My Boat | SV Stairway

Dean Grabski's Cape Dory 25, Stairway, is named in honor of the band it has a connection with.

The perfect boat can come your way when you least expect it. That was the case with Dean Grabski’s 1975 Cape Dory 25, which he found on the same day he sold his previous boat. Stairway, which has a connection to rock ‘n roll royalty, is homeported in Eugene, Oregon.

Tell us about your boat’s name.
When I got the boat it was named ZEP in big bold lettering and the story goes that it was originally owned by one of the original Led Zeppelin sound engineers. Stairway (as in Stairway to Heaven) seemed more appropriate for such a beautiful craft.

Have you owned other boats before this one?
Yes — Santana 21, West Wight Potter 15, O’Day Kitten

Tell us the story of how you found your boat and what makes it special to you.
When I was 18 I crewed on a Cape Dory — it was by far the most beautiful sailboat I’d been on and I immediately was smitten by Cape Dory boats. Finding a CD 25 on the West Coast was really difficult — every morning I’d check different websites, hoping to find one somewhat locally.

I was at work and someone called about buying my Santana 21, which wasn’t advertised for sale at the time, but the previous owner of that boat had this guy call me about it as he knew I was in the market for a keel boat. From our phone call I could tell I’d sold my boat. That very day I go home, open up Craiglist for Seattle and the Cape Dory was the very first boat listed! I hired a surveyor and a week or two later the boat was delivered from Port Townsend to my home in Eugene.

The skipper aboard his boat

What’s the history of your boat?
The boat was purchased by one of the original members of the Led Zeppelin sound crew and he lived in Idaho. He had the new boat trucked to Idaho, where it was named ZEP. After that it was sold to folks in Seattle – then only one year with the folks in Port Townsend, who never actually got to use it.

What do you like best about your boat?
The beautiful classic lines, the wood trim, the way it sails.

What do you know now about your boat that you wish you’d known when you bought it?
The previous owner didn’t tell me the motor didn’t work — he actually didn’t even know as I don’t think he and his wife ever had the boat in the water as he stated that the engine had an ‘electric start’ and of course it didn’t. I don’t think they were liars — just clueless!

Stairway at the dock

Would that have changed your mind?
Not at all. I love my boat!

What’s your favorite story involving your boat?
How I’d looked for her for over a year every single day and I found the boat on the day I sold my old boat, which wasn’t even for sale! And I’m a old school rock and roll fan who does sound engineering and recording as a hobby — it was so meant to be!

Describe the most challenging situation you’ve experienced on your boat and how it performed.
I singlehand most of the time and learning to sail with the genika while singlehanding is a challenge — once the weather came up really quickly and I was caught with the large sail up which about dragged me into a dock! Getting all the wood sanded down to the bare wood and refinishing it with eight coats of varnish around the rain was ultra-challenging as well!

Tell us a little about your boating background.
Started sailing when I was 11 — singlehanded sailing by 12 — used to manage a small marine hardware store in Fort Lauderdale years ago.

Sailing into the sunset

Where do you plan to take your boat? Do you have a dream destination?
The reason I originally joined this site was because I plan to spend four to six weeks living aboard in the Puget Sound/San Juan Islands this summer! Dream destinations are many!

If someone gave you $10,000 that you could only spend on your boat, what would you do with it and why?
I’d get the topsides/deck professionally painted and use the leftover money on the interior.

If you could have any other boat, what would it be and why?
Here in the lake I sail the CD25 is the perfect boat in my opinion — if I was sailing up there all the time then I’d say a CD 28 or CD 30.

What didn’t we ask you about your boat that you wish we had?
Hmm — I can’t really think of much — maybe how you use your boat — some people race, some people cruise, some people just eat dinner at the dock, that kind of stuff.

We’re always looking for boats to feature — powerboats, sailboats, racing boats, wooden boats, work boats and others. If you’d like us to feature yours, drop us a line at and tell us a little about it.

4 Responses to My Boat | SV Stairway

  1. Bruce Ebling March 29, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    I met Dean shortly after he bought ZEP and he has brought that boat from and average condition to near bristol shape. I love watching the Cape Dory on the lake as they have such great lines. I own a Cape Dory 25D and am excited to own a sailing classic like the Cape Dorys. Dean is a great guy and has seemingly unlimited enthusiasm when it comes to his beloved boat.

  2. Chris Sinnett March 5, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    Nice article!

    We used to be slip neighbors to Stairway. She’s maybe not the fastest boat on the lake but definitely one of the prettiest and lovingly maintained. Dean put a lot of work into the brightwork a couple years ago; almost enough to make me wish I had some to varnish on my boat.

    Dean’s the kind of guy you want in the slip next to you, too. If you need a hand he’ll gladly help and if your dock line needs attention while you’re 45 miles away he’ll notice and fix it for you. We’ve missed that since we moved to a slip closer to shore on another dock.

    s/v Verboten

  3. Rob Morton March 5, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    Nice Article,
    Do you sail on Fern Ridge?
    We live about an hour north of there. It was a surprise to see Eugene mentioned.

  4. Scott Morris March 5, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    I think that the Cape Dory 25 is probably a good fit for lake sailing. I used to live on Buzzards Bay and I was not far from the Cape Dory plant in Taunton MA. The CD25 was the only boat of their line not designed by Carl Alberg and it showed. Although the boat is pretty to look at with extensive shear, it was not built or designed nearly as well as the rest of the CD line. Consequently, when the wind blows, she won’t sail nearly as well as the other CDs and is very tender in a seaway. The boat was an initial success on Buzzards Bay, because it was less expensive than the CD 28, but the bloom was soon off the rose when her poor sailing qualities on Buzzards Bay became evident. As I said, nice boat for a lake.

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