A pearl necklace was given to Stew Penny Dabestani when she was 4 years old. The gemstone is still prominent in her life decades later, most recently as a necklace in her first book, “Aquariana and the Golden Pearl”.
“My grandfather bought the necklace for my grandmother,” Dabestani said. “And pearls have been important to me since.”
Found in fresh and saltwater, pearls are also a symbol for Dabestani’s strong connection with the ocean.
“I love the smell, the look, the sea life and I like to be in water,” Dabestani said. She is a scuba diver with real-life adventures of swimming with sharks and pilot whales.
It all ties together in her recently self-published young adult novel. On a trip to the Cayman Islands about six years ago, Dabestani’s 12-year-old daughter came up with the story of the sea and its creatures.
Stew Penny Dabestani
“This was entirely Parissa’s idea,” she said. “She was sitting by the sea edge and she said, ‘Mom, I have to tell you something.’ ”
Parissa explained to her mother that the sea spoke and was called Aquariana. Aquariana promised Parissa more explanation in her dreams.
“That night, she started writing with tablet and pen,” Dabestani said of her daughter. “She wrote details for names and characters. She said, ‘I can’t write it; you have to write.’ The book is exactly what she was telling me.”
Dabestani describes the book as fact-based fiction with current readership from 9 to 72 years old. The young girl in the story learns of over-fishing, shark-finning, and environmental destruction through her travels with real and mythical sea creatures. The message is environmental awareness, and Dabestani donates a portion of the profit to conservation groups.
“I want crew to be aware, to know that every action has consequence, no matter the intent,” Dabestani said. “For example, if you throw cigarettes overboard, just something small, it can mean thousands of butts a day around the world.”
She also gives away some of her books.
“I don’t push, I just sign and leave a copy for charterers or guests,” she said.
She has planned seven books in the series with the second, on whaling, in the editing stage.
Dabestani started in yachting a few years ago. Before that she was an airline flight attendant for 20 years and had her own business designing and making jewelry, with a specialization in pearls, of course. When her jewelry business closed, she visited a friend in Ft. Lauderdale who suggested that with her strong service background she take the STCW and work on yachts.
“I got my first job at a Triton networking event,” she said. “I had been here four days.”
Since then, she has worked as stew, cook and deckhand on yachts including M/Y Sea Breeze, M/Y Glen Ellen, M/Y Sanctuary, M/Y Sterling, M/Y Utopia and M/Y Invictus.
She feels like her life has come full circle in yachting.
“This ties in exactly the way it needs to,” Dabestani said. “I work on the oceans and I am actively trying to conserve.”
Details about “Aquariana and the Golden Pearl” is available at www.aquarianna-us.com.
Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.