Sailing Took Her From South Africa to the Chesapeake

Sailing is a good fit for a sporty, outdoorsy type

Anne Hutchings, who hails originally from a small university town in South Africa, always loved sports and the outdoors, but she didn’t begin sailing until she met her future husband, Jon. In time, sailing became both their passion and livelihood.

Anne recalls, “My first extended sailing trip was after Jon and I married, when we delivered a boat along the coast of Turkey. I enjoyed it, but I also found it to be a bit intimidating in rougher conditions because I was not used to the movement of the boat. Fortunately, conditions were bumpy but benign, and I learned what the boat was capable of and that Jon could control the boat by adjusting the sails. This knowledge put me at ease.”

After that delivery, Anne and Jon put sailing on hold for a time. In South Africa Apartheid was ending, and the couple spent about 10 years living in remote rural areas building and teaching in small, privately funded centers of education whose purview was to provide a good education to black children. 

Jon and Anne sailing
When Anne began sailing, Jon suggested that she take a couple of sailing classes, and that proved to be a good idea.

By the late 1980s the couple was dreaming of extended travel, and Jon suggested they buy a boat to fulfill his lifelong dream of cruising. “I figured I would enjoy it as it’s a bit like camping and hiking because you are outdoors in all kinds of weather, but you have your home with you,” says Anne. “Jon suggested we do a couple of sailing courses together, so that he was not teaching me, so we did a weeklong course in Durban and came home with a couple of bits of paper to prove we could sail…”

Anne and Jon sailing
Anne learned that a sailing vessel can handle the waves - that's it's job!

Crossing the Atlantic 

Anne says, “In 1989 we bought a 35-foot boat, moved aboard, and spent another year fixing the boat and taking short trips. My biggest fears were getting caught in a storm and Jon going overboard. During our first trip into the Atlantic, I learned that the boat could handle the waves—that’s its job, and indeed usually a boat can handle a lot more than the people can. I also learned that you get over your seasickness after a period, and the best place to be is behind the wheel gazing at the horizon with your face in the wind!” 

Anne and Jon crossed the Atlantic in early 2000 and sailed to Brazil via Saint Helena and Ascension Islands. Next, they made their way to the Caribbean where they worked for a charter company for two seasons before cruising again for another year. Eventually they made their way to the United States, the Chesapeake Bay, and Annapolis in 2004, where they landed jobs with the U.S. Sailboat Show. In Annapolis they met fellow South African expats Garth and Sue Hichens, who at the time owned Annapolis Yacht Sales (AYS). The Hichens offered them the opportunity to open a branch office in Deltaville, VA. They ran AYS Deltaville from 2005 to 2020. 

Anne and Jon’s current adventure is owning and operating Deltaville’s YaZu Yachting, a yacht sales business. Anne explains the name, “YaZu comes from the first two letters of the International Phonetic Alphabet’s Yankee and Zulu. Yankee alludes to our adopted USA and Zulu to our South African roots, so the name reflects our ties to both countries. The business, for us, is all about relationships,” emphasizes Anne. “We like to get to know people and to help them find a boat that best fits their needs and desires. For our sellers, we provide a comprehensive listing of their boat, taking time to get to know it and show it.” 

For those who want to learn to sail, Anne suggests, "Don't talk about sailing. Do it! Take gradual steps."

Advice for someone who wants to learn to sail

Don’t talk about it. Do it. Take gradual steps,” suggests Anne. “Start by going out sailing (or boating) with someone who’s experienced, preferably in mild conditions. Then take a class and perhaps try chartering. Figure out if you’ll like being on the water. For sailing couples: don’t learn to sail from your partner. For two reasons. First there is too much baggage in a relationship, and second, you pick up your partner’s bad habits. By learning from professionals, you have a solid grounding. For families sailing is a wonderful activity. Sailing together forces the family to slow down from the hectic pace of daily life. In addition, cruising with kids helps them learn to be well adjusted and independent.”

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