Adventure for a Cause

Matt Rutherford shows that there are few limits to what any determined person can accomplish as he circumnavigates the Americas to raise money for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating.

Matt Rutherford

Matt Rutherford

In this instance, CRAB is an acronym for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating, a nonprofit program devoted to getting people with disabilities into sailing. Chasing this crab is Matt Rutherford, a 30-year-old resident of Maryland. He set sail on June 11, 2011, for a solo circumnavigation of the Americas via the Northwest Passage and Cape Horn. Sailing an older 27-foot Albin Vega that he had refurbished for this voyage, Rutherford rounded Cape Horn on January 10, 2012. When Rutherford completes this voyage, he will be the first person to do the 25,000-mile passage (about 300 days) alone and without stopping. His motivation for the trip is to show that there are few limits to what any determined person can accomplish, as he raises money for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating. CRAB hopes to hit a goal of $250,000 — $10 for each nautical mile — which will go toward retrofitting its current fleet of four Freedom Independence 20 sloops, purchasing new handicap-accessible racing boats and modifying a fishing boat for wheelchair accessibility. Donations can be made online or by calling 410-626-0273. Check out excerpts from Rutherford's blog below.

Left: Rutherford departs Annapolis and begins his 25,000-mile passage. Photo by CRAB staff.

April 20 2012
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. Read on.

April 4 2012
Happy Birthday to Me
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. Read on.

March 28 2012
The Home Stretch
It takes about 100 pumps to make 200ml of water. I made on average 3 liters a day, so I had to pump my water maker around 1500 times every 24 hours. I caught some rain and melted some ice in the Artic but I still had to make my own water around 270 days of the roughly 300 day trip. That means that by the time I reach the Chesapeake Bay I will have pumped a water maker at least 405,000 times in order to make enough water to rehydrate my food make coffee and quench my thirst. Running water never sounded so good!

March 30th marks 100 years since the deaths of Wilson, Bowers and Scott. Oates and P.O. Evans died shortly before. So raise a glass and give a toast to the fallen explorers of the great age of exploration in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Men who could suffer with a smile on their face, and died like gentlemen. Read on.

March 20 2012
I haven't seen many dolphins this trip. My last trip I saw hundreds. I was about 90 miles off the coast of French Guyana and I saw a species I've never seen before. They were brown with long slim mouth and a pink belly. The odd thing was that most of them had some kind of lamprey or suckerfish attached to them. The suckerfish were bone white with a little purple around there edges and a good 1-2 feet long. I've never seen a dolphin with a big sucker fish attached to it and I can't figure out how the suckerfish could catch the dolphin in the first place as they don't look very fast. Well the dolphins were jumping and playing with St Brendan for over an hour. Nothing warms the heart like playful marine life. Read on.

March 1 2012
Day 262
So, I approached the coast of Brazil a bit early and hove to about 15 miles off. There are these strange and I'm guessing uniquely Brazilian fishing boats all over the place. They are around 35 feet, made of wood with a little shelter on the back and open on the front. They just drop anchor at night and go to sleep 10 to 15 miles out. I nearly hit one that must have forgotten to turn on its anchor light. They usually hang out in groups of three to four. Colorful boats, must be a hard life though. . I hit my target waypoint about 2 miles offshore ten minutes early. I sat there hove-to thinking that not far away there was a beach full of beautiful Brazilian girls and here I am stuck on this little boat drifting around. I didn't drift for long before I saw Marcos approaching in a large inflatable. There was a good 3-5 foot swell so it was a great idea to use a forgiving inflatable instead of a hard sided vessel. The whole thing was very quick, in less than ten minutes they were gone and I was heading back out to sea. I got a handheld VHF because sailing without a working VHF is ridiculous, that's just safety 101. I got same underwater putty to fix my leaky transducer (I'll do that later today and let you know if it worked). I got two small solar panels that are 15 watts each (about 2 amps total). It doesn't sound like much but it's giving me the power to write this update. I also got a hand crank for the engine. This all happened yesterday and by the time I received the items I had been awake for 40 hours. I just woke up so I haven't had time to try it out. Again I'll write about it in my next update. I also got some Brazilian booze and some Johnny Walker along with some sweet treats and the best roasted chicken I've ever had. Oh yeah, also 15 gallons of diesel and 20 gallons of emergency water, along with other bits and bobbles. Read on.

