One Waypoint at a Time
Fueled by Matt Rutherford's incredible determination and resilience, an unlikely solo odyssey takes shape. "Sailor Profile" from our January 2012 issue.
It’s crazy to think that I’ve been alone at sea and sailing nonstop for nearly 100 days. Yet I still have 200 days to go before I’ll be able to tie off to a dock and finally get some rest. Circumnavigating the Americas on a 27-foot boat takes time. My plan is to sail through the Northwest Passage, then round Cape Horn.
The journey really started in the spring of 2010. I was delivering a boat to Antigua with my friends Simon Edwards and Al “Tag” Hunt. I was telling Tag about an idea I’d had during my second singlehanded transatlantic passage. During that trip, I was thinking about trying to start a nonprofit group in Annapolis, Maryland, to make sailing opportunities available to the disabled.
“Have you ever heard of CRAB?” Tag asked me.
“What’s CRAB?” I replied.
And that’s how everything began. CRAB, which stands for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating, is an Annapolis-based nonprofit that’s helped people with developmental, physical, and financial challenges to go sailing for 20 years.
After that delivery, Simon and I flew from Antigua to Puerto Rico, jumped on another boat, and delivered it to Annapolis. While in Annapolis, I called Don Backe, CRAB’s executive director, and found out more about the organization.
The next few months were busy. I did another delivery, then brought my own boat, a Pearson 323, home to Annapolis from St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I had a little money saved up, so when I got back, instead of getting a normal job, I did volunteer work for CRAB. CRAB’s program director, Karl Guerra, would pick me up at 8 a.m. We’d get bagels and coffee, then off we’d go to do a bottom job or try to get some old funky Atomic 4 engine started. One day after looking at a 25-foot Folkboat that CRAB had for sale, I told Don that he should let me take the boat up to the Northwest Passage to raise money for CRAB.
I thought he’d laugh at me, but he liked the idea. Then two CRAB volunteers happened to read a story about me and my sailing plans in a local magazine and suggested that instead of taking the Folkboat, I take their 27-foot Albin Vega.
Now we had a good trip and a good boat. Then we began the huge task of raising the money for the trip and outfitting the Vega. It was difficult, but we pulled it off.