Senator Harkin spoke about Matt on the U.S. Senate floor!

Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa spoke about Matt on the floor of the U.S. Senate last Thursday. Watch the video of this interesting and heartfelt testament to Matt’s achievement!

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The Home Stretch

So the plan is to make my first landfall in Annapolis on April 14th around noon. In order for this to happen I need to enter the Chesapeake Bay by the 12th. The trip ends when I cross the finish line at the southern entrance of the Chesapeake Bay bridge tunnel but I’m not going to step foot on land until Annapolis. I might pass though the Chesapeake Bay bridge tunnel at 3am, it’s really hard to say and if the wind is good I’m going to continue to sail up the bay towards Annapolis. I will be tying off to the Sailing Hall of Fame dock downtown. If I don’t make it to the bay by the 12th then I’ll be in Annapolis roughly 2 days after I enter the bay. If I get there early then I’ll just go slow so I can arrive on the 14th. It’s really not up to me – I’ve got a bunch of light winds and head winds coming up so I don’t know exactly how long it’s going to take before the ocean spits me out into the Chesapeake Bay, but that is the general plan.

I guess this is a good time to announce my plans for my next trip. In the summer of 2013 I would like to head back up to the Arctic and shoot a documentary. “Sailing though the Arctic with Matt Rutherford” well that title is a bit corny but you get the idea. I could film giant icebergs, pack ice, polar bears, narwhals, gale force winds, the massive waves of the Bering Sea and also just life at sea. The trip would cover roughly 8,000-9,000 miles and would take four to five months. I would like to explore the upper regions of Baffin Bay possibly and then the northern Northwest Passage. Ultimately I would like to sail though the NWP using a route that has never been taken by sail boat or pleasure craft. I would also take a small crew with me to help with shooting the footage. Whether or not I could make it through that route has more to do with a general lack of ice then my ability to navigate a boat. This would be a much more dangerous trip though the Arctic but it would make for one heck of a documentary. Wouldn’t you guys like to see that? I first have to raise the money which is always very difficult. I hope to convince a TV channel or production company that their profit would be greater than the cost. I’ve been working on the plans for this trip since August and there is no guarantee that I will raise the money or that the ice will open up in the far north. But it sounds like a good idea.

The engine is completely dead. The crank handle grips a pin. I didn’t have a pin so I had to make one by cutting the head off a screw. Well the screw broke and is jammed so the hand crank is useless. I tried to start the engine by wrapping a line around the flywheel and connecting that line to a halyard. I made a loop in the other end of the halyard, climbed my mast about 8 feet and jumped holding on to the loop. My body weigh turned the flywheel but after several tries the engine still wouldn’t start. So that’s it, I give up, the engine is just ballast.
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.

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Caribbean (Day 281 million)

It was a fast ride along the north coast of South America. I had my best run of the entire trip; I sailed 163 miles in 24 hours (thanks to strong currents). Even after sailing for 24,936 miles, day in and day out this Albin Vega still has some life left in her. I enjoy pushing a boat hard under the right circumstances but I don’t do it too often as its best to go slow and steady when you have such a long journey to complete. Well the old girl still has some pep in her step! Maybe I should take St Brendan around for a second lap.
Sometimes good things come out of a bad situation. I’ll never forget that freighter that nearly got me. To look out and see very bright red and green light and in between a huge black bow towering over me is an image I will have burned into my brain forever. After I turned I felt like everything was going in slow motion and for 30 seconds I thought I was going to be smashed into little pieces. It wasn’t until the last 10 seconds that I knew I would be safe. Even then I got slapped by the bow wake. This trip isn’t over until I’m safely tied off to the dock in Annapolis. I decided to spend some time to trying to resurrect my AIS. Once an electronic devices is dead usually it’s good as garbage. But, I took apart the AIS and cleaned the circuit board soldered about 10 connections. Trying to do detailed solder work on a moving vessel would be hard for a pro and I’m certainly not a professional when it comes to soldering. I even climbed my mast in 5 foot seas and took apart and soldered the connection to the mast head antenna. It would have been a joke to see me up there if it wasn’t for the fact I was holding on for dear life. I didn’t think I would get the AIS working again, but after 10 hours of messing about I turned the unit on and hot damn if it didn’t work again! I successfully brought my AIS back from the dead and she’s working pretty good. Every eight hours or so the AIS freaks out and I have to turn it off then turn it back on, but then it works fine. 30 minutes after I got my AIS fixed my wind generator stopped working as if I’d disturbed some kind of balance. The next day I rewired the wind generator and now its fine. For a single hander there’s nothing quite like a good wind vane and a working AIS.

