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Smooth Sailing on Their Sea of Matrimony

Diane Orphanidys first caught Marty Herman’s eye while cleaning his eyeteeth.

For a chance to spend three hours alone with the dental hygienist, the smitten patient enlisted in Orphanidys’ $150 consultation on plaque control--after which, their love story would become a little more palatable.

Over the next two years, Herman courted his vivacious heartthrob with flair. When he wasn’t taking her out to fancy restaurants, he was bringing fancy restaurants to her--chefs, waiters and all.

They wed Feb. 29, 1984, in a Hawaiian rain forest. A month later, they set sail from Los Angeles on what would become a 4 1/2-year honeymoon--aboard a custom-made, no-luxuries-spared sailboat.

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Now temporarily docked at Marina del Rey, the Hermans reminisced about their fantastic voyage--the good, the bad and the hair-raising times. Although life at sea did not always unfold with the ease they had imagined, the not-so-newlyweds said their private adventure “cemented " their reationship.

Woman of His Dreams

“As soon as I saw Diane, I knew she was the woman of my dreams,” said Marty, 43, who after five years of marriage still gushes over his wife almost as effusively as she over him. “From that moment to the present, I’ve been going out of my way to fulfill all of the fantasies I could afford for her.”

And he could afford some rather extravagant fantasies. Before the age of 30, Marty had made himself a comfortable fortune by turning up the sales volume of a now-defunct home entertainment chain. “I started at the bottom, earning $2.50 an hour, and worked my way up,” the marketing wunderkind said. “I took advantage of the American dream.”

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Herman rewarded himself with a 60-foot yacht named Haig Mats, an acronym for “Honesty and integrity got me all this stuff.” A few years later, he and his bride-to-be decided to sail away on a long honeymoon before grounding themselves in the responsibilities of family life. So they sold most of their belongings, and Marty liquidated his share in University Stereo.

“It was against the flow of what everybody ordinarily does,” Marty said. “You build a career, you buy a house, you invest. Then maybe later when the kids are grown, you go on your dream trip. But later never comes. We wanted to do this while we still had the energy.”

Modern Conveniences

The couple stocked Haig Mats with all the stuff honesty and integrity can buy, including a stereo system, television, VCR, miniature pool table and wet bar. With a 400-gallon water desalinator, they didn’t have to scrimp on showers. And two large freezer compartments meant that they could dine on filet mignon while hundreds of miles from the nearest French restaurant.

“We didn’t worry about money, because it was our honeymoon, which is why this place is like a palace,” Diane, 33, said. “We are accustomed to a high standard of living, and we wanted to maintain that standard throughout our trip.”

The yacht’s master bedroom is decorated with lace curtains, an heirloom bedspread and Diane’s collection of teddy bears. In the den, an Oriental rug brightens the solid teak floor. Books and photographs line the walls. An inviting couch stretches beneath the portholes, facing a seldom-used fireplace.

Originally, the inexperienced mariners intended to delegate major duties to a four-member crew. But two weeks after departing California, they jettisoned their help at a stopover in Mexico.

‘A Daytime Soap Opera’

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“We discovered there was a daytime soap opera going on that had nothing to do with Diane and me,” Marty said. “The captain fell in love with the maid, whom the cook was plotting to get rid of so that he could bring his girlfriend on board. The mechanic was catatonic.”

“I said, ‘Let’s just get rid of all of them. We can take care of everything--nothing’s going to break,’ ” Diane recalled. “A month later, when we ran into our first storm, the engine stopped. Marty sat there and read every page of the instruction manual as we bobbed up and down.

“The waves were taller than our 60-foot mast,” she said. “But we were so busy surviving that we weren’t afraid until it was over, and then I cried for two hours. The high of the whole trip was that we weren’t thinking about adventure, we were living it.”

After weathering the storm, the couple arrived in Costa Rica a few days behind schedule. “My mother had called the State Department in Washington, D.C.: ‘My baby’s lost at sea!’ “I said, ‘Mother, you don’t do those things. Someday we may really need help.’ ”

“We were all still learning,” Marty added. “It was a first experience for all of us; Diane’s mother was experiencing it from the other side.”

For a year, the honeymooners wandered around Central America, eventually making their way through the Panama Canal to the Caribbean Sea. On shore, they explored foreign territory riding the motorcycles they had packed.

Days afloat were spent snorkling, fishing and maintaining the boat. At night, the Hermans worked a split shift--Diane from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m., Marty from 2 until 8 a.m.

A ‘Different Perspective’

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“Someone has to be awake at all hours, to check the radar every 15 minutes,” he explained. “When you’re on watch, you begin to scan past memories and turn them inside out. You see things in a different perspective.”

“Your whole life gets cleaned up and brought up to date,” Diane observed. “Every morning, we would talk for hours about our latest thoughts. It was the best therapy anyone could ask for.”

The Hermans claim they never tired of one another’s company--even during those three-week stints when the radio was their only link to the outside world.

“We sometimes had disagreements,” Marty said, “but we were friends. And more than anything else, we relied on each other for survival. It’s not like an ordinary marriage. When I was sleeping and the boat was moving, my life depended on her. When I was hanging onto a rope that she was holding, if she’d let go, I would no longer exist.”

The Hermans meandered up the Intracoastal Waterway--a chain of rivers, lakes and manmade canals connecting Florida and New York. After visiting Diane’s family in Virginia, they started their journey back to Los Angeles.

“We’d originally planned to cross the Atlantic,” Marty said. “But this was May of ’86, and Europe would (have added) at least another year onto our trip. We were beginning to see time passing by. We never intended to make sailing our entire lives, so we decided that we better start pulling it home.”

Stopped by a Gunboat

On their return trip through the Panama Canal, they were detained overnight by a military gunboat.

“I was waving and smiling as it approached,” Diane said. “Marty told me, ‘Diane, I don’t think they’re very friendly.’ ”

“They seized our vessel and we were taken to a (Panamanian) military base to be interrogated,” Marty said. “They scared the heck out of us.”

Unemployed and unacclimated, the Hermans are slowly readjusting to civilization. “I’ve been for five years now without a job; we’ve depleted our savings,” Marty said. “It’s time to get our careers back in order. Besides, we’d started to miss 20th-Century conveniences.”

Their 10,000 miles at sea were, Marty figured, “one-third hard work, one-third adventure and fear, and one-third boredom or ecstasy--depending on your state of mind at that moment.

“The most important thing we got out of the trip was a sense of accomplishment that we’ll have for the rest of our lives.”

“And we’re more in love than ever,” Diane interjected.

Now the Hermans are outlining a happy ending to their storybook romance. Once they have settled into jobs, Diane said, they hope to start a family and buy a house--"with a white picket fence,” of course.


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