After my birthday fiasco power became a serious issue. The small solar panels I picked up in Recife had stopped giving juice and my wind generator was toast. I don’t know what it is about this boat but it’s like I have some anti-solar panel voodoo curse. On April 6th I lost all my ability to charge anything and my AGM batteries were only half full. I was hoping I would be able to finish the last leg of trip with relative ease but instead it was by the skin of my teeth. Simon was bringing a 54 foot sailboat up from Tortola (Helna, which coincidentally is owned by one of my sponsors, Tom Willbanks of EdgeSource). I was becalmed for 36 hours which is usually a nuisance but under these circumstances it made our “coming together” much easier. By the time Simon arrived the seas had calmed significantly. It was 3am when we first met so I had opportunity to shoot off some flares. For the recorded, 12 gauge flares that you shoot out of that little orange flare gun are a joke! It was my 300th day at sea so I had Simon toss me a strong drink to celebrate and then we both hove to about a mile apart. I told him that I had no way to charge anything and I asked if he could swing by in the morning and I could hand him my computer, hand held VHF, iPod and satellite phone as all these items were in need of a charge. So Simon devised a system where he would slowly pass by St Brendan throw me a line that was attached to a cooler and once I had the line he would gently put the cooler in the water and I would pull it over to my boat. Then I would throw the line back on his next pass and he would retrieve the now empty cooler (coolers float). Like I said the seas were calm or else this would have been impossible. I also got him to give me whatever fresh food he could spare and some rum. After a couple hours he had charged all my various devices sent them back via the cooler (they were placed in a waterproof bag when in the cooler) and said goodbye. He raised his sails and over the horizon he went. Two days later another frontal boundary passed with a 45-50 knot squall and on the leading edge of these winds was a wave large enough that when it broke on St Brendan it knocked me over 90 degrees. I had just turned off my good laptop (I have two laptops a good one and the one I’m writing on now which is junk). Anyway my good laptop was thrown so hard by the big breaking wave that it slammed up against the other side of the cabin and is now broke. It survived the whole trip just to die at the very end. To give you some idea, at the time the wave hit I was making a cup of coffee, when my boat righted itself I looked up and I had had coffee grounds stuck to my cabin top above my head. I’ve been knocked around so many times during this voyage that I was tired of it and ready to be done. I had a few days of head winds following the front then finally some good Southwest winds that let me pass safely and easily by Cape Hatteras, the last real obstacle of any merit.
I sailed past Virginia Beach and was at the mouth of the bay when the wind died. I could see the finish line (Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel). There is a semi-strong current at the mouth of the bay that usually runs around 1.5 to 2 knots. When the wind first died I wasn’t too worried because the tide was supposed to change. I also had a sailboat (Float On) come out to meet me and they handed me some cold beer. At first I was just happy to be sitting there having a beer waiting for the tide to change and some wind to appear. A very strange thing happen, not just did the wind remain dead calm but the current never changed and it just keep pushing me south. By 3am when the wind finally picked up I was 16 miles south of Cape Henry. Since April 6th when I lost my ability to charge my batteries I haven’t had the power to run my navigation lights at night. I was in an area with a lot of freighter traffic so I didn’t sleep much. The previous three days I hadn’t slept at all. Partially because of shipping traffic – but also because I was excited. So by 3am after going backwards for 12 hours I was well beyond frustrated. The wind built through the morning and by 10am I had 25 knots out the Northeast which gave me the ability to finally get thought the Bay Bridge Tunnel and finish the trip.
When it comes to sailing it’s difficult to say who is the first person to do what because so many people have sailed so many places. In the case of this trip it becomes easier because of the Northwest Passage element. Not that many boats have sailed through the Northwest Passage and every boat that has, is listed on the Polar Scott Institutes’ (Cambridge University) web site along with the number on crew. Out of these boats very few were taken through the Northwest Passage singlehanded and out of those few only a couple boats did it both single handed and non-stop. The very very few that have, did not continue non-stop to Cape Horn and then back to their original starting point. So – long story short I’m the first person in history to have completed a non-stop singlehanded circumnavigation of the Americas.
