Guest Interview Denis and Mary Umstot – Teka III

So, Denis, tell us a little something about your cruising to date and where you have been so far?

We have been cruising for over 35 years starting in the Pacific Northwest when we lived in Gig Harbor, Washington. For the first 15 years we cruised in summer when I did not have to teach at the University of Puget Sound. We mostly visited the coast from Gig Harbor (near Tacoma) to the Broughtons of British Columbia.

We started out with a 23’ Tiderunner full displacement cabin cruiser with a small flying bridge. It was powered by a VW diesel—very economical but the marine conversion was not very reliable. Six years later we decided we needed a bigger boat so we bought a 37’ Taiwan trawler built by Hershine with twin Lehmans. We called her Panda. It was a great boat in the marina or at anchor, but it was no sea boat—it hated chop from any direction; and Mary hated rolling on its hard chine displacement bottom.

We owned Panda for 10 years had many delightful trips and a few scary ones. The worst I recall was going through Seymour Narrows on an outgoing tide and rushing down the channel at 14 knots—double our usual speed. Everything was OK until we got to the entrance to the Johnstone Straits. A strong wind was blowing against the even stronger current and created a very nasty, steep breaking chop. Panda thought she was a submarine. She buried her nose in every sea and the wave rolled up toward the cabin. We somehow made a turn and headed toward a small cove, called Mary Cove on the East side. We got out of the breaking seas and were looking for an anchorage when our hydraulic steering failed! With twin engines I was able to maneuver enough to set the anchor. I found a leak where the hose, which had recently been installed by the yard, had blown off. I didn’t have any hydraulic fluid so I used motor oil to fill the system.

Sometime later, I retired from the University of Puget Sound and headed for a three year teaching assignment at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. During our time there we were able to come back to the Northwest every year for a few weeks and do a little more cruising. On our last trip back we had an unsolicited offer to buy Panda and we sold her without a hitch.

It was only a short time later that we decided we wanted a more seaworthy and comfortable boat so we could cruise to Alaska and Queen Charlotte Islands. As we were looking for the ideal boat, we found out about passagemakers and discovered Beebe and Leishman’s book, Voyaging Under Power, 3rd Edition, published a few years before. We began to actively look for passagemakers to buy. While in San Diego in early 1997 we found a Beebe-designed 52’ passagemaker, built by Knight and Carver in 1981, called Teka III. We negotiated and finally concluded our purchase that spring. We did a lot of updating and headed up the coast to Seattle in May.

We moved aboard Teka III and began learning about offshore cruising. We made an aborted trip south in October of that year. The storm pattern did not cooperate so we returned to Washington and left the boat in Canada. The next summer we cruised on our first of many trips to Alaska. We also circumnavigated Vancouver Island. These voyages helped build our confidence. So in 1998 we left in August to go south, well ahead of the fall storms, but at the height of the Northwest gales off the coast of Northern California. We saw the largest seas that we have ever seen on the trip. The boat proved herself and we gained more confidence.

We did some additional boat work in San Diego and headed South down the Baja in late November. We tarried for awhile in the Sea of Cortez and then made steady progress down the Mexican coast, port hopping when it was convenient. We encountered a “Tehuantepecker” off the coast of southern Mexico which required cruising almost on the beach in winds that were pegging our wind gauge at 80 knots!

After that adventure we went through the canal and eventually wound up on the East Coast, cruising mostly in the ICW as far as Maine. We also spent a winter in the Bahamas. By this time, 2001, we had decided to cross the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. We spent the next years cruising the Med and Black Sea. We wintered one year in Barcelona, one in Gaeta, Italy, and two in Marmaris, Turkey.

In 2005 we headed back to the Caribbean via the Canary Islands. We did not most of the Leeward and Windward Islands, summering in Trinidad. Then on to the ABC islands, Cartagena and back to the canal in 2007, up the cost of Mexico for a summer on the hard in Guaymas, then up the Baja Bash and a return to the Pacific Northwest in 2008.

Since returning, we have done a lot of local cruising and three more trips to Alaska.

If you are interested in the details of our visit to 40 countries, Mary wrote a great book about our adventures: Voyaging to the Mediterranean Under Power, available through in print or on kindle.

Why did you choose your boat?

