Vision: In the beginning was the vision ---- and the vision was with French Stone. In 1983, French who had been vacationing for years at various Caribbean islands, found himself sitting on the shore of English Harbor on the island of Antigua. English harbor is known across the sailing world for both for its heritage and its beauty. That day, the harbor was active with the coming and goings of an array of sail boats of all descriptions. French thought --- "Wow, wouldn't it be great to be able to sail and to explore the islands from the deck of a sail boat." Upon returning home to the Bay Area, French contacted his sailing friends from law school. "Hey you guys, remember all those discussions we had about what we were going to do when we finished law school? Remember my idea of sailing the high seas? Well, let's do it!"
In the spring of 1984, French began the planning required to LIVE HIS DREAM. With the help and encouragement of his friends, French organized the first "Group of 7" bareboat charter over the Thanksgiving holidays of 1984. They charted a 46 foot bareboat yacht from the Moorings, departing out of St.Lucia and sailing south through the Grenadines. While the groups sailing skills were minimal, their enthusiasm for this newly found mode of adventure was high. This first float served as a catalyst around which the crew rallied their spouses and friends to support the next cruise in 1985. The "Group of 7" grew to the "Group of 13" (including Al Donatto), chartering two crewed yachts with captains and cooks to provide them with the experience of a lifetime.
The 1985 cruise caused Al Donatto to fall in love with sailing. He and his buddy Charlie Gautier came home, took formal sailing lessons and chartered a yacht to float the BVIs in 1986. Unfortunately the other members of the "Group of 13" didn't quite trust their newfound sailing skills causing Al and charlie to sail off alone as the "Group of 2". They survived their 1986 float, gained the trust of their old mates and organized a return trip to the BVIs in 1987. It was during this float that French's long time friend Leslie Edmonds coined the name Water Babies. The Water Babies were alive; the vision had become a reality.
Organization: The Club has no constitution, by-laws or operations manual. As the organization matured, Al Donatto of Houston, TX assumed the responsibility for holding the club together, by serving as our leader and organizing the annual float trips. Over the past two years, the Internet has facilitated our communication, allowing floats to be more easily organized and our members to stay in touch. All cruises are put together using our "Trip Guidelines Policies" and "Best Practices Manual".
The Water Babies charter a "bareboat" which means that no professional skipper is aboard. We sail the boat ourselves and attend to all that that implies. A 43 to 51 foot sailing yacht is a very small place with little space for escape. Therefore, the success of a float is very dependent on the chemistry of the crew. Each person must recognize and accept the reality that a sailboat is a working environment in which everyone must contribute; that "---the safety of the boat and crew take precedence over personal desires"; and that the combination of sea and yacht demands that one be flexible.
Membership: The Water Babies consist of friends and friends of friends and have never advertised their cruises in the open media. However in todays world of easy access information, we have decided to use this website to promote membership and to seek worldwide exposure. Membership only requires that you have an adventourous spirit, enjoy meeting people, integrate well with a working crew and be fun-loving. We are excited to recruit new members to share the vision and explore the wonders of the oceans.
Organization of a Float: The organization of a float begins approximately nine months before embarkation the destination being determined by the conduct of an informal poll of the members attending the last float and the concurrence of the proposed Captains. The selected Charter Company is then contacted and reservations made for X number of yachts with each Captain making the initial deposit required. (Note: the cost of the float is divided equally among the entire crew.) In the past it has taken about three to four months to fill a crew roster which is limited strictly by the number of available Captains.
Sailing Skills: The sailing experience of our membership varies widely from highly experienced to 1st time novice. Our Commodore, Capt. Al Donatto lives aboard his yacht just outside of Houston, TX and is our most skilled sailor. The other skippers are Capt. Ron Brown (Oakland, CA); Mel Carpenter (Philadelphia, PA); Phil Donatto (Los Angeles, CA); Capt. Ben Finley (Los Angeles, CA); Charles Gautier; Tom Jenson; George Lythcott (Oakland, CA); Richard Rice (Los Angeles, CA) and Thom Uelk (Mill Valley, CA). Each of these people are trained and Bareboat certified either by the American Sailing Association,, the US Sailing Association, the United States Power Squadrons or by other approved sailing organizations. The skippers who carry the title of Captain are U.S. Coast Guard licensed Masters.
Cathy Bergland, Crystal Chissell, Karlynn Davis, Greer Geiger, Andi Groomes, Patrick Holloway, Charles Heath, Clarence Huggins, Jessie Johnson, Julie Lawrence, Charlene Marshall, Don Pilkington, Marguerite Showers, Henry Skrine (deceased), French Stone, Torri Wells and Sone-Seere Wilson are our first mates and just one step away from being Bareboat certified.
Agenda of a Typical Float: We typically allot 2 days per island visited. We will depart early in the morning for the next destination, planning to arrive in mid-afternoon. The remainder of the day is spent exploring the island and meeting its people. The next day is spent diving /snorkeling pre-selected sites or shopping and/or continuing the exploration. The next day we repeat the adventure. We never plan to be at sea after sunset.