Around the Americas on a 27-footer

To call Matt Rutherford an “adventurer” is an understatement. At 30, Rutherford has already biked through Southeast Asia, singlehandedly circumnavigated the Atlantic in a Pearson 323 (twice!) and embarked on a solo circumnavigation of the Americas. Having successfully made his way through the Northwest Passage this summer, Rutherford is now sailing south along the west coast of
Author:
Updated:
Original:
ruth1


To call Matt Rutherford an “adventurer” is an understatement. At 30, Rutherford has already biked through Southeast Asia, singlehandedly circumnavigated the Atlantic in a Pearson 323 (twice!) and embarked on a solo circumnavigation of the Americas. Having successfully made his way through the Northwest Passage this summer, Rutherford is now sailing south along the west coast of Alaska, aiming to complete the circle early next year.

A self-taught sailor, Rutherford began this journey on June 13. He left Annapolis, MD in the 27ft Albin-Vega, Saint Brendan, and steered for the Northwest Passage. Once considered largely inaccessible due to pack ice, this now-traversable waterway shuttled Rutherford through in late August, putting him on track to complete his 23,000-mile goal roughly 10 and a half months after embarking on it.

Throughout the journey, Rutherford has endured many frustrations, including damaged equipment, cockpit floods and sleepless nights provoked by fear of iceberg collisions. Still, he remains optimistic, saying, “Sailing is like that—hours and hours of nothing mixed with minutes of incredible excitement. Unfortunately, the excitement isn’t always good. When things break on a boat, it happens fast and without warning. But moments like seeing whales, catching a fish and watching the Milky Way at night make it all worthwhile.”

If Rutherford completes this circumnavigation, he will be the first to do so singlehandedly. We asked him to provide some insight into this incredible journey.

ruth2

SAIL: Why the Northwest Passage?

MR: The NWP is incredibly difficult to traverse. Just because it’s open doesn’t mean ice isn’t a variable. Navigation is tough, the wind is light and you’re incredibly far from help should something go wrong. It was a big challenge, but I was both mentally and physically prepared. Besides, I like challenges.

SAIL: Why do you think the NWP is becoming more popular?

MR: There’s a correlation between these trips and global warming. Ten years ago, I couldn’t have navigated a 27-foot boat through the NWP, but today it’s entirely possible. Because of that, more and more cruisers are keen to check out this new cruising ground. I’m not sailing to shed light on global warming, but it certainly relates to why the NWP is getting more attention.

SAIL: How often and where will you stop to provision?

MP: I started with a year’s worth of freeze-dried food and a watermaker, so there’s really no reason to stop. In a sense, though, that makes things more difficult. Because I made that commitment, if the seas are tough, everyone else can go inside and grab a cold beer, but I have to heave-to and wait it out.

SAIL: What kind of navigational gear do you have on board?

MP: I have a GPS, a backup GPS and a backup to the backup GPS. I also use charts, a laptop and a Iridium satellite phone so I can email and blog.

SAIL: Tell us about your sponsor, Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB), and your connection to it.

ruth3

MR: CRAB makes sailing a reality for adults and children with disabilities. The founder is a paraplegic and recognizes that people dealing with disability can get easily depressed and something as simple as sailing makes all the difference. By sailing for CRAB, I’m trying to raise awareness and money to keep them strong.

SAIL: In addition to the actual circumnavigation, what do you hope to accomplish during these months?

MP: My biggest goals are to raise as much money for CRAB as is humanly possible, to make it back in one piece and to learn Spanish. You need to have things to keep your mind occupied out here!

SAIL: Who is your biggest inspiration?

MP: A lot of my heroes are Arctic and Antarctic explorers. I often read about expeditions that took place in both places.

To learn more about Rutherford’s journey, track his current position, or make a donation to CRAB, visit solotheamericas.org.

Related

Canal-1-Marina-Hemingway-looking-west-spring-2016

Cruising: A Farewell to Cuba

For a few sweet years, American cruisers had the freedom to sail to Cuba. It was good while it lasted, says Addison Chan Cuba has assumed near-mythical properties in the community of sailors around the world. It is almost impossible to utter the name without conjuring up images ...read more

brickhouse

Is Cruising Still Safe?

It is with great sadness that we read of the murder of New Zealand cruiser Alan Culverwell, and the attack on his family, by criminals who boarded their boat in Panama’s Guna Yala/San Blas Islands early in May. The San Blas were known as a “safe” area to cruise. Aside from petty ...read more

QuarterdeckBuildingWatercolor

Bitter End Yacht Club 2.0

Amid the widespread devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria when they swept across the northern Caribbean in September 2017, the destruction of the iconic Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands was particularly keenly felt by sailors. The ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com The back door Satisfied with your headsails? So was I, until one day I took a long, hard look up the luff of my genoa, making sure I inspected the leeward side as well. The sail had plenty of life ...read more

02-Lydia12-01

Losing Sight of Shore

I arrived on the docks of Beaufort, North Carolina, in late April with two backpacks filled with new gear—everything I’d need for my first offshore passage. Though I’d been sailing for 16 years, graduating from dinghies to keelboats to a J/122, I’d spent my time racing and, in ...read more

Squall

The Face of a Squall

They are the worst of times, they are the best of times There’s a fabulous line from an old Paul Simon song that I often sing to myself while sailing: I can gather all the news I need from the weather report. It is part of the magic of sailing, this ancient process by which we ...read more