By Mary Ann Azevedo (August 2012)
Houston physician Paul Fulmer has a sure-fire annual cure for the daily grind: skimming the turquoise waters of the Virgin Islands in a Catamaran
Dr. Paul Fulmer has been an ear, nose and throat doctor for nearly two decades. He recently joined The Snoring Center as medical director of its Houston and Austin locations. But when the hard-working doctor wants to let off a little steam, he takes to the waters.
An avid sailor, Fulmer’s passion for the sport has taken him all over the world.
Fulmer grew up in Austin where he first learned to sail with his father on Hobie Cats, small sailing catamarans manufactured by California-based Hobie Cat Co. Then, while doing his residency at UTMB Galveston, he owned a 22-foot Catalina for three years. But it was in 1996, when friends invited him to go to the Virgin Islands to sail, that Fulmer was truly hooded.
Once his residency was complete, Fulmer sold the Catalina he owned in Galveston and decided to concentrate his sailing with his family in the Virgin Islands once or twice a year, usually sometime between January and April.
“It’s cold here and 75 to 85 (degrees) there,” he said, “Plus, it’s not hurricane season.”
The cost of renting a sailboat, such as 45- to 50-foot Catamaran, for about a week is between $7,500 and $10,000, Fulmer said.
In 1998, he became a captain and his times out on the islands ever since have mainly been smooth sailing. The one exception was in 2010, when a tropical storm came through while he and his family were out in the water.
“It came through in a a hurry,” recalls Fulmer. “We usually always watch that week before we’re going. You have to respect the weather.”
On the third day of the sailing expedition, the wind picked up to as high as 40 to 60 knots and there as heavy rain, but Fulmer and his family made it back safely.
“You’re hooked up to a mooring ball that’s anchored to the bottom of the ocean, but you still wonder.” He said. “It was definitely our least-favorite trip.”
WORKING IN AFRICA
Besides trips to the Virgin Islands, the 50-year –old Fulmer has sailed the Aegean Sea off the coast of Athens, Greece, and near The Grenadines. But the Virgin Islands remain his favorite place to go.
“the region is very user-friendly and weather is usually not a problem.” He said. “Plus there’s a lot of neat little beach restaurants where you can eat at night if you want to.”
Fulmer opts to take vacation time to go sailing and rent a boat rather than own one simply because it’s less of a headache.
“I could have a boat in Kemah if I wanted, but the boats sit in saltwater out here and there’s a lot of upkeep,” he said. “Like the old saying goes, ‘the best boat is your friend’s boat.’”
When Fulmer’s not sailing for pleasure – or working his very busy schedule at the Snoring Center – he also volunteers with Mercy Ships, a global charity that has operated hospital ships in developing nations since 1978.
The organization flies in surgeons, such as Fulmer, who operate on medical ships that dock in countries in sub-Saharan West Africa.
Since 2001, Fulmer has spent about two weeks on such missions every other year, performing surgeries such as removing head and neck tumors.
Now the doctor has inspired his 22-year-old daughter, Catherine, with his work. She has dedicated the next year to working on one of the ships, which will dock in the Republic of Guinea.
“Here, if someone had a growth on the side of their face, they’d run straight to the doctor, “ Fulmer said. “But these people don’t have that option. We get them looking normal so they can go back into society.”