Guest Interview Jeff Sanson - Pacific Yacht Management



Jeff Sanson


So, Jeff, tell us a little something about you and your background in the marine industry?

I started my career at age 13 on the sport fishing docks of San Diego. The deckhands would pay me $3.00 to clean a toilet when the boats returned from albacore fishing for the day.  They were nasty!  Then the captains hired me to clean the engine rooms for $10.00 and clean the bilges. Back then the boats all ran GMS and they puked oil and the bilges were an oily mess and the engine rooms were about 110 degrees. It was a horrible job but I just wanted to someday get a position on the boats as a deckhand or what they called a pinhead because I had no experience. Finally one night I was just finishing cleaning up on a boat (El Tigre) and the captain came to the boat and asked where the deckhand was and I said he took off.  Well he said, the boat is leaving now so go get your boots and slickers and come take his place because he is fired! It all started that night and I worked every summer on the sport fishing boats and became one of the best known deckhands in the fleet.

a very young Jeff Sanson


After I graduated high school I started working in Mexico (Cabo San Lucas ) sport fishing on 6 pack yachts . I did this for two years and then acquired my captain’s 100 ton license at 19 years old and became a captain on a 65 foot Swordfish boat (fly-N-HI). That year I caught over 150 swordfish with a harpoon and had an excellent year. I might add we all made really good money that year.  I then decided I wanted to go off shore and try long range sport fishing. I was hired as a second license on a new sport-fishing boat (Reward) out of San Diego.  I then got hired as a Captain on the (El Patron) 72 footer also out of San Diego and ran trips out of Cabo San Lucas to Socorro Island, Rock of Partida and Clarion Islands.  



I really learned a lot because these trips were 7 to 10 day trips and Clarion was 325 miles S/W of Cabo. There is no help out there and you are on your own and the weather can get pretty rough. I became a pretty good mechanic and navigator during this time.

I was also considered a High liner and had a very successful career for eight years and fishing was my life. I was out 270 days fishing year in, year out.  Life was good until 1987 when I was coming into Socorro at around 2:30am. I had been fishing Rock of Partida the day before for Big Tuna and Wahoo and after a successful day we decided to go back in to fish Socorro. The whole crew were really tired and could not do a wheel watch because they would fall asleep. I took the watch for the 7 hour run back into Socorro and drank loads of coffee. That worked ok until the last hour when I started having real trouble staying awake. I eventually fell asleep standing up and woke up when I hit the floor only to see the boat heading for a steep cliff at Pierce point. I reached for the throttles and slammed the boat into reverse! We stopped about 50 feet from the rock wall! It was a moment of clarity and at the moment I decided to start looking for a yacht job so that I could get out of the sport fishing business.

Jeff Sanson on the right with another amazing catch


I was hired to be Captain a brand new custom 90 foot yacht (Crazyhorse) that was built for an owner in Southern California. She was the first totally composite yacht ever built at the time and a beautiful boat. My yachting career had started and it was a new world for me. While I was very well known in the fishing game no one in the yacht world knew me at all. For five years the owner kept me very busy and used Crazyhorse basically as a corporate yacht. The boat was on the move constantly from Alaska to Acapulco Mexico and up to the Sea of Cortes. The boat was eventually sold to a car dealer in Seattle and by that time I had married my wife who worked on the boat as the chef. We were hired and moved to Seattle and worked with the new owner who changed the boat name to Peppermint. Things changed fast as the new owner who only used the boat during the summer. It was during this time my wife fell pregnant and my daughter was born. My interest of being gone cruising was gone and I decided it was a good time to start thinking about doing something different.



While cruising in the PNW on Peppermint, I met lots of what I called owner/operators on fairly large yachts (45’ to 105’). They did not want crew and ran the yachts with their spouses, family, and friends. I helped out a lot of these owners fixing things that they had no idea how to fix or service.  Then the idea came to me one day at Dent Island while I was helping Jim Nordstrom work on a fresh water pump on Nordstream. I asked Jim his thoughts about starting a yacht management company in Seattle. He said he didn’t know of any company besides shipyards and could be a good idea. I came home that summer and spent the winter writing my business plan. The next year, the owner put Peppermint up for sale while I continued to work on my business plan. While still cruising, I would ask owners if they would use a company to manage their yacht and what their needs might be from such a company.  I incorporated all the things that people told me into my business plan for PYM.  After 2.5 years, the Peppermint sold and Pacific Yacht Management (PYM) was born, January 1, 1999.

Before you came into the marine sector what did you do?

I bought and sold swordfish and tuna for a brief time. I have never had a job that was not somehow connected to the marine or fishing business. My two brothers are both successful commercial fishermen of swordfish and albacore tuna.



What has been the single largest project that Pacific Yacht Management has worked on?

In 2009, PYM was hired to refit a 70 foot Delta Trawler. It was a full refit:

New interior: ceiling panels, galley new cabinets, floors tables, granite counter tops, teak floors, new appliances, New A/V gear, New baths and fixtures, and new carpet

Engine room: New 2-30 KW generators  Northern Lights, removed and rebuilt the transmission, R& R electrical panel, installed  new Magnetron 15oo watt inverter system and batteries, New water makers 75 gallon per hour per unit. New sound insulation and painted panels and removed all old perf plate.

Exterior: New tenders and chalks, built new SS Kayak rake for 3 large Kayaks, Redesigned fly bridge and installed new seating, Installed new aft deck table.

We started that refit on December 1, 2009 and finished June 25, 2010. The boat departed for a summers cruise in Alaska.