Teka III is a “grandmother” to the Nordhavn family. When we were looking for a boat in 1997 we considered the N46, a great boat. However, at that time they were pretty expensive and we were just retiring so we did not think we could afford that luxury. Fortunately, our boat has been excellent and very reliable so I do not regret the purchase we made 20 years ago.

What has been your cruising highlight so far?

There are too many highlights to identify one specifically. Certainly our time in the Med was wonderful. We also found the Azores a surprising wonderful location. The circumnavigation of the Black Sea was an experience of a lifetime. Ocean passages leave many really positive memories. And our favourite place is still the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, and Alaska. It is hard to beat the variety and options available here.

Do you travel with an animal/s on board?

No. We love dogs, but they present too many difficulties with all our travels.

In your past life what did you and Mary do?

I spent 20 years in the Air Force, mostly teaching and consulting in organizational behavior and organizational development. We lived in London and Bangkok and were stationed in several stateside locations. After retiring from the Air Force, I taught management topics at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. After 12 years we moved to Hong Kong where I taught at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. I have a PhD from the University of Washington in Management and Organization.

Mary spent our Air Force years volunteering at various service and medical facilities. She received her Bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Washington and her master’s degree in clinical psychology from the University of Dayton. She worked in several psychology related jobs before becoming a free lance writer. She published many articles and several books related to our cruising experiences.

Denis, if there is one thing Mary does that irritates you while underway what would that be?

We get along best at sea. Neither of us can recall any irritations.

And it’s only fair I ask Mary the same question, so Mary, if there was one thing Denis does that irritates you what would that be?

None noted. External sources like the lock tenders going into Lake Union in Seattle sometimes cause irritation.

Now I understand you edited the 4th Edition of Voyaging Under Power, how did that come about?

I am the co-author of VUP, 4th Edition. I was recruited by International Marine and Mary to revise the classic book. I was quite reluctant to accept the task since I had done two editions of a textbook on Organizational Behavior and knew there were huge time commitments involved. On the plus side the information and experiences available on power voyaging had expanded exponentially since the Beebe/Leishman version of 1994. I also believed that over 15 years of voyaging and over 50,000 nautical miles of travel gave me a lot of experience that would be useful in a revision. The revision turned out to be a labor of love. I enjoyed the research and writing much more than when I was writing textbooks. I think I was able to capture a lot of the information that was available in 2012 to provide a basic guide for the growing number of world cruisers. Many new topics were covered and almost 80% of the book was new in the 4th edition.

Onto irritating things, have you ever run out of something while at sea that has caused problems?

Since we bought Teka III I cannot recall any time that we have run out of anything. I am one of those overcautious cruisers that tries to have spares for everything.

Would you describe yourselves as more hunters or more gathers?

We are happy in both modes, although about all I hunt is fish. We love to visit local markets and, if available, forage in the jungle for bananas, mangoes, etc.

Why did you name your vessel TEKA III?

We kept the original boat name because it was unique and we liked it. The original owner had a racehorse called Teka and this was his third boat.

What other names did you consider?


What is the one lesson every boater should learn?

It is hard to single out only one lesson. If you read VUP you will note hundreds of lessons from me and other cruisers. Perhaps the best single one is to pay attention to weather and sea conditions before departure. It is difficult to enjoy your cruise in seriously adverse weather or seas.

What is your favourite anchorage and why?

We have several anchorages in the Prideaux Haven areas of British Columbia. Scenery is great, water is warm in late summer, plenty of space, excellent weather.

What is your favorite Marina and why?

We enjoyed wintering in the water at the Port Vell, Barcelona, Spain. It is right in the center of the city with easy access to shopping, culture, cycling, and marine services. Also a large group of wintering cruisers made for lots of fun social events. In other words, a perfect marina, except for the pickpocket problem.

What is your favourite quote and why?

Many cruisers share my love for this Mark Twin quote: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” I have always tried to live by this approach, even before heard of Mark Twain quote.

What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened to you while at sea?

When we were circumnavigating the Black Sea on the KAYRA rally, we were in the company of mostly sailboats. At the beginning, the sailors said, “We go a lot slower than you so don’t expect us until later.” However, the docking positions were assigned on a first-come-first-served basis, resulting in some poor locations for the “late sailboats”. After this happened a number of times, the sailboats miraculously gained speed to where many were passing us! We found that many could easily cruise a 8 knots plus if they raised their rpms. We were often in the middle of the fleet after that.

What’s the biggest mistake you have ever made on the water?

