This month’s featured Skipper is Don Durant from the Bay Area in California. Don is new to the NW Explorations family (he just chartered Sarah Brooks for the first time in June), but he’s been a boater most of his life (he’s owned 20+ boats!).
Don has been a broker, boat yard owner, and dealership owner, and also founded Club Nautique–a sailing school and charter club near San Francisco.
Here are some of Don’s favorite boating spots and tips!
I’ve been married 48 years, with two children, two grandchildren, and another one the way. After a tour of duty navigating a submarine in the late ’60s, I started my career in the boat business: I’ve been a yacht broker, dealership owner, boat yard owner, etc. Then I founded Club Nautique, a school and charter club in 1980.
Part of our business is leading flotillas all over the world, so my wife and I have chartered and/or led groups in Turkey, France, Croatia, Antigua, Grenadines, BVI, Belize, Hawaii, Tahiti, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Mexico, and of course, the San Juan Islands.
When I was eight years old, I moved to Oakland, CA, which is close to Lake Merritt—a hotbed of dinghy sailing in the ’50s. My mother was tired of my dad playing golf and marching in Shriner Parades and thought sailing might be something the whole family could do together, so my parents bought an 18’ sailboat to learn how to sail.
And as they say, the rest is history.
My first boat was an 8’ El Toro Pram. Since then, I’ve owned 20+ boats, mostly sail boats with a few power boats sprinkled in, ranging from the first to our current boat, a Jeanneau 49’ Deck Salon.
It’s getting time to shift from sail boats to power boats, and I’m very attracted to the 55’ Fleming as a possible next boat. My wife suggested we charter one to learn more about it, so I did a Google search and found Sarah Brooks.
(Most recent boats are listed first)
Tahiti, Turkey, Croatia, Canul du Midi, and Puerto Vallarta
We enjoy gunkholing in the California Delta. It’s not secret, but it always amazes me how many of our Club Nautique members are unaware of it.
I have two lists: places I’ve been to and would happily repeat and ones that I enjoyed, but don’t need to visit again.
My repeat list includes: Turkey, Tahiti, the canals of Europe, Croatia, Pacific Northwest (which we’ve only just scratched off our list last month), and Puerto Vallarta, where we’re in the process of opening a charter base.
Tahiti: gorgeous scenery, great sailing, nice people. It’s paradise!
Turkey: an amazing mix of scenery, history, food, shopping and more; today, the political trends are troubling. We were there for a week in 1999 and just one day last week.
Croatia: a great mix of quiet anchorages, wonderful historic towns, lots of islands, great restaurants, and lots of charter options.
Canal du Midi, France: easy, relaxing pace, cute villages, excellent food, farmer’s markets, and storybook scenery.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: well-known by cruisers, but totally undeveloped by charter companies, which we hope to change.
Bandaras Bay, MX (Puerto Vallarta)—no question about it. There are so many whales, dolphins, and turtles—they’re practically a navigational hazard.
Owning a yacht is expensive and I’m an addict. For at least 90% of boaters, it makes more sense to charter or own a charter boat, and let others help you pay for it.
When I was on the submarine, we had a weld in the pressure hull crack when we were 400’deep. The water coming through the crack would have sliced a person in half.
Fortunately, submariners are well trained in damage control and the training kicked in immediately. Nobody panicked. We all knew what to do and did it. Thirty minutes later, we were on the surface on a course to the shipyard to make repairs.
There are Navy stories, but they’re probably too salty for a family audience.
I heartily recommend NW Explorations. Sarah Brooks is the oldest and most complex boat I’ve ever chartered, and our charter went flawlessly, thanks to great maintenance, an excellent operator’s manual, and Tim’s briefing and tips. It was expensive, but worth it.