joined by Max, who is a yacht broker with Yacht Sales West in Sidney, BC and who has helped many Mahina grads and clients locate and purchase boats worldwide.
Fluenta Marine Services, elizabeth@yachtsaleswest.com, max@yachtsaleswest.com.

Lisa Batchelor Frailey

Lisa is a retired US Navy Captain and Naval War College graduate who served 24 years as a naval flight officer, navigator, meteorologist, oceanographer and hydrographer. She and Andy Batchelor, her RAF Wing Commander husband have cruised and led training expeditions on their Passport 47 and Outbound 46 and are authors of five ASA training manuals.
Lisa annually teaches Marine Weather Online, ASA 119 and she and Andy are both ASA Master Instructors available as onboard training/delivery instructors to help you qualify for offshore insurance. They sail their Saffier sloop out of Solomons, MD.
www.kineticsail.com, info@kineticsail.com.

Hugo Hanham-Gross

Hugo grew up in Charleston, SC, where he found a passion for sailing and boating. Prior to founding Hanham Insurance Agency in 2016 he worked in Lloyd’s of London Insurance Market in London advising and negotiating insurance coverage for sailing yachts. During his time in London, he noticed the lack of client service available for the smaller yachts, so he returned to Charleston to open his own agency.
When not in the office, he can be found working on and sailing his 1968 Ohlson sloop or flying his vintage Beechcraft Bonanza. Hugo teaches marine insurance in our Annapolis seminars and provides offshore insurance for many Mahina graduates and clients.
www.hanhaminsurance.com/quote, hugo@hanhaminsurance.com

Aaron Bandstra

Aaron Bandstra is a marine surveyor with impeccable credentials. He started working as a shipwright in 1999, working in Essex, MA, Petersburg, AK and Bellingham, WA, first as a shipwright and finally as operations manager at one of the largest boatyards in the PNW. From 1999 – 2022 he apprenticed under Matthew Harris whom I considered to be one of the top marine surveyors in North America.
I’ve watched Aaron work and have reviewed his surveys which are excellent. Aaron is NAMS, ABYC and NMEA certified, has crossed the Pacific under sail and sails and has rebuilt and sails a 1946 Crocker ketch with his family. Aaron will teach in one of my Seattle Boat Show seminars.
www.marineconsultantsinc.com, aarondbandstra@gmail.com

Roger Johansson

Rogers’ interest in boats started at a young age growing up on the West Coast of Sweden on the island of Orust, where some of the most recognized bluewater cruising yachts like Hallberg-Rassy, Malo and Najad are built.
He started sailing at a young age, sailing around the West Coast of Sweden and up to the fjords of Norway. Roger started his career in the yachting industry in 1989 as a marine mechanic and later became the operations manager of Freestate Yachts & Chesapeake Yacht Charters in Annapolis, MD. He bought Freestate Yachts in 2005 and has helped dozens of Mahina graduates and clients purchase and sell cruising boats.
www.freestateyachts.com, roger@freestateyachts.com