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Baby Boomers Always Pursuing Dreams

The whole theme of BoomerCafé is baby boomers with active lifestyles. None more than the couple about whom you’re about to read. Frequent contributor Mike Petrie writes about two adventurers who followed their dreams, and have led other boomers to dream along with them.

Mike Petrie sailing off Diamond Head in Hawaii.As a generation, Baby Boomers have been a pretty adventurous lot. We’ve never been content to simply sit back and let life pass us by. A great many of us pursued our dreams and took the paths less traveled. Some of us hitch-hiked across the country, some backpacked through Europe, some tried communal living … or what-have-you. In my view, there’s one particular Baby Boomer who went well above and beyond whatever most of the rest of us Boomers were doing: his name is Robin Lee Graham. In July, 1965, at the tender age of 16, Robin set sail from Southern California to cross the oceans of the world … completely alone. His was a 33,000 mile, five year circumnavigation. And he was the youngest solo sailor in the smallest boat ever: a 24-foot sloop named Dove. The voyage was famously covered at the time by National Geographic Magazine.

Imagine sailing off over the horizon, going wherever the wind may take you, living completely free, crossing vast expanses of ocean, reaching landfalls solely by using your navigational skills, surviving completely by your own wits… at only age 16! The teenaged Graham sailed through storms, heavy seas, endured death-defying conditions, and the solitude of being totally alone for extended periods with only sea and sky as a backdrop. But this is not merely a sailing story. It’s also a love story.

Patti Ratteree Graham, around 1967.

Along the way – in the Fiji islands – Graham met a beautiful blond girl from, where else? California! Patti Ratteree became the love of his life. The couple would later marry at a small church in South Africa. A Baby Boomer free-spirit in her own right, Patti would travel all over the globe, from port to port, by whatever means possible– hitchhiking, bus, airplane, boat– to be there waiting for her handsome, young sailor each time he cruised into a foreign harbor. They hated the time apart between landfalls, but the nature of Robin’s voyage was to sail single-handedly. He had to finish the voyage alone. Theirs became a love story like none other, and became the tale that would spawn two best-selling books –“Dove” and “Home Is The Sailor” – as well as a children’s book, “The Boy Who Sailed Around The World Alone,” and a 1974 major Hollywood movie, “The Dove,” produced by Gregory Peck, which won a Golden Globe Award.


“Robin Lee Graham” one reviewer wrote, “probably inspired more people to leave the mundane land-life behind and travel the oceans more than any other human this century or the last.” Well, you can certainly count me in those numbers. As a young guy, I read Graham’s book, “Dove,” and saw the movie about a dozen times. His adventures, and his love story, inspired me to seek my own adventures and make my own voyages. I sailed from California to Hawaii in a boat only slightly larger than his, cruised the Pacific extensively, and visited exotic ports-o-call like Tonga, Pago Pago, Tahiti, and others. I owe a lot to Robin Lee Graham. He became, more or less, a sailing hero to me.

Robin & Patti Graham today.

Sure, there have been a few – very few, actually – other teen sailors who have made similar voyages in the years since, but Graham was the very first. All of the more recent solo sailors cite Robin Lee Graham as amongst their greatest influences. A great adventurer within a generation of adventurers.

I write for SAIL–World’s Leading Sailing Magazine. So, when my editor at the magazine suggested writing an article about the current crop of teen solo sailors who were making headlines, I responded, “Why not have me write an article about the ‘original’ teen sailor, Robin Lee Graham?” He thought it was a great idea. As for me, I was absolutely thrilled to find myself interviewing my life-long sailing hero. And the story was published (click here).

These days, the once-teenaged adventurers – Robin & Patti Graham – are in their sixties and enjoying new adventures, as parents and grandparents. But these two Boomers will forever remain the youthful lovers who sailed around the world in search of adventure. They followed their dreams. Learning about those dreams is guaranteed to rekindle a Boomer’s feelings of youthful free-spiritedness and new love… and perhaps inspire us, once again, to blaze new trails.

You can buy “Dove” at Amazon.com.




  1. ED EAD says:August 15, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Wonderful! As a young teen I followed Grahams adventures in Natl Geo with equal measure of awe and envy. Also read his book from cover to cover. Really liked reading this about Graham once again. Glad to know he’s alive and well … and still with Patti. I wish them continued good fortune.
  2. Lily S. says:

    I once saw a sign that said “it does not take a lot of money to live your dreams.”

    I certainly agree with that. Start small and follow your dreams and the universe has a way of opening the path for you.

  3. Boomgono says:

    This is wonderful. I love hearing that the people who made our generation famous when we were young are still living for love and creating adventures today. Thank you for writing this.

  4. Tim says:

    I came to the Dove story by way of the movie in the mid 70′s, drawn by the adventure, the wide world, the pretty girl, the testing of the sea. I have read the book and have seen the movie many times since and sail a 14 foot West Wight Potter pocket cruiser. I’m leaving tomorrow for a solo circumnavigation… of Washington’s San Juan Islands. Thanks all for the ongoing story! T.Pattison, Bellingham, Washington

  5. Lon says:

    Great story. I first read Dove my Jr year in college in 1970s. As a result of the book, I bought a boat, got married, lived aboard and had three kids. My son read Grahams book as a boy, is 27 now and works in the sailboat industry and has more ocean miles than I can only dream about. Robin Graham had a great influence on both generations of this family. Nice to read about him again.

  6. Stan the Man says:

    How totally refreshing to read this! While many of this generation spent their youth on drug-induced psychedelic trips to nowhere, frolicking in free love, getting wasted at rock concerts, contemplating their navels looking for the meaning of life, and likely have only fractured memories of it all … THIS baby boomer was on a REAL trip to REAL and exciting places, found TRUE LOVE rather than just meaningless free love, explored many other cultures around the globe who give real meaning to life, listened to the natural concerts of whales & the ocean, and has a world of wondrous memories recorded forever in his book. I agree that baby boomers are a adventurous generation, I only wish more of us had directed those adventures in the more positive direction as did Graham. Really great to read this. Thank you.

  7. Bob Humphreys says:

    Each generation has its wonderful explorers. Ours was lucky to have the Dove story. I hope we all teach our next generation of explorers the values that are learned here.

  8. Kris says:

    Great read!! Love and adventure, who could ask for anything more? Thanks.

  9. LIVVY says:


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