Some sailors travel the world, seeing places dreams are made of. Hailing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Steffen Dam and Lone Greve had similar backgrounds…racing in the belts and sounds of Denmark and progressing onto larger boats. A corporate executive, Dam’s plan was to sail the world by 50. Retiring at 49, he met Greve, who had her own interior design business in Copenhagen. They bought Cat Coquette, a 38’ 1984 Swedish sloop, in Germany, and never looked back, starting off in familiar waters, cruising Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.
“In ‘99 we gunk-holed to the Med via Germany, Holland, Belgium, France and the southern coast of England,” says Dam. “We crossed the Channel and the Bay of Biscay to La Corunna, Spain and the coasts of Portugal—our worst day was a knock-down with man-over-board in the Atlantic off Portugal.”
The couple continued to Gibraltar and Spain, and spent the winter of 1999-2000 in Ibetha and Palma de Mallorca, then headed on to Sardinia, Corsica, and Elba. The traveled down the western coast of Italy and through the Strait of Messina, stopping for seven weeks to install a new engine before cruising the Greek Islands and Turkey.
“We learnt important lessons – to avoid crew if at all possible on long passages. You are so much more comfortable by sticking to your usual routines, even if it means less sleep,” Dam says.
“However, the best thing about the cruising life is what we sought when we set out—freedom from all land-based administration. We have no fixed address, so nothing in the mail, no traffic lights, no neighbors etc. We thought of this as we sailed north, along the Turkish coast to Istanbul, spending five weeks there in 2001.
“We had quite an experience sailing the Black Sea for ten weeks and on to Bulgaria and Romania – journeying 50 miles up the Danube River into the Ukraine to Odessa, with inland travel to Kiev and Georgia before returning to the Turkish Black Sea coast (700 miles) and the Greek Islands.”
Dam and Greve then called at northern Cyprus and visited Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt, ports that cruisers sometimes pass up due to political unrest. Heading back into the Med, they returned to Cyprus, Crete, and the Croatian Islands, where they laid up for hull repairs before sailing to Venice. After visiting Sicily, Malta, and Tunisia on the African coast, they left the Med for Portuguese Madeira and the Canaries.
“Our best cruising day was in mid-Atlantic with a breezy trade wind and sushi from freshly caught tuna,” Greve says. By the end of 2004, with 25,000 miles of sailing behind them, Dam and Greve entered the Caribbean.
“We arrived in Trinidad on Christmas Eve, and installed a new teak deck before cruising the Caribbean chain to St. Thomas, Bermuda, and Maine where we spent the summer of 2005,” says Dam. “We left in September and cruised down the eastern coast of the US, spending a month in Annapolis.”
After awakening in November with ice on their deck, the couple knew it was time to depart and sailed down the eastern coast of the United States, arriving in Ft. Lauderdale for Christmas of 2005.
“After Christmas we checked out of Key West to spend New Years in Cuba. Here we found our best bargain as we swapped three bars of Ivory soap for four lobsters from a fisherman.”
The couple says that their favorite Caribbean port was Port Antonio, Jamaica. “The friendliness of the staff and the ‘Errol Flynn’ setting is simply unique,” reports Dam.
Any regrets? While sailing in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra, Dam says they came to regret that they had not taken the opportunity to learn Spanish previously during months-long stays at marinas in Spain and Venezuela.
There was an unexpected reminder of their heritage far away from Copenhagen. “A big thrill for us was being in St. Croix for Transfer Day, celebrating the exchange from Denmark to the U.S. in 1917,” says Dam.
Author’s note: After spending 2007 in the Caribbean, Steffen Dam and Lone Greve plan to go through the Panama Canal and cruise the rest of the world. I am exhausted just hearing about it, but most sincerely wish them the fairest of winds and the best of luck. They promise to keep me posted on their travels.