Cruise control

A husband and wife fulfill a lifelong dream by sailing around the world

When Stuart Conway '72 met fellow Kenyon student Julie Montgomery '74, one of the first things he did was take her to New York to see if she liked to sail.

"It was pretty clear that the relationship wasn't going to go anywhere if I couldn't share his dream," Julie recalls.

Conway had dreamed of sailing around the world since he was a child. He was taken by his grandfather as a supernumerary on ocean-going tankers at the age of twelve and learned how to keep a log and swab a deck. He unraveled the mysteries of the engine room and was schooled in the captain's duties on the bridge. He joined the sailing club in high school and spent hours every summer boating on Long Island Sound.

At Kenyon, Conway majored in studio art and joined the wrestling and lacrosse teams and Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity. Though far from the ocean, the ocean was never far from his heart, as he and Julie plotted out their future together.

"Planning for the voyage actually began while we were at Kenyon," says Stu. "Among other things, we knew that we would have to have children right away, so that they would be grown and independent before we embarked."

Married in July 1974, Julie gave birth to Elizabeth (Lisa) in 1976, and a year later, sister Sarah (Sally) arrived. Stu fell into his career as a Wall Street bond trader quite by accident, probably one of the few unplanned events of his life. "I met someone at a New Year's Eve party who suggested I give it a try, and I found I not only liked it but was pretty good at it," he says.

A psychology major, Julie gravitated toward computers. After staying home with the children for a while, she completed a six-month program with Chubb Institute of Computer Technology in 1986 and landed a job as a programmer-analyst for Beneficial Management Corporation.

It wasn't until 1991 that the Conways took their first giant step toward their goal; they purchased a boat and christened it "Stampede." They spent seven years refurbishing the boat and outfitting it with the latest technology.

They sold their house and bought a condominium so their girls could have a home base without maintenance worries.

Finally, after more than thirty-five years of dreaming and twenty-eight years of planning, Julie and Stu set sail on Monday, September 28, 1998. The first leg of the trip took them from Boston to Hampton, Virginia, and then on to Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. "For this leg of the trip, we joined a rally of over forty boats and sailed through the end of Hurricane Mitch," says Julie.

With the wonders of e-mail and Internet cafes in even the most remote locations, the Conways were never isolated even when it was just the two of them. Plus, they had invited friends and family to join them at various destinations. There were around forty takers. "We were in the Caribbean - Antigua and St. Lucia - for most of the winter and had visitors a lot of that time," Julie says.

The Conways also joined a convoy of boaters known as Millennium Odyssey on February 10 in St. Lucia and began their transit of the Panama Canal a few days later.

"Millennium Odyssey originated in Israel," Stu explains. "They carried an eternal flame representing peace, friendship, and good will, which they delivered to the Pope in Rome, Italy, on Easter Sunday 2000."

About a year after leaving home, the couple had traveled half-way around the world, and they were enjoying Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand by Christmas 1999. They cruised the Maldives and then, in March, docked in Djibouti, Somalia, and toured inland. With Millennium Odyssey, they traversed the Suez Canal and soon arrived in Crete.

Stu and Julie decided to anchor "Stampede" there and explore the Greek Islands. That was followed by a flight to Israel for touring and another plane ride to Rome for the Millennium Odyssey closing ceremonies, before jetting back to their boat. The spring and summer of 2000 were spent cruising the Mediterranean, including Malta, Corsica, Sardinia, Menorca, Spain, and Gibraltar.

And just how did two people with independent lives on land adjust to the intimacy of two and a half years on a boat?

"Stu was always the skipper," says Julie.

"But Julie was the admiral," jokes Stu.

"It is interesting how in our marriage we always considered everything equal, but on a boat, there is only one person in charge," Julie elaborates. "And that person was Stu."

Back home in New Jersey, with their memories and their souvenirs, once again eating food they can spell, Julie and Stu are turning their energy to a new project - a bicycle ride across the United States.

-Linda Michaels

Back to Top