Giving Thanks to the Crew

    Brion Toss shares splicing tips with young sailor Myles Wommack and his dad Eric, at the 2017 US Sailboat Show in Annapolis, MD.


    Giving Thanks to the Crew

    In September master rigger Brion Toss earned a lifetime achievement at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Show, and the event reminded me again how fortunate we are to have such a fabulous roster of experts helping shape our coverage.

    Toss, our man in the air so to speak, is best known as the author of The Complete Riggers Apprentice, regarded as the authoritative text on rigging. During his long career, Toss has applied his talents with wire and rope to everything from daysailers to square-riggers to the 5-ton chandelier in the Washington State Capitol. But his most impressive talent is that of an educator. Whether hes delivering a day-long seminar on contemporary rigging, or demonstrating splicing at his boat show booth, Toss exhibits a rare combination of patience and wit that makes every lesson entertaining.

    The sea is the domain of John and Amanda Swan Neal. John has conducted 177 sail-training expeditions aboard his Hallberg-Rassy 42, Mahina Tiare II, and Hallberg-Rassy 46, Mahina Tiare III, sailing 350,000 miles in the South Pacific, Caribbean, Patagonia, Antarctica, Atlantic, Scandinavia and the Arctic. He has rounded Cape Horn six times under sail and holds a USCG 100-ton Masters and private pilots licenses. Johns wife and partner in Mahina Expeditions, Amanda Swan Neal, has sailed over 300K miles of ocean and has co-skippered aboard Mahina Tiare since 1994. She is author of The Essential Galley Companion.

    Ralph Naranjo is the authority on all things safety and seamanship related, and the author of the Art of Seamanship from McGraw-Hill. During his ten-year stint as the Vanderstar Chair at the U.S. Naval Academy, he augmented safety and seamanship training and played a key role in the development of the Navys 40-foot new sail training sloops. His sailing background includes a five-year family voyage around the world and the management of a full service boatyard. He and his wife Lenore have made two other lengthy cruises aboard Wind Shadow, a 41-foot sloop the Naranjos have owned for over three decades. During the past 15 years he has moderated US Sailing Safety at Sea Seminars across the country, and now is an adjunct lecturer at the Annapolis School of Seamanship.

    Captain Frank Lanier is a 27-year Coast Guard veteran and Accredited Marine Surveyor with over 33 years of experience in the marine and diving industry. He holds a 100-ton masters license, is an FCC licensed electronics technician, and a PADI Master SCUBA Diver Trainer. He has captained and maintained vessels ranging from dive boats to passenger ferries in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and South Pacific and has over 15 years of experience living aboard both power and sailing vessels. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and the book Jack Tar and the Baboon Watch: A Guide to Curious Nautical Knowledge.

    Last but not least, there is Technical Editor Drew Frye, a rigorous examiner of anything having to do boats-. He has 35 years experience as a refinery engineer and has been sailing for more than three decades. He has conducted dozens of test for Practical Sailor and is the author of Rigging Modern Anchors. He blogs at

    We are truly blessed.

    Darrell Nicholson
    Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 50 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. You can reach him at