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Around The Americas Solo

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  • Around The Americas Solo

    On June 13th, 2011, Matt Rutherford sailed out of Chesapeake Bay on his Albin-Vega 27' "Godspeed" and deaded North. His goal: to become the 1st solo sailor to circumnavigate the Americas non stop.

    "Godspeed" prior to departure

    Matt's motivation for the trip is to show people, particularly those with disabilities, that there are no limits to what can be accomplished in life; and to raise money for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating C.R.A.B. a nonprofit sailing program for people with disabilities, based in Annapolis, Md.

    After 24,000 nautical miles and nearly 10 months at sea, Matt is currently just north eats of Puerto Rico and expected to complete his voyage in mid April.

    His quest for non-stop status mean he cannot touch land no may anyone else come aboard. In dire need of assistance in Newfoundland after his desalinator parted into two, he was assisted by a good friend who found a party to assist with a replacement,
    sailing up to Godspeed to deliver the goods and a bonus bottle of Scotch.

    Bergs in Baffin Bay July 27

    After making good time and seeing my first icebergs the wind changed back to the north. I had two days of 15-20kts head winds with super think fog. I never have been a fan of the fog but when you are sailing blindly, surrounded by icebergs with no radar, things get a bit dodgy. Finally when the fog broke I looked around and saw five bergs within a mile of me. Since then the weather has been very nice, but very little wind. Over the trip the temperature has slowly dropped, to the point that in the fog the other day it was in the 30s. Yesterday it was 56 (13c) and today it was 60 degrees (15c)! 60 degrees at 71 1/2 North?! I’m thinking about heading to the beach and going for a swim (just kidding). Yes the skies are blue and the days are warm, but there is no wind and wind is what matters. It’s been slow going the last five days and I have a feeling that this is the way its going to be up here.


    August 2nd 2011

    Well I’ve sailed about as far north as possible. I’ve actually sailed off of my Garmin chart plotter’s map and doing so has freaked it out and my whole screen has turned yellow. Once I get below 75 north It should start working properly again. It’s definitely gotten colder and is feeling a lot more like the Arctic with temperatures in the 30s (3-5c). Exposure is a problem here. I stay warm for the most part but its a struggle keeping my hands warm. The boat is wet 90% of the time so every time I handle a line or rub up against something I get wet. After my last entry I had a couple days of light wind which gave me a opportunity to get some sleep and enjoy watching the icebergs. I slept 3 hours or so on Wednesday and then the winds picked up at around 15kts and and I had a peaceful sail and saw the best and most beautiful icebergs of the trip. Being that I was sailing at a good speed I didn’t sleep thinking to myself “this wind won’t last too long”. I’ve been told that up here you can be becalmed for days and your lucky to get much of any wind. Well, I got a warning of 40kts winds heading my way and so I started to prepare the best I could. Weather reports are not very reliable up here so when the gale didn’t show by the time predicted I thought it wouldn’t come. About the time I thought that – the winds picked up bringing fog and rain. Luckily the winds only reached around 30kts – the problem though, was that as I’ve been going further north I’ve seen more and more small ice chunks mixed in with the big bergs. These small bergy bits are very difficult to see. There might only be a piece of ice the size of a basketball sticking out of the water, but underwater it might be the size of a school bus. When you have 30kts wind behind you, the seas produce a lot of white caps and it becomes incredibly difficult to determine whether you’re looking at a white cap or a mini berg. Especially when you are in the pouring rain, in the fog, going full speed ahead.

    North Pacific
    Posted on September 30, 2011 by Matt
    I had to time my passage through the Athenian Islands as there is a current that can run at 9kts. Once through the Ungala Pass The winds died down a bit and since they were from behind I thought it would be a good time to put up the asymmetrical sail. Well I misjudged the wind speed and when I started to raise the sail it filled with such power that it pulled me 3 feet into the air. My pocket caught on a mast cleat which prevented me from getting much higher, but it killed the pocket. I got the sail under control and kept it up for the next 24 hours. That was the only light wind I’ve had, since then its been an on and off gale. The winds have blown long enough and hard enough to produce 20 foot seas. 20 foot seas sound worse then they are. In the open ocean, away from opposing currents and multiple wave trains the seas are large but better behaved. Unlike the Bering sea which is like sailing threw a giant washing machine. Once during my first singlehanded transatlantic I had a storm that blew 50 knots for 70 hours and produced 30 foot waves. Now that was a storm!
    Before Jeff came out to give me the resupply boxes I asked him if he could grab a newspaper for me. He went to the local library and they gave him a stack of 30 or so papers. They were all two to three weeks old, but its all new news to me. So I’ve spent the last week reading the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal as 15-20 foot waves passed by outside my boat. I read about Hurricane Irene. It sounds like it ripped through parts of the country not used to hurricane damage (Vermont, Connecticut, ect). Unfortunately it will be considered “flood damage” so insurance companies won’t help much. It seems that Maryland was also hit hard, I imagine Martin O’Malley must have his hands full. We think we’ve conquered this planet, but mother nature will alway have the real power.
    I ran before the gale force winds using just the head sail for three or four days. The wind finally let up so at 2 or 3 in the morning I went outside to raise the main sail. It was pitch black and there were still large waves roaming around. I was untying a line that was preventing my main from flapping in the wind when a wave hit the boat with enough force to lift me up and throw me over the boom. Next thing I know im hanging onto the lifelines with my backside in the water. I couldn’t help but to laugh, what else could I do? The next morning I woke up and noticed my battery power was surprisingly low. Well, my bilge pump had stopped working and I had accumulated enough water that my batteries were submerged. Luckily AGM batteries are not damaged by being underwater. I have a manual bilge pump in the cockpit but its the strangest pump I’ve ever seen, it works though. I fixed my bilge pump and cleaned my battery terminals, but for a moment it was quite a scare.
    The day after that the winds shifted to the Southwest and blew 40+ knots. It was pushing me Northeast and I wasn’t too happy about heading north. I slowed my boat down by deploying my drogue so not to get to far off course. I love my drogue. I could write a Shakespearian sonnet in iambic pentameter about “how I love thy little drogue”. For the record, some people get a parachute sea anchor and a drogue mixed up or they think they are the same thing. My parachute sea anchor is 9 feet across and is deployed off the front of the boat, where my drogue is 3 feet across and deployed of the back of the boat. The para-anchor stops the boat, the drogue just slows you down.
    I have spent the last week sailing east southeast to south east around the Pacific high, AKA the great Pacific garbage vortex. I could of tried to sail through the high pressure area and I would of had lighter winds but the idea of sailing threw a bunch of trash is utterly depressing. So I’ve been sailing around it. I’m heading for the California current that will help push me south at around 1kt. My spirits are high but it can be a bit lonely. When I get back to land I need to find a girl who wants to do some blue water sailing. Either that or convince a mermaid to become a princess, or however that works. I have another gale coming, it looks like it will blow hard for three days. At least it will be out of the Northwest (I hope) so I should make good time.
    I would like to thank Victor Wejer for all the weather forecasts and good info while going around Alaska. Victor is like a library of knowledge and he can answer any Arctic related question you can imagine. He researches the answer first which is the sign of a true professional, Thanks Victor!
    Fortitudine Vincimus

