How It All Started

A Plan is Born

So I was drinking.........

No. No. No. I start all my stories that way. This one has to be different.

It is hard to say exactly when I started dreaming about sailing around the world. I guess it might have been when I read the stories in old National Geographics of David (forgot last name) sailing "Dove" around the world. He was alone in a small boat and seemed to have had an excellent adventure. I had recently returned from two months of back packing in South East Asia, but now I had started my first full time job at Marquip Inc. in Phillips, Wisconsin. Work was OK, but I definitely needed a new adventure to dream about. One day a co-worker and friend named Al Pipkorn took me sailing on Musser Lake. We had a great time, and my thoughts turned to cruising. Unfortunately I did a little research and decided that I would need $60K, $30K for a used boat and $30K to live on. This was more than double my salary and with student loans and all it seemed like it would be a very long time before I could even consider sailing away. The dream went on the back burner.

So I was drinking at the University of Wisconsin Student Union. I had transfered to Marquip's Madison office a couple months earlier and immediately joined the Hoofer Scuba Club. I learned to dive, but just as fun were the Thursday night socials at the Union. On this particular Thursday night we were sitting around having a few beers and talking about everything under the sun just like we did every Thursday night. Then my buddy Steve "Buck" Weber said, "Hey Dave, want to go biking in the Rocky Mountains this September? We could go from Bozeman, Montana to Flagstaff, Arizona."


The conversation continued around us. Buck, who was a hard core bike racer, seemed happy that he was sucking me into the world of bike touring. I wasn't a strong biker, but I had done some ski marathons and new I could handle it. Then Buck seemed to drift off a little. "But you know what I'd really like to do? Bike around the world."


The next day I requested two weeks off in September and told my boss I'd be quitting in three years to bike around the world.

Now you're probably wondering what this has to do with sailing. Well, it's a long strange trip. Let's continue with the yarn...............

So I did the bike trip through the Rockies. It was great - fresh air, beautiful scenery, cool people (and of course a sore rear and screaming thighs). Then it was back to work. I worked hard. I saved money. I made friends. Three friends and fellow Marquipians that played key roles in the future were Greg Jackson, Stacy Lynn Cohen, and Jo Reis.

Greg started to get into sailing the next summer. He bought a boat. It sank while we were sailing. He bought another boat. I sailed with him often on Lake Mendota.

Stacy was the cute, part time programmer. I took her sailing on Greg's boat. I took her for motorcycle rides. We fell in love. If we were normal people we would have probably gotten married when she graduated from the UW, but I had a bike trip to do, and she had applied to the Peace Corp. Early in '93 she got an assignment to go to Guinea, West Africa. She would be leaving in June. I gave my notice that I was leaving on my bike trip in July.

So I was drinking at Jolly Bob's Jerk Joint. The next day was my last day of work, and as custom dictates, I had a little going away party after work. It felt good to have my co-workers sending me off. There was a good turn out, but as the evening wore on my friends drifted away. And then there were just two of us. Me and "Torpedo" Jo Reis. Jo is a sailing fanatic. He would often miss an afternoon of work when he would come down with "wind fever". We talked and did shots of rum. After a while Jo kind of drifted away for a minute and then said "After you get back from your bike trip, we should sail around the world."


Making it Reality

So I did the bike trip with Buck - 10,000 miles on 5 continents and lots of new friends. It was excellent. I had also stayed in touch and even visited Stacy in Africa. She was working hard teaching high school math.

I was now in fantastic shape physically, but absolutely broke. It was time to go back to work. Marquip had always been good to me and that did not change as they took me back immediately. When they asked me how long I was planning on working this time I told them "five or six years. Then I'm going sailing." Everyone seemed to think that it was a reasonable plan, so I found myself back in the company of Greg, Jo, and my other Marquip friends.

I worked hard. I lived cheaply sharing a small apartment and using my trusty red Cannondale as transportation. I saved money.

Greg was even more into sailing than when I had left, and I sailed with him often, but I realized that if I was ever going to really learn about boats and sailing it would have to be on my own boat. So with the help of Jo (who had a car and knew alot more about boats than I did) I went shopping. We found Sandpiper, a classy 1968 Southcoast Seacraft, and a few thousand dollars later I was a boat owner. By working on and sailing Sandpiper and doing occasional trips to Lakes Michigan and Superior with Greg and Jo, I slowly started to learn. And it was fun!

