Telling My Story

Ocean SF Website
Andrew Lacenere and I met two years ago on a sail in September of 2015. During the many sailing trips that followed, Andrew and I dreamed into existence what would become Ocean SF.  Then, in July of 2016 my husband died of a sudden heart attack, leaving me in a predictable tailspin. 

My daughter’s needed me desperately, and I couldn’t foresee leaving them for the long hours in the city that my background as a Director of Marketing required, nor could I imagine giving up the passion I had for the company I had just started.

The Sailing terminology I learned at the Olympic Circle Sailing Club taught me the terminology I needed, and I decided to stay the course. 

I committed myself 100% to Ocean SF, and stayed the course I had previously set. I had worked for many startups in the past, and I knew what would be required of me, and that it would be far from easy. It would take everything I had to give, and then some, but if I had to work around the clock at least I would be close to home, and as my own boss, I could prioritize my time. 

Today, I attended a summit for entrepreneurs in SF as the guest of UBS, and there I met Julia Hartz, co-founder and CEO of Eventbrite. Among other things, Julia raised 200 Million in capital for a recent acquisition. Smart, funny, beautiful, and inspiring. What a difference a year makes. 
Grateful. 

Love and blessings to all. 

Preparation & Determination

San Francisco Bay
Over the weekend, I was on the Race Committee for the Express 37 Nationals. 

I started doing Race Committee when my friend, Tom Nemeth volunteered me last summer for the Santa Cruz 27 Nationals, and it’s proven addictive. 

I’ve crewed a few races, but prefer the vantage point and perspective, of the Race Committee boat. I love to see firsthand the passion and dermination exhibited by each crew and boat as they compete. 

The Race Committee boat is typically comfortable and well stocked, and the company excellent. There is plenty of time to socialize, and I am typically surrounded by past Commadores and sailors with much experience and many crossings, and the stories to match.

My job is usually to check in the sailboats before each race, because of this I am able to learn their names and can identify each one at a distance by the color of the boat and sails.  

The sailboats come sometimes just feet from the Race Committee boat, and their skill in maneuvering such a large craft with so many variables and people elegantly balanced on deck is just short of miraculous. It’s evident that it’s taken years of training and experience on the water to be able to do this. The tacticians who compete at this level are highly skilled. Being comparatively new to sailing, it took some getting used to, but now I am relaxed and confident as the boats glide inches from our boat and each other as they check in, and get in the most advantageous position for the start of each race. 

We were on a Nordic Tug boat, which alone was a novelty, the races however, were exciting, and unpredictable with several false starts and a few postponements. There were several upsets, and everyone was surprised when our BYC home boat, Stewball failed to win race 6, however, the competition was fierce, and a wonderful time was had by all as the winds were perfect for a yacht race. 

Expeditious, and skipper Bartz Schneider, of San Francisco Yacht Club, won the regatta, but it was very close.

I was happy to see several more women sailors then usual, and I made a few new friends, and deepened ties with the people I already knew. 

As I sat on the upper deck in the sunshine watching the sailboats come in, I realized, I am living the future I had so desperately wished and planned for these many months with the same spirit of preparation and determination. 

Love and blessings to all. 

Purpose, Passion & The Express 37 Nationals

Race 5, Express 37 Nationals

Finding your purpose is no easy task. Often, people ask me how I found my passion for making Sailing Apparel, or even just sailing in general, and I have to say, it wasn’t easy. 

I always knew I was a writer, this was not something I needed to become, it’s what I’ve  always been. I was told throughout high school and college how gifted I was in this area, but I’m very outgoing, so I could never imagine myself sitting alone and just writing. And also, I loved fashion, and I absolutely love to paint. 

Once, when I was still raising my family, a close friend of mine asked, “What are you going to do next? you have such varied talents.” It was true, having many interests, and choosing one was a major challenge that held me back for a long time. 

When I was in high school, I painted a photograph from an ad in Vogue Magazine. At the time, I had many offers to model, and I did model often, but I wanted to prove my intellect instead, so this line of work didn’t interest me at all. But, I adored Vogue and had a magazine subscription. It influenced me so much, that I wore Joy perfume, and a Cartier watch for many years. 

Recently, I pulled out this painting to show my daughter, and I left it sitting on an easel in my dining room. During a strategy meeting at my home, for Ocean SF, I was sitting across from this painting, and thought – all of this makes perfect sense. My love of fashion, and the outdoors, combined with my marketing background, and my writing ability; all of these go together and have placed me here. 

