About the Challenge
Matt Rutherford is a dreamer. He has proven that when he says he’s going to do something, he should be taken seriously. When I first met Matt in the public anchorage in Red Hook USVI’s, he had just finished a double trans-Atlantic on his 32′ Pearson. He sailed single-handed across the far north Atlantic, eventually reaching England. His voyage took him through Northern Europe, down the coast of Africa, and ultimately 200 miles up the Gambia River before returning via the Trade Wind route to the Caribbean.
His new plan for adventure was far more ambitious and certainly more compelling. Matt intended to sail single-handed East To West through the the Northwest Passage beginning in summer 2011. “The ice won’t melt enough to make the attempt util August,” he says – and as if it weren’t challenge enough, he planned on doing it in a 27′ Albin-Vega donated to the Chesapeake Regional Accessible Boating (aka CRAB) specifically for his voyage.
Despite possessing the soul of an explorer (or perhaps because of it), Matt also possesses the compassionate heart of a good man, and spent his early days in Annapolis working with CRAB, helping persons with disabilities get out and enjoy the water. The voyage was aimed at raising money for CRAB, and Matt hoped to drum up enough support to get him through successfully while furthering CRAB’s mission. He’ll planned on accepting sponsorship in the form of ‘money for miles,’ and all donations would go straight towards supporting CRAB.
Once through the arctic, Matt hoped the voyage would continue: “If the boat and I are still holding up upon arrival in Alaska, we’ll keep going and head for Cape Horn,” he said. His “Grand Idea” was to complete a solo circumnavigation of the America’s, but he remained cautiously optimistic, saying “The Northwest Passage is the focal point of the trip, and I can’t guarantee that the boat will make it across to Alaska before the winter sets in. But I’m certainly going to do my best to see that it does.” If he were to make it all the way back to Annapolis, he'd be the first person to have ever done so alone.
This adventure began from Annapolis in June of 2011 and encompassed 23,000 nautical miles in it’s entirety. Arrival at the Northwest passage was in early August, which is only open for six weeks. After exiting the Passage, Matt headed for Cape Horn, rounding it by March 1 2012. Then he headed north up the east coast of the America’s heading home for Chesapeake Bay, passing the Caribbean before hurricane season. The entire voyage took 311 days… all of this adventure ALONE and NON-STOP!
Matt arrived back home in Annapolis in April 2012 after successfully crossing his starting line at the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel Near Norfolk, VA at the mouth of the Bay. He remained on his boat for the 100 mile trip up the Chesapeake and took his first steps on land at Annapolis City Dock where over a thousand enthusiastic fans, dignitaries, and family were on hand to give him a rousing welcome home and WELL DONE MATT!
Matt's voyage earned him two Guinness World Records. He raised over $120,000 for CRAB.
Matt's motivation for the trip was to show people, particularly those with disabilities, that there are no limits to what can be accomplished in life; and to raise money for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB), a nonprofit sailing program for people with disabilities, based in Annapolis, Md. Click here to learn more about CRAB.
Red Dot on the Ocean: The Matt Rutherford Story
Currently airing on Public TV stations across the U.S., this documentary tells the story of Matt's perilous voyage and extraordinary life. Red Dot has been nominated for a regional Southcoast EMMY. For more about the film, visit www.reddotontheocean.com.
You can stream the PTV one-hour version in SD here. Stream in HD.