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Don Harris Interview

Don Harris and his wife, Ellen, may be newbies, but they haven’t let any grass grow since they discovered their love of boating. Harris, with a distinguished career in the telecommunications industry, bought his first boat (a 37-foot Pursuit) in 2010 and took delivery of his Princess 64, Five Star, in February of 2012. Since then, he’s cruised the East Coast from New England to the Florida Keys, attended an owner rendezvous (including one sponsored by Power & Motoryacht in Montauk, New York, and Newport, Rhode Island) and put more than 300 hours on his new Princess with his family.

Don Harris and his wife, Ellen

Power & Motoryacht: How did you get hooked on boating?
HARRIS: I visited friends in the Hamptons and, though it sounds corny, I thought I’d love to take a boat up the coast, do Hell’s Gate, pull into Sag Harbor, run out to Montauk. It sounded like fun!

Power & Motoryacht:After getting started with the Pursuit, how did you move to the Princess?
HARRIS: I’m probably every boat manufacturers’ nightmare. We did lots of research—looking and reading and talking and asking. I brought my business background to bear, especially since we didn’t know what we were doing. The Princess jumped out as the perfect boat for us.

Power & Motoryacht:Do you have a favorite destination?
HARRIS: We’re different from many families, because we don’t like to repeat. There’s just so much to see. But we love Little Palm Island in the Keys, and the Bahamas—I’d go back to Harbour Island in a nanosecond. I had a typical Northerner’s preconception of the Florida Keys, but they’re absolutely wonderful.

Power & Motoryacht: Future plans for adventures aboard Five Star?
HARRIS: We’re sort of undecided whether to head out into the Caribbean or just focus on the British Virgin Islands, and we plan to go out for months at a time. If Cuba ever opens up, I want to be the first into Havana—just like everyone else! Eventually, we want to get down to Belize.

Power & Motoryacht:Many of your cruising areas are dive destinations. Are you divers?
HARRIS: My son and I are avid divers, but our whole family will do anything on the water that’s fun. We did equip Five Star with a dive compressor and tanks and all the gear for diving.

Power & Motoryacht: You invested a lot of thought in outfitting Five Star.
HARRIS: We wanted to run the boat ourselves, and so we got hydraulic bow and stern thrusters for easier docking, and a Seakeeper gyro so that the boat is solid when we’re anchored for diving. 

Power & Motoryacht: When you’re not cruising, how do you use your boat?
HARRIS: It sounds provincial, but we don’t mind taking the boat out and anchoring 500 yards off our condo, pumping up a raft, floating all day, and barbecuing lunch and dinner aboard before heading back in.

Power & Motoryacht:Do your family and friends join you aboard?
HARRIS: Our two daughters are in New York and my son is in college, but they join us. We have a GOST tracking system aboard and my son says it’s a sign of the times: He has to go on the Internet to find his parents! We send out our itinerary to friends, inviting them to join us along the way, and they come aboard for a few days.

Power & Motoryacht: Any surprises when you bought the boat?
HARRIS: The boating industry is great! I’m from a competitive world where they want to trip you or stab you (or both!), but everyone in boating has given advice freely and been really helpful. I wish I’d started boating sooner!

Power & Motoryacht: How do you manage your work with your boating?
HARRIS: People expect me to be available 24/7, so we have satphone and we get on Wi-Fi at every harbor. I have an iPad with AT&T [cellular data] so I’m in contact even at sea. We’ve never missed an arrival or a departure because I’m on the phone, but I get looks from my wife, like, “You could help with the fenders, dude!” when I’m on a call.

This article originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.