Dona Catharina

Meet Martin Vogel, Captain of The Dona Catharina

The Dona Catharina, a 60 foot ketch rigged steel cutter.

At Going Green, we have been following the story and path of Dona Catharina and its captain, Martin Vogel, for quite some time. They have been leading extraordinary expeditions around the world in the name of science and sustainability. The Dona Catharina, a 60 foot ketch rigged steel cutter, build 1984 by Van der Meer in Holland, helped with the Oma Tafua Whale Reseach Program, the filming of the documentary Nous Tikopia, and was the  support, saftey  and camera vessel for the Vaka Taumako Project.

We had the chance to dive deep with Martin and learn more about his journey as the Captain of the Dona Catharina.

Captain Martin Vogel

Where do you work?

I have been a builder, but have hung up the tool belt and are now teaching to sail keel boats. But my passion is the operation of our expedition vessel , the Dona Catharina. My partner Monika and I operate her in the wider South West Pacific with our home port being Opua in New Zealand . So you can call me skipper, captain, operator sailor.

Monika on board the Dona Catharina

Tell us a little bit about you and your background:

My partner and I both originate from Germany. 1988 we left from Germany with our self build 35’ yacht with the plan to sail to Australia. We never got there, we fell in love with the Polynesian and Melanesian Island and felt that Australia can wait. ( it’s still waiting) in 1992 our son Lars was born in New Zealand, and after some more years sailing with him through the islands of the pacific we decided we need a break so he can go to school and make more permanent friends. My trade background allowed me to get an easy foothold in the building industry, and for some years the family became landlubbers However, the sailing bug is uncureable , and after our son enrolled in maritime school we decided to buy a larger vessel to peruse our passion of roaming the oceans .,But this time with a purpose and with crew that make our voyages even more exiting .

What is a fun fact about you?

I entered my apprenticeship as a carpenter in South Germany, far away from any ocean, because there I could not become a boat builder. I still remember planking up a roof, but imagining myself on my future boat and planking up the deck.

The Dona Catharina

What was your motivation to get into this industry?

Sailing has , at least in the pacific, for millennia been the way to trade, communicate and travel. As this mode of travel is my passion, and I find it inspiring to be with people who have a scientific mind, it made only sense to combine these two subjects and to create a sustainable business . There is no question in my mind that we , to survive into the future, will need to adhere to scientific advise, and that we also will need to change the way we travel.

Why do you think climate change/sustainability is such an important topic today?

Do I really need to answer this question. It has been answered countless times by people who have far more knowledge and expertise than I have. The same way as I expect my crew to trust me as the captain of my ship, because I have the knowledge and experience to sail her through rough weather, I have no problem to believe in the data , carried together by sound scientific research, that points only into one direction, if we don’t act.

What do you envision your industry looking like 10 years from now?

I would hope, that universities and governments pull resources together to invest more into offshore vessels , larger than mine, but equally powered by the energy of the sun. And I say sun, because wind, that powers our vessel is of course nothing else than converted energy from the sun. I know some smart person will now argue, so are fossil fuels. But I guess you know what I mean.

What can the average person do to make a difference? 

Your best vote for change is your shopping power. Shop only with your environmental brain in thinking mode.

What positive changes are you seeing?

Oh, there are many. Look at Europe for example. Even the most right orientated politicians are now talking ‘green’ if they are campaigning. The car industries preparing for a change. Houses are now so efficient, that some of them produce more energy than they need. I think all nations should carefully look at what is happening in Europa. I feel that people there are on the right track. Young people all over the world are becoming more aware that change is needed..That’s good, because soon they will govern us.

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Martin, thank you for taking the time to share your story with Going Green. We are excited to see the future excursions that Dona Catharina has in store.

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Dylan Welch
Dylan Welch is the CEO and Host of Going Green, a podcast, website, and social media brand that highlights renewable energy, cleantech, and sustainable news.
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