We are the Grafs, Sharon and Michael, of Springfield, Illinois, proud owners of the Larabeck, a 42-foot yacht. 

Sharon is an ethnomusicologist 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

Michael is 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.


Larabeck home

Dream to reality...

Sailing to 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 6, 2010. 

Read an in-depth interview of Michael and Sharon about how their dream became a  reality.


Interactive Google map

How the s/v Larabeck got its name! 
Officially, the Larabeck is the s/v Larabeck. Learn what s/v stands for and other ship  prefix abbreviations

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 by radio. 

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- Kilo."

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. 


Comments or questions about this website?  Send an email
to Larabeckgraf@gmail.com

   Land-locked friends 

Julie 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 talking 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.

Lynn 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 archeologist 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. 

Jim 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 and television.

Pat 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. 

Pamela 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 bluegrass guitar. 

The difference between motor boat owners and sailors... 

Michael likes 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!