I always wanted to sail. I started in Portland on the Willamette River in my very early 20’s, then I moved to SF, where I would drive across the Bridges and wish I could be on one of the beautiful sail boats below, but I fell in love with a golfer, and we did that instead. 

As my family grew, I remembered this dream, and when I had more time, I fit a class into my busy schedule. I can’t say that I knew right away, the first days I was very sea sick, but I followed the bread crumbs of joy, and didn’t give up.

Today, I have a boat in slip 212 at Berkeley Marina, and the Berkeley Yacht Club is my second home. I’m on Race Committee, which means I hoist the flags, when the whistle blows, to start the Yacht races. 

Now, it all feels pretty obvious, I’ll design clothes, and write every morning, I’ll paint when I have the time, and I’ll sail and ski. It’s amazing it took so long to see this.

I can’t tell you how lucky I feel. 

Find the thing you love that makes your heart pound, and do that. 

Love and blessings to all. 

Masks & Unusual Friendships 

Berkeley Yacht Club, Berkeley, California
As a wife and mother living in an affluent community, I wore many masks. This isn’t something I realized, or thought about at the time. I sought only to be appropriate in each situation. PTA mask, play group mask, country club mask, and so on. 

There were places, naturally, where I was my true self, most notably while hiking or skiing in Tahoe, but often I was filling the expectations of my role as a wife and mother.

Two years ago, I started sailing.  This was an antidote to my addiction to the outdoors, and spending time in the mountains, or more importantly in nature after my children no longer wished to leave their friends for weekends or holidays in Truckee. I understood this, and sought other outdoor activities that were closer to home. For a while I thought it could be horses, and I took riding lessons, but this didn’t give me the same sense of freedom. Then I found sailing.

Sailing has given me everything I could have ever asked for. No mask required, sailing is simply a merit based sport. No one cares what you look like, where you live, how old you are, the most important thing is the common love of the sea. This passion unites the most unusual of  companions and creates unconventional friendships.

Last night, I was at  the Yacht Club, surrounded by friends looking out onto the Bay.  My friend, and I sat with a globe, and he explained to me how the winds move around the world.  And, I was enthralled. That’s all I can say. Enthralled.

Love and blessings to all. 

The Evolution Is Now 


Dear Friends,

Please join me in launching our company OCEAN SF. Our signature jacket is not just a product, but an evolution. This jacket replaces your current mid layer polyester fleece with a warm, sustainable, all natural technical garment that will be the last mid layer jacket you will ever buy.  

Every time a polyester fleece jacket is washed up to 250,000 plastic microfibers shed into our water system. Much of this does not get filtered by municipal water utilities and ends up in both the ocean and even our drinking water!  

OCEAN SF is a performance sailing apparel company, and is focused on using natural fibers, especially Merino Wool, and state of the art fabric milling technologies to create adventure gear with a higher calling. Their real aim is to stop the plastic pollution that comes from clothing, and they are holding no bars.

For centuries sailors have looked to wool to keep them warm even when they get wet. Now OCEAN SF has combined the material benefits of wool with state-of-the-art fabric milling technologies. Our textiles themselves are very sophisticated. We’ve been able to weave and knit multiple textures into a single piece of cloth. The interior side is meant to trap air between the garment and user’s skin to keep them warm, the outside is meant to be a bit more rugged and resilient.

We believe that our jackets couldn’t come at a better time because it has recently been determined that the standard “polyester fleece” jacket pollutes up to 250,000 plastic microfibers into our water system every time it is washed. Recent studies conclude that not only does the deep ocean contain a great deal of plastic microfiber pollution BUT ALSO that 94% of tested drinking water in the US contains plastic microfibers. We’re literally drinking our plastic clothes. We believe that natural fibers, especially our high-performance, highly technical merino wool garments can make a huge difference in the quest to shift this paradigm. We aim to prove the performance of merino wool, and in so doing we hope to catalyze a major shift away from polyester garments.

Join us in sharing our vision of wearing natural fabrics in a natural world. We currently have our cotton T-shirts and signature jackets for sale on our website at OCEAN SF.

Our signature jacket:

Custom Milled Luxurious Merino Wool

  • Made in California
  • Superior Design
  • Beautiful Fit

“My Ocean SF jacket is the only jacket I ever wear. It’s warm, comfortable and I love the long zippered sleeves!” – Tom Dryja, Sailing Instructor, OCSC, Berkeley, CA 

Our wool fabric is being milled now, and we will start sewing soon. Quantities are limited, so order now at OCEAN SF for delivery in late 2017.

