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Sailing Story: Mara Brownell

a map with an umbrellaMara Brownell is a Montana native, growing up on the beautiful shores of Polson. However, when she first became interested in sailing, she wanted to leave the shores of her own hometown and sail somewhere a bit more exotic. 


That’s how Mara ended up sailing around the Virgin Islands for two years. “We learned by trial and error,” she said about buying a boat with a friend and sailing around the Caribbean. 


In that trial and error period, Mara found herself in the U.S. Virgin Islands one afternoon trying to get a mooring ball. From the shores, she watched a woman wave enthusiastically, yelling something she couldn’t quite hear. “All of a sudden I hear some person yelling at me from across the bay,” she explained. “She’s waving and seemed really loud and friendly.”


Confused, Mara waved back and began trying to moor again. “I thought maybe I did something wrong,” she said. Her fears grew as she watched this woman start to head her way in a dinghy. 


“Your flag!” The woman yelled as she approached. Mara turned to face her boat’s flag, the colors of Montana’s Salish Kootenai tribe proudly waving in the wind. Surely this woman couldn’t recognize the flag of this small Montana tribe?

But she could— it was Captain Genevieve, owner of Go Sail Flathead Lake! It turns out the two women were moored only two moorings apart. “We were neighbors for a little bit,” Mara said. “It was neat.”


Captain Genevieve and Mara stayed in touch and after a few years of sailing around the Caribbean, Mara began to miss home. “I needed land!” She said. So Mara made the trip back to Polson.


“I missed sailing but I thought I really wanted some technical expertise,” she explained about going home to Montana. That’s when she decided to call Genevieve about taking classes at Go Sail Flathead Lake. 


“I can make a boat go but I didn’t know what anything was called,” she laughed. So she signed up for ASA 101 this summer as a starting point for pursuing her Captain’s license. 


It turned out taking ASA 101 with Captain Barry was exactly what Mara needed to take her sailing to the next level. “It was the most pleasant learning to sail course I could have asked for,” she explained. “[Captain Barry] just exemplified what I thought sailing experiences should be like. He was calm and made sure we knew everything we needed to know.”


Come 2024, Mara hopes to finish up her classes with Go Sail Flathead Lake. After that, who knows, you may see her as a Captain on your own Go Sail adventure!