Furthest South (day 30)

Matt Rutherford

June 28, 2013

We changed our route a bit and decided to go further north and south and a bit less east to west. When we are done with our plastics survey we will have drawn a big W in the mid-Atlantic. At this point we have surveyed 15 out of 50 locations where we will drag our Manta net throughout the big W. The first time we pulled the net a couple hundred miles from the Azores we got a net full of ocean jelly. There were some jelly fish but mostly it was like marmalade. There must have been something strange going on in that part of the ocean because we haven’t seen anything like that again, although we have collected a bunch of plastic and Styrofoam at every survey site. It’s really amazing how much small plastic junk is floating around in the ocean.

We’ve had a couple of scares in the last few days. The first one was when we got a bilge full of water in just a couple hours. I tasted the water to see if it was fresh or salt. If it was fresh that would mean that our fresh water tank had cracked or a hose slipped off, therefore losing all of our fresh water. It tasted salty. In some ways that can be worse. We ran around the boat for the next hour checking all the thru hulls and shafts hoping that we weren’t slowly sinking. To my great relief an hour and a half of searching and staring at every part of the boat's hull I realized that the previous owner had run the shower pump to the kitchen sink. Since we were heeled over so far the sink was bubbling up with ocean water and siphoning down the hose for the shower pump into the bilge. I was able to easily plug the hose and was relieved that we didn’t have a hole in the boat. Speaking of holes in the boat that brings me to the second scare. I had this boat surveyed and ultra-sounded before I bought her. Because of a hurricane I wasn’t able to get to Florida the day it happened to watch it get done. I had to just trust the guy would do his job. Well, shortly after surveying my boat the poor guy killed himself. He didn’t do a good enough ultra sound and Nikki and I found a rusty spot on the hull the diameter of a dime that I could poke through with a butter knife. I called my friend Pat Teeling and he said it’s no big deal “if you get a hole just bang a wooden bung into it, it will weep a bit but that won’t sink you”. So I cleaned the rusty spot with rubbing alcohol and covered it with 5200. I have plenty of wooden bungs and a big hammer. I’ll just have to get the boat hauled out when I get back and weld some new steel over it.

Yesterday was Don Backe's memorial service. It kills me to have missed it. Don Backe was the executive director and founder of CRAB. CRAB is the non-profit I was raising money for when I sailed around the Americas non-stop singlehanded. Don believed in me from the very beginning back when everyone either thought it was impossible or completely crazy. His faith in me never wavered even though I only had a 27-foot boat and very little money. His faith in me helped me remain strong when things were really difficult during that trip. When people believe in you and you believe in yourself you can do the most incredible things. I saved some good 16 year old scotch my friend Tom Harkin had given me to give Don a toast. Don must have been watching over because right before our little memorial at sea we caught a Mahi Mahi. So we had good scotch and great dinner to match. I think the most important thing I learned from Don Backe was to always remain optimistic. Even though Don was stuck in a wheelchair and ailing from disease and infections he was always optimistic. He had a big smile and no matter how much crap life threw at him he never let it get him down. To Don Backe, my friend.

Learn more about the voyage at the Ocean Research Project website.