The Voyage

The Plan
The Log


Spike Hampson


  • Navigate Kobuk around the world using rivers, coastlines and short ocean crossings.
  • Write a successful travel book that redefines the genre.
  • Build a small home that is environmentally friendly, mortgage free, and located in a beautiful rural setting.

Spike on Kobuk


  • Born in 1943.
  • Ran in and out of the Grand Canyon.
  • Worked in Alaskan Eskimo Villages.
  • Built a Polynesian style Catamaran.
  • Crewed on a sailboat in the South Pacific.
  • Mountain biked alone around Romania, Corsica, Costa Rica, the Greek Islands and the Russian Caucasus.

Boating Life

    Spike grew up next to Newfound Lake in New Hampshire where he spent his summers swimming and boating.  His first love was a 6' dingy named "Sally L," the sort of lightweight rowboat that even a five year old could manage.  Each summer Sally L would transport Spike to all the bays and rocky headlands and swampy river inlets at his end of the lake.  It was the sort of exploration and adventure that any child would love, and when a few years later Spike read "Swallows and Amazons" by John Crowe Ransome it fixed in his mind the idea that little in life could be more exciting than simply "messing around in boats."  Eventually, Sally L perished in the aftermath of a hurricane that swept up the eastern seaboard and stung the region.  The next day, Spike and his dad discovered the bones of the hull undulating like flotsam on a rocky shore some distance down the lake and Spike knew even then that the end of an era had come to pass.

    A few years later, Spike's dad purchased a 13' Penn Yann Swift and outfitted it with a 90 horsepower Mercury outboard, a tall, black, sinister looking machine that would drive the fragile hull at unheard of speeds.  This little outfit was able to run circles around any boat on the lake--including the gleaming mahogany Chris Craft kept in a boathouse down near The Ledges.  With its lustrous finish, upholstered interior, and throaty inboard, the Chris Craft was a symbol of affluence and entitlement that deserved to be outrun.  The little Penn Yann was superior, Spike thought, but he never could get over the deep, rumbling sound of that inboard exhaust.  The poor man's rocket was stupendously overpowered; the weight of the big outboard prohibited any sort of sudden stop since the trailing wake would climb aboard over the transom.  Also, the nearly flat bottom of the hull, and its lightweight construction, meant that chop and waves had to be handled with special care.  Still, she was fast whenever the surface was smooth.

    As a graduate student in Hawaii, Spike became obsessed with the idea of building a sailboat to live aboard, learning to sail, and undertaking a voyage around the world.  He read extensively--as any good academic would do--and eventually opted to build a Wharram designed Polynesian catamaran for the venture.  Since neither wife nor children were particularly taken with the plan, he found himself scaling back his grand scheme and building a smaller Wharram day cruiser instead.  He undertook this three year building project in their living room, and when it was finished he launched at the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, next to Waikiki and Diamond Head.  The little ship was named Rima and she served him well, even venturing to cross the notorious Molokai Channel a couple times.

    When Spike left Hawaii he ended up in Alberta, and that is not good boating country.  The Big Idea did not die, but it suffered from a lack of visual stimuli--just as a plant might do in constant shade.  In 1984, however, a turn of events opened up a sailing possibility that might have revived the original vision.  Separated from his family, Spike moved to Utah and began teaching skiing at Deer Valley.  During his first season there he met a woman who had entered into a marriage of convenience with a Kiwi sailboat captain named Alan Jouning.  Alan was looking for crew to help him with a boat he was going to be taking over in New Zealand.  Spike ended up working for him as the mate on White Eagle, an 84' motor sailer that was undergoing a refit in Aukland and then setting off for Tahiti.  Spike worked on White Eagle for six months, making the 11-day passage to Tahiti, scuba diving in the Tuamotus, stopping over in the Cook Islands, and tarrying in Vava'u, the northern islands of Tonga.  The stopover at Rarotonga was particularly sentimental for there on the reef was lodged the derelict hull of Yankee, the boat that Irving and Electra  Johnson had used to sail around the world seven times.  As a youth, Spike had read their National Geographic articles and dreamed of global cruising.

    Spike could have stayed permanently with White Eagle but decided to return to Utah for the next winter season, and with that decision the dream of sailing around the world went into a state of dormancy.  Ten years later the vision was resurrected, but in a modified form because of the lack of nearby oceans.  Sailing around in circles on lakes and in protected waters held little appeal, so eventually the idea of building a power boat of some kind began to take root.  Why couldn't such a boat--if properly designed and well constructed--travel most anywhere except across large stretches of open ocean?  With that idea in mind, a boat design was selected and construction was begun.  Five years later, when Kobuk finally was finished, Spike was back in the boating business.


    Growing up in an isolated rural area with no siblings and no friends nearby, Spike developed an early and consuming preoccupation with what might lie beyond the horizon.  When he was eight years old, his grandmother gave him a subscription to National Geographic Magazine, and that convinced him of what he should do with his life: see new places.   Throughout the following decades, virtually every life choice was affected by this consideration.  Marriage and children complicated the picture, but did nothing to cure his all-consuming passion.  Tennyson's portrayal of Ulysses became the guiding principle for life, and the words that Tennyson put in Ulysses' mouth were adopted as the most pure expression of that principle:

"I am a part of all that I have met,
Yet all experience is an arch
Wherethrough gleams that untraveled world
Whose margin fades forever and forever as I move."

This vagabond philosophy discouraged rational economic choice and motivated a sequence of choices that rarely had much to do with developing a career or establishing stability.  Over the years, it accounts for the following list of bizarre and irrational activities:
  • Worked as a ranch hand on a spread in Colorado
  • Went to university in Montreal
  • Worked in two Alaskan Inuit villages above the Arctic Circle
  • Hitchhiked alone from Fairbanks to Vancouver
  • Flew to Paris and got married
  • Taught school in England
  • Hitchhiked from Augusta, Maine to Los Angeles in under three days
  • Went to an institute on Asian Studies in Hawaii
  • Moved to Denver
  • Camped a summer in northern Arizona and worked on a cloud seeding project
  • Went to Hawaii for PhD studies
  • Became a milkman in Lethbridge, Alberta
  • Spent a year in central British Columbia
  • Consulted in Calgary
  • Ski instructed in Utah
  • Worked on a sailboat in New Zealand and the South Pacific
  • Wasted six months working as a consultant in Washington, DC
  • Traveled and lived in Switzerland
  • Mountain biked alone in the Greek Islands
  • Repeatedly visited Cyprus and Israel
  • Bicycled alone in Romania shortly after the fall of Ceaucescu
  • Studied Spanish in Chiapas
  • Climbed volcanoes in Indonesia
  • Traveled through southern China
  • Bicycled alone in Corsica, the Russian Caucasus, and Costa Rica


    In his secret life Spike is a writer, but until recently he had neither the courage nor the discipline to properly develop the interest.  That is about to change.  While traveling around Corsica and the Russian Caucasus in June and July of 2003, he wrote a book about his adventures and titled it Stalking Youth and Women in the European Outback.  Then in December of 2003 he did a two week bicycle trip in Costa Rica and while there wrote a novelette entitled Pura Vida.  These two experiences have convinced him that he can write if the conditions are suitable.  Once he was under way aboard Kobuk he established a writing routine and converted what had been an avocation into a vocation as well.  As Robert Frost said:

"My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation--
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For heaven and the future's sake."


The Voyage

The Plan
The Log