Oakland at Work is a new series profiling Oaklanders with odd or interesting professions. Know someone who qualifies? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Though Mary Swift-Swan has traversed the Bay Area’s many estuaries and coastlines since she was 3 years old, she didn’t settle into the nonstop, unpredictable life of a sailor until she was well into her 30s. Now, as a licensed captain and the owner of Afterguard Sailing Academy, located near Oakland’s Brooklyn Basin, she spends almost every day on the water—giving sailing lessons, leading ocean tours and preparing for the occasional long distance race. Though her vessels usually stay in the Bay, she sometimes sets her sails for San Diego, Hawai’i or Cabo San Lucas.
But her favorite part of the job, she says, is mentoring students from Oakland International High School and Oakland Street Academy, through a youth program she began, which teaches kids the basics of sailing and boat building. “Some of these kids have never been outside of Oakland,” said Swift-Swan, who makes a point of taking her students throughout the East Bay, around the peninsula and up and down the coastlines of Marin during their time together. “I fell in love with the kids of Oakland,” she said. “They’re the reason I decided to open my business here.”