Science teacher Melissa Havel to take next school year off to sail

Sailing, surfing and living a simpler life closer to nature–these are among the things science teacher Melissa Havel hopes to do as she travels with her husband Curtis and their 8-year-old son Declan on their sailboat during her 2018-2019 school year sabbatical.

After departing Sausalito in August, they will sail down the coast of California on their 1986 Ericson sailboat, the Blue Heron. They intend to stop at every port along the way, as well as spend time in the Channel Islands to hike and explore. Once hurricane season ends, about three months later, they plan to go to Mexico. They may travel as far as Central or South America, depending on how the “sailing life” appeals to them.
“We love the culture, people and food,” Havel said about Mexico. “There’s lots of good sailing and surfing, an incredible amount of marine life— plus it’s warm. We’re hoping to sail in the Sea of Cortez and see whale sharks and manta rays.”

The three of them will live on the boat, sleeping in the cabin and spending most of their time outdoors on deck. The boat holds a galley, refrigerator, bathroom and shower. All appliances will be powered by solar panels Havel installed on the boat.

Havel, who has always loved to travel, spent her twenties traveling around the world. She and her husband have been planning this upcoming voyage for five years. They needed to buy the boat, renovate it, save money and practice their sailing skills before embarking on this trip. Havel learned much of her knowledge of sailing from a weeklong course at the Modern Sailing School in Sausalito. She and her husband spent close to a year searching for the right boat to buy.

“It’s been nonstop work [on the boat] and a huge learning curve. It’s really hard but rewarding,” Havel said, adding that they still have more to learn as they travel.
Her family’s main reason for taking the trip is to spend more time together; however, Havel said she will miss living in Novato and working at San Marin.

“My science department colleagues are not only my coworkers, but my friends, and I will miss them a lot,” Havel said. “I will also miss teaching in the classroom. I really like being around high school students. It’s been a little sad as the year is coming to an end, knowing I won’t be here next year to watch the juniors graduate.”
As she travels, she will post photos from the journey on their Instagram account
@svblueheron.

“Although the idea of turning left as we head out of the Golden Gate is still pretty scary, it’s also getting more and more real and exciting,” Havel said. “I can’t wait to see what the year has in store for us. I can’t wait to meet all the people we will cross paths with on our travels and see what beautiful places and animals we will come across.”