Chesapeake Sailor of the Week
Matt Rutherford, a 30-year-old Maryland resident and self-taught sailor, was volunteering for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB) in 2010, after his return from ocean sailing. Now, Matt is just days away from completing a 25,000-mile, 300-day, non-stop expedition around the Americas.
While volunteering, Matt was looking for his next adventure but also wanted to challenge others to support CRAB. That’s when he devised this 25,000 mile voyage to sail solo and non-stop around the Americas – up the North Atlantic Coast, through the Northwest Passage around Alaska, down the Pacific coasts of North and South America, around Cape Horn and then up the Atlantic back to the Chesapeake Bay.
“In 2004, I bought a 1969 sail boat for $2,000 and sailed it from Trout, Md. down the coast,” explained Matt. “That was my first introduction to sailing. On that trip I hit three hurricanes and eventually lost the boat, and my girlfriend who started out on the trip with me. It was a crash course in sailing.”
Matt cast off from Annapolis on June 11, 2011, in a forty-year-old Albin Vega 27 Swedish-built sailboat. By the fall, he had sailed through the Northwest Passage, the Bering Straits and Sea, and past the Aleutian Islands. According to the Scott Polar Institute, University of Cambridge, Matt officially broke a record by soloing the smallest boat in history through the Northwest Passage. Matt rounded Cape Horn in January. Matt will be the first person to complete the 25,000-mile voyage alone and without stopping.
While his trip has stayed on course, Matt and CRAB’s fundraising could use “more wind in its sails.” CRAB hopes to raise $250,000 – $10 for each mile of Matt’s trip. These funds will help CRAB to retrofit its current fleet of four sailboats, purchase new handicap-accessible racing boats, and modify a fishing boat for wheelchair accessibility.
Matt’s motivation for the trip is to show people, particularly those with disabilities, that there are no limits to what can be accomplished in life, and raise money for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB), a nonprofit sailing program for people with disabilities based in Annapolis, Md.
Most of Matt’s equipment rotted, wore out or broke. Equipment failures forced him to receive re-supplies while at sea. By the last leg of his voyage, Matt’s boat was without an engine, bilge pump, freighter radar, solar panels, wind generator, GPS, and VHF radio. Yet, throughout the record-setting trip, he never entered port, dropped anchor, stepped off his boat, nor has another person stepped onboard. To read a firsthand account of Matt’s adventures, visit his blog:www.solotheamericas.org
“I often ask myself why the hell I’m out here,” admitted Matt. “I enjoy the challenge. I enjoy exploring. Heck, I enjoy being in the middle of the desert, or on top of a mountain – I’ve done that too. But to me, the ocean really is the ultimate wilderness, or to borrow a line from Star Trek, it’s truly the final frontier. Being out here alone, well it’s a way to figure out what you are made of. You can’t beat the ocean, but you do build a bond with the ocean. And there’s beauty with being part of nature.”
Matt will receive a hero’s welcome April 21 when he arrives in Annapolis, completing his voyage. He will drop anchor at the National Sailing Hall of Fame dock at the end of City Dock, 67-69 Prince George Street, in Annapolis, Md. The celebration will begin at noon on Saturday, April 21. The public is encouraged to join a crowd of supporters – including friends, the sailing community, and public officials – who will greet Matt and cheer his remarkable achievement. Gary Jobson, President of US Sailing, author of 17 sailing books and editor-at-large of Sailing World and Cruising World magazines, will preside as the emcee for the welcome on land.
Donations can be made online at www.crabsailing.org