September’s Skipper of the Month: David Charvat | NW Explorations
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September’s Skipper of the Month: David Charvat

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September’s Skipper of the Month is our good friend, David Charvat.

David has been a boater and sailor since he was barely out of diapers and his father and grandfather would drag him out of the house to give his mother a break. Now, he has his 100-ton Master License and is primarily an “unsalted, shark-free, Great Lakes boater.” He’s cruised the Great Lakes, East Coast, Maine, Long Island Sound, the British Virgin Islands, and came aboard several Mother Goose flotillas to Desolation Sound, British Columbia, and Ketchikan, Alaska.

After all of this experience, David’s best boating advice is simple: “Don’t fear the unknown, embrace it. That is where your adventure begins.”

1. What boat(s) do you own? How long have you had them?

Currently, my wife Rita and I own a Duffy 31 lobster boat that I fondly refer to as our “Hillbilly Hinckley.” We have owned the boat for 20 years and put over 3,100 hours on her while in the water for only six months per year.

Before that, we had a Grand Banks 32, hull #396, for 12 years, and prior to that we sailed a Cal 25 sloop for five years.

2. What are your favorite boating spots/destinations?

I enjoy cruising to remote locations and spending time on the hook. In the Great Lakes we can accomplish this in northern Lake Huron and the eastern shore of Lake Superior, where there are numerous wilderness anchorages with abundant wildlife.

But nothing compares to the Inside Passage through British Columbia for breathtaking beauty and endless remote anchorages. This area is like Lake Huron and Lake Superior on an overdose of steroids! I would have to say my two favorite spots to this point are Princess Louisa Inlet and Culpepper Lagoon.

3. Do you have any secret and/or hidden boating spots you like to visit? How do you get there?

If you ever visit northern Lake Huron, get out the chart of Whalesback Channel and find Long Point Cove near Spragge, Ontario. Leave Navy Island to port and snake your way through the islands until you dead-end into Long Point Cove. If you are there in the middle of July, meet me on the rocks at the southern end of the cove for cocktails at 1700.

As for the Pacific Northwest, the best way I know to get to secret and hidden spots in the Inside Passage is to get on Deception’s transom and turn where Captain Brian turns, not when he turns!

4. What’s your favorite boating story?

Our best moment on the water came in 1998, when we became an ambulance for a crewman on a freighter outside of Rogers City, MI. We were departing Rogers City when the Joyce VanEckevort radioed the harbor for help. A crew member had suffered a heart attack and they needed to get him off the ship to receive medical assistance ASAP. A few moments later, the harbormaster radioed that an ambulance was on the way, but they could not find a local boat available to lend assistance.

The ship could not come to shore to offload due to its draft, the nearest Coast Guard station was over 40 nautical miles away, and the helicopter was stationed on the other side of the state on Lake Michigan. I radioed the VanEckevort that I could see them and would be there shortly and would await their instructions.

As we approached the ship the captain wanted us to go around to the port stern, the plan was to snug the boat up to the ship while she was underway at 6.5 knots. Having never done this before I failed to correctly match their speed on the first try.

What followed was almost a disaster.

Once we secured the bow, the stern got pushed away from the side of the ship and we were being dragged sideways at 6.5 knots.

Thankfully, Rita was on the bow and quickly released the line to free us from this precarious situation. The captain then radioed us to stand by while he tried to slow the ship down a bit. I watched as the ship looked to be vibrating and shaking and then realized that the captain had put the engine in reverse to slow her down. He then radioed me and instructed me to match their speed before turning my boat into the side of the ship.

This time, we successfully connected and now they had to figure how to get the man down into our boat. The opening on the transfer ship was about 15 feet above my deck. It was decided to put him on the hard top, which was only six feet lower than the ship’s opening, then lower him to the deck.

This feat was actually accomplished while we were still moving at over 4 knots. It was a 2.5 nautical mile run back to Rogers City. The ship’s captain sent along one of the man’s shipmates to provide information to the ambulance personnel.

It started to rain as we headed toward Rogers City, and when I looked back at the patient, he was completely covered in a blanket—head and all. His shipmate noticed my concern and said “Don’t worry, he’s not dead yet. I’m just trying to keep him dry.” A lot of compassion out of that guy!

A large crowd was awaiting our arrival at the fuel dock. The patient was conscious as the medical people attended to him and loaded him into the ambulance to go to Alpena Hospital in Alpena, MI.

After all the excitement, we once again shoved off for our destination which was Drummond Island, MI. As we exited the harbor, we received a call on Channel 16 from the Alpena Coast Guard to thank us for lending assistance. They apparently monitored the entire episode from afar on channel 16.

Thankfully, the man survived.

When you have the opportunity to do something good, your karma skyrockets. The rest of that cruise went flawlessly and we had a fabulous trip.

5. What was your favorite boat excursion and why?

Mother Goose Leg 1 from Bellingham WA to Ketchikan, AK in 2015. This adventure catered to how I like to cruise. I was on a fabulous boat (Ajax) cruising to remote locations and spending many evenings anchored in secure coves. We were slightly challenged by the Pacific on the outside of Vancouver Island and it was fun to experience how well the boats performed under those conditions.

The Mother Goose format is such a wonderful concept. Not having the worries and stress that go into planning and executing a complex cruise like that, but, at the same time still operating your own vessel is simply the best way for a boat nerd like me to travel.

6. Have you ever had any perilous journeys? How did you get through them?

In 37 years of cruising, we have had a lot of “stuff” hit the fan. There is no teacher like experience, but I try to prepare for adverse situations by getting as much knowledge and training as possible in advance.

7. Do you have a favorite Captain Brian story?

On our way from Tahsis to Dixie Cove during Leg 1 of Mother Goose 2015, we encountered some lumpy water. The fleet was getting bounced around pretty good. To get everyone’s mind off our predicament, our fearless leader got on the radio and began telling stories of past adventures as the boats clawed their way to Kyuquot Channel.

I can’t speak for everyone else, but it sure worked for me. It was Captain Brian’s way of holding everyone’s hand through a challenging run. It did not go unappreciated.

8. How did you get connected with NW Explorations?

Rita has brothers and sisters in the Seattle area, and when we were visiting them back in 2009, I was blown away by how beautiful Pacific Northwest waters are. I knew at that time that I wanted to charter a boat and cruise this paradise. So I Googled boat charters in the Pacific Northwest, and, lo and behold, NWE appears on my screen.

When I saw their fleet of Grand Banks that sealed the deal. Not only do they have great boats they also have a staff that is second to none! I really stumbled into something good on that Google search.

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Want to be our next Skipper of the Month? We’d love to feature you! Contact us if you’re interested. 

2 thoughts on “September’s Skipper of the Month: David Charvat”

  1. What a great story, Dave! Thank you for sharing it with us. BTW – how is Fred the cat? Glad you got him back from the other boater whose boat he stowed away on! You have lots of great boating stories 🙂

  2. David is such a humble guy. We’re in the same harbor and have been good friends for many years. Dave is always helping others around the harbor, and does power squadron training. In 15 years I’ve never heard him mention his advanced certification as a 100 ton Master. I’ve gotten to hear about many of his adventures first hand. He shares his knowledge in such a gracious way. A true gentleman.

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