Guest Interview Don & Sharry Stabbert – MV Starr

Don and Sharry Stabbert – MV Starr

Don & Sharry Stabbert

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

We have owned Starr since 2000 and have cruised more than 70,000nm.

We have taken Starr from Seattle to Mexico, across the Pacific from the Marquesas Islands to New Zealand – (back to Marquesas & return to NZ); across the Atlantic to the West coast of France and then into the Med. We have also taken her to Hawaii, Micronesia, Guam and Japan, where we cruised for a year. Then back to Hawaii for 2 years; home to Seattle for a refit; and our most recent trip was to bring her from Seattle to Hawaii a just few weeks ago.

MV Starr coming into Waikiki Yacht Club after a long trip from Seattle WA

MV Starr all tied up and at rest

Why did you choose Northern Marine?

Starr and the boat, Bruce & Joan Kessler’s Spirit of Zopilote, were the first two boats ever built by Northern Marine and, in my opinion, the best looking, as they both have a very low profile. After these two boats, Northern Marine started to jack the boats up in the air a couple of feet, and they just kept getting higher and higher and wider. As soon as we saw Starr we fell in love with her and still think that she is the most beautiful boat we have ever seen.

I understand you have cruised with San Souci (Ken & Roberta), Seabird (Steve & Carol) and Grey Pearl (Braun & Tina) when in Japan. How was that?

That was delightful! We had never cruised in a flotilla before and I can now see a lot of advantages of having a group of boats and all the support that provides. We cruised with them for a full month in Japan, and then they continued on to Taiwan & Hong Kong while we stayed in Japan for another year.

The Sushi Run fleet plus MV Starr in Japan

What has been your cruising highlight so far?

Cruising in Japan! By far! Hardly anybody cruises in Japan on an ongoing basis. People pass through Japan on the way to and from Alaska, South Pacific or China. Hardly anyone spends any real time in Japan. Our shipping agent mentioned that we were the only boat cruising Japan on an ongoing basis during the year we were there. The people, food and the culture were extraordinary.

Radar lit up with targets as MV Starr entered Osaka, Japan

So, you have arguably the best marina berth here in Hawaii – how did you manage that?

On the way to Japan we stopped in Hawaii and just loved being here at the Waikiki Yacht Club, so we became members.. While we were here we were told that a Nordhavn 55 that was going to Europe had just vacated the slip that we were in, and if we got on the waiting list we might qualify for the slip. At WYC the priority was by time on the waiting list and by assigning the largest boats to the largest slips. The other large boats ahead of us on the waiting list declined to take it, so we simply lucked out! We continued to pay for our moorage while on “cruising leave” in order to assure that it would be available to us upon our return.

Don & Sharry in Kyoto, Japan

Don, Sharry , Steve & Carol Argosy (N62 Seabird) in Japan

Do you travel with an animal/s on board?

When we can we have our cat Blossom with us. The problem is she is not a good sailor and often gets seasick. She recently cruised with us on Starr this last summer in SE Alaska. Blossom is really good as long as the water is flat, but there is “no way” she is going to cross oceans with us.

Blossom and Sharry on watch!

Time to relax in Hanalei Bay, HI

In your past life what did you and Sharry do?

We have been real-estate developers, builders and managers. All of our property has been on the water or a few feet from the water in Seattle and Kirkland. Mostly all of our projects involve marinas and shipyards. Our most recent project was converting the Marco Shipyard in Seattle into a superyacht facility. The Marco shipyard had been operated by the same family since 1947 and many of the boats featured in “The Deadliest Catch” were built there; however, the owner was ready to retire. It is probably the most fun project we have done and we like it so much we live there. Salmon Bay Marine Center (SBMC) is where Jeff Sansom of Pacific Yacht Management is located and, all of the GSSR boats (San Souci (Ken & Roberta), Seabird (Steve & Carol) and Grey Pearl (Braun & Tina) did their prep work there before they went to Japan via the Aleutians. Jeff still helps Ken maintain San Souci no matter where in the world it might be.

Photo from the water of SBMC

Don with his cold weather gear on in Tracy Arm, Alaska

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

Don is always in a hurry to leave and move onto the next place, where I like to stay in a place a little longer. I have to get him to slow down a bit as he is always ready to go.

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

I CAN’T THINK OF ANYTHING THAT IRRITATES ME WITH SHARRY! And I am really lucky that she loves making ocean passages.

