As I work my way around the harbor each week, I always look for people I would like to emulate. One such person is Doug West, and I have said this before about Doug and his efforts as chairman of the Newport Beach Harbor Commission. He wants to help and improve our boating activities and harbor. "I want to become part of our community," he explained during an interview this week. So for my own selfish reasons, I wanted to learn about the man and ask him a few questions.
Doug grew up in Michigan and, as a child, spent summers in Nantucket Sound and Martha's Vineyard. At the age of eight, he took his first sail aboard a friend's 26-foot wooden sailboat. "That's the day I got hooked on boats," he said. "I still remember that sail." He later attended Michigan State University and then spent three years in the Peace Corps in Jamaica, working in the fishing industry building boats.
On his return home, he enrolled at Michigan State's College of Law and then went to work at the Ford Motor Co. in the litigation department and product liability. In 1982, he was recruited by Toyota and continued to work his way up the food chain, where he spent his last five years in government relations in Washington, D.C. and then retired in 2006.
Doug has three children from a previous marriage and met his , Irene, in 1986 when they first moved to Newport Beach. After living in Japan for a year and Washington, D.C. for five years, he and Irene returned to Newport Beach upon his retirement from Toyota.
Ever since moving to Newport Beach, Doug has owned power boats and now owns a Tiara 36 by the name of Islander. Each year, he and Irene return to Martha's Vineyard, and for most of his boating life, he has cruised Nantucket Sound. "I have two oceans and one boat," he told me as he started to describe his boating life. "I really love coastal cruising." He and Irene have spent a lot of time cruising Southern California from Santa Barbara down to San Diego and countless trips to Catalina. While describing Catalina, Doug said, "It's like another world over there." The two of them take an annual Catalina cruise each year for 10 days and even make it to the back side of the island to spend time in Little Harbor.
People learn from their mistakes, so I asked Doug what his biggest boating blunder was. He went on to tell me about a trip from Old Saybrook, Conn. to City Island in New York. He had misjudged the weather and sea conditions, and on his return back to Old Saybrook, he explained, "It wasn't a happy day for my first mate. My routine now is to watch the weather and the sea state before heading out."
Since joining the Balboa Yacht Club in 2006, Doug and Irene have chaired the Cruisers and last year's opening day, and he now sits on the club's board of directors. When I asked him why he volunteers so much of his time to BYC and our harbor, he said, "The sea is in my blood, and it gives me a sense of purpose and a sense of focus. That's why I do it."
That sense of focus is what has grabbed my attention to Doug, and the thought of working with such a person and truly making a difference in our harbor makes a person feel good. We have a good leader at this time, and now is the time to get involved with the harbor. Think of my observation as a type of stock — insider trading, if you will. The time is now to get active and participate within our harbor.
Wish me luck again this weekend. I will be competing in the last of the Lorin Weiss Harbor 20 series sailed out of Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club.
LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.