Stacy returned from Africa and my phone bills dropped from $500/ month to $50/ month. She eventually ended up back at Marquip, and we started saving money together. I had not made firm plans with Jo, and it was clear that Stacy would definitely be part of my future. I knew that she could handle any hardships that we might encounter (I'd seen what she went through and even enjoyed in Guinea), but would she like sailing? We spent a lot of time on Sandpiper, and she slowly got sucked into the dream.

Meanwhile Jo left Marquip. He was off making the big bucks and spending them pretty freely.

After a couple years Stacy and I faced the fact that we had actually been "married" for quite a long time and made it official. We still hadn't made any commitment to sail around the world with Jo, but we were definitely thinking about it. But hey, getting married and all was a big enough decision to last us for a year or two.

Jo left his job. He worked on improving his software design skills by learning Java. Other than that he was a pretty good example of a boat bum, spending most of his time on Four Play, a old 36' Chris Craft Roomer that he owned with three friends. While he wasn't saving money, he was truly preparing for the trip - he was living the cruiser life style, he was learning how to share a boat, and he was gaining the skills that would allow him to make money fast when he needed it. He would need those skills soon.

In the spring of 1999 we were spending a lot of time at the Student Union. That's where the Hoofer Sailing Club is and where we had Sandpiper moored. In addition to sailing Sandpiper, we also spent a lot of time on Four Play with Jo and his friends. Jo had started working again and with his new Java skills was making even more money than before. Everything seemed to be right. We decided to do it! Not only that, but Jo's girlfriend Laurie was game also. Excellent. We went into saving overdrive. The only thing between us and cruising was a lack of money.

When I say saving overdrive here is what I mean. First of all Stacy and I took the maximum 401K deduction. Then Uncle Sam took his cut. What remained was divided as follows: 60% into long term savings (sailing fund), 10% short term savings (toys and short vacations), 30% to live on. In this way we not only saved a lot of money, but we got used to living on a budget. Jo was on a similar program. Laurie was a student and didn't need any practice living on a budget, but she did have some money from her grandparents that she could pitch in to buy a boat.

In July our lease was up. Stacy and I got a storage locker and stored the things we were not willing to give up. The rest was sold or given away. Rather than renewing our lease, we moved onto Sandpiper. Now Sandpiper is a 23' boat and a smaller than most 23' boats. There is a porta potty for emergency use only (thank God for public toilets), and we used a portable cook stove for preparing meals. Each weekday morning we would row to shore, ride our bikes to work, take cloths out of our little car that we basically kept in the Marquip parking lot, and use the showers at work. Life was great. Then we sold Sandpiper. Luckily we had good friends who expect this kind of behaviour from us. We ended up moving into our friend Pat's basement.

While Jo, Stacy and I were doing everything we could to save money, Laurie was struggling on another front. She has had occational seizures since she was a child, but they were usually controlled pretty well by her medication. That seemed to be changing. She was having seizures more frequently which is bad in general and especially bad if one is planning to cruise the world on a boat. She spent a week at the University of Wisconsin hospital undergoing tests. Her doctors understood her desire to travel and worked hard to come up with a combination of drugs that would work without too many nasty side effects.

In the fall of 1999 the four of us headed to Florida for five days. We had a budget of $60K and were looking for a seaworth catamaran. Then reality set in. The closest thing we could find was in the $150K price range. Sure, there were cheaper cats, but nothing that we could take to sea. And even the cat's in the $150K range were far from ideal. We were a little depressed when we returned to Madison, but rather than giving up we continued to do research and scour the internet for boats. Then we found it - a 1991 Fountaine Pajot Antigua 37 in Tortola. While it was considerably more than our original $60K budget, the price looked doable. "Tropic Cat" (soon to become Ladybug) was a tired charter boat. Though well designed for sailing and reasonably well built, she was not as profitable in charter as the newer, roomier, and frankly less seaworth cats. We started negotiating via email, and soon Jo and I were on a plane to Tortola. What we found was a decent boat that sailed well but needed lots of work and equipment to transform her into a world cruiser. At the end of the four day trip we signed on the dotted line.

Back to work. Save like fiends. Laurie's medication seemed to be working.

We officially closed on Ladybug on new years eve, 1999. In February we took a two week vacation on her. On April 18 we left Madison at 2am. That night we slept on Ladybug and the adventure had begun.