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April 1999

Ilana Stern sets sail for a new life

She grew up near the mid-Atlantic coast, where she sailed on friends' boats here and there. But Ilana Stern didn't develop a passion for sailing until she moved to Colorado. After a decade living in the Boulder area and working in SCD, Ilana has left with her husband to launch a new life on the seas, one whose details are pleasantly uncertain.

"We're trying not to be too ambitious," says Ilana. She and Britt Bassett, formerly a network engineer at SCD and more recently at NOAA, are now in the midst of a leisurely road trip. Their destination is Rock Hall, Maryland, where their 40-foot sailboat, Windom, is stored. Ilana and Britt will live on the boat in Chesapeake Bay, making short excursions as they get their sea legs. "It's friendly sailing," she explains. "We're taking baby steps."

Later this summer the couple heads for New England, avoiding the hurricane belt further south until the season passes. "Our insurance specifically requires us to stay north of a certain latitude until after 15 November," says Ilana. They will then take the Intracoastal Waterway south. By year's end, Ilana and Britt plan to be in the Bahamas, where they'll map out their plans for 2000 and beyond.

As part of SCD's Data Support Section, Ilana helped maintain huge databases (see the spring 1999 UCAR Quarterly for more on her section's work) and put together a massive Web-based FAQ on meteorological resources. On the water, Ilana is leaving behind most of her network links, but not all of them. She and Britt plan to use an acoustic coupler to dial in and check e-mail from pay phones. They hope to do the same thing at sea with a cell phone and modem. For Web access, they'll depend on libraries and cybercafes they find in ports along the way.

Although she won't be using the 'Net as much as she did at NCAR, Ilana will be honing her weather skills. "I have a master's degree in meteorology from MIT, but I've never done much forecasting. Now I have to learn." The pair have taken first-aid classes and read extensively on sailing skills.

If you're hankering for an adventure like this, Ilana has three words of advice: "Set a date." She and Britt were hiking to Red Deer Lake in the fall of 1996 when they vowed to begin their life on the water by December 1998. Their timeline slipped by only a few months. Setting a departure date "made things a lot more real, and that made saving money a lot easier."

In the SCD tradition of naming computers after mountains (which Britt launched during his days at SCD), Ilana and Britt named their boat in honor of Windom Peak, a Colorado fourteener they both have climbed. "Windom is a pretty word," Ilana notes. "Its sound evokes thoughts of wisdom, winsome, winning, a kingdom of the wind." The boat will also have "Boulder, Colorado" listed as its home port on its stern. "We figure that'll definitely be unusual enough to stick in people's minds." •Bob Henson

On the Web:
You can follow Ilana's sailing adventures via the Web at
Windom home.
She can be reached by e-mail at

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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu

Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall