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Sailors 'Learn the Ropes' at Afterguard Sailing Academy in Oakland

By Joshua Grammer

Mary Swift-Swan began the Afterguard Sailing Academy and Charters in 2003. "The goal has always been a professional sailing school structured for a wide band of age and income strata," she says. Swan's love for sailing is contagious- and she wants it to be easily accessible to all those interested. Over the years, Afterguard has both trained and hired sailors to help charter their boats. A not-for-profit company, it seeks to include people of all ages and walks of life.

Oakland, Swift-Swan says, is an ideal place to have a sailing school. "We intentionally start new sailors in the smoother, warmer, less scary waters of Oakland, then graduate to the exciting Central San Francisco Bay and Ocean adventures," she explains. The difference between terror and excitement is education." Set in a strategic location, Afterguard is able to be flexible with both practice and charters. There is a little bit of everything on the California coast!

Swift-Swan says that anyone can learn to sail and that kids should start as early as possible. Since 2006, Afterguard has provided a school year elective program that teaches sailing for students in grades 9-11. "The V-team began with former students Jeremy Cavagnolo, math and science teacher at Oakland Street Academy High School, and Marvin Jackson, a retired OPD," she explains. The Bay Area Youth Boating Council, a Sea Scout organization, partners with Afterguard to help provide boats and give back to the community as well.

Some boats are donated, but as Swift-Swan happily adds, "Our most recent purchase is a beautiful 35' Catamaran named Angel?for mid-level courses." Angel is also available for charter and takes frequent trips down to San Francisco, where Afterguard offers wine tasting and a beautiful view of the sunset aboard their new boat. One of the great perks for youth is the ability to become a crew member for the charters. This is a great way to put their practice to use, but it also allows them to enjoy the open seas and meet people from all over the world.

Swift-Swan admits that sailing can become addicting. "I get seriously grumpy (per my husband) if I do not sail at least once every two week timeframe," she says. Some people come looking for an occasional stress-relief; others hope to fulfill dreams of sailing to exotic locales. Afterguard works with sailors to develop a plan to reach their goals- whatever they may be.

If you are wondering how long it takes to learn, Swift-Swan estimates that it will take about a month to be able to handle San Francisco Bay sailing. "For the Basics to Ocean- it can be done in four months or four years. The pace of learning is up to the new sailor," she says. "One active year can lead to a lifetime of sailing enjoyment- or help the new sailor sail over the horizons where dreams come from."

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