Cruising: Donna Gallant

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Donna Gallant always planned to live a life of adventure. In school, she told her roommate that she was going to marry a man with a boat so she could sail the world (and she did). Since then, she’s built up an impressive nautical resume, having sailed over 6,000 miles and lived aboard for years. She even sailed from Miami to Los Angeles on a 50ft steel ketch called Bernina with just her husband and two babies (one and three years old). “I was washing diapers in saltwater and hanging them out to dry in the rigging,” she remembers with a laugh. In the late 1950s, she published an article about bringing up children on a sailboat.

Eventually, she and her sailor husband split up, but Donna’s wanderlust never waned. Instead of waiting for someone to travel with her as she had back in school, she decided to do it on her own. The result were trips are too numerous to list, but which included visits to Thailand, Morocco and the Arctic (where she learned to fly, but not land, a twin-engine plane).

In her 50s, she took up commercial fishing even as she continued traveling, but she missed sailing, as she went 30 long years without a boat. The result was a bad case of “sea fever” as she calls it. “I had to stop walking by the marina because it made my heart ache,” she says.

Finally, in 2017 at the age of 86, Donna decided enough was enough, and she purchased a Catalina 30 called Downwind. With the help of her 90-year-old friend and neighbor, Bob, who has two circumnavigations to his record, she then cruised the San Juan Islands. Though the pair isn’t going to be able to do the sailing they had hoped to this season, the spirit of adventure lives on as Donna intends to do a riverboat cruise in Europe and is planning another trip back to Thailand. 

August 2018

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