Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore cruising seminars and boat purchase consultation.

Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore cruising seminars and boat purchase consultation.

offshore sailing expeditions

Sail aboard Mahina Tiare III, a Hallberg-Rassy 46, with John Neal and Amanda Swan Neal for a unique learning experience in the South Pacific in 2022 & 2023. 2023 will be our final year of ocean passagemaking training with Mahina Tiare, as we transition to the PNW-based expeditions we conducted in 2020 and 2021.

Celebrating 33 Years

Since 1989 we've sailed 308,000 miles leading 210 sail-training expeditions worldwide and have developed the following:

    • The ability to create successful expeditions where everyone equally participates in navigation, sail handling, helming, shipboard duties and exlorations.
    • A profound respect and knowledge of seamanship, weather and the exotic islands we voyage to.
    • A deep understanding of the hands-on skills future cruisers need to master ocean voyaging.

We are looking for...

Highly motivated sailors keen to gain offshore passage making skills and experience including mastering seamanship, navigation and heavy weather tactics with the ultimate goal of cruising on their own boats.

You are offered...

Offshore Cruising Expeditions Reefing

The opportunity to increase your confidence and safety level by gaining the experience of an extended ocean passage and use of storm sailing tactics.

The chance to be actively involved in all aspects of operating and maintaining a modern ocean-cruising boat including steering and standing watches, sail trim and reefing, anchoring, provisioning, meal preparation, cleaning and ongoing maintenance of the vessel.

The opportunity to experience ocean cruising so that you can decide if this lifestyle isfor you. Following the completion of an expedition you will have the knowledge to make better informed decisions regarding purchasing and outfitting your own boat. You will also be receiving a certificate documenting your training which should qualify you for offshore insurance.

You will be provided with . . .

  • Three to six hours of dedicated, focused, hands-on instruction per day.

  • A 116 page Expedition Companion documenting all aspects of instruction.

  • Our commitment to answer all of your questions and concerns relating to ocean voyaging.

  • A stimulating and exciting learning environment designed to help you master heavy weather storm sailing techniques, coastal, celestial and electronic navigation and boat handling.

  • Three healthy and nutritious meals daily utilizing regional flavors and local ingredients when possible.

Accommodations, Equipment and Food. . .

Mahina Tiare III has four separate cabins with a total of nine berths, two private heads and three showers, a saloon that can comfortably seat eight for dinner, an efficient sea-going galley and a sturdy hardtop dodger. Each expedition member has their own bunk (couples have private cabins) and private storage lockers. Although Mahina Tiare III can accommodate up to nine persons, limiting participation to six ensures more comfort and privacy.

Mahina Tiare III was built to our specifications under Lloyd's of London supervision by one of the world's finest boatbuilders. For a detailed description of Hallberg Rassy, check out their website at A Germán Frers design with long waterline, modern underbody and powerful sailplan make our HR 46 a comfortable, easily-driven and powerful offshore boat.

For windless days, a 75 h.p. Volvo diesel engine provides up to 8.5 knots under power. Mahina Tiare III is equipped with an eight-person liferaft, extensive first aid supplies and Iridium worldwide satellite communication system, 4 EPIRB's (emergency radios), 2-24 mile radar/chart plotters, AIS transciever, sextant, 4 global position systems, 4 VHF radios, marine SSB radio, weatherfax, Navtex, extensive instrumentation, 3 bilge pumps, automatic and manual fire extinguishers, float vests for each person, manual and electric watermakers and 265 gallons of water. Heat is provided by two independent forced air furnaces. The tender is a rigid- bottom Avon R.I.B. 3.41 with 15 hp outboard.

Instructors/Expedition Leaders. . .

John & Amanda

John and AmandaJohn 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 of those adventures became a bestseller and I’ve since authored or co-authored an additional 17 books and numerous magazine articles. I’ve accumulated 377,000 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, swimming and yoga. Currently I hold USCG 100-ton master and FAA private pilot licenses.

To help sailors achieve their cruising goals I presented the first of now 167 Offshore Cruising Seminars in 1976. From 1990 to 1996 I 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. Amanda and I launched Mahina Tiare III in 1997 and I’m delighted to be celebrating 30 years of successful sail training expeditions in 2019.