I knew this trip would be hard for any captain on any sailboat. Although my boat was small and my budget meager it was my unwavering determination and previous sailing experience that got me through. We are all capable of incredible things; all you have to do is believe in yourself. I thank you all for following along during the trip. It’s been a great adventure and although the trip has been hard it’s also been very enjoyable. I’ll write one final update in a week or so after I’ve had some time for reflection. There are also some new pictures coming. If you can’t make it to Annapolis on April 21st (by noon) then you can watch my homecoming live on my web site (11:30 to 12:30 EST) or you can view the live show on your iPhone or iPad from http://www.livestream.com/t2ptv.
This trip is a fundraiser for C.R.A.B (Chesapeake Regional Accessible Boating). I thank all of you who have already donated and we are halfway to our goal. There has recently been a challenge; the crew of Godspeed will match the next $21,000. We are trying to raise money on a money for mile basis, a penny a mile, 10 cents a mile, a dollar a mile, etc. Or a general donation of any amount is most welcome. C.R.A.B is a great non-profit that gives sailing opportunities to people with mental and physical disabilities. I’m proud to be a part of C.R.A.B. and I thank you all for your donations.
THE FINAL TALLY
I sailed 27,077 miles in 309 days, 18 hours and 38 minutes.
C.R.A.B. seriously needs your help as we count down the minutes until Matt Rutherford steps ashore for the first time since….. when he took off on a journey few thought he could complete.
The enormity of Matt’s accomplishment, being the first to sail the America’s single-handedly and non-stop, has brought national and international attention that, frankly, exceed our organization’s budget and staff.
The volunteer support has been unbelievable. Please join us Sat., April 21, on City Dock near the Sailing Hall of Fame at 11:30 a.m. to welcome Matt back to land! If you can’t make it in real time, watch a livestream video of the ceremony on this website!
Can you help today? Even a little bit? If everyone pitches in to help defray some of these costs, we’ll be fine. But we really need you to donate something now.
Doug Kinny and the crew of Godspeed offered to match contributions to Matt’s Challenge for C.R.A.B. so your $25 donation will mean $50; $500 will be realized if you contribute $250.
Think of the 25,000 miles Matt traveled so that people with disabilities could experience sailing. Dig deep.
You’ve followed Matt throughout his journey to set the record for circumnavigating the Americas nonstop and solo – now be part of the welcome home event in Annapolis, Md. and witness history being made. We will be streaming real time video so you can be there live and watch on April 21 from 11:30, EST to 12:30 as Matt takes his first steps on land in 314 days. Meet members of the sailing community – like Gary Jobson – who will help welcome him back, and hear from Matt for the first time.
See it all here, in real time on April 21 from 11:30 EST to 12:30 at www.solotheamericas.org. (Expect a brief delay and short commercial as the live stream uploads to your computer.)
Matt Rutherford is the first person to solo, nonstop circumnavigate both North America & South America! He sailed over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel at 10:48 EST this morning, crossing his original track and completing his challenge!
Matt’s plan is still to make his first landfall this Saturday the 21st of April at noon in Annapolis. Anyone and everyone is invited to help welcome him home.
Congratulations to Matt!
We have these high resolution photos of Matt just before the finish line thanks to Mark Duehmig. They’re quite large images, so give them a chance to load.
Eight miles from the finish line and Matt runs out of wind to power his sails! The tide is pushing him south, backwards towards the Virginia shore. Northeast winds are predicted soon which will bring him into the Bay. With little wind and no motor, Matt is working hard to finish his journey.
For the past several days, Matt has had very little sleep as he was close to shipping lanes and needed to keep a lookout, and, also to handle the boat. So, he is very tired but his spirits are still strong.
CRAB’s 31-foot work boat, Dr. Rosemary, piloted by Pat Teeling, will intercept Matt and St. Brendan soon. Despite Mother Nature’s backward push, Matt is determined to step foot on land for the first time on April 21, Saturday at noon at Annapolis’ City Dock. We hope you can be there to join in the celebration!
Stay tuned for the final leg of the home stretch!
As you can see by the map above Matt is VERY close to the finish line! He’ll likely cross the finish line in the next few hours! Crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel will mark the end of his challenge and his successful circumnavigation of the Americas!