Feb 21 2012
Day 253
I've lost my Bernard Moitessier mindset – thinking of sailing endlessly in an oceanic utopia. It's been replaced by a much more realistic idea that I need to get back to land before this whole boat falls apart. I'm riding close to the edge and it wouldn't take much for me to go over. I think structurally the boat is fine. I hope. Although I was on a port tack for so many miles that my bulkheads had shifted and settled to that load. Now that I'm on a starboard tack my bulkhead are slowly readjusting and periodically make a terrible noise. Sometimes the cracking sound is so loud that I would swear that my bulkhead had just cracked in half. The sound that wood can make when it's in agony is incredible. So ya, I need to get my butt up to the bay before my whole world falls apart. Read on.

Feb 7 2012
Day 239
Progress has been slow lately. The winds have been mostly light and out of the Northwest. I've sailed through thousands of miles of headwinds by this point so it doesn't really bother me anymore. The winds have been light enough to keep the seas mild so I haven't been pounding much. I've been able to keep a decent course for the most part, although I have been becalmed a couple times and just drifted around aimlessly. Usually I don't like being becalmed, but since I'm done with the Northwest Passage and Cape Horn, I don't really care. At this point I have no more major obstacles in my path and it's just a matter of sailing the last 5,000 miles back to the Chesapeake Bay. It's funny when 5,000 miles seems like a short distance to sail. Read on.

Jan 17 2012
Doubling the Horn
I've now doubled the Horn, which means I sailed from 50 south to 50 south non-stop. Back 100 years ago it was common practice, but these days boats usually stop along the way and round the Horn in a series of steps from safe anchorage to safe anchorage (understandably so). I spent 22 days in the furious fifties, and I had a good time. I had four gales in a row before the Horn but the weather has been nice ever since. That gale I saw coming decreased in strength and it only blew 30kts, and the one behind it did the same thing. I love the temperature down here; it's around 55 degrees which is great for me. At night it gets a bit colder, and I can feel it when I breathe, all wrapped up in my warm sleeping bag. What can I say, I'm a Celt. My ancestors didn't live in warm sunny places. I've been spoiling myself by making blueberry pancakes every morning (thanks to self-reliance) along with a cup of coffee. I'll tell you, life is pretty good! Read on.

Jan 10 2012
Into the Atlantic
The day after rounding the horn the wind died and left me becalmed. At this point in the trip (due to a general lack of diesel) if there's no wind then I have no choice but to drift aimlessly. I sat there becalmed for a couple hours, and then I remembered that Don Backe gave me a bottle of champagne for the horn. I was too busy to drink it the day I rounded the horn but since I was going to be becalmed for 12 hours I thought it would be a good time to have a drink. As I sat there thinking about how long it's been since I had a carbonated beverage an Albatross swam up to the boat and circled St Brendan just a few feet distant for a good 45 minutes. Read on.

Jan 5 2012
Cape Horn
It's taken me 208 days and 18,341 miles to get to Cape Horn, but finally I'm here. It's an honor to be here. I think all blue water sailors dream of rounding the Horn. It's a special place, and it's a privilege to sail these waters. Two-hundred and eight days is a long time to be cooped up on a 27-foot boat, I can't even stand up without hitting my head. It's been a long trip from the top of the planet down to the bottom. Heck, it was a long trip just to get to the place north of Alaska (Point Barrow) where I could finally turn south. I think I had grand tour of the open Pacific. Originally when I left Annapolis I estimated that I would round the Horn on January 16th so I'm 11 days ahead of schedule. I'm also only 1,000 miles from South Georgia (Island). How tempting is that? In 10 days, I could be on South Georgia, standing next to Shackleton's grave toasting "the boss" with my last glass of whiskey. It's a nice idea but I've come too far to stop now. Now I can start thinking about my ultimate destination, the finish line at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and my first landfall in Annapolis. Read on.