Amanda Swan Neal
I grew up sailing the Pacific with my family on boats we built in New Zealand. After becoming NZ’s first women apprenticed sailmaker I sailed as rigger aboard Maiden in the 1990 Whitbread Around the World Race (now The Volvo Race) and joined John in 1994. My 335,000 miles of ocean sailing include two Sydney-Hobart Races, international regattas and seven Cape Horn roundings intermixed with a ten-year involvement in tall ship sail-training. I hold a NZ Commercial Launchmaster’s license, am the author of The Essential Galley Companion and write the Galley Essentials column in 48 North Magazine. I keep busy enjoying Celtic step dancing, photography, triathlon training and sewing, even at sea.

Amanda and John spend seven months at sea annually. When not at sea, they enjoy winter kayaking from their home on San Juan Island near Victoria, B.C..

Magazines Contributed to: 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: The Essential Galley Companion (Amanda), Log of the Mahina, Mahina Tiare, Pacific Passages (John), Offshore Cruising Companion, Offshore Expedition Companion, Storm Survival Tactics (John and Amanda)

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, and Charlie's Charts of Polynesia by Charlie Woods.

Areas of Experience: Caribbean, Mexico, Atlantic including Azores, Canaries, and Madeira, Patagonia (Chile and Argentina), Cape Horn (six roundings), Antarctica, Brazil, Uruguay, Pacific including 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, Sweden, Iceland, Faroes, Denmark, Holland, Germany, Spain and Portugal.

Physical Ability, Health, Safety and Learning . . .

Safe and enjoyable voyaging on Mahina Tiare depends on everyone working together in all situations, some of which are strenuous and mentally demanding. A good level of fitness and an enthusiastic mental attitude are necessary. It is essential than everyone is capable of performing all duties aboard, including standing while hand steering (we don't use an autopilot) and working on deck in challenging conditions. If you exercise daily, enjoy outdoor activities, are comfortable in and on the water, are in good mental health and are not significantly overweight you will be an asset on board. Expedition members come from many countries and backgrounds. This is not a macho adventure, women are equal and valued participants.

At sea we follow serious safety rules, including the wearing of harnesses  while on deck, practice of Lifesling overboard procedures and abstinence from alcohol while aboard and a limit of two drinks per day while ashore. No smoking or illegal drugs aboard or ashore. Daily cleaning and continual maintenance, even on ocean passages, assures that Mahina Tiare III is always safe and in first class condition.

Out of courtesy to others, we ask that iPads, tablets, computers, phones and other personal electronic devices not be used aboard.

We understand that people have different methods of learning; most are either tactile or conceptual/technical learners. We cater to tactile learners with hands-on repetition such as tucking in a reef, charting, setting the anchor, etc. and to conceptual/technical learners with explanation, documentation and procedures.

With a professional background in coaching and sail-training, Amanda is continually researching women's learning methods. Cruising World Magazine commissioned her to write a four-part series titled, "How Women Learn under Sail”.

Offshore CruisingSelection Process . . .

Our goal is to form crews that work and learn well together. Applicants are considered on the basis of their eagerness to learn and participate in all aspects of shipboard life including navigation, seamanship, helming, sail handling, storm tactics, anchoring, engine maintenance and cleaning.

As our focus is teaching ocean passage making, we require that you have at least intermediate sailing skills and know that you enjoy sailing. We are not looking for expert sailors but we require that you have, at a minimum, completed a coastal navigation course. An excellent idea before joining us for an expedition is to upgrade your sailing knowledge level.

We recommend you start with NauticEd’s two free courses, Rules of the Road and Sail Trim and strongly consider completing their Captain Rank which includes coastal navigation, safety at sea, weather, anchoring, electronic navigation and more.

Another option for learning coastal navigation remotely would be Maryland School of Seamanship’s on-line nav courses and webinar. Having had several of MSS grads join us on expedition, we know that Tom Tursi and his staff do an excellent job instructing, both in the classroom and on-line.

If you have questions regarding your present skill level, please contact us.

