MATT RUTHERFORD: Bay Bridge in Sight

Matt Rutherford off Virginia Beach

Matt Rutherford off Virginia Beach (photo courtesy of Mark Duehmig)

Editor's note: Andy Schell, my Matt Rutherford correspondent, shot me this report just moments ago. LET'S GO, MATT!!!

You'd think that in a voyage of now 310 days--the time Matt Rutherford has been at sea since departing the Chesapeake almost a year ago--the hardest part would be far behind him.

But in fact, the hardest part is right now.

Matt has the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in sight, and is only a handful of miles from crossing his outward track, which would make him the first person in history to complete a solo nonstop voyage around both American continents. He's already been recognized by the Scott Polar Institute as having piloted the smallest vessel ever through the Northwest Passage, and if the weather cooperates, he'll make history again in a much bigger way sometime today.

The trouble is the weather is not cooperating.

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SUICIDE OCEAN TOW: Drake Roberts on YouTube

Many moons ago I blogged about a fellow I met in Bermuda, Rich Littauer, who was aboard a derelict 52-foot steel boat, Cha Cha, that had been towed into St. Georges after losing her engine and sails during a rough passage from Newport, Rhode Island. More recently I've been in touch with Drake Roberts, the singlehander who found Rich and his crew, Gail Alexander, adrift and towed them most of the way to Bermuda with his Westsail 42, Paragon. Drake has launched a YouTube channel and has posted a complete video account of his own voyage to Bermuda that year (2009), in which Rich and Cha Cha (not surprisingly) are prominently featured. The viddy you see up top is Episode 4, where Drake first makes contact with Cha Cha.

If you remember my previous post (or have clicked through to it), you'll know the tow ended in disaster. The situation became untenable after the weather deteriorated, and the two boats twice collided and suffered serious damage. Drake was forced to cast Rich adrift again, but he did stick around until a superyacht showed up and (somewhat reluctantly) towed Cha Cha the last 30 miles or so to Bermuda.

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FIBERGLASS BOATBUILDING: Deck Hardware

Sailboat deck

This is an area of fiberglass sailboat construction that many owners ultimately become interested in, either because deck hardware installations on their boat start leaking, or because they decide to replace and upgrade hardware. Unfortunately, it is also an area where some builders often try to streamline their methods to save time and money, particularly when it comes to installing hardware such as winches, cleats, genoa tracks, travelers, stanchion bases, and the like.

As we've discussed earlier in this series, almost all fiberglass decks are cored these days, which presents two problems any time a deck is penetrated to receive a hardware fastener. First, the core must not be crushed; second, it must not be exposed to any moisture. Given the enormous number of fasteners needed to secure deck hardware and the enormous loads some hardware carries, it should come as no surprise that hardware installation is both critical and troublesome.

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NONSUCH 30: A Modern-Day Catboat With a Wishbone Rig

Nonsuch 30 under sail

The Nonsuch 30 was the first and most successful of the Nonsuch line of una-rigged cruising catboats built by Hinterhoeller Yachts of Ontario, Canada, from 1978 to 1994. Designed by Mark Ellis at the instigation of Gordon Fisher, a famous Canadian racing sailor who wanted a fast, easy-to-handle cruising boat for his retirement, this boat in particular and its four siblings (the Nonsuch 22, 26, 33, and 36) are among the most popular alternative-rigged production boats ever built. In all a total of 975 Nonsuchs were launched over the years; of these 522 were 30-footers. The Nonsuch remains a popular cult boat and its very active owners' organization, the International Nonsuch Association (INA), has over 700 current Nonsuch owners enrolled on its lists.

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OCEAN CURRENTS: Fantastic Video

Just had to share this one. This is an animated NASA "visualization" video showing the disposition of global ocean currents during the period from June 2005 through December 2007.

Aside from how beautiful it is, what strikes me most is the prevalence of huge eddies in certain locations--particularly off southern Africa, where there is an impressive string of them stretching from the southeast coast out west into the South Atlantic. There are also some interesting looking eddies off the northeast coast of South America and either side of the Central American isthmus, particularly on the Caribbean side.

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LANGSKIP 55: A Viking Longship Yacht

Langskip 55

Wanna-be Viking voyagers (e.g., Jarle Andhoey) who are daunted at the prospect of having to plunder and pillage in open boats can heave a sigh of relief. At last someone has had the vision to both design and build a modern-day Norse longship with comfortable interior accommodations and contemporary amenities. The visionary in question is Sigurjon Jonsson of the Skipavik shipyard in Stykkisholmur, Iceland, which has been building fishing boats since 1928. This beautiful and extremely unusual Langskip 55, the first yacht ever built at Skipavik, was conceived by Sigurjon as a versatile world-class cruising boat that can both cross oceans and wander up shallow rivers and inland waterways with impunity. Cruisers with a sense of history take note: these are the very same attributes that allowed Norse sailors to make such a nuisance of themselves during the Middle Ages.

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JARLE ANDHOEY: Busted in Chile

Jarle Andhoey and Nilaya

The drama of the Wild Viking continues. Last we checked in on Norway's Antarctic adventurer Jarle Andhoey, he and his crew aboard the 54-foot Nilaya had suffered a broken boom after leaving the Ross Sea and were bound to an unspecified Argentine base on the Antarctic peninsula to make repairs and take on fuel. It has not been widely remarked upon (nor has the helpful Argentine base ever been identified), but this evidently was successfully accomplished sometime around March 23.

Now comes word that Andhoey and company were detained on Saturday by the Chilean navy as they were passing through Chilean waters off the southern tip of South America on their way to Argentina. Nilaya is now reportedly at the Chilean naval base at Puerto Williams, strapped alongside a navy vessel with three armed guards aboard. According to the first published reports, Nilaya was detained at the request the government of New Zealand, although the Kiwis apparently have now denied this. According to other reports, Andhoey gave a false name for the vessel when hailed by the Chileans, and this may be what led to the arrest.

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ANN DAVISON: Solo Transatlantic on Felicity Ann

Ann Davison on Felicity Ann

Cast into the past to find the founding figure of bluewater feminism, the first in the line that leads to such modern-day heroines as Isabelle Autissier, Ellen MacArthur, and Samantha Davies, and you bump up hard against a woman named Ann Davison. She is remembered today, when she is remembered at all, as the first woman to sail solo across the Atlantic. She is also something of an enigma, wrapped up in a few ironies. Chief among these being the fact that she probably never would have gone to sea in the first place had she not fallen in love with a sailor.

Not that Ann Davison was ever a wallflower, waiting for someone else's testosterone to imbue her life with purpose. In her heart, she was always an adventurer. Born into a family of artists in London, England (her mother, in particular, had a passion for singing), she fixated on the thrill of motion as she was growing up.

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