(PS-Sharry edited this previous comment.)

Don being busy, busy, busy

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

Yes, when we do long passages Sharry and I manage the boat solo but anything more than 800nms we get tired. So what we do is we invite friends, we have lots of Nordhavn friends and feel like we are part of the Nordhavn family. We invite friends on board or experienced sailors – our policy is, or the wish is, that when our friends join us on board each one cooks one or two meals during the voyage. So what they do before we leave is to give Sharry a list of what they need to be able to cook the dinner of their choosing.

Well, on a recent trip from Hawaii to the Marshall Islands around the half way mark it was Dave Utley’s turn to cook, anyway he yells from the galley, “Sharry where’s the heavy cream?” and she says, “Dave, what heavy cream?”, and he says, “The heavy cream that I had on my list that you were supposed to have bought?” Well, she showed him the list and it wasn’t there. Dave it has to be said is a perfectionist and decided he couldn’t cook his meal without the heavy cream so he put things off for a while.

At this point of our trip we hadn’t seen another ship for days and days and then finally we see a freighter come over the horizon. I get on the radio and ask the freighter, (the guy in the wheelhouse who spoke broken English), if they spoke English and if they could get someone on the radio who did. I then explained that our chef required heavy cream and then, there is a long pause. A while later they get back on the radio and say, “I’m sorry, we have no heavy cream.” A day later, another ship comes over the horizon and it’s from Japan heading to Panama and we again ask the same question “Our chef’s in pretty dire straits, do you have any heavy cream”. After a little he says, “I am so very sorry, we have no heavy cream.” Then he says, “You Americans are so funny….!”

And so that was a crisis of mammoth proportion. However, we finally managed to talk Dave into using sour cream and it worked just fine and the meal was delicious!

Don pointing out that it is now Dave’s turn to cook!

Would you describe yourselves as more hunters or more gathers?

I think gatherers because I (Sharry) always over-provision. I make long lists and go out and get all the stuff we need. Don has more spare parts on board probably than anybody you will ever meet except for, maybe, Milt Baker.

Why did you name your vessel Starr?

Our boat was a year and a half old when we purchased her from Charles and Patty Hathaway from Marina del Rey, and was named Starr. She was named in honour of the Patty’s older brother who had died at a young age. We really liked Charles and Patty, so we decided to keep the name Starr. It is an easy name to remember and pronounce, especially if you are in travelling in foreign countries. We also think that it is a rather elegant name.

MV Starr at rest in Hakahau

What other names did you consider?

Our previous power boats were named Skookum;, which means “powerful and strong” in Pacific NW Chinook language (as in “Skookumchuck Rapids), but as this name would be hard for Port Captains or Customs Officials to understand and pronounce, we thought Starr would be better.

Previous boat a 47’ Bill Garden

Previous boat a 63’ Ed Monk Jnr

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

The heavy cream incident by far!

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

Sometimes when leaving port, and I am in a hurry as I am always excited to get out to sea, I would leave port and be plotting my course at the same time. Anyway a couple of these times I have come close, very close, to hard objects, not that I have ever touched one it needs to be said. So now, I try to do a little more pre-planning which is probably a good thing!

Tell us a little something about Starr?

Starr is a 77ft long, 100T, single-screw boat. We use about 150HP from our 400HP Cummins 855. The boat is interesting, in that when we bought her we noticed that the rudder activity was just not right. I used to operate tugboats as a young man and I knew she didn’t feel normal. I talked to some naval architects and the guys we were talking to recommend that we go to twin rudders on the single screw. Starr has (2)-12sq ft rudders that are placed 34inches apart on a 50inch propeller. She now tracks like a slot car!

When we come across the Alenuihaha channel, which as you know can get pretty nasty, we were in 10ft seas, 5 second periods on our quarter but when you go down to the lazarette you see that the rudder only moves a few degrees either way. In the run from Seattle to Hawaii we had a Nordhavn owner on board who couldn’t believe the rudder moved so little while we continued to track dead straight.

(Sharry) – One of my favorite things to do on an Engine Room Check is to go into the Lazarette and wait, and wait, and wait to see if the tiller arm is really going to move.

(Don) Most recently, 18 mo.ago, we did a major refit which included cutting the stern off and adding 23½” to the stern and a lot more.

