36 QUESTIONS WITH CAPTAIN VAL DOAN, S/Y OBSESSION
For those of you who have had the pleasure of working with Captain Val Doan, you know that she is a straight shooter with a great sense of humor and an incredible work ethic. For those who find her name familiar, but can’t seem to place how you know her, you may have read about her through her participation in Team Wave and her commitment to the Safe Haven Foundation (which aims to raise awareness and help make a difference in the fight against domestic violence globally). OR, you may have read one of the many articles she has contributed over the years to yachting publications and online news outlets. We are very proud to call Captain Doan a client, and moreover, we are pretty thrilled that she had the time to sit down with us for this interview.
36 QUESTIONS WITH CAPTAIN VAL DOAN, S/Y OBSESSION
(AXXESS MARINE) How did you become involved in Yachting?
(CAPTAIN) I was aboard at four weeks old, learned to walk onboard, and lived aboard a Hughes 27′ in ’68-70 in the Bahamas and Florida with my three brothers, parents, and two dogs. I went to local school in West End, Grand Bahama, bought my first boat at 21, and at age 24, I found out that there was this big industry I was unaware of.
(AXXESS MARINE) What was your first job in yachting?
(CAPTAIN) I was working weekends aboard a three-masted Tall Ship Rattlesnake. That’s when I discovered what chartering was. At age 24, I quit my senior supervisor position in a publishing company, left my husband and dog, and did my first deliveries from New York to BVI in November of 1985 in brand new C&Cs, heading for North/South Charters in BVI. The next summer I was 1st Mate aboard T/S Rattlesnake, and then I became Charter Captain for North/South, as well as an Instructor and a Delivery Captain. After that, I ran a charter company in Nanny Cay, bought my own C&C 40 to do charters with, raced, cruised the Pacific numerous times, and gained 150,000 offshore miles as Captain over my career.
(AXXESS MARINE) What is your most memorable experience at Sea?
(CAPTAIN) Being knocked down in a fierce Nor’Easter in Gulf Stream, during a delivery on Christmas Day 1985 on a C&C 41 that we named Comet. We had 40-foot seas of whitewater, Hawaii 5-0 style. I was scared shitless.
(AXXESS MARINE) How long have you been with S/Y Obsession?
(CAPTAIN) Thirteen years with same owners. I project managed the build of S/Y Obsession three years ago.
(AXXESS MARINE) What is it that keeps you in the industry?
(CAPTAIN) Excellent adventures and getting to visit friends around the world. Seeing the world while being well paid. Freedom from four walls. It’s the best life ever.
(AXXESS MARINE) Hard to believe it was just over a decade ago that the smartphone was beginning to rise in popularity and availability across the US, Europe and Asia. How has the acceleration of technology impacted your career?
(CAPTAIN) I was reporting on America’s Cups in New Zealand and those who had digital cameras and WiFi while out on the race course were the ones who got best jobs. I couldn’t financially keep up with technology and maintain that level with the likes of Onne van der Wall and those professionals. So I stuck with yachting.
(AXXESS MARINE) Are there marine industry innovations on the horizon that excite or interest you?
(CAPTAIN) The technology is moving so fast and IT training is necessary in order to keep up. We had our Navylec remotely debugged yesterday. While it’s exciting to see these innovations, it also scares me that we are controlled by computers that can, in turn, be controlled remotely. I am concerned that systems are not always built with proper overrides, making manual takeovers near impossible should a system fail.
The industry is not regulated enough in that area, and companies need to comply with proper fail-safes to be able to operate safely in emergencies. If we hadn’t been on-site for our build in order to catch these shortfalls, there would have been many more mistakes made by builders. As it was, we missed a few, such as no override for hydraulics, which we found out the hard way (when we really needed it).
(AXXESS MARINE) What was your take away from that experience and how have you used it to address changes that need to be made?
(CAPTAIN) We formed a Captains forum and were able to warn other Captains of failures and omissions, so that we can build better, safer vessels. I feel we need more ways to safeguard owners from companies or individuals that do not comply, or who try to take advantage of owners with money. I am a big advocate for owners, as well as for young women in the industry. Someone needs to help protect the unknowing so they are not taken advantage of.
(AXXESS MARINE) Is there a person or people in the industry you admire?
(CAPTAIN) The sailor I admired most was Sir Peter Blake, who lived his life to the fullest until he was killed. He kept trying until he succeeded, and he conquered the Whitbread, America’s Cup, and was an amazing leader and yachtsman.
