Meet Paul & Tracy Crow | NW Explorations


Meet Paul & Tracy Crow

Our 2024 Desolation Sound departs on September 20, and as several of our boats make their way north, they’ll be led by Paul and Tracy on the lead vessel “Elizabeth Ruth.” Owned and operated by Paul and Tracy for the past 23+ years, the Elizabeth Ruth’s a rich history of exploring the PNW. We’re excited to have them as lead boat for our Desolation Sound flotilla this year, and hope you enjoy learning more about them.

Making a Living on Boats

Paul was born and raised in Napa CA. His parents owned a 1934, 57ft Sparkman & Stephens ocean racer where he spent a lot of time as a young man, sailing San Francisco Bay. They did an extensive refit on the boat and sailed her to the South Pacific. It was during that time he knew that he wanted to make a living on boats. Of course, being a 4th generation Merchant Marine, he wasn’t in unfamiliar territory!

Some years later he relocated to WA state with his wife and young son. He went to work for HMS Global Maritime running high speed passenger only, and car ferries in the Puget Sound. After several years he took a management position with HMSGM. This is where he setup and worked a large variety of ferries around the United States. He also, for many years, worked as a “training captain” to get professional mariners qualified on a wide variety of boats (single, double, triple screw vessels, water jet, double ended car ferries, high speed catamarans, large monohulls, etc.).

In addition to training and setting up operations he also oversaw commercial boat haul-outs on the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts. After many years he left HMS and took a Captain position with San Francisco Bay ferry. They were aggressively expanding their routes and adding boats. They had about 35 boats, all passenger only, on which he was qualified on faster than anyone had ever done previously. When it was time to return home to WA state, he took a Captain job running high speed ferries once again on the Puget Sound. Eventually, wanting more time to pursue other ventures on their “adventure yacht” Elizabeth Ruth, he retired from the ferry industry.

Fueling Planes at 40 below 0

Tracy was born into an Air Force family and lived in various places around the world. Her Dad was a pilot who flew the B57 extreme altitude airplane. He eventually retired as a Colonel in command of the air wing at Maelstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana. They decided to stop moving around and settled there with his family. Tracy had interest in aviation but wasn’t involved until some years later. She was attending school at Montana State University, Bozeman, when a friend talked she and her brother into taking an introductory flight. Hooked! (all three went on to become commercial airline pilots!) She then started taking lessons and eventually became a flight instructor and fueled planes (at 40 below 0, in the middle of winter) at the local airport.

After college and gaining additional flight time, she got a local freight pilot job in a small single engine plane. One reason, I believe, that she got the job is because it was flying freight through the mountains of MT at night in the winter. No one else would take the job! She did that for a few years until getting a freight job in CA with better weather and a larger airplane (and it didn’t try to kill her as often!). Eventually she flew for a commuter airline in Southern CA.

After a few years of gaining more flight time, Tracy started interviewing with the major airlines. She was hired in 1989 by United Airlines (with an enormous amount of flight hours under her belt) as a flight engineer on the DC10. Some months later, while still a probationary pilot, she decided to upgrade to a First Officer position on the B737. This was rather unusual as most won’t risk a job that took 10+ years to get! Eventually she upgraded to Captain on the B737. This was when she was invited to become an instructor at the United Airlines training center in Denver. During this time, she was also invited to become a pilot interviewer for UAL, which she did for some years. She then also became a Line Check Airman, which is a pilot that “signs off” another pilot after flying several qualifying trips with them. 

Some years later she took an international First officer position on the B777; eventually upgrading to Captain, flying all over the world. It was here that she earned the highly coveted Pilot of the Year award in the B777 fleet. She retired from an incredible career of flying last year.

Paul and Tracy bought the Elizabeth Ruth 23+ years ago. After running her for a couple of years in her original configuration as a commercial fishing vessel, they had decided on the redesign and work soon began. It took about 3 years to complete; doing it in stages so they could go cruising each summer. They did the work along with 1 full time certified welder, 1 mechanical tech, and thousands of man-hours. The Elizabeth Ruth has been cruising/exploring the coast of North America ever since!

Five Generations of Merchant Mariners

They have 2 sons which were raised on the boat and spent every summer and periods in the winter cruising the boat. Both boys chose to become professional mariners and are now 5th generation Merchant Mariners. The older son currently holds an Unlimited Chief Engineers license and works for Washington State Ferries (WSF), though he did sail “deep sea” for a few years. His younger brother currently holds an Unlimited Mates license after attending the Marine Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies. He is currently completing his pilotage/training at WSF. Once completed and working as a Mate, he will start accruing sea time to become a Captain.

You’re invited to join Paul and Tracy on this year’s Desolation Sound flotilla with NW Explorations. You will have plenty of time to tour the Elizabeth Ruth yourself, while writing your own story of exploration. Visit our flotilla page, choose your yacht, and we’ll see you on the docks!

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