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Trained for engineering, sailing proved to be his passion

What inspired me to find work in the sailing world?
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What inspired me to find work in the sailing world?

Learning to sail from my father, reading “Dove” and other books, and sailing small boats combined to hook me on sailing early.

I grew up sailing with my family on the coast of Maine. Our first boat was a styrofoam Snark, although I always jumped at the chance to sail with my grandfather on his “big” boat — a Rhodes 19. My first sailing job was three summers as a sailing instructor during my college years after taking one of the first US Sailing instructor training courses from Gary Jobson in 1975.

We subscribed to Sail magazine and, as a kid, my brother and I filled out the monthly “bingo” cards to create a huge collection of new-boat brochures. In short, we were always dreaming of sailing.

I took a year off from college and sailed from Maine to Venezuela and back with my brother and our childhood sailing buddy, Max Fletcher. After graduating from college with an engineering degree I got just the kind of well-paid, secure corporate job any parent would hope for. But the sailing life kept calling.

Another sailing year off intruded as I found work delivering a couple of boats, a deckhand (paid!) and race crew on an IOR Maxi (for food and a free T-shirt). These jobs only increased my interest in finding work in the sailing world. When I returned, I landed in the magical sailing world of San Francisco, waffling between “career” jobs that might utilize my college degree and sailing.

In the meantime, I found work selling Dorlon foul weather gear, as a rep for Canterbury of New Zealand team gear, as a yacht broker — anything that related to the sailing world. A friend thought I might be interested in the job they’d seen as an ad rep for the very popular West Coast magazine Latitude 38. By then, I was an avid reader and San Francisco Bay sailor, so yes, I was very interested!

They gave me a shot, and I can still remember training the first month with the previous rep. We drove the Bay Area waterfront and went through all my sales leads on 3-by-5 cards in a shoebox with alpha dividers. I asked him how long he’d been there, and he said five years, to which I replied, ‘Oh, I’ll never be here that long.’ That was 1987, and I’m still at it!

Latitude turned out to be a perfect fit. I really enjoyed the harried, hectic pace of monthly deadlines and the creative challenge of helping customers grow their business. I’ve been privileged to work with such a widely respected and enjoyed publication and a great group of customers, readers and co-workers.

Although much of the sailing world has revolved around the Atlantic, San Francisco and the West Coast has been a hugely exciting and dynamic place to connect with sailing. Throughout it all, Latitude 38 has been the bible of the West Coast sailor, and therefore an ideal place for someone passionate about the sailing world.

Beyond Latitude 38, I also enjoyed working with so many fantastic people in the sailing industry while on the board of the Northern California Marine Association, the Sail America board and as Strictly Sail Boat Show chairman. Along the way I felt that the sometimes fractured and eclectic sailing community needed a unifying event so all factions could come together and share their passion in a global celebration of sailing.

I started the Summer Sailstice global celebration of sailing to get “the whole world sailing” on the weekend closest to the solstice. Although we’re still just a bit shy of that goal, it has only reinforced my appreciation for sailors and the sailing life. Regardless of what, where or how they sail, sailors are just fantastic people that share a passion for moving along with just the power of the wind. We love sharing it with others, and Summer Sailstice is a tool for all sailors to share it together.

Years after my first summer as an instructor, I still really enjoy working with my customers, enjoy being blown about by the wind and the challenge, excitement and relaxation of any afternoon sail. I still work to help companies succeed and, with events such as Summer Sailstice, help more people find a way to enjoy life under sail.

Although most people don't get wealthy with a sailing career, most do find that they have a rich and rewarding life. I now have kids getting out of college and starting their careers. Should they follow their passion? Of course.

John Arndt is the associate publisher of Latitude 38 and the founder of the global sailing celebration Summer Sailstice.



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