Captain Bruce Jackson
Bruce was born in Battle Creek Michigan, where he learned to sail during the summer months on Goquac Lake. In 1982, and after graduating from college with an AS in Respiratory Therapy (RRT), BS in Healthcare Management, and an MBA in Business Administration he took a hospital management position in Vero Beach, Florida and went on to graduate with a Fellow in the American College of Cardiovascular Administraors (FACCA).
That’s where Bruce started sailing catamarans. For 13 years he sailed and raced Hobie Cat catamarans on the Atlantic Ocean from Vero Beach to Fort Pierce, Florida. In 1995, he purchased a 27’ ft. cruising catamaran and started taking summer trips to the Abaco and Exuma Islands in the Bahamas. After 6 years and more than 5,000 miles of cruising the islands he purchased his new home, a 40 ft. Luxury Manta sailing catamaran, which he named Moonraker. The word “Moonraker” has many definitions, but in this case, it refers to the moon light that rakes across the water while sailing at night.
In 2002, and after 20 years in hospital management, Bruce took an early retirement and moved aboard his new home with his newborn son Alec and started to live his dream. Together they logged over 6,000 miles on Moonraker. His cruising grounds expanded from the Abaco and Exuma Islands in the Bahamas to include the Atlantic Coast from the Florida Keys to Oriental, North Carolina.
Bruce holds a USCG Merchant Mariner 100 ton Masters Captains License and has been operating both power and sail boats for over 40 years. For 10 years he lived aboard and traveled on Moonraker.
While Bruce enjoys the adventure of sailing to new out of the way places and islands, he also enjoys meeting new people and making memories. Whether you are interested in having a lazy day on the water, experiencing a sailing catamaran for the first time, putting yourself and or children behind the helm of a 40 ft. live-aboard cruising catamaran or discussing the live-aboard cruising life style, Bruce would love to have you as a guest aboard Moonraker.
Boutique charter boat operation unique in Vero Beach
Vero Beach 32963 (6-30-2011)
Steven M. Thomas
VERO BEACH - Bruce Jackson, owner and captain of Moonraker, Vero Beach's only charter cruise boat, grew up sailing on Goguac Lake in Battle Creek, Mich.
Today, Jackson takes groups of up to six people out on the Indian River Lagoon and the ocean for cruises that last two to eight hours on his 40- foot Manta.
The luxury catamaran has three staterooms, a full kitchen, two bathrooms and indoor and outdoor showers.
With a 100-ton offshore captain's license and 14,000 miles of cruising the waters of Florida and the Bahamas in his log book, Jackson takes his guest to the best spots for swimming, wildlife and sunset dining on the water.
After just two years in business, his boutique cruises have become so popular with Vero Beach seasonal residents and tourists that weekend and holiday charters are best booked months in advance.
But it all started in Michigan.
"The lake was right at the end of the street where I lived and I would go down there in the summertime and sail sunfish sailboats," Jackson says. "Later on, I had a friend who had a Thistle, which is a 19-foot open-bow racing sailboat, and I learned to sail that. There was club and we raced around the lake."
By the time he graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in respiratory therapy and a master's degree in business administration, Jackson was hooked enough on sailing that he knew he wanted to live by the ocean and own a boat.
"I intentionally moved to Florida after college so I could be on an inlet and have access to the Bahamas," he says. "Graduation was on a Saturday and on Sunday I got in a car and drove to Vero Beach where I had accepted a job as director of Respiratory Therapy at Indian River Memorial Hospital."
That was in 1982 and Jackson was 26. He says Vero was a "quaint little town" that reminded him of his hometown in Michigan.
Five years after arriving, he built a house in the Atlantis subdivision on the barrier island where he had a 16-foot Hobie Cat that he kept on the beach 100 feet from his doorstep.
Even though it was a small craft, he sailed it miles offshore in calm weather.
"The Coast Guard stopped me on regular basis to check if I was OK and find out what I was doing out there," Jackson says with a smile.
His next boat was a British-built 27-foot Catalac catamaran, capable of circumnavigating the planet. He says he spent every vacation from the hospital cruising the Abacos in that boat, "snorkeling, swimming, eating lobster and conch," while learning the Bahamian waters like the back of his hand.
The Catalac held him through the rest of his 20-year career at Indian River Medical Center, where he launched a wide range of programs, including the hospital's first cath lab, first wound care center, first hyperbaric oxygen chamber and first sleep disorder center, before retiring in 2002 to go sailing full time.
His son Alec, who lived with him on Moonraker at the Vero Beach Marina, came home from the hospital where he was born to the boat.
The two of them spent four years sailing in the Bahamas before returning to Vero where Alec attends Beachland Elementary School.
"When he was five, he piloted the boat up to Hole in the Wall, an anchorage five miles north of Vero," says Jackson. "He is very much at home on the water."
Jackson says that, while he likes his current lifestyle better the daily grind of being a hospital administrator, the job of charter boat captain is not as easygoing as it appears.
"There are two hours of preparation before a cruise and an hour of cleanup afterward," he says. "So a two-hour cruise is really a five-hour undertaking. The time I spend out on the water with people, operating the boat and making memories, is a lot of fun, but that is only about 10 percent of the business. I work 60- hour weeks, cleaning and repairing the boat, doing marketing, working on the website."
Jackson grills or otherwise prepares food that people bring onboard while his mate sets out meals and keeps glasses full so that guests can concentrate on spotting osprey and dolphins or watching the sun go down in the red west.
The hard work has paid off in increased bookings and a growing clientele of repeat customers in Jackson's second year in business.
"I have people who go on a cruise and then book a future cruise before they get off the boat," he says. "I have bookings right now into December." Jackson says birthdays are popular occasions for cruises, along with visits from children or grandchildren who live up north.
"The boat is very stable, which makes it good for children and anyone with limited mobility," Jackson says. "People can leave drinks sitting on the table when we are under full sail without them spilling."
Another reason for Moonraker's success is the extraordinary ecology of the Indian River Lagoon, home to more than 2,500 species of plants and animals, making it by some estimates the most biologically diverse estuary in North America.
"We see dolphins on 94 percent of our cruises," Jackson says. "There are brown and white pelicans, great blue herons and ospreys. Up at Hole in the Wall, manatees swim right up to people when they are in the water and look at them face to face."
Three-hour cruises start at $550, while all day 6 hour outings go up to $850.
Prices are the same regardless of the number of people, from one to six, who go along. Jackson provides free water, soda and ice and will prepare food that guests bring or serve catered food.
Jackson does not charge deposits when reservations are made and is flexible if weather conditions or other circumstances cause people to change their minds about going out on a reserved cruise.
"My business is built on families and friends making memories,"he says. "The last thing I want to do is have someone going out when they don't want to just because they have money at stake."