POST FALLS – Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Diana Klybert, the captain of a Mississippi-style stern-wheeler out of Post Falls, never dreamed she would be a ship’s captain when she grew up – or that she would become a member of the first all-women’s team to race in the America’s Cup. But once the sailing bug bit this Midwestern girl while attending college in Portland, there was no looking back.
Klybert graduated from college with a degree in journalism and headed straight to Maui. “I started sailing raceboats and I fell in love with it. I thought, ‘Wow, this is an amazing life.’ It wasn’t just a hobby, it was a whole way of doing things that was very specific and unique from other lifestyles.”
In Hawaii, Klybert soon found work on charter and passenger sailboats, and decided life on the water suited her. “I like sailing because it’s very international. The thing about being a sailor, is I can go anywhere in the world … although I never thought of coming to Idaho and working on a boat … but I can go all over the world and find people who’ll give me a place to stay. We speak a common language, and share common experiences.”
She received her 100-ton U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license from the Pacific Maritime Academy in 1987 and spent the next few years serving as captain and mate in Hawaii and the Caribbean, and participating in offshore racing.
In 1994 she was thrilled to be asked to tryout for the America3 All-Women’s American’s Cup Team. She traveled to San Diego where she and 22 others were picked for the first women’s team to compete in the 143-year history of the celebrated yacht race. After a year of training, she raced in 1995, and today her name and those of her teammates are listed in women’s sports history books.
By 1999, this woman with world-class sailing credentials decided to give up international buoy and ocean races and moved to Post Falls to enter the tourism industry. She found she enjoyed being a land-locked sailor, turning her energies towards educational travel – but it didn’t take her long to get back on the water – this time as relief captain and marina manager for Templin’s.
When the job of captain was offered in 2004, she settled happily into her new role as skipper of the River Queen – a job that offered her challenges of a different sort. “The people up at the main hotel laugh a lot at me – well, just trying to get a sailor to fit into a corporation has given us all a lot of laughs. But, they’ve been so supportive of me that I have really enjoyed the years I’ve spent here.”
She also enjoys her crew, her boat and her job. “My favorite thing about my job is the people and the mighty River Queen herself. I like to see people have a good time. I look at it like a mental massage – there should be no disturbances and no one should notice anything but the beauty of the river.”
Her goal as a captain, says Klybert, “is to blend safety and fun together.” And she does. Her enthusiasm and fun-loving spirit are the first things one notices as the statuesque blonde captain, dressed in simple boating fare, greets her passengers. Her friendly manner and the playful banter with her crew immediately puts passengers at ease and lets them know they are in for a good time.
Klybert is at home on the water and loves to share it with others by putting the same effort and dedication into skippering the River Queen as she did sailing the world’s oceans. She toots the horn, rings the bell and waves to folks swimming and boating along the river. She shares tidbits of information and facts about the boat, history, natural features, shoreline homes, people, animals and ecology of the area during the 1 1/2 hour cruise – and even urges passengers to visit her in the wheelhouse.
Although a sailor with a lust for adventure at heart, Klybert has planted roots here and has no plans to move on. “I’m totally taken with this area. I love the Pacific Northwest.” Away from the water she enjoys photography and journalism. On the water, this nautical icon enjoys rafting at her cabin in British Columbia, sailing her 26-foot sailboat on nearby lakes, teaching kids to sail, and serving as skipper of her favorite boat.
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