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, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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