We highly recommend that you attend our Mahina Offshore Cruising Seminar, to jump start your ocean learning experience.

The best crews enjoy having fun together while learning and sharing the sailing adventure, sense of community and discovery that are always a part of Mahina Tiare's voyages.

Impact . . .

Our goal is to have a positive impact upon the places we visit and the people we meet. We started bringing medical supplies and doctors to clinics in the South Pacific in 1974. Since 1992, we have provided text books, a photocopier and typewriter for a small school in Fiji and in 2012 & 2013 we supplied requested school books and supplies for schools on three islands in Vanuatu.

In 2000, 2001, 2006, 2008, 2015 and 2018 we have provided school supplies for the San Blas Island school in Panama. Your assistance is welcomed in providing tooth brushes, school books and supplies for villagers in Vanuatu in 2019 and 2020.

We provision with the least amount of plastic as possible as there are no possibilities for recycling in many of the places we visit.

Mahina Tiare has two holding tanks which we use when not offshore. Expedition members are asked not to collect shells, coral or sea life. We go to great lengths to avoid damaging coral when anchoring. You are invited to join us for at least one beach cleanup per expedition.

If you have questions or would like to apply for an expedition aboard Mahina Tiare

Contact Mahina Expeditions, P.O. Box 1596, Friday Harbor, WA 98250, (360) 378-6131, fax (360) 378-6331 to see if there are berths available on the passage you would like to sail. You may click here ( to obtain berth availability and information, or to apply online by clicking here to download the application as a Word Document and here as an Adobe PDF. To view current and past expedition log entries, click here.

We would like to meet you before acceptance, if possible, and strongly recommend that you attend our Mahina Offshore Cruising Seminar and review past expedition log entries.

Payment schedule:

1. Mail in your application with a deposit check of US $500. Non US residents please contact us regarding alternative methods: credit card or bank transfer of payment. Your deposit check will be returned promptly if the expeditions you requested are full or your application is declined.

2. If you are accepted, your second deposit, bringing the deposit total to 50% of the expedition cost will be due 15 days after the date on your acceptance letter or by January 1st of the calendar year of your expedition, whichever date is later.

3. The final payment (50% of total) is due 150 days before the start of your expedition.

4. A $250 late fee is charged for payments received more than seven days late.

The cost of Mahina Tiare Sailing Expeditions includes: instruction, food, fuel, custom and port fees. It does not include your airfare, visas, departure taxes, personal expenses of any kind, or personal insurance of any kind. You're welcome to contact Michael Henrichs at US Travel, 1-877-429-5787, email:, who can provide you with the least expensive and most efficient air travel arrangements.

Cancellation Policy

Full refund less $500 non-refundable and non-transferrable deposit if we receive written notification more than 150 days prior to departure, providing that we are able to re-book your berth(s). Within 150 days prior to departure, no refund, credit or transfer can be made for any reason including illness.

Travel and Trip Cancellation Insurance

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and trip cancellation insurance and recommend Dan Boater Insurance.

Offshore Sail Training Objectives:

Safety Systems Checkout

  • Locate and practice donning of life jackets. Selecting a safety harness.
  • View liferaft video, practice launching liferaft.
  • Location and inventory of survival packs (3), manual watermaker, EPIRB'S (4), handheld VHF marine and aircraft radios (6).
  • Discussion of equipment list for assembling your own survival packs.
  • Deployment and use of highlifelines vs. deck jacklines.
  • Location and testing of three separate bilge pump systems and bilge high water alarm.
  • Location of thru-hull fittings and attached wooden plugs. Discussion of maintenance.
  • Location and use of emergency tiller.
  • Use and test of propane alarm and solenoid; safe use of stove and oven, and appropriate spares.
  • Location and inventory of Adventure Medical Marine kit. Discussion of prevention and treatment of medical problems common to cruisers in tropical and isolated waters.