    Continue the voyage:

    NPR INterview ~It's not the size of the website, it's how you use it! ~

  • #2
    That is one very impressive story, congrats in advance to Matt.

    Well played, young man, well played.


    • #3
      AND a Browns fan at that! Bravo Matt, BRAVO!


      • #4
        Amazing accomplishment!


        • #5
          Solo Sailor Matt Rutherford has just crossed finish line of his 312 day odyssey,becoming the 1st sailor to complete a solo navigation around the Americas, non stop! The mouth of the the Chesapeake Bay, at the Lucius J. Kellam Bridge Tunnel serves as the official start/finish line.

          © Mark Duehmig

          Depleted of water, electricity and power storage for nearly two months and battling headwinds as he sailed north
          from Bermuda, the Albin Vega 27 "Saint Brendan" the last miles have gone painfully slow.

          " His engine starter no longer works, making him completely dependent on sail. The bilge pump is kaput - so he bails bilge water with a can - as are his freighter radar for detecting oncoming ships, solar panels for powering electronics, and VHF radio for talking to other vessels. Not able to generate power, he can't even turn on his laptop to check the weather or post blog entries via satellite. And the last hand-pumped desalinator, his only source of drinking water, is making strange noises."

          © Mark Duehmig

          Matt was greeted several miles offshore this morning and provided with a fresh cell phone, water and sandwiches,
          and will continue to sail to his home port in Annapolis, eta Saturday the 21st!

          Rutherford has sailed through some of the most dangerous seas on Earth, including the ice-filled Northwest Passage and storm-tossed Cape Horn. The grueling trip is taking its toll on him and St. Brendan. He stands 10-hour shifts at the helm, handles the rigging in every kind of weather, and when he isn't snatching some sleep in his damp bunk, he is on watch. And all on a 36-year old Albin Vega sailboat designed for weekend jaunting, not circling continents.
          When he finishes the last 5,000-mile stretch of his journey, the 30-year-old Maryland resident will earn a singular place in the record books. He will be the first person to solo-sail around North and South America, completing the trip in about 300 days. And in all that time, he will not have stopped at a port, dropped anchor, left his boat or had another person on board.

          As amazing a feat as this will be, Rutherford is chiefly motivated to show people, particularly those with disabilities, that there are no limits to what can be accomplished in life. He is also raising money for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB), a nonprofit sailing program for people with disabilities based in Annapolis, Md. The nonprofit hopes to raise $250,000, which will go toward retrofitting CRAB's current fleet of four sailboats, purchasing new handicap-accessible racing boats and modifying fishing boat for wheelchair accessibility.
          So far, there is still a way to go on fundraising, much like Matt's journey. Donations can be made online at or by calling 410-626-0273.

          "We are extremely proud of Matt and grateful for his dedication to our cause," said Dan Backe, executive director and founder of CRAB. "Because of his journey, many disabled people will get to experience the thrill of sailing on the Chesapeake Bay, gain confidence and improve their overall lives."
          A big welcome-home party is planned when Rutherford drops anchor at the National Sailing Center & Hall of Fame dock in Annapolis on or near April 14. His friends from CRAB, a large section of the Mid-Atlantic sailing community, city and state officials, and hundreds of other supporters will cheer him and his remarkable achievement.
          To track Rutherford's progress, map his course and read his ongoing blog about the trip, go to
          About CRAB

          Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB) is a non-profit organization based in Annapolis, Maryland, that provides opportunities for people with physical and developmental challenges to experience boating on the Chesapeake Bay. Founded by Don Backe in 1991, CRAB maintains a fleet of Freedom Independence 20 sloops, which are designed specifically for use by mobility-challenged persons. To learn more about CRAB, visit:
 ~It's not the size of the website, it's how you use it! ~


          • #6


            • #7
              What he said!