Tim Brandon is sort of the volunteer harbormaster of Lake Nokomis.
He's also a sailboat owner, instructor, volunteer, repair troubleshooter and good-natured leader of an informal group of sailing devotees who are serious about the sport without taking themselves too seriously.
Brandon, 66, who retired from Delta Air Lines last year, made his after-hours sailing avocation of years into something of a full-time volunteer gig during the sailing season that officially ended last weekend.
"We promote sailing at Lake Nokomis and around the world," quipped Brandon, a sailor since his Army and college days in California 45 years ago.
Brandon moved to Minneapolis in 1989, near Lake Nokomis, where he and his wife, Dore, raised three children. He worked as a customer service agent for Northwest Airlines and Delta.
Nokomis, a shallow lake of less than 3 miles around, is not San Francisco Bay.However, Brandon is part of a modest growth movement of sailors and aspiring sailors, from youth to seniors, who own or use boats through a Brandon-affiliated nonprofit that promotes sailing, cooperative boat maintenance and fun.
Brandon acquired a used Rhodes 19, a small, fun boat that has been kept on a Minneapolis Park Board buoy for about a decade.
"Years before that, I befriended many sailors, including a gentleman who had a Rhodes 19 and was struggling, so I showed him how to sail it," Brandon said. "He liked sailing with me. I have other friends who have Aqua Cats and C Scows, 18-footers, on Nokomis."
Some years ago, amid growing interest, the Park Board started providing a few rent-freebuoys for "community-sailing" clubs.
Jim McKie, another former Delta employee and teacher, is the "commodore" of Youth Sailing Resources at Nokomis. He and others, including Brandon, formed the nonprofit to which some boat owners lease their boats for free for instruction and sailing outings by the boatless.
Brandon and the other instructors are remunerated only with the satisfaction of seeing youth-to-seniors improve and enjoy sailing.
"Some have gone on to sail on oceans around the world," Brandon said.
And some just like sailing Nokomis and other area lakes.
"Lake Nokomis is a wonderful kindergarten," Brandon said. "It can be windy. As long as you wear your life jacket and keep your head about you, you're not in a pickle on Nokomis. We also take the kids through tests, such as capsizing the boat and recovering. Also anchoring, sailing by poles, reducing the sail size: This is what we work on. Lake Nokomis is a pleasant place to be.''
Last weekend, Brandon participated in the Lake Nokomis Regatta of about a dozen boats with three to five people each. Brandon's daughter, a Minneapolis school teacher, sailed her 21-foot Venture called "Que Pasa."
"Sailing is a real builder of peoples' lives," Brandon said. "It's refreshing to me and a form of meditation. You're done with everything around you but the sailing. You're definitely exercising. Particularly on bigger boats."
On a Sunday night in the dark, Brandon helped fellow sailors exit the lake as the city-sailing season ended.
Sailing also gives Brandon purpose in retirement.
Chris Farrell, economics editor at MPR and a Star Tribune contributor, wrote this summer about the four pillars of a successful retirement, as cited by Age Wave and Edward Jones. They are good physical and mental health; friends and family; financial security and purpose.
Nine in 10 survey respondents said purpose was critical to a good retirement. It can be part-time work, volunteering, walking, reading, gardening or some combination of things that are good for the mind, body and spirit.
Brandon, whose wife works part time, didn't get rich working in the ranks for Delta. He also has started this fall driving a school bus part time for Minneapolis Public Schools. He likes kids and plans to supplement his income with what can be a $30/hour job.
"One of the good things is three months off in the summer," Brandon said. "Money is important. We'd be OK if I didn't work. But there are things we want to do.
"I'd like a boat on the Gulf Coast between Florida and Texas. The sailing season goes until December. I don't have to spend a lot of money. I could get a 26-foot Pearson, a good boat, for less than $5,000, and you can sleep in them."