October’s Skipper of the Month: Jean Turnbull | NW Explorations


October’s Skipper of the Month: Jean Turnbull


This month’s Skipper of the Month is our dear friend, Jean Turnbull.

A charter customer since 2011, Jean is one of the most experienced mariners we charter to. Jean and her partner, Priscilla Myers, have cruised all over the world, including an almost one-year circumnavigation around eastern North America and an 18-week trip around Alaska’s Inside Passage.

Check out Jean’s favorite boating trips, tips, and stories!

1. How did you first get into boating?

I first got into boating as a young adult during vacations on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.  At that time, my interests were water skiing and fishing. In the 80s, my partner and I purchased a second home on Cape Cod, MA, so buying a Boston Whaler for fishing just seemed to be the natural thing to do.

Upon retirement, we decided to buy a boat and do the “Great Loop”—a 6,300-mile circumnavigation of eastern North America by water.  The trip took us 362 days, and we enjoyed every minute of it.  The next year we cruised the Bahamas during the winter and in the spring headed for the Canadian Maritimes via the Intracoastal Waterway, the Rideau Canal in Ontario, the St. Lawrence River to the north Atlantic. During that year, we put about 6,500 miles under our keel.

In order to become a better-trained seaman, I pursued a 100-ton near coastal merchant mariner’s certificate at Massachusetts Maritime Academy.  Since 2011, we have chartered “Dream Catcher” from NW Explorations three times:  Inside Passage for 18 weeks (3,700 nm); Sitka to Prince William Sound for 4 weeks (1,200 nm); and west coast of Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii for 4 weeks (1,400 nm).

2. What are your favorite boating destinations?

Although Canada and the eastern U.S. are scenic, nothing compares with the waters of British Columbia and Alaska for wildlife and scenery.

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

We like to explore new places rather than return to spots we have been to previously.  Every cruise results in new, first-time adventures.

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

Our most unusual wildlife sighting was a Kermode bear (“spirit bear”) in Culpepper Lagoon. While preparing our evening meal, we spotted it eating salmon berries on the hillside.  The next morning, it was foraging on a sand bar near our anchorage.

The other spot we found fascinating was Pack Creek Bear Sanctuary on Admiralty Island where we had fabulous close encounters with brown bears.  It’s a permit area facility, which fills with salmon in July and August and is a rich feeding area for the bears. We anchored offshore overnight and spent the next day watching the mature and young bears feeding and at play.

5. What was your favorite boat excursion and why?

Three trips come to mind.  On the East Coast, we got into a pod of white beluga whales in the Saguenay River, a tributary of the St. Lawrence.  In Alaska, we enjoyed our journey from Sitka to Prince William Sound and the wonderful natural beauty of the Sound.  Most recently, we went to Haida Gwaii, a very different experience with a focus on the Haida native culture rather than wildlife and scenery.  We visited the Watchmen Sites in the Gwaii Haanas National Park Preserve and were immersed in First Nations history and the arts.

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

Keep yourself open to new experiences and opportunities to explore.

7. Have you ever had any perilous journeys (i.e., storms, breakdowns, etc.)? How did you get through them?

We have had some rough trips which were uncomfortable but would not be termed “perilous.”  We keep abreast of the forecasted weather and stay in port when the conditions look foreboding.  We are also rigorous about the maintenance of our boats.  One of the principal reasons we charter from NW Explorations is their attention to proper preventive maintenance of their fleet.

8. What is your favorite boating story?

Somewhere on the Inside Passage we encountered a couple of humpback whales flapping their fins on the water surface.  We shut down our engines and watched for about 30 minutes as they cavorted near our boat.  Every time we started our engines to leave, they came closer and seemed to be asking us to stay.  One of the whales was so close we could have stepped off onto its back.  It had a fluke pattern that reminded us of a piano keyboard, so we lovingly named it “Steinway.” Steinway stayed with us for over an hour just showing off.

9. Do you have a favorite Captain Brian story?

We have never participated in a Mother Goose or any other guided cruises so do not have a Captain Brian story.  However, stay tuned, because Brian and I, along with other riders, are in the early stages of planning an East Coast motorcycle trip from New England to Georgia in the fall of 2017.  With Brian on his Harley and me on my BMW, I am sure that several “Brian” stories will emerge.

10. How did you get connected with NW Explorations?

By 2011, we had done a lot of boating on the East Coast and Great Lakes but never in the Pacific Northwest or Alaska.  In 2011 we took a road trip in our RV to interview charter companies in Washington with the intention of chartering a boat for 18 weeks in 2012 to do the Inside Passage.  We met with at least 10 companies and were the most favorably impressed with NW Explorations and Brian Pemberton and his staff.  We were so pleased with the quality of the fleet and the professionalism of the NWE staff that we have been chartering with the company ever since.

11. What’s the best part about boating?

One of the best parts about boating is the interaction with friends and family who join us on the water.  Sharing of experiences while exploring new places is a special time shared with others.  On all three of our charters from NWE, we have been fortunate to have Craig and Peggy Ashworth, boating friends from Cape Cod, join us in seeking new adventures.


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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *