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Southern Spars - North Technology

Solo sailor nearly through the Northwest Passage!

by Thomas Spitzer on 30 Aug 2011
Matt Rutherford in the NW Passage - Solo Circumnavigation of the Americas Matt Rutherford
Here's an update from Matt Rutherford as he attempts to circumnavigate the Americas non-stop and alone!

So, I was delivering a boat (Godspeed) to Antigua with Simon Edwards and Tag (Al Hunt). I was telling Tag about this idea I had during my second single-handed trans-Atlantic. I was thinking about trying to start a non-profit in Annapolis MD that would give sailing opportunities to the disabled.

Tag said 'have you ever heard of C.R.A.B?' I said 'what’s C.R.A.B?' And that is how this whole thing started. C.R.A.B (Chesapeake Regional Assessable Boating) is an Annapolis based non-profit that has been giving people with mental and physical disabilities sailing opportunities for 20 years.

After that delivery Simon and I flew from Antigua to Puerto Rico, jumped on a catamaran and delivered that to Annapolis. While in Annapolis I called Don Backe and found out more about C.R.A.B. After delivering another boat from Puerto Rico to Annapolis (with Mike 'da web mast') I finally brought my boat up from the Caribbean which completed my Annapolis to Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and back trip.

I had a little money saved up from the boat deliveries so when I got back to Annapolis instead of getting a normal job I did volunteer work with C.R.A.B. Karl would show up at 8am and we would get bagels and coffee, then off we went to do some bottom job or try to get some old funky atomic four started.

One day after looking at a 25 foot folkboat C.R.A.B. had for sale I said to Don 'You should let me take that boat up to the Northwest Passage and we’ll raise some money for C.R.A.B'. I thought he would laugh at me but he thought it was a good idea. Andy Shell wrote an article in Spinsheet which two C.R.A.B. volunteers (Colin and Lee) read – and they said 'instead of taking the 25 Folkboat why don’t you take our 27 Albin Vega'. So they swapped out their Vega for a hunter C.R.A.B. and now we had a good trip and a good boat.

I don’t own St Brendan, when I say 'my boat' I’m using 'my' loosely. It's mine in spirit, and C.R.A.B.’s by ownership. I own a Pearson 323, which is on the hard right now at Ferry Point Marina. Once we had the Vega then the huge task of raising money began. Somehow it all worked out – we are trying to raise money for C.R.A.B. two ways. Either on a money for miles basis. In other words a person would donate x amount per mile. At a penny a mile it would be a $230 donation (round about) – as long as I complete the entire trip. At a dollar a mile it would be a bunch of money.

Someone could also make a one time general donation with their credit card for any amount. It’s all tax deductible (if you live in the states). All of this can be done in the 'how I can help' section of my website. Please let people know about this trip – the more people know, the more money we can raise. If I were to complete this trip and raise no money the trip would be a failure.

The conditions have been mostly light since my last entry. I had some sun yesterday and was able to get my asymmetrical sail fixed. I flew the sail until 5:30 this morning then the wind picked up and I had to drop it. I tried to unfurl my jib but my furler is jammed. I’ve seen quite a few furlers jam before but this is a strange one. I’ve tried everything I can in 20kts of wind so I have to wait until the wind dies and climb my mast and see if I can fix it. I’m not too worried, things break around here all the time. So I finish the Northwest Passage under main sail alone. I guess it’s fitting.

Tonight I will celebrate with my last glass of warm sake. The celebration will be short. Completing the Northwest Passage in any boat is a good achievement but the Northwest Passage is just one piece of a much larger pie. This is a non-stop circumnavigation of the Americas; I must keep my eye on the ball. I must reach the Chesapeake Bay, anything less would be a failure.

Fortitudine Vincimus



NW Passage Crashing Sea - Solo Circumnavigation of the Americas © Matt Rutherford
NW Passage Crashing Sea - Solo Circumnavigation of the Americas © Matt Rutherford
Solo around the Americas website
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