I had always been reluctant to enter an unknown harbor at night. When we arrived from our Canaries to Antigua passage we were ready to set the anchor and stop. Looking at the chart of English Harbour, we saw range lights for entry and a nice channel to the left after crossing the bar. We also had friends on N46, Suprr who were anchored there and offered to guide us in since it was about an hour after dark. We pulled in our paravanes, but left our poles out since they are steel and quite heavy to raise. The first problem was the range lights were not working. OK, Suprr could guide us in very slowly. Next, the harbor was full of anchored sailboats, including throughout the channel. Then many of these sailboats started shinning their powerful searchlights right at us rather than on their masts—night vision shot! Then it started to rain heavily! By some miracle, Suprr was able to lead us to an open area where we could put the hook down, but it was a miracle we didn’t hit someone on the way in.

What is your most hated boat job?

Denis – Changing sewage hoses and repairing heads

Mary – I hate going through the locks in Seattle

Tell us a little something about TEKA III?

Teka III is 52’ with 16’ beam and 6’ draft. She was originally designed by Robert Beebe and modified during the building phase by Knight and Carver. She is built of fiberglass over Airex foam core. She has crossed the Atlantic on her own bottom from the Pacific Northwest six times. During her early years she cruised the French Canals by removing her masts—not possible today due to draft restrictions and permanent height changes. She has four watertight compartments with separate bilge pumps. Power is a single Gardner 6LXB diesel with Twin Disk transmission and a 40” prop. Come home is via the main shaft with a hydraulically powered motor from a Westerbeke 58hp. Electricity is generated hydraulically via the main or auxillary engine. She has a hydraulic American bowthruster. Hydraulic components are often industrial, not marine and are designed for backhoes, bulldozers, etc. (The original owner owned a lumber mill so he trusted these types of hydraulic systems). In the past 35 years they have proved bulletproof.

What is the one thing you are most afraid of Denis

Getting a large hawser wrapped around the prop at sea. ? (Has not happened, but I have wing on wing sails to use for get-home if the main shaft is tangled.)

Mary – Fire, rogue waves, and something happening to Denis (none have been experienced)

What’s your favourite photo ever taken while at sea and why?

Obviously, there are many favorites, but we like the aerial photo taken in the Black Sea and the big wave approaching from the stern in the Caribbean.

What would you never leave behind (besides each other) when heading out to sea?

GPS and Sunglasses

Mary tell us something about yourselves that nobody knows?

We just celebrated our sixtieth wedding anniversary on June 2, 2017 and yes, we were high-school sweethearts!

And finally, where to next?

Although we have retired from ocean voyaging due to our age, we still cruise every summer in the Northwest. Last year we spent four months on a trip to Alaska.

Good luck with your travels!

Their blog site can be found HERE

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4 thoughts on “Guest Interview Denis and Mary Umstot – Teka III”

  1. Your interview with Denis was great.
    I would be interested in getting an opinion from Denis concerning the design of Teka 3 and the possibility that it may have been the inspiration for Jeff Leishman in designing motorsailer N 56. When I saw the photo you included that shows Teka 3 in front of what looks like Gibraltar and also the photo taken in the Black Sea ….I was immediately reminded of Motorsailer N 56.

  2. SUBJECT: Re: Guest Interview Denis and Mary Umstot – Teka III

    Dear Captain Ellingford,

    I think I enjoyed there story the very most of all that I have read so far.
    I thoroughly love all of your adventures.

    Warmest regards,

    John A. Middleton

    On Oct 30, 2017 5:55 PM, “WWW.PENDANABLOG.COM” ( =””> wrote:


  3. Response to a post by 1114john who said:

    SUBJECT: Re: Guest Interview Denis and Mary Umstot – Teka III

    Dear Captain Ellingford,

    I think I enjoyed there story the very most of all that I have read so far.
    I thoroughly love all of your adventures.

    Warmest regards,

    John A. Middleton

    On Oc…

    John, I am glad you enjoyed it!! 🙂

  4. Response to a post by Ivo Leemet who said:

    Your interview with Denis was great.
    I would be interested in getting an opinion from Denis concerning the design of Teka 3 and the possibility that it may have been the inspiration for Jeff Leishman in designing motorsailer N 56. When I saw the ph…

    Denis will no doubt read this comment and reply in due course. Glad you enjoyed the interview.

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