I haven’t been fishing since Recife. Right before my resupply I had a 3-4 foot Mahi-Mahi swimming right next to my boat. I had modified a bow and arrow so I could shoot an arrow and pull it back onboard with a special line. It’s mostly for entertainment. Sometimes I shoot an arrow at flotsam as it passes by. I also thought it would come in handy if I wound up in a life raft. So I see this Mahi two feet away just swimming alongside the boat. I grab the bow and pull back my arrow, just then the sun comes out from behind a cloud and the fish became the most beautiful color of blue. I stopped for a second and began to think twice about killing such a beautiful creature. Then a second Mahi popped up next to the first. Mahi-Mahi are one of the only fish that mate for life – I’m not saying a fish can fall in love, but once together they are inseparable until death. All of a sudden I realized that if I killed this fish then the other one would spend its life roaming the ocean alone. I know what that feels like and I couldn’t bring myself to kill it. Man I must be getting soft if I can’t even kill a fish. Then again I had just ate and I usually don’t fish on a full stomach. Ever since the intercontinental convergence zone there has been so much sea weed that fishing is nearly impossible. It’s that bushy sea weed. If you ever sailed from the Caribbean to the mid or upper east coast you’ve seen it before. It grows until around 25-28 north.

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.

I passed within 5 miles of Barbados last night. So close, yet so far away. I didn’t get much sleep as I was afraid that the wind might shift and leave me on the beach. I’m finally getting back into familiar waters. Man it’s been a long time! I would like to thank Gillian and Diane at Crosby for all their help with PR. They have really helped us get the word out and raise money for CRAB. My next waypoint is off Antigua then I’m off to Hatteras.

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Video of Matt during Brazil Resupply

Theres a short video of Matt taken by the Brazil resupply crew up on Youtube – check it out here:

Kudos to Matt’s mom, Marlowe Macintyre, for seeing this!

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West Northwest

Sometimes the longer way is the quicker way. As much as I would prefer to be 400-600 miles offshore the winds to the north are very light. So I’m saying within 100-200 miles of the coast of South America to take advantage of the stronger winds and currents. I’ll head north just before the Caribbean and run parallel to the islands. Once north of the islands it’s a straight shot to Hatteras then 100 miles to the Chesapeake Bay – at least that’s the plan.
I think there has been a bit of confusion about which picture is a picture of Cape Horn. It’s my fault as I’ve never explained any pictures. A basic rule of thumb is if you see a picture of a rocky mountainous area with a lot of green or snow than that’s Alaska. If you see a rocky mountainous picture with no green and therefor mostly gray then it’s the Cape Horn area. The picture of Cape Horn is the one with waves in the foreground and a black outline which is “the rock”. It was getting dark by the time I took the picture so you can see the moon in the top right corner and the clouds have a slight purple color.
I had quite a scare last night. I woke up at 2am and right behind me was a freighter. This wasn’t like the friendly visit from the freighter awhile back that honked its horn at me. This freighter had no idea I was there. I had my mast head navigation lights on and my basketball sized radar reflector, but no one on the freighter was paying attention. I had less than sixty seconds to turn and get clear of the freighter and it passed by within feet of me. I’ve had some close calls over the years at sea but this is by far the closest I’ve ever come to being run down at night. It’s strange that I woke up as my alarm clock had 10 more minutes before it was going to ring. I’m still quite shaken up over it. It was nearly the end of me.
I once read that the luxuries of civilization only satisfy those wants which they themselves create. In some ways I can agree but I definitely miss the basic creature comforts of civilization. A hot shower or running water, fresh food, clean sheets. Just to be able to stand up and walk ten steps in any direction is something I haven’t been able to do in 275 days. It’s easy to take things for granted, I try to stay thankful. I’m thankful to have been born in a prosperous country. There is poverty in the United States but it’s nothing like the 3rd world. I’m thankful to be alive at this point in history. 100 years ago life was much harder and in 100 years this planet might be a very different place. It’s interesting to think that in the year 1800 there were only a billion people on earth. The population has doubled since 1960. The earth can only sustain so many people. I’m no Doom’s Day theorist and I have no idea what’s going to happen when the earth’s population reaches 15 or 20 billion people. Yet it doesn’t really matter whether you believe the earth is getting warmer because of man made greenhouse gases or because of a natural cycle of heating and cooling. The Artic is proof positive that for one reason or another the earth is getting warmer. 50 years ago it would have been impossible to sail a 27 foot fiber glass boat through the Northwest Passage in one season. If you look at a graph for the amount of Artic ice over the last 15 years you will see a huge decline. I’ve read many theories and I can’t say how exactly that’s going to affect us – but there is one thing I know for sure – people aren’t going to wake up one morning and say to their neighbor “Man I’m glad all that ice is gone up there”. The unfortunate thing is that environmental issues have become wrapped up in partisan politics. We need to separate politicians political agendas from environmental issues. I’m not saying “save the planet” because the plants not going anywhere. There is a finite amount of oil, lumber and fresh water, yet we use our resources as if there is no end. It seems modern man often has an over inflated sense of self entitlement.
See… this is the problem with being alone for too long, you end up thinking about everything – often over and over again. To get back to the point, I’m thankful. Even though living on a small boat at sea is tough I still eat better on a daily basis then hundreds of millions of people through out the world. Education is power; the information is out there the question is what are you going to do with it?

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The Mighty Mighty Amazon

I’m three days sail from the mouth of the Amazon. I love sailing up rivers. I made it two hundred miles up the Gambia River and I bet I could make it six hundred miles up the Amazon. I would first need a reliable engine and I’ve done no research on the upper amazon. Maybe next time. It’s hard for me to sail around Brazil; this is a country I’ve always wanted to visit. Back in 2009 when I was sailing around Portugal I hung out with more Brazilians then Portuguese. Every city in Portugal has a Brazilian club and Brazilians are incredible dancers. My ancestors must have been river dancing in caves for 10,000 years because I have stiff hips and get sun burn in 2.2 seconds. I tried to dance with some girls but it was embarrassing to say the least. If I ever have the time I would like to see how far I could make it up the Amazon, if I ever have the time.
I was able to get my engine started. The problem was it took 6 hours and I was standing in a puddle of sweat. Down here it’s hot so it’s easier for the engine to reach proper compression. Up north were it’s colder I doubt I’ll be able to start it. Of course I still have a leak below the water line, not much I can do about that.
After the equator I sailed through the intercontinental convergence zone. The intercontinental convergence zone is a major pain in the butt. Although the one in the Pacific was much worse. Normally in tropical parts of the planet you get occasional squally showers (convection activity) that are usually in a circular shape. Not a perfect circle, some are the shape of an egg or a hotdog. If you have ever seen a squall on a radar you know what I’m talking about. From the boat you can see the whole squall from one side to another. In the intercontinental convergence zone you get rain bands. It’s one long squall from one side of the horizon to the other. They seem to come every 45 minutes or so bringing strong winds and rain. When they leave you sit there becalmed until the next one comes. It’s a pain. Because I sailed though it at an angle I was in it for two and a half days. There is one benefit; I was able to collect 25 litters of water. I had so much fresh water that I was able to shave with fresh water for the first time this trip. I’m looking forward to my first fresh water shower.
Simon tells me I caused a bit of a fuss on some sailing blogs and web forums with my last update. I don’t want any one arguing over anything I have to say. But since “guns on boats” is a heated debate my opinion is as follows. If you’re sailing around the United States you can carry firearms by law. If you want to sail to another country I would first check with their embassy and find out if they have a problem with firearms – and most countries do. When I sailed from Annapolis to Europe, Africa the Caribbean and back I didn’t take any firearms because it would have been more of a hassle then a benefit. Some countries will take your boat and throw you in jail. The Canadian coast guard prefers that you bring a firearm to the Artic because of polar bears. I’ve heard of people bringing nothing more than a can of mace. On this trip I don’t have to worry about rules and regulations because the ocean is not part of any country; this is no man’s land. Ultimately the decision is up to the owner of the boat just understand that internationally it can cause problems. Make sure it works and you know how to use it properly. Well I’m less than 2,500 miles from the Chesapeake Bay; if I can make it back there I’ll be the first person in history to have completed a non-stop singlehanded circumnavigation of the Americas.

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The Equator Strikes Back (23,433 miles, Day 268)

Karl Guerra is CRAB’s program director, the guy that used to pick me up in the morning so we could go around and work on CRABs boats. Karl used to have a business that saved failing business. In other words he would take over a business figure out what?s wrong and fix the business before the business went under. I can?t even imagine the logistics involved. One day Karl had a stroke and lost his ability to speak. They told him he would never speak again and his insurance company wouldn’t help pay for his speech therapy. So Karl spent all his money – something like a half a million dollars – learning how to speak again. Then he had a heart attack and then rheumatoid arthritis. The only way to deal with it is by doing chemo-therapy every week, which makes him sick as a dog for 3-4 days. Then he got cancer from the chemo. I think Karl’s got the record for the person with the most physical ailments still walking around. Karl helped quite a bit with this trip. He spoke on behalf of CRAB at all my seminars when I was trying to raise money for the trip and he had the misfortune of being part of the last week extravaganza. The last week before you leave on a trip of this nature is total chaos and Karl was running all over Annapolis helping to get items so I could wrap up the boat. When I’m not worrying about Don’s health, I’m worrying about Karl. Working for CRAB has been a huge boost to Karl’s moral (productivity is the world’s greatest anti-depressant). I guess that that’s a big part of CRABs message, just because you’re disabled doesn’t mean you’re not capable anymore. So this trip is a fundraiser for CRAB. St. Brendan owned by CRAB and I’m trying to raise money on a per mile basis. A penny a mile, 10 cents a mile, a dollar a mile, act – or a general donation which can be done on CRABs web site. In the last month or so the checks have started coming in and we are starting to raise good money, so thank you to all who have already contributed. Your helping a good non-profit give sailing opportunities to people with mental and physical disabilities.

The general degradation of this vessel seems to come in waves. Nothing new has broken in the last week so I guess I’m in a trough. Things have been going well since the resupply for the most part. For the record I was originally trying to do this trip with no resupplies but after the water maker broke that became impossible. I wasn’t able to plug my leak below the water line. I used a whole bucket of the putty I received in the resupply, to no avail. Water would start coming out of one side of the putty and I would smooth it out, then water would come out the other side and I would smooth it out. It just kept finding new ways of getting through the putty until eventually the putty became hard and that was that. I was trying to fight the water pressure and the putty couldn’t do it. If I had swam under the boat with some putty I might have fixed it from that direction but I didn’t think about that until later. So whatever, I’ll live with it. Also there is very little room to try to hand start this engine. The crank hits things as I rotate it. I cut a chuck of wood out of the boat to make it easier but it gets so close to the fiberglass floor that I bust my knuckles on every rotation. So I haven’t started it yet, but I’ll keep at it, I have a few ideas. At least my new little solar panels are giving me power, which is making a big difference.

Man is it hot around here! I’m a sweaty mess all day; the night comes as a great relief.

Speaking of night. Two nights ago I get up around midnight to look for freighters, check my course, etc. I see this vessel on the horizon which I thought was a big boat far away, but its lights were arranged in a different manner then a freighter. I would see a red, then a green, then red and green. I’m thinking where is this boat going and what the heck is it doing? All of a sudden I realize that it’s not a big boat far away but a smaller boat up close. It was 50-60 feet made of wood and quite beat up looking. It kind of looked like a larger version of a crab fishing boat you would find in the Chesapeake Bay, except we were 120 miles from land. The boat passed close by so I turned on all my lights so it could seem me. As far as I could tell it was a fishing boat but no one was fishing. There was very little wind so I was only going 1.5kts and starting my engine wasn’t an option so I couldn’t really maneuver much. The boat passed by again even closer, maybe fifty feet away and I could hear them talking and laughing. I thought they are probably drunk. They started to circle my boat so I got out my new handheld VHF and yelled at them on channel 16. I?m sure they don?t understand English but they would surly understand yelling. They passed by again even closer than before. I wanted to go back to bed and I wasn’t in the mood to play games with drunken fishermen 120 offshore so I grabbed my 12 gauge and my last 20 shells. I thought, pass by one more time. They did and when they were 20 feet away I put two rounds in the air, there boat fell silent there engines RPM drastically increased and they took off. I watched them go over the horizon then I went to bed.

We can all help make a difference. If we all spent one hour a week volunteering for a local charity, one hour less stilling in front of the television watching some stupid TV show, imagine how much could be accomplished. There are many problems in this world we live in and no one person can fix everything, but everyone can do something.

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Check out the two new photos galleries from Matt’s voyage!

The first one contains photos from Matt’s camera including Alaska, The Pacific, Cape Horn and his voyage up the Atlantic to Brasil. We received these photos via flash drive hand-off during the Brasil resupply.

The next gallery is from the resupply crew out of Recife and shows some great photos of Matt’s boat from afar and up close.

Most of the photos from Matt are not at full resolution – the originals are on the way and will be uploaded when possible. Also, I’ll work with Matt to try and get some captions for the various photos so we can know where they were taken.

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Recife (Day 262)

A few years ago a watched a documentary on Recife on the Discovery channel during shark week. Evidently Recife is the shark bite capital of the world (Bull Sharks) – not that I’m planned on going for a swim. To take a step back, after my last update I spent three days trying to get my engine started. I took off all the wires and cleaned the connections with sandpaper. I was hoping it was a bad ground wire but unfortunately that wasn’t the problem. I tried to take the starter off but for some crazy reason it is connected to the engine with round bolts with a large Allen key fitting in the center. So I didn’t have the rather odd tool required to remove the bolts. Why they couldn’t have used normal hex head bolts is beyond me. So after three days of getting covered in engine grime I came to the conclusion that it is beyond my abilities to fix the engine. In order to get better access to the engine I removed my cockpit floor. I have been taking on a lot of water and I thought well if I can’t fix the engine at least I can tighten the stuffing box. To my surprise the stuffing box wasn’t leaking and neither was the rudder shaft. That’s not good! That means I’m taking on salt water from somewhere else – I have an unknown leak below the water line. I spent the next day ripping the boat apart trying to find the mystery leak. The culprit is an old (at least 25-30 year old) depth sounder transducer that was hidden in my V-berth. So I told Simon that the engine is beyond repair and I’m taking on water below the water line. He said “we should look into another resupply” and he sweetened the deal with promises of strong drink. I’m not sure how he does it, he has some natural ability to find very nice helpful people anywhere in the world. He contacted a guy named Marcos in Recife Brazil, sent him a list, and Marcos took it from there.

I was still four days out so I spent some time fixing other items. I was able to get some winch lube into my wind generator and that stopped the binding problem. I have continued to lube up my water maker by applying olive oil to the piston and now it “works like new”. Unfortunately my hydro generator’s paddle wheel couldn’t handle the load and fell apart. It was the aluminum boat hook pieces that failed, I just didn’t have strong enough material to use – but I still stand behind my design. I was still having a hard time with power; my batteries were so dead I could only run my GPS for 10 minutes every 24 hours. I brought a battery powered GPS but somehow the Artic fog got inside and killed it many months ago. In all honesty you don’t really need to have a chart plotter on 24/7. As long as I can get a position report every 12 hours I can do the rest of the navigation with a compass.
There has been a ton of freighter traffic in the last week. Freighters are like mosquitos on a camping trip. 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.

Thank you all for your contributions to help with this resupply. I should be able to plug my rather dangerous leak and keep my batteries charged enough for the basics. Not to mention I can now have a gill worth of strong drink from time to time which is good for morale. This resupply should make the last leg of this long journey safer. To put it in some prospective – if Unalaska Bay was One Ton Depot then Recife was Conner Camp. Now it’s time to head for Cape Evans (The Chesapeake Bay).
My camera broke in the Bering Sea but the Alaska resupply guy gave me his personal camera. So I was able to give Marcos a pen drive with 50 (or so) pictures on it covering Alaska, Open Pacific, Cape Horn, ect. If the new pictures are not on the site by now then they will be soon. I also heard that Don Backe is recovering quickly and is in much better health. On to the Equator.

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Upcoming Resupply, Matt needs your help

Unfortunately it looks all the equipment breakdowns that Matt has been dealing with will require a special resupply mission. Matt is almost without anyway to generate power right now, and the methods that he does have won’t last the whole way home.

Simon Edwards is currently planning a resupply out of Recife, Brasil scheduled within a week or so. If you have any ability to help out Matt with a small donation for the new parts it would be very much appreciated. If you can, please click the Donate to CRAB button to the right and contribute what you can – every little bit helps!

Thank you!
Web Admin Mike

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