We are the
Grafs, Sharon and Michael, of Springfield, Illinois, proud owners of the
Larabeck, a 42-foot yacht.
Sharon is an
at the University of Illinois at Springfield. She has always enjoyed music,
travelling, and being outdoors. The combination of these interests inspired
her to learn about American traditional music, and eventually to study
musics from around the globe. She was born in Laramie, Wyoming, where she
explored mountains and prairies on horseback and on skis. She met Michael
in 1989, and with her love of the outdoors already firmly established,
it was easy to become interested in sailing. This trip gives Sharon a chance
to expand her knowledge of the culture and music of the South Pacific that
she can share with her students and colleagues. Among her many accomplishments,
Sharon is the 2004 Illinois
State Old-time Fiddle Champion.
an engineer who can build or fix just about anything and who caught the
sailing bug at a young age. He was born in Luebeck Germany, a city with
a long maritime history. His first sailing experience was in the boy scouts
with a small boat called an "Optimist" and later took up windsurfing (also
known as “sailboarding”). He outfitted his own "surfmobile" van in Germany,
which took him to many windy destinations with his sailboards including
the North and Baltic Seas and the Mediterranean. Moving to the U.S. in
1989, he continued to explore windsurfing opportunities including Lake
Michigan, Columbia River Gorge, Cape Hatteras, and Corpus Christi. Michael
came to the U.S. in the employ of a German company specialized in bag filling,
and he has been designing and building packaging machines for companies
across the country ever since. His combination of engineering skills and
sailing knowledge keep the Larabeck sailing smoothly.
the South Pacific is a big adventure and we have spent years planning and
preparing for it before we could set sail. We started talking about sailing
to the South Pacific in 2006 and finally left Fort Myers Florida on May
Read an in-depth
interview of Michael and Sharon about how their dream became a
the s/v Larabeck got its name!
Officially, the Larabeck
the s/v Larabeck. Learn what s/v stands for and other ship
Boat names are a traditional way
of identifying maritme vessels; our boat is named Larabeck.
Government officials recognize vessels by name and home port like a car
might be identified by a license plate. When we meet other sailors
we talk to and about them using their boat name, especially when communicating
Owners have the option of naming
their boat, and that's what we did. Sharon is from Laramie, Wyoming,
and Michael is from Luebeck, Germany, so we put the "Lara" and the "beck"
together and viola, our boat name. We thought Larabeck sounded
nice and would be easy to recognize and repeat. Sometimes it's hard to
hear things over the radio, but most people repeat this name back correctly.
In really tough situations, when it's hard to hear the radio signal, protocol
is to spell using the official names the military gave the letters. In
this case, LARABECK would be "Lima-Alpha-Romeo-Alpha-Bravo-Echo-Charlie-
We named our first boat, a Beneteau
Oceanis 350, Larabeck and when we sold it, we assumed the new owners
would change the name. To the contrary: they really liked the name
and kept it, even after we explained to them how we came up with it. So
they registered it with the Coast Guard. The registrations are distinct,
though, as their Larabeck has a different hailing port, somewhere
on Lake Carlyle, Illinois, and ours is Springfield, Illinois.
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Collins spent last year finishing a M.A. degree in environmental journalism
and communication while serving as the graduate assistant for the sociology-
anthropology and music departments at UIS. A highlight of her year was
with Michael and Sharon about their trip preparations for a series
of articles she is writing. Tracking their progress is now a favorite diversion
from working on her thesis and other writing projects.
Fisher manages the Larabeck Facebook site and is the
"on-call weather liason." When the Larabeck needs more information
than they can get through the SSB radio connection, they contact Lynn who
combs the internet weather resources for further information. She
attended a weather class in Chicago last winter with Sharon, and has been
a big help to the Larabeck throughout the trip. Lynn is an
at UIS and an amatuer musician, playing with Sharon in the chamber orchestra.
She is fluent in German, and enjoys gardening when she is not in southern
Germany, the site of her research.
Johnson met Sharon and Lynn in a class on weather for sailors. He now
provides the Larabeck with weather information and forecasts. Jim,
a retired international Captain from Delta Air Lines, is a Consulting
Meteorologist in Chicago, specializing in aviation and marine weather.
He has written a book on hazardous weather and is a frequent guest on radio
Langley is the webmaster for Larabeck.com. She recently retired
from teaching women and gender studies at UIS, and sings in the chorus
under Sharon's direction. She shares Michael's build-it, fix-it or change-it
approach to life.
Scott created and manages the Larabeck blog. She works in the
UIS Brookens Library, and puts her major in piano with a choral sub-specialization
to use as the piano
accompanist for the UIS Chorus. She is teaching herself some
difference between motor boat owners and sailors...
to tell a joke about a motor boat owner and a sail boat owner who are at
a boat show with lots of new "eye candy" for boats --the newest gadgets
and gizmos. When they both see a fancy piece of equipment they want
(but may not need), the motor boat owner asks the vendor "Where can I buy
that?" The sailor scratches his head and says to himself, "Hmm, I wonder
how I can make that! " And that, Michael says, is the difference between
motor boat owners and sailors!