How many full time staff do you have working with you?

We currently have a staff of 15, including myself.

If there is one thing that irritates you while underway what would that be?

What doesn’t irritate me! LOL, I don’t like wind. I don’t mind fog, rain or snow. But wind is something that goes way back when I had my first paper route and the wind would catch the paper bags on my handle bars and knock me over and make me bite the dust!

No names, but what has been the silliest thing you have seen an owner do?  Eating Vegemite does not count.

Oh boy Lol, I think the funniest thing I have ever seen an owner do was while launching a vessel up in Alaska (Wrangell).  The lift operator dropped the vessel in the water and yelled at us to go! I was on the bow and the boat was pointed out of the launching apron. The owner was at the wheel in the wheelhouse. They had not cleared any of the straps from the hull or stabilizers at this stage. The lift operators yelled go, again! So the owner put her in gear and away we went. We went about 30 feet and the main engine shut down. It felt like we were hooked up to a sling and we shot back. The look on the owner’s face was pure fright!  The boat is going backwards heading directly towards the wall. I grabbed a large ball fender and barely made it to the back of the boat right before we smashed into the wall and was able to place the large ball fender between the boat and the wall saving it from any damage.

What happened is we wrapped the strap in the prop and it became so tight it stopped the big cat engine. We had to hire a diver that day to cut it us out of the prop. The yard wanted the owner to pay $25,000 for damage to the straps but I jumped in a told them, no way was it our fault but rather it was the lift operators fault. Thankfully, we did not have to pay for the new straps! The look on the owners face when we shot backwards was priceless!

What is the one piece of advice you want every boat owner to know?

Take care of your vessel and it will take care of you!

What has been your cruising highlight so far?

I was involved with a trip to Japan from Seattle on a 68’ Nordhavn through the Aleutian chain and Russia then onto Japan.  Trip of a life time.

Jeff (L) with a few famous faces


Have you ever run out of something while at sea that has caused problems?

I feel the most import items to have on board are all fluids needed to operate the vessel. You should have enough oil to perform an oil change, on at least one engine, if you have two then enough oil for both engines. Engine coolant, transmission oil, hydraulic fluid, and steering fluid are crucial.

Last year I was delivering a 155’ yacht and we ran into some mechanical issues.  We were running up from Mexico to Seattle. We found that one of the engines was making diesel from a leak on an injector. I asked the engineer to pump out engine oil and replace the oil and filter to get an estimate of how bad the leak was while we kept the second engine running. The engine held 55 gallons of oil the only problem was we only had 30 gallons on board! There went that idea so for the rest of the trip we had only one engine and went from 12 knots to 8!

Would you describe yourself as more a hunter or more a gather?

I am a hunter. From fishing days I love the hunt.



What is the one lesson every boater should learn?

A lot of boat owners have a huge ego that will sooner or later get them into trouble. Take away your ego when boating and especially when it comes time to dock the vessel.

What is your favourite anchorage and why?

Oh boy! I have been to so many great anchorages through the years.  But I would say it would be in Alaska, take your pick of the many anchorages where a there is a stream with salmon going up the stream and watching bears in the AM feeding.



What is your favorite Marina and why?

Manzanillo Mainland Mexico Barra. It is well protected and the marina is connected to a nice pool and golf course.



What is your favourite quote and why?

God the Sea is so great and my boat is so small!

My dad had that plaque on his boat when I a child and there’s so much truth to this saying.

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

I don’t have anything that comes to mind, sorry.

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

I tried to out run a storm off the northern California coast one December. The forecast was 10 to 25 knots. 6 feet seas changing at midnight to 40 to 50 knots and seas to 25 foot. I thought I could make it to San Francisco and then be OK but the storm came in about 6 hours early. I had a serous conversation with my higher power that night. I promised him that I would never push it again and to this day that promise still holds true.

What’s the one tool you always take to a job?

Knee Pads

What is your most hated boat job?

Heads

Tell us a little something about how you started Pacific Yacht Management?

The idea for PYM came from my desire to stay in the marine industry but to spend more time at home with my family.

What makes Pacific Yacht Management different?

My years of experience as a captain and my understanding of what it takes to make a boat run smoothly are what make PYM different. I feel that PYM really understands how to setup and get all the systems operating on a boat and have a work protocol/ethic that works really well. We are very proud of the fact that our owners are able to operate their vessels with little to no problems during the summer cruising season.

What is the one thing you are most afraid of?

When it comes to boats there is nothing I am afraid of.

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

I was delivering a 76 Nordhavn to Cabo San Lucas a few years ago and the owner’s wife had a really good camera. I found a swordfish finning and she took some pictures. These photos have actually become very popular with all my past fishing buddies.

What would you never leave behind when heading out to sea?

Wet and dry vacuum is a must. Home depot has a bucket vac that works really well that fits over a 5 gallon bucket.

Jeff, tell us something about yourself that nobody knows?

My office manager once told me that I would do this work for free if I could and she is right. I HATE billing and paper work! I am also a clean freak. Dirty boats drive me crazy! The paint can be peeling off a boat but if the windows and waterline are clean, then the boat is clean.



And finally, what’s next for you and Pacific Yacht Management?

My hope is that we continue to find ways to get better and become more efficient. I am always looking for good people that understand the mechanics of a yacht and try to always surround myself with people who I feel, are smarter than me.

Jeff with his brother Gary


Thank you very much for your time.

Pacific Yacht Managements website can be found HERE.

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