Boat Systems Checkout

  • Use and maintenance of electric watermakers.
  • Survey of battery charging and monitoring systems. Discussion of alternative power options.
  • Use, cleaning and maintenance of marine heads.
  • Use, maintenance and servicing a marine diesel engine and outboard engine.
  • Spare parts: engine, outboard, electrical, refrigeration watermaker. What you should carry on your boat.
  • Provisioning in foreign ports and stowage of food goods. Meal planning and cooking underway.
Offshore Cruising Seminar

On Deck Procedures

  • Steering by compass and stars during night watch.
  • Raising, reefing and stowing mainsail including use of lazy jacks, rigid vang and preventer.
  • Use of a furling and reefable headsail.
  • Demonstrate points of sail and sail trim.
  • Pre-departure, pre-passage and daily rigging checks including chafe prevention.
  • Working safely aloft. Each person may go aloft at anchor or in port with a safety line attached.
  • Location of spare rigging and fittings. Emergency rigging repair procedures.
  • Sail repair: sewing sailcloth.
  • Use of palm and needle and Sailrite sewing machine.
  • Dismantle, service and reassemble one and two speed winches.
  • Demonstrate properly belaying a line to a cleat, coiling short and long lines, bowline, reef knot, slippery hitch and figure eight knots.
  • Splicing three-strand nylon line and dacron yacht braid. Installing a soft eye on yacht braid line.

Storm Sailing Techniques

  • Rig storm staysail, running backstays, storm trysail.
  • Practice heaving to, deploy tow warps astern.
  • Deployment of Galerider drogue and discussion of Para-Tech sea anchor.
  • Discuss Queen's Birthday Storm results and most effective storm management techniques for different hull designs and sea conditions.
  • Preparation for storm conditions: locate storm sails, check bilge and pumps, clear decks and cockpit, charge batteries, preparation of easy meals, catch up on sleep.


  • Sources of marine weather: VHF, SSB, Weather fax, Navtex, GRIB files, INMARSAT-C, airports.
  • Demonstrate the ability to identify and explain the features of: high pressure, low pressure, warm fronts, cold fronts, occluded fronts, stationary fronts, convergence zones, ridges, troughs.
  • Overall cruise planning: cyclone seasons, use of Pilot Charts, World Cruising Routes.
  • Locating weatherfax.
  • Programming Furuno weather facsimile and navtex receivers.
  • Effect of El Nino and La Nina on world cruising areas.
  • Overall prevailing world weather systems and predicting and gauging surface current and drift.


  • Chart selection and organization. Selecting best nationality of chart to cover a specific area.
  • Use of BA and US Chart #1, Sailing Directions, Light List, Cruising Guides.
  • Determining course, distance, VMG and ETA.
  • Coastal Navigation: plotting course and determining dead reckoning position, depths, dangers, currents and obstructions.
  • Celestial Navigation: Use and calibration of a sextant, shooting, reducing and plotting a LAN.
  • Electronic Navigation: Use both MFD and laptop charting systems, discussion of accuracy of charts relative to GPS positions.
  • Use of radar and AIS for collision avoidance, landfall and squall avoidance.


  • Use of VHF and SSB radios and Iridium SatPhone for communication and distress.
  • Discussion of various communication options for long distance cruisers.
  • Dealing with officialdom in foreign ports: health, customs, immigration, port authorities.


  • Selecting best type of anchor and rode for varying conditions.
  • Calculating scope and diameter of swing.
  • Identifying best location for least contact with coral or rocks.
  • Setting a second bow anchor.
  • Safe use of electric windlass, use of manual back-up feature.
  • Marking and stowing chain and use of a chain snubber.

"For years we've urged our readers and clients to get real world experience before making major decisions on the cruising life style, their boats, or equipment. There's nothing like time spent living offshore and at anchor to clarify the issues, and one of the most efficient ways to do that is with John and Amanda aboard Mahina Tiare."

-Steve Dashew
Sailor, boat designer and author of Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia,Surviving the Storm and Mariner's Weather Handbook

Mahina Expeditions

PHONE (360) 378-6131 FAX (360) 378-6331

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Hotel Recomendations 2018-2023 Expeditions
Seasickness, Avoidance and Treatment
Frequently Asked Questions
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Travel Insurance from Dan Boater

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Mahina Expeditions
P.O. BOX 1596
Friday Harbor, WA. USA 98250
PHONE (360) 378-6131
FAX (360) 378-6331
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