By Dawne Belloise
CB has its fair share of locals who have found a way to connect their love of skiing (or biking or yoga or wildflowers or baking) with their professional lives. But local Tim Geisler has taken his passion to a new level. He’s found a way to connect his love of the water, adventure, sailing, and education through the business he started and runs on Blue Mesa Reservoir: Nautilus Sailing. He started his company to teach people to sail. Since then, he’s expanded his company and sailing courses to include six locations: Tahiti; Sea of Cortez, Mexico; the Bahamas; the Grenadines in the southern Caribbean; Mallorca, Spain; and Trogir, Croatia. In 2019, Nautilus Sailing became the official sailing school for Dream Yachts, the largest sailing company in the world, with 1,200 yachts in 54 countries.
Tim shares that he had a very unusual childhood. He was born in Morocco to parents who were avid travelers; they met in 1967 in a bomb shelter in Beirut in the middle of the Six-Day War. His first language was French, and he attended a French school until he was 10, when his dad was hired to run a media company in Andalucía, Spain. There, Tim learned Spanish and played street soccer. His parents’ sense of adventure continued throughout his childhood and, with his two brothers, the family took driving trips across Europe or the Sahara, spending summers in places like Portugal and motoring to hidden beaches. Growing up in Spain, Tim went to a private British school until his graduation in 1992. “I was the idiot because I only spoke three languages and everyone else spoke at least five,” he jokes.
Tim was desperate to come to the U.S. to study structural engineering. He figured that it would be a lucrative pursuit to build oil platforms since it was right after the Gulf War. He enrolled at Biola University to take advantage of their three-year program, from which he could switch to the University of Southern California. “It was a back door into one of the top universities for structural engineering.”
While in school, he was tempted by the access to the ocean and took up surfing. “I just didn’t fit in with the normal American college kids who were talking about the Brady Bunch and Super Bowl, which I had never seen. We didn’t have a TV until I was 15,” he laughs, but he loved the surf culture, which he says was, “a band of people who were different, who wanted to enjoy life at the beach in nature.”
In his third year at the university, in the middle of an exam in a thermodynamics class that required calculation of the temperature change to surface friction on a drop of water falling in a shower, Tim thought, “I don’t care.” He was told about the awesome surf in Costa Rica, where the girls love blonde-haired surfer boys. “So I did what any wise man would do and switched my major to international studies and moved to Costa Rica, spending a semester abroad. I fell in love with Costa Rica and realized I was so happy internationally. I loved the culture, people and just the pace of life. It was different than mainstream America.” Tim graduated in 1996 with a BA in international studies.
After graduation, he loaded up his truck and drove to Costa Rica, surfing along the way. He volunteered with a non-profit youth program group there, but returned to Huntington Beach, California six months later as his student loans were kicking in. “To become responsible, I got a job working for an international travel company. Back then you could buy an around-the-world ticket for about $4,000 and I would advise people on how to plan their trips. You could only go in a single line around the globe. I didn’t make much money, but I got to travel anywhere for heavily discounted tickets.”
Although Tim could jump a plane to Tahiti for $200 to surf for 10 days, a yearly two-week vacation was not going to satisfy his wanderlust. “That was criminal after growing up traveling.” He left his travel agency job in 1998 and became trained to teach Spanish in inner-city Los Angeles. From there, he pursued a teaching credential and a master’s degree in multi-cultural education from California State University at Long Beach. Working half days, he was able to get in a lot of wave-riding and had more vacation time. “I traveled to surf and ski. My parents had moved to Provence, France, and we’d go snowboard in the French Alps.”
In the summer of 1998, he and a friend were surfing tiny, remote islands in Indonesia. “We’d get on these tiny carved-out canoes from trunks attached with stick outriggers and fisherman who couldn’t speak English. You’d barter, usually for beer, for them to take you to remote places.” There were some were long days at sea from Bali to Nusa Lembongan, Lombok, and Sumbwa. From Indonesia, he went to Thailand and Malaysia to scuba dive. On his his first night on the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia, he noticed a family walking by with four daughters in bikinis and sarongs. “And it was like time stopped. My jaw dropped and I thought, I need to get to know them.” He wound up marrying Rosie Rendall, the eldest of those daughters, a Brit from Upper Bucklebury, England in 2000, and they moved to southern California.
They both got jobs teaching in the same school in San Clemente. They surfed and traveled around the world but, after five years, Tim and Rosie were burnt out with the bureaucracy and inefficiencies of the school system. When Tim had an opportunity in 2005 to run an international non-profit, he grabbed it. “It was working with high net-worth individuals to use their influence, knowledge and finances to give back to communities around the world.” At the same time, they were tiring of life in southern California and Rosie dreamed of mountain living. While on a quest to check out mountain towns, they stopped to use the restroom at the Gunnison Chamber of Commerce. While there, Tim spotted a copy of CB Magazine with a cover that featured snowy, gorgeous mountain peaks and forests. “I called the first realtor in the magazine and asked if it was as lovely as the cover,” and they were given a tour of the area by Heather Petersen. They couldn’t get the town out of their minds as they continued on to Telluride. “CB felt more of a community rather than vacation homes.” They bought a parcel in CB South, and found a rental in town while they built their home.
Rosie taught at Little Red Schoolhouse while Tim continued working for the non-profit. Their son Ben was born in 2007, and son Josh came along in 2009. One month after the 2008 market crash, their world was turned upside down. Tim lost his job; they had also invested in several rental properties across the country and people stopped paying rent. Additionally, they had invested in a Costa Rican small boutique development project, building Balinese-style villas overlooking the ocean. “We lost the house we were building in CB South, and we got out of the Costa Rica project just in time to return all the money to investors. We pretty much lost everything,” he tells.
They moved in with his best friend Todd and Rosie’s sister in Hawaii and began to reevaluate their priorities. “That season was special for us. We slowed down, simplified and spent time as a family together.” During that time, they crafted the next chapter of their journey and returned to CB, “because this was home with an amazing community.” They set out to combine their passions of sailing and education, and decided to start a sailing school. Tim had learned to sail in California, and they had rented boats in different countries around the world. To get started, Tim took odd jobs, Rosie sold her homemade breads and Tim recalls, “We were dependent on the food bank from OBJ Church. We wouldn’t have survived that season if it wasn’t for the love and generosity of the church family. When we hit rock bottom, we experienced community at its very best.”
Their experience on the water made them realize that there was room for their new endeavor.“When we learned to sail, it was a bunch of old guys yelling,” he laughs. “We knew there was a better way to teach because we had lots of teaching experience.” They started teaching weekend courses on Blue Mesa Reservoir, combining it with sunset wine and cheese sails complemented by Rosie’s homemade breads. They realized they could take their adventurous clients to Mexico and the Caribbean for sailing lessons. People across the U.S and Canada started signing up. “Now we specialize in what’s called week-long live-aboard sailing courses. Half of our clients want to buy a boat and sail around the world, so we’re helping them gain the certifications and giving them the knowledge and skills to set out on their own sailing adventures. The other half of our clients are interested in getting sailing experience and certifications so they can rent boats in exotic locations,” Tim explains.
Five months ago, they built a home in Buckhorn. Even though they continue to head off to incredibly beautiful places, Tim says that returning from these sails or vacations is still special. “Rounding the corner and seeing Paradise Divide, I know I’m home. The community is like nowhere else,” he says. “We want our kids to grow up with a global perspective, but with the CB community. This is home and we want to stay here as long as we can.”