The next is Chris Bertish, who SUP’d unassisted, across the Atlantic. He used to crew for me as a young man, and he is on an amazing trajectory. Watch for his next big project.
Tania Abei was motivational for me, as she did what we didn’t know we could do at that age 18. Then Laura Dekker came along and smashed it at age 14.
Susanne Huber, who is a good friend, was the first woman to single hand the Northwest Passage, and she just finished the Longue Route around the world race, alone. While boats in the Golden Globe Race were being rolled, pitch-poled, and dismasted, she has just trucked along, riding out the gales on her Jordan drogue. Rather than stopping, she is carrying on and doing a Moitessier!
(AXXESS MARINE) What quality do you believe a person must possess to succeed in the yachting industry?
(CAPTAIN) Perseverance. Especially as a woman in a male-dominated industry.
(AXXESS MARINE) What do you think is the biggest challenge that the marine industry faces in the next few years?
(CAPTAIN) Keeping up with technology and incorporating it safely.
(AXXESS MARINE) Which marine industry events or shows do you look forward to each year and why?
(CAPTAIN) FLIBS (the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show), for the vendor displays of the latest and greatest vessels available on the market.
(AXXESS MARINE) What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
(CAPTAIN) Get your instructor certification… This was 33 years ago, when I got my foot in the door to the industry. It helped me to get a BVI work permit and be accepted as an equal in the industry, with plenty of work available to me. I was able to prove I was as capable as the guys. This led to me eventually being able to mentor young women who want to join the industry.
(AXXESS MARINE) Best advice you’ve given to someone else?
(CAPTAIN) Get your instructor certification. (see answer above.)
(AXXESS MARINE) What is the trait you most admire in others?
(AXXESS MARINE) What is the trait you most deplore in others?
(AXXESS MARINE) Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
(AXXESS MARINE) What hashtag would your crew/friends use to describe you?
(AXXESS MARINE) Do you have a favorite quote or personal motto?
(CAPTAIN) Should I stay or should I go.
(AXXESS MARINE) Favorite book or a book you are reading now?
(CAPTAIN) The Four Agreements.
(AXXESS MARINE) What do you look forward to doing when the season slows down?
(CAPTAIN) Go to my house in Nova Scotia to have awesome kitchen parties, race classic schooners with my friends, race my C&C 27, and do projects that I love.
(AXXESS MARINE) Favorite trip you have taken?
(CAPTAIN) Crossing the South Pacific and road tripping around New Zealand, which I have been going back to since 1989.
(AXXESS MARINE) Country/place you want to visit next?
(CAPTAIN) Tierra del Fuego and Antarctica on a research vessel.
(AXXESS MARINE) Do you have a favorite sport to watch?
(CAPTAIN) Cross country horse trials.
(AXXESS MARINE) Are you involved in any sports/hobbies?
(CAPTAIN) Sailing. Go-fast tris. I just did Around New Caledonia on a Crowther 41 trimaran with Magenta Women’s team. I won Newport-Bermuda ’06 with my TeamWAVE; we were the first women to win. And my personal highlight was winning the Navigators Award.
Lightning Round of Questions
(AXXESS MARINE) Thank you for indulging us in this sort of lightning round of questions. THIS OR THAT WITH CAPTAIN DOAN:
(AM) iPhone (IOS) or Android? (CAPTAIN) iPhone.
(AM) Phone call or text? (CAPTAIN) Call.
(AM) Digital watch or analog? (CAPTAIN) Digital.
(AM) Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram? (CAPTAIN) Facebook.
(AM) Music or podcast? (CAPTAIN) Music.
(AM) High tech or low tech? (CAPTAIN) Love my iPad.
(AM) Cocktail or Beer? (CAPTAIN) Vodka and….
(AM) Coffee or Tea? (CAPTAIN) Coffee.
(AM) Batman or Superman? (CAPTAIN) Batman.
(AM) Late night or early morning? (CAPTAIN) Late morning. haha!
(AM) Med Season or Caribbean Season? (CAPTAIN) Carib for seeing my old friends. Med for exploring great countries.
Thanks very much to Captain Val Doan for taking the time out of her hectic schedule to speak with us.
If you are in the Fort Lauderdale area in early April, Captain Doan is a featured panelist in the Propelling the Power of Women program at the USSA’s Superyacht Summit 2019. This is a session that seeks to empower and promote women’s leadership roles within the maritime industry. The Superyacht Summit is being held Tuesday April 9, 2019 at the Broward County Convention Center.
If you are a yacht captain, owner, or crewmember, check out Axxess Marine for 4G/LTE data plans while cruising North America and the Mediterranean.