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.
Challenge from the Start
The trip officially started on June 13, 2011, when I sailed past the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, out into the Atlantic Ocean, and headed north. I knew this 24,000-mile journey would take about 300 days, and in the beginning I didn’t know how I’d make it. I quickly decided that thinking about the trip as a whole was too difficult, so from then on, I’ve been living one waypoint at a time. Whether the waypoint is five miles away or 500, I only focus on the next one.
By Day 14, I’d settled into the rhythm of life at sea, but then disaster struck and nearly ended the trip. I can’t store 300 days’ worth of water, so I rely on a manual watermaker. I was pumping my watermaker and getting ready to cook dinner when the pressure-release valve failed and my watermaker popped like popcorn. For a moment, I thought the trip was over. I called my delivery friend, Simon, on a satphone. I was desperate for any ideas. He told me to call back in 24 hours. When I called again, Simon said he’d found a watermaker and a guy to bring it to me just south of St. John’s, in Newfoundland. The trip was saved, and a few days later I met a small boat a mile offshore whose helmsman gave me the watermaker and a bottle of Screech, a Newfoundland rum.
The fog around Newfoundland is incredibly thick and wet. Normally, on the ocean, I can see three miles in any direction. The endless horizon makes me feel like I live in a vast and open world. The fog restricts that world to a few hundred feet, and after being trapped in the fog for a couple of weeks, I start feeling claustrophobic. I thought the fog would dissipate north of Newfoundland, but it continued to be a major factor.
I had my first taste of heavy weather in the Labrador Sea, four days north of Newfoundland. I watched my barometer drop 14 millibars in six hours. I thought the world was coming to an end.
Luckily, it was a summer gale. It came for breakfast and left after dinner. As I sailed farther north, my luck started to improve, and I flew through Davis Strait, having several 140-mile days in a row. I was still surrounded by fog almost every day, but I was starting to get used to it.