May’s Skippers of the Month: Bonnie and Noel Diefendorf | NW Explorations

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May’s Skippers of the Month: Bonnie and Noel Diefendorf

We’re excited to introduce May’s Skippers of the Month: Bonnie and Noel Diefendorf from San Francisco, CA. Bonnie and Noel are highly-accomplished boaters—they were both U.S.P.S. Squadron Commanders and they’ve owned both power and sail boats their whole lives. The couple met when Bonnie’s daughters joined the Sea Scouts (Noel was one of the organization’s adult leaders) and they were married a year later.

Bonnie and Noel are both retired and share a large home on a small ranch with their daughter, son-in-law, three young grandkids, and two cats.

1. What’s your boating background?

Noel was tossed into an El Toro at about age 8 and has been boating ever since. He’s owned both sail and power boats almost all his life and he was one of the youngest people to take and pass the United States Power Squadrons (U.S.P.S.) boating course in 1966.  He’s a U.S.P.S. certified instructor and has taught boating skills, navigation, and engine maintenance.

Bonnie is also a certified instructor and has taught navigation, piloting, weather and boating skills. Both Bonnie and Noel are past U.S.P.S. Squadron Commanders and Predicted Log Racers, which is a race that requires participants to guess—down to the second—how long it will take them to complete a boat course; the person closest to their estimated time wins. Bonnie has competed in West Coast and National Championships, and placed 2nd overall in the national contest held near Seattle.

2. How did you get connected with NW Explorations?

Our yacht club wanted to charter boats in the Pacific Northwest for a “Commodore’s Cruise,” and we were looking for a quality charter organization that rented good equipment.  Maintenance and reliability were very high on our priority list, and NW Explorations is one of the only charter companies we’ve found that meets all our criteria.

3. What boat(s) do you own?

Time Out at Kwatsi Bay in the Broughtons.

Our current boat is a 42’ Grand Banks Europa, named Time Out.  We’ve had her for four years, and she’s very likely our last boat. We love her. Often times, we just go down and hang out on her.

We also owned a 36’ Grand Banks Sedan for 11 years and a 32’ Grand Banks for four years.  Previous boats include various trailer boats—both power and sail, and several sailboats, the last one being an Ericson 27 Sloop.  As a youth, Noel sailed El Toros, Pelicans, Lasers, and Sunfish.

4. What are your favorite boating spots?

Time Out returning home to San Rafael, CA.

We live in the San Francisco Bay Area and while it isn’t the finest boating in the world, it is where we live and the Sacramento/San Juaquin Delta is a nice place to spend time. Our favorite destination is just about everyone else’s: the Pacific Northwest. It can’t be beat.

Princess Louisa Inlet is a favorite and our business card shows Time Out in front of Chatterbox Falls. The Broughtons are another favorite, with Waddington Bay and Turnbull Cove being good bomb-proof anchorages. Rusty Cove is a hidden and quiet gem located adjacent to Simoom Sound (but don’t tell anyone, since it only accommodates one boat).

Bald Eagle fishing off their boat’s stern in Waddington Bay.

5. Do you have any secret and/or hidden boating spots you like to visit?

The Pacific Northwest and Southeast Alaska are not very secret or hidden, but we like to visit them.  How do we get there?  We charter a boat from NW Explorations, of course!  Doesn’t everyone?

6. What was your favorite boat excursion and why?

We have several favorites. Our last Mother Goose Flotilla was hard to beat. The scenery was great, the weather was fantastic, and the group was really compatible. We almost always opted to raft up, so we could boat hop and party. Brian and the crew endured this daily ritual with a smile, particularly since they boat hopped with the rest of us.

Mother Goose cruisers preparing to raft together.
Cruising in Alaska

7. In your opinion, what are the best locations for spotting wildlife?

We ran across a school of about 150 Pacific White-Sided Dolphins near Echo Bay in the East Broughtons and they played in our bow wake for 30 minutes. We had great eagle spotting in Simoom Sound; we also saw some bears checking out the low tide.

Pacific White-Sided Dolphin near Echo Bay in the Broughtons.

We also saw whales, porpoises, and eagles in the Active Pass area and Blackfish Sound. Coming down the Pacific Coast from Eureka to Fort Bragg, the whale spouts stretched for miles the whole afternoon; seals were also rafting all over.

Humpback Whale in Blackfish Sound.
Eagles fishing and eating on the fly in Blackfish Sound.

In our own backyard, the San Francisco Bay area and Monterey Bay region are excellent for whale and otter watching, as well as sea birds of every description.

Sunfish off the Golden Gate Bridge.
Blue Whale south of Cape Mendocino, CA.

8. If you could give one piece of advice to your fellow boaters, what would it be?

Learn how to boat properly before you go boating and take that trip before it gets too late.

It takes time and dedication to really be a mariner. One of the things we really like about NW Explorations, beyond the company’s philosophy and staff, is their dedication to safe and courteous boating on properly maintained and operated equipment.

Say “hello” to fellow boaters in the anchorages and harbors. We get in the dinghy and go visiting, so we’ve met all manner of interesting folks and made lifelong friends doing this.

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

On our trip north in our Grand Banks we got caught up in a nasty rip current off the Columbia River Bar. We thought eight miles out was far enough, but it wasn’t that day. We found out later that once in a while the tides and currents conspire to create an area of severe chop and standing waves, and we happened to find it. We experienced an hour of great concern and concentration; boaters have to remain calm in these situations, particularly the captain.  If he or she loses it, things go downhill very quickly.

10. What is your favorite boating story?

In May of 2015, we took Time Out to the Golden Gate Bridge, turned right and headed for Canada. We were gone for 90 days. It was the trip of a lifetime, although the run up the Pacific Coast was a long and boring event. We found it much easier to charter a boat from NW Explorations.

On the hook at sunset at Cabbage Island in the Gulf Islands.

11. Do you have a favorite Captain Brian story?

In Lagoon Cove we were licking our wounds from an “exhilarating” passage up Johnstone Straight. We needed to be ahead of a weather system, so we thundered along, spray flying.  Brian asked each boat crew how they fared, and while all was well, we complained about the lack of a remote for the autopilot for the lower pilot house. Brian assessed the situation and promised to get back to us.

Well, in Port McNeil the next day, a remote was waiting for us in the office and by the time we left for Hurricane Cove, it was installed and life was MUCH easier.

Mother Goose flotilla setting out from Port McNeil.

12. Any parting words?

Be courteous and polite, particularly to your friends and family who are boating with you.  There’s no place for yelling and harsh words aboard your boat.  We always use “please” and “thank you” when communicating.

When anchoring, be prepared to anchor. When docking, be prepared to dock.

Go boating. It’s fun. Thanks for listening.

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2 thoughts on “May’s Skippers of the Month: Bonnie and Noel Diefendorf”

  1. We experienced both Bonnoi and Noel’s boating knowledge and experience , hospitality a ( nip of malt) and friendship last year on Mother goose.. Don Howell and Liz Venning , Clare Valley, south Australia

  2. Noel and Bonnie were a real treat to boat with on last years Mother Goose trip. Noel always had a good story or comment to share on the vhf not to mention a nice single malt in the evening. And the ferry tour courtesy of their daughter was tops. Congrats Bonnie and Noel!

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