ASA Featured Instructor: Joe Mastrangelo, Veterans Sailing Association

Captain Joe Mastrangelo is the protagonist of an adventure novel. He is larger than life and his stories fill the page with humor and excitement. His passion for the water comes through in how he crafts his tale but his passion for people is evident in what he does. “CJ” as he is known to his friends and students is the lead instructor and founder of Veterans Sailing Association in the Florida Keys. His specialty is teaching other veterans, like himself, the art of sailing. Follow along on his Facebook page and you’ll see he spends a lot of time on the water with Veterans getting them certified and utilizing the ocean as the perfect form of therapy.

Our Featured American Sailing Association Instructor: Joe Mastrangelo

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ASA: What got you into sailing?
Joe Mastrangelo
Joe Mastrangelo: My journey began prior to entering the Military @ 19 years of age – a friend and his wife were sailing their 45’ Ketch down to Roatan, Honduras and I couldn’t resist. We ended up sailing for a month from Key Largo down to the Exumas before health issues forced him to delay. 20 years later a fellow SEAL invited me over for beers and a steak cookout on his “yachet”. I said “yachet” what the hell is a “yachet”….???

Well upon arriving I saw a Corvette, Harley and this enormous 65’ sailboat. It was Ted Irwin’s personal 65’ ketch now named Distant Drummer. He was on the bow greeting me and held his hand to his ear……do you hear it??? Again, perplexed I just pondered…..he said that is the Distant Drummer calling you. Well after a steak cookout on the aft deck along with several beers (with a few of the single female sailors making a pass to see the new greenhorn) I was hooked. Thus the journey began and I hunted for a ship of my own – eventually a 1976 41’ Morgan Out Island Sloop named Anjin San chose me…….

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ASA: Your most memorable student or class?
Joe Mastrangelo

Joe Mastrangelo: Literally, every student is unique (most have been active duty or Veterans) so they have all registered memories (especially since this is our 3rd year) however the most memorable “class” wasn’t really a class – it was an incredible cruise from Key Largo to Bimini, the Berry Islands, Eleuthera, the Exumas & then over to Andros Bahamas. At the time I hadn’t really cut my teeth on sailing much less cruising and I met a dynamic fireball of a woman who just happened to be an ASA sailing instructor with her own school – Capt. Jennifer Maclean. Well, let’s just say it was out of the frying pan and into the fire. What do you mean by that Ol’ Joe? Well I will tell ya – I have been commercially driving boats since I was 18, however sailing is all together another animal (and a wild one at that) – throw in a 5’6” hard-driving female sailing captain coupled with tricky navigable Bahamian waters, strong tidal flows, storms (at night of course) and everything else that goes with cruising (you get the point) and you have the makings of one hell of a “OJT class”. Needless to say, I must confess, the magnificent sunsets, delicious conch, and fish (that we caught and speared), the secluded beaches and of course the cold beer once again, set that hook. Doomed I was. No Regrets!

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ASA: Your favorite place to sail?
Joe Mastrangelo
Joe Mastrangelo: The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos – you just can’t beat the water clarity, the fishing and of course the ability to just get away and disconnect. My home away from home.
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ASA: Why do you sail?
Joe Mastrangelo
Joe Mastrangelo: For the same reason I breathe…….I have to. Sailing has conditioned me both mentally, physically and spiritually – it has forged my soul into a new positive direction. I have always been a waterman (born and raised in South Florida) so this was the next logical route (thank you Bernard) – couple this with the ability to help guide other members of our military and you have a win-win situation for all.
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ASA: What do people not know about sailing that they should?
Joe Mastrangelo

Joe Mastrangelo: I tell people there are a lot of sailboats in marinas but there aren’t a lot of sailors. Think about it. I am very straightforward and direct with people and of course my students. Sailing is hard work, it will define you and it takes no prisoners. It doesn’t discriminate, knows no religions and is equal in its dissemination of pain and pleasure – you have to earn your cruise and that is why I love it. It is the ultimate filter.

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ASA: Why should people sail?
Joe Mastrangelo

Joe Mastrangelo: For the exact reason listed above – the day one stops exploring new horizons & endeavors is the day you “die”. We all have fears and concerns about the unknown, however, what defines us is how we channel and master those fears. Don’t “cast off your dock lines” thinking, would have, could have, should have………get out there and DO IT ! I use Laura Dekker as an example to all students whenever they have anxiety or question their capabilities – And remember Sir Francis Chichester said it best – “Any damn fool can navigate the world sober. It takes a really good sailor to do it drunk”

Joe Mastrangelo is a disabled veteran and native of Miami, FL who has been sailing, diving and spearfishing the waters of the Florida Keys/Bahamas for over 30 years. As a US Navy SEAL and Government contractor, he has traveled the world gaining a unique insight into humanities needs and desires. Holding a USCG 100 Ton Captain’s License, PADI Master Instructor’s License and being an ASA Sailing Instructor, Joe has the water covered. Additionally, he has jumped out of a perfectly good airplane over 1600 times and is a commercially licensed pilot.
Learn more about Capt. Joe at Veterans Sailing Association.

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Jerry Stephenson
Jerry Stephenson

I met Capt. Joe in Fresh Creek, Andros, The Bahamas I think it was 2012. He is an outstanding individual who pitches in to help when or wherever help is needed. There was a fire nearing the area of the marina where a small hotel, a bar and some other buildings were threatened. Joe rallied the troops, including the students I and others were teaching and sailing with. With Joe’s unhesitating, clear eyed leadership we were able to prevent the fire from spreading to the buildings by removing combustible naterials, until the fire department finally arrived. Joe is one of… Read more »