Thank you to everyone for your love and support as we have built and launched this company. We look forward to bringing you beautiful, sustainable, and the most loved adventure clothing in the world.

Love and Blessings to all.

Sydney 

Sydney Ann Chaney-Thomas

Aligning Passion With Vision

Me and sailing instructor Tom Dryja

Even though, I teach business marketing to graduate students, this is not that sort of post. After my husband died, I desperately searched for anything and everything that could bring me peace and happiness.

I’ve seen it before, family members who use alcohol to sooth painful feelings. I’m not going to lie. I drank a fair amount of gin, however, what I found to be the best antidote to pain, by far, is devotion to, and engagement in, meaningful work.

For example; I love writing this blog. It’s allowed me the use of talents I had developed over many years of writing as a business analyst, technical writer, marketing director, communications manager, and more.

Yes, writing is a passion. But, work must have a broader meaning and purpose to provide happiness.

Over 30,000 people read my blog now. I do no advertising or promotion. I have readers from all over the world, including places like Nigeria, Malta, New Caledonia, and so on, in a total of 64 countries.

This isn’t something I expected when I wrote my first post on grief in August of 2016. But, as I began, and discovered how much it helped me, while helping other people in such an unexpected myriad of ways, I continued.  Now, it is simply part of my life’s work, like making sailing clothes, or raising children.

When I was little, I always knew I would be a writer, I started writing in a journal daily at 12. It’s a passion, but how to align a passion with the vision we have for our life?

I could not write a novel like my late husband asked me to. I could tap out an interesting short story and that was all.

For work, I could write detailed memos, user guides, any type of collateral, training programs, press releases, systems manuals, marketing updates, business articles, and later website pages and electronic newsletters.

When I worked in the Financial District of San Francisco, in my twenties, that was my passion. I loved my expensive wool suits, silk blouses, and heels. I loved living in the city and kicking around all the interesting neighborhoods on the weekends.

Later, working South of Market Street, for several start ups was my passion. I wore black Mary Jane flats, and flared jeans, and smoked cigarettes in the ally with the French founders from Google.

I didn’t find this work particularly meaningful, but it paid well.

After years of consulting work, and raising children, I craved action. I no longer wished to sit behind a desk, no matter how lucrative. I like to ski, or hike winding trails, or more recently sail.

Two years ago, I was out sailing with my sailing instructor, Tom Dryja, and Andrew Lacenere. I had just met Andrew, so Tom mentioned that Andrew was a clothing designer.  I remember this moment, in the same way, we remember all important events, and after Andrew explained his vision to me, I told him I would help him.

Today, apart from writing this blog, there is nothing I enjoy more than making clothes with Andrew, and our pattern maker, Emma Garrison.

It’s been a slow process, but I’ve been able to align my passion for writing, with my passion for quality clothing, with my passion for the outdoors, and create my vision of a meaningful life.

It’s not something I could have planned, and I often wonder how it will all turn out, but, I do know, it will turn out well in the end, because I truly love what I’m doing. And, I wouldn’t have missed one single moment of any of it.

Love and blessings to all.

Andrew & Tom on the J105, San Francisco Bay
Lara, Tom & Andrew

Birthdays & Milestones

It’s my late husband’s birthday today, if things were different, I would be having a party for him tonight and cooking ribs, BBQ chicken and smashed potatoes with bacon and cheddar cheese. He would have a mint chocolate chip ice cream cake with his name on it.

That was the past.

Yesterday, the men’s signature jacket prototype arrived for Ocean SF. Which after a year of development was quite a milestone. 

This is the future. 

I am on the advisory board for a new nonprofit my friend Nick Firestone started in partnership with Tesla. The organization will bring renewable energy to hurricane impacted communities.  So, yesterday I went to the Yacht Club to help with the filming of his video documentary, but on the way, I stopped by the sailing club to give my sailing instructor, Tom Dryja his jacket. 

Because Tom and Nick are also friends, Tom came along, and after filming, we had dinner with the video crew.  This is not the life I thought I would have, but it’s a very good life nonetheless. I’m grateful to have work I love, inspring people to spend my time with, and countless other blessings. 

Later, the girls and I will have a three way call to say a prayer for their father, as we will all be in different places this afternoon. 