He has already had a rendezvous with photographer Mark Duehmig’s boat who was able to pass him some sandwiches and snap these pictures:
The crew of Godspeed are pleased to announce a U.S. $21,000 matching grant for all donations made to Matt’s Challenge for CRAB, until May 31, 2012.
Matt honed his sailing skills working alongside Simon Edwards while delivering the yacht “Godspeed” to various destinations. Godspeed is a 50 foot 1978 Hinckley owned and impeccably maintained by Doug Kinney in Annapolis, Maryland.
In April 2010, Matt was helping with a delivery of Godspeed to Antigua where she was participating in the annual Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. On this delivery, Matt first learned about CRAB and set his sights on supporting CRAB in its mission to offer persons with disabilities opportunities to sail … and the rest is history.
Godspeed and its crew are again sailing in the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta which will – unfortunately – be underway during the planned April 21, 2012 return to Annapolis of Matt and his worthy vessel St. Brendan. However, the Godspeed crew will be present in spirit.
The crew is delighted to offer this challenge to contribute matching funds to Matt’s Challenge for CRAB. We invite all, sailors and friends alike, who have followed Matt’s voyage or just learned about his Challenge, to take the time to make a donation now so that C.R.A.B. can get the full benefit of this matching grant. We sailors are in awe of Matt’s circumnavigation, solo and non-stop, and feel that Matt’s remarkable accomplishments can best be honored by matching our contribution.
Dear friends and fellow sailors,
Matt is fighting a gale about half-way between North Carolina and Bermuda. Weather is slowing St. Brendan and requiring all his seamanship to complete his circumnavigation of the Americas.
St. Brendan’s motor can not be started because the alternator failed and the hand crank doesn’t work. The wind generator and solar panels wore out and don’t work. So, batteries cannot be charged.
Matt’s phone batteries are very low and he’s conserving every second. (His emergency communications’ equipment is OK.)
So, sea, wind, wear and tear have dished up a real challenge for Matt. His MacGyver spirit is high and he’s heading home, despite all that.
He’s planning on setting foot on-shore for the first time in 25,000 miles-at-sea, at noon, Saturday, April 21 at Annapolis City Dock.
I hope you can join us in your boatin’ shoes!
Matt is expected to arrive back home after circumnavigating both continents on Saturday, April 21st! Anyone and everyone is invited to witness this historic event and join Matt’s family and C.R.A.B. in welcoming him back to land.
He will be arriving around noon at the Annapolis City Dock/National Sailing Hall Of Fame dock. He will be escorted by boats of supporters, spectators, the U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary Annapolis, and the Annapolis Fire Dept. boat all starting from Thomas Point Lighthouse just south of Annapolis. A crowd, including media, will await him on the dock. He will step onto dry land for the first time in nearly a year and after over 25,000 non-stop and record setting miles alone at sea. Once Matt steps on the city dock, he will be greeted first by his family and then be welcomed back by Don Backe, C.R.A.B. founder and Lance Hinricks, C.R.A.B. Board of Directors’ President. Following that welcome, accompanied by the music of a local drum and bugle corps, Matt and his greeters will form up and move to the stage, where he will be greeted by local, regional and national dignitaries and elected officials. He will be recognized by various groups and individuals for his accomplishments and his bravery, dedication and commitment to the cause of those who are physically challenged. Afterwards, Matt will be available to the media for interviews, questions etc. Once finished, Matt and his family will depart for their weekend housing and reunion.
For anyone coming in from out of town, places to stay nearby include a Hampton Inn and Suites Annapolis; Days Inn (low budget); Hilton Garden Inn; Springhill Suites (reasonable costs). 1st class is the Annapolis Marriott, right across from landfall at City Dock.
Please spread the word amongst your sailing friends and attend the landfall event if possible. Lets all help welcome Matt back to dry land at long last!
