If luck holds and the wind gods are kind, at just about the time that CW‘s April issue lands at your door, Matt Rutherford will sail back into the Chesapeake and cross the outbound wake that his 27-foot Albin Vega, St. Brendan, left last June while en route to the Northwest Passage and, from there, around Cape Horn and back home to Annapolis, Maryland.
Impressive? No, that’s not the right word at all to describe what Matt will have accomplished in a boat that some might hesitate to take on an overnight. Try audacious or incredible or awesome (and not in the mall-rat sense of the word, either) for this solo, nonstop voyage that Matt cooked up to raise money for Chesapeake Regional Accessible Boating. CRAB is a hometown non-profit that helps people with developmental and physical challenges go sailing. (Don’t be cheap. Though he’s put the lion’s share of his journey behind him, Matt has a good ways to go to reach his goal of $250,000—that’s $10 bucks for every mile he’s sailed. Go to www.crabsailing.org to make your donation.)
You may have seen the story that Matt wrote for us in January (Sailor Profile, “One Waypoint at a Time“), shortly after the Scott Polar Research Institute confirmed that he’d set a record for the smallest boat to be singlehanded through the Northwest Passage. In Unalaska Bay one day last fall on his way south to the Horn, he managed to pass a thumbdrive loaded with photos of the ice he’d encountered on his east-to-west passage across the top of North America to a boat that had pulled alongside with such valuable resupply items as a spare watermaker, a new tillerpilot, a pile of old newspapers (but new news to Matt), fuel, and very-much-appreciated pizza, beer, and rum. At the time, he fretted about taking outside help that wouldn’t have been available to his heroes, the high-latitude explorers Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, and Tom Crean.
On his blog, Matt wrote, “When I left on this trip, I wanted to feel what they felt, I wanted to suffer like they suffered. I felt that the resupply was infringing on my suffering. But the reality is, I’ll never be Ernest Shackleton. I’ll never be Tom Crean. I can only be Matt Rutherford. Anyway, there’s no reason to make this trip harder then it already is. Right now, I’m the happiest man on the planet.”
Happiness is relative, mind you. A knockdown destroyed his dodger, leaving him only a paintball mask in which to weather the elements. His electronics slowly failed. His camera gave up the ghost. Long before he reached the Horn, mold destroyed his books and slowly consumed his clothes. His computer jumped ship, the VHF, A.I.S., and satphone quit, leaving only the Predict Wind satellite communicator for sending and receiving messages.
Included in those messages have been fairly frequent postings on his website. They’re a delight to read. Some are funny, some are very serious, but all are written in an easy-going manner that makes this tale all the more remarkable at it unfolds.
In a world in which reality TV fashions our idols, Matt Rutherford is the real deal. When he steps ashore in Annapolis, he’s going to have himself one hell of a sea story to tell.