If you want to read the gory details go to:

MV Starr’s Rudders

Now at this point I usually ask the question “Are you scared of spiders?” however, in favour of Sharry’s suggestion which is to replace the spider question with “So what are you afraid of?” the usual question will no longer be asked. So, what are you afraid of?

Hang on, I want to respond to this…I looked up Australian spiders and have decided that I am now afraid of spiders.

Sorry Sharry, that question is now deleted and will never be asked again in favour of your suggestion, so, what are you afraid of?

Sharry – This is going to be hard to believe, but I am afraid of drowning. I have this huge fear of the water and as a matter of fact, I wouldn’t even take swimming lessons as a child. It all stems from when I was a toddler: my earliest memory is of going to the ocean with my family, and falling down in the waves, and being washed around under the water only to be rescued by my father scooping me up, wrapping me in a blanket and putting me in the back seat of a car. That’s my earliest memory, and to this day I still think I am going to die by drowning.

Don – Mean sharks, Nasty sharks, Bad sharks, any sharks but really nothing else scares me.

Don & Sharry enjoying a drink at Waikiki Yacht club

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

Both of us agree that our favourite photo is one taken by Victor Grabner (N50 owner) on the passage from Japan to Hawaii in 2011; it is at that “golden” time of day when the sun is setting on the ocean. He captured the reflection of the water and the sunset on the exterior of Starr’s Pilot House and life ring.

Photo taken by Victor Garbner

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

We both totally agree on this one, we would never leave behind our espresso machine.

Sharry tell us something about yourselves that nobody knows?

For me I think my fear of drowning is probably the biggest thing that nobody knows – I don’t usually tell that story.

As for Don, well most people don’t know that Don was raised on a ship from the age of three.

My father was the Captain on a hospital missionary ship that serviced the First Nations communities up and down the British Columbia and SE Alaska coasts. The ship was my home until I was 19. My job from 14 years of age was working in the engine room as the engineer! Remember, this was a 130ft ex-World War II mine sweeper; our ship was the sister ship to, Jacque Cousteau’s ship, the Calypso, and John Wayne’s, Wild Goose II. The ship was powered by twin 500 HP Jimmy 268-A “screaming” 2 cycle Diesels, and had (2) 3-71 30KW Gen sets.

MV Willis Shank the boat Don grew up on

What were the fondest memories from these times Don?

If the truth be told, because there weren’t other kids on the boat my age, it was a lonely time but….. my fondest memories were that I was always doing projects, stripping down outboard engines, building or fixing something on the boat – while other kids were playing baseball I was rebuilding engines.

Don with his much loved outrigger canoe

As you know, the crew of Pendana are headed to Alaska next year what advice could you give her crew?

Plan on more than a single season and take lots of warm clothes! Trying to see the Pacific Northwest in a single season is like trying to see Europe in five days.

And finally, where to next?

Well, right now our plan is to take the boat back and forth between Hawaii and Seattle. We look forward to our granddaughter getting older so she can come with us on longer trips – we would love to go back to the South Pacific with our grandchild.

Don & Sharry’s much loved grand-daughter

Thank you very much for your time.

Good luck with your travels!

More on MV Starr can be found here

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3 thoughts on “Guest Interview Don & Sharry Stabbert – MV Starr”

  1. SUBJECT: Re: Guest Interview Don & Sharry Stabbert – MV Starr
    Not fair…. You didn”t specify that they weren”t Nordhavn owners! Haha
    Sent from my iPad
    On Oct 29, 2015, at 7:47 PM, http://WWW.PENDANABLOG.COM <[...]> wrote:

    REPLY – Don and Sharry while owners of the magnificent Northern Marine MV Starr are still part of the Nordhavn family due to their many Nordhavn owner friends around the world! Either way, they are a very interesting couple so certainly deserve to be a part of thisl!!! Will be more specific next time 🙂

    James (

  2. Ahoy Pendana & Starr,
    That’s interesting: Cruising Japan is # 1
    Can’t agree more as we have been cruising in that part of the world on and off for the last 20 years. And for good reasons. Even met up with the GSSR down in Miyako Island (near Okinawa).
    Our Boat? A Taswell 43 built by Ta Shing in Taiwan. Now happily moored in Fukuoka.
    Present job? First mate on Nordhavn 60 SHOGUN, at the moment in the Med but making moves towards the Pacific in 2016.

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