I turn 31 this April 6th. Man, 31 years old. When you’re in your twenties you can still make excuses. “It doesn’t matter I’m only 25 or 27.” When your pass 30 there is no more room for excuses – it’s time to get down to business. I’m having a small birthday party, you’re all invited but it might be a long swim. I got this heavy sweet bread during the Recife resupply called Bolo De Rolo. I had two of them, I ate one already. Bolo De Rolo consists of many layers of soft bread rolled up with a sweet fruit filling between each layer. Anyway, that’s my birthday cake. I’ll make a couple candles out of cardboard. I also have a bottle of wine I’ve been saving for a special occasion. I was given this bottle of wine on my last trip when I was anchored in Falmouth England. The guy who gave it to me was a seventy-six year old single hander who had sailed alone across the Atlantic 6 times in the last six years. He bought the bottle when he was in the Caribbean and it sailed with him back to England. Then it sailed with me to France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Canary Islands, Senegal and Gambia then back across the ocean to the Caribbean and finally to Annapolis. Then I brought it with me on this trip and placed it in my ditch bag. If I ended up in a life raft at least I would have some good wine. This bottle of wine has sailed more miles in the last four years than most people do in a lifetime, but its sailing days will come to an end on April 6th.
What can I say about the recent weather that hasn’t already been said about dysentery? This is the sixth time I’ve brought a boat up from the Caribbean along this route and usually the winds are at least half decent. I’ve had either no wind or head winds for the last week and my forecast doesn’t look much better. It’s still a bit early in the season, two years ago I was bringing a 42ft Bavaria up from Puerto Rico with Mike (the guy who’s running this website) and we were hit by a late season Nor’easter just east of the Gulf Stream off Hatteras. So gales are not uncommon – I had a nasty one pass to the north of me the last couple days. I had Northwest winds and a large swell and as you can see by my iTrac tracking device I’ve been zig-zaging back and forth going nowhere. I’ve also been pounding my brains out. I reduced sail to my third reef point and I was still pounding. I’ll go over a wave then free fall for four or five feet then BAM I hit the next wave and my whole boat shudders in the most incredible way. At the same time my bulkheads crunch and pop and my rig grinds on its base. There’s no way to sleep, I’ve been up for the better part of 50 hours. This is nothing new I’ve been dealing with headwinds on and off throughout the trip but the boat is not what it used to be. Neither am I – I’ve got a tooth ache and I’ve been getting strange sharp pains in my abdomen when I sleep. I think we are both in need of a rest. Well there is some good news, I will have good winds on the 5th and 6th but then they will become northerly again for possibly five days. I can’t cross the Gulf Stream if the winds are blowing out of the north more than 15 knots, especially off Hatteris. Patients is the key to Hatteras – you never round it when it’s blowing hard out of the north. To do so is foolishness border-lining incompetence. So I might end up hove-to east of the Gulf Stream waiting for a weather window to appear. It’s unlikely I’ll be back by April 14th. It’s a shame, I’m not far from the bay but the winds and waves have conspired against me. Of course it could always be worse, I’m still floating. It’s just been and will continue to be a difficult and uncomfortable ride to the finish line.
My wind generator stopped working two days ago. It’s possible that it’s kicked the bucket. I’ll try to rewire it again but I think the problem is internal and beyond simple wiring. If that’s the case the little solar panels I received in Recife are not strong enough up here to power my GPS and AIS. Unfortunately my AIS is not independent – it runs through the GPS so if one doesn’t work neither does the other. There has been a lot of traffic lately and it would suck badly if I can no longer power those units. Not to mention no more power for my laptop so no more weather forecasts. I’ll mess with the wind generator today but it’s been slowly getting worse since Cape Horn. I knew it would die eventually.
I had a wave break over my boat a couple days ago. It’s been awhile since that’s happened. I have such low freeboard that sometimes a wave will break over the entire boat. St Brendan is literally under the wave and therefor underwater for a moment. The boat heels way over and things go flying around in the cabin, including myself. I wish I could get an aerial picture of it happening. You would see a big breaking wave with a little mast sticking out. I didn’t expect it to happen and the wave washed my sailing gloves overboard along with my fresh water bucket that was tied off to the boom. I was trying to collect some rain earlier that day but the wave ripped my bucket right off the boom. So I can no longer collect rain water nor do I have sailing gloves.
All in all I have no idea when I’ll get back. There is a low that will be coming off Hatteras in a few days that might become a gale. If it does it will be northerly and will probably push me backwards for 50-60 miles. Even if it doesn’t become a gale its going be hard going north against the wind. The long term forecast could change but right now it’s pretty bad. This trip will end when Poseidon says it will end and not a day sooner.