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Matt Rutherford around the Americas solo - almost home

by Nancy Knudsen on 16 Apr 2012
Matt Rutherford’s current position .. .
Weather has not been kind lately to Matt Rutherford - gale conditions, and his 27ft yacht's engine is out - the alternator failed and the hand crank doesn't work. The wind generator and solar panels wore out some time ago, so almost no power left. But it's not surprising - Matt Rutherford hasn't touched land for ten months. He set sail 10 months ago from Annapolis to solo sail around the Americas non-stop, and he's nearly home.


31-year-old Matt Rutherford left Annapolis on 21st April, with a dream of doing something outrageous - to sail more than 25,000 miles around the Americas to raise money for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating.

At the time, hardly anyone believed he could do it, and even Matthew was cautious, hoping first he could just survive the North West Passage. defying all the odds, he’s tentatively due back in Annapolis in about five days.

'It's like Edmund Hillary going up Mount Everest without Sherpas,' said Lee Tawney, director of the National Sailing Hall of Fame. 'I don't think anybody believed he could do it and he's almost here.'

Since his departure he has battled the elements and equipment failures on his nonstop journey in an old boat, a 36-year-old donated 27ft Albin-Vega called St Brendan. It's so small he can't stand up in the cabin.

But he has persevered through that and more — such as almost being run over by a freighter and having to fire shotgun rounds into the air so drunken fishermen would steer their boat clear of his.

As of last week, Rutherford had raised $70,000, but about $8,000 of that has gone to two emergency resupplies to keep his quest alive, said Don Backe, CRAB's executive director. Nevertheless, Backe is awed by the journey.

Backe told Home Town Annapolis he didn't know how Rutherford coped with his fuel container leaking diesel all over, let alone everything else the sailor has had to repair, jury-rig and cajole to keep working. 'It's kind of overwhelming, in a way,' Backe said.

Even though Rutherford hasn't raised as much money as he initially hoped, Backe said the quest has raised awareness of the group. 'It's calling attention to the fact there's a little sailing program here that lifts people's spirits and can do inspiring things,' he said.

The young sailor and dreamer had previously sailed across the Atlantic twice, but his current trip is longer and much more hazardous. He had to navigate the Northwest Passage, braving frigid weather and so much ice he couldn't sleep for hundreds of miles.

That doesn't mean the rest was easy. He has dodged a far share of storms and also made it around Cape Horn.

Rutherford has written it has been difficult to be alone, but he has gotten used to it. 'I've done two other major single-handed trips nearly back-to-back, so I have spent three out of the last four years alone in one way or another,' he wrote. 'I'll be happy when I meet a girl who likes sailing. Being alone gets old.'

He also said being on dry land again, surrounded by lots of people, is a bit intimidating. 'I have a hard time imagining it, as I've been alone for so long.'

What will he do when he gets home? He's had plenty of time to plan.

According to his blog, he has already been busy planning a summer 2013 excursion back to the Arctic to film a documentary. The trip, he wrote, would cover 8,000 to 9,000 miles and take four or five months. This time he'll take a crew.

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