Another first. One more milestone. 

Love and blessings. 

Whatever Happens Next is Happening Now

I often ask myself, what’s going to happen next? 

I’ve spent the last several years planning. Even before my husband died, I was searching for my next big thing. I started teaching at UC Berkeley’s International Program. I took a series of interesting jobs, one with an art gallery, another with an online retailer.  I learned to sail completing my basic keelboat training at OCSC and passing my written American Sailing Association test. 

The summer my husband died, I had just started Ocean SF and our nonprofit the Trident Project. We were in development for our product line and had planned our first fund raiser. It was a rocky time, but we stayed the course, and now our online store and Ocean SF website is up and we are in full production. 

My business partner Andrew, was very understanding of what we termed, “the situation,” and protected me as much as possible. Most notably, the week I was spreading my husband’s ashes and our boat was going to be towed off the guest dock.  Andrew’s common response to me when we spoke was, “no worries,” when in actuality, there was always plenty to be worried about.

From the very beginning, I made the mental health of my daughters the priority and dominant focus. It’s paid off, and all is well.  Now, everyday I watch my life move forward, in positive ways. All of the plans, and hopes, and dreams I had for my future are coming true. 

The other night, I had my sailing friends over, we sat in our tree house and drank wine. It was a beautiful warm night, tranquil and calm.

Love and blessings to all. 

Natural Disasters & Windsurfing 

​On Saturday, I was asked to be on the Race Committee Boat for the Cal Cup Windsurfing Race in the San Francisco Bay. 

With so much sadness going on the world, fires destroying the beloved Columbia Gorge outside of Portland, in Oregon where I grew up, floods in Texas, and massive hurricanes along the Florida Coast, it felt strange to focus on windsurfing, especially since the Columbia Gorge, is a major destination for the sport.

But, nevertheless, there I was, watching this beautiful spectacle on the Bay all afternoon, and spending time with people from all over the world, and women who have raced to Hawaii a dozen times, and across every major passage.

Once again, life continues to surprise with its many twists and turns. I sat on the bow of the Commadore’s boat, with the “P” flag, praying for all of those in peril, and at the same time, counting my own blessings; to be alive in the world, healthy, and surrounded by so much beauty. 

Love and blessings to all.

A Rich Full Life

Many people wouldn’t think of me as lucky from the outside looking in, but every single morning before I get out of bed, I count my blessings. And it doesn’t take very long for me to feel grateful for the many good things in my life. 

First of all, I’m in excellent health. On most days, if I’ve not burned the candle at both ends, which I often do, I feel fantastic. Then, I have my wonderful family, and in particular my spectacular daughters. Then, I have the most hilarious golden-doodle, named Polly, and her two side kicks the black and white cats, Dash and Jam. 

Next, I have friends galore. And make more everyday. I have been spending time with my sailing friends this week. Especially, my business partner, and my sailing instructor Tom. There is nothing like a common interest to connect and deepen ties with people.

But, I especially love my neighbors and my beautiful neighborhood. I have so much love and support here that I feel blessed everyday. My neighbor Sandy, who brought Paris’ bedding to her college dorm in LA after we forgot it, my dear friends Craig and Denise who help me with everything I do, including building Ocean SF. My husband’s three best friends, and their families, that are always here for us. And, my neighbor Alecia, who made me the beautiful pearl and rose quartz necklace I’m wearing above. And Barb, who I met when our daughters were two, who took me to the polo tournament where the above photo was taken a few weekends ago. 

Recently, one of my neighbors sent me the following note. It was so generous and kind it brought tears to my eyes. 

“Dear Sydney,

I have been thinking about you a lot over the last few weeks knowing that a year has passed since losing your husband. I have not seen you in years nor spoken, but I do want you to know that I have always admired the woman, and Mother that you are. You have been a true role model from the day I met you. My daughter, has always spoken of you with admiration and your unconditional kindness towards her made her love being in your presence. Both Siena and Paris are so fortunate to have a loving, attentive, involved, active and beautiful Mother who truly loves her children. I believe Paris must be heading off to a College, and that must be an exciting yet difficult transition after your past year. These next two years will be very special for you and Siena. Time is precious as you are aware, and it’s never too late to tell someone how wonderful they are. So before I turn in I wanted to let you know how much I admire you and if you ever need anything I’m here for you.”

People like this, and the precious town I live in, give me deep roots, and a priceless sense of security. 

Love and blessings to all.