Maritime Explorer: Don Demers
The 61st annual Windjammer Days will take place Sunday, June 25 through Saturday, July 1, 2023. This year the Friends of Windjammer Days is celebrating our rich population of Maritime Explorers. Those featured have traveled extensively on different bodies of waters either for work, pleasure or both.
Don Demers first came to the Boothbay Harbor area in 1964 after his grandparents built a cottage on Ocean Point. For the first time he saw schooners and was “transfixed” with gaff riggers and the local fishing craft. Since no one in his family sailed or boated, Don learned about the ships from observation and the many books that were supplied to him by his grandfather’s best friend Judge “Chet” Marden who had an extensive marine library. Judge Marden allowed him to take one book at a time to study which led Don to make drawings of the vessels and build crude ship models.
While in art school in Boston Don learned to sail after joining a local sailing club. This gave him the opportunity to sail Solings and J 24s among other sailboats. Around that time George McEvoy invited Don to sail to Nova Scotia aboard the Sherman Zwicker. It was such a wonderful experience that Don became officially hooked on boating and the sea. Shortly after Don was introduced to the vessel Unicorn, a brig (two masted square rigger) which Don initially went on as a student, then a volunteer and eventually a paid deck hand. He worked on her for a year or two sailing up and down the East Coast. This led to working aboard a number of other traditional vessels until he returned to New England to begin his career as an illustrator and marine painter. Don interrupted his art career to deliver a staysail schooner named Fair Sarae to San Diego. This voyage commenced in Jamaica and traveled through the Panama Canal on its way to southern California.
Many of Don’s voyages were skippered by J.B. Smith who is well known to this area and beyond. Don says that he will always owe a debt of gratitude to J.B. for his friendship and leadership and lessons about the ways of a ship and the sea. Don’s sea experiences are remembered as wonderful, exciting and sometimes rugged and they also offered the opportunity to make lifelong friendships.
Don’s passion for the ocean combined with his love for illustrating and painting has led him to be considered one of the finest marine and landscape artists in America. His paintings are found in the some of the most prestigious public and private collections in the country. He has been honored four times in the annual exhibition of the Society of Illustrators. His marine paintings have garnered him a record 21 awards at the Mystic International Marine Exhibition. Don is a highly sought after instructor with his teaching taking him all around the United States and Europe.
Don continues to return to his home on Ocean Point in the summers and maintains a studio in East Boothbay. He is a supporter of many organizations in the Boothbay Region and his paintings can be found at Gleason Fine Art.