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Smooth Sailing on Their Sea of Matrimony

March 12, 1989|SUSAN CHRISTIAN

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.

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."

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'

"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.

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