Matt Rutherford Returns Home to Annapolis
Apr 23, 2012 10:50PM ● Published by Anonymous
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After 27,000 miles, 300-plus days, and four seasons in a 40-year-old 27-foot Albin Vega called St. Brendan (in case you wanted all the numbers…) the Ohio-born Annapolis resident was finally arriving home—sailing from the Severn River into Spa Creek toward City Dock—with two records under his adventurous belt. He’s the only person to have made the trip solo and nonstop, and in the midst of it, he single-handed the smallest boat to ever go through the Northwest Passage. The former record was made official when he crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel a few days earlier, but the excitement peaked in anticipation of his arrival “home” to Annapolis, the place his journey started in June of 2011.
When asked by a CRAB official in a nearby boat in what had become a sort of homecoming flotilla, (raising money and awareness for CRAB—Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating—was the mission behind the journey), if he was “ready for all this?” Rutherford smiled and with the utmost casualty said, “I’m ready for a chicken wing!”
He’s not the kind of guy who expects a lot of hubbub around his daring deeds, or even praise around the fact that his last, and likely greatest so far, was on behalf of his favorite non-profit. But expectant or not, he got it.
As Matt pulled into Spa Creek, just yards from the National Sailing Hall of Fame, the fire rescue boat spouted water into the air as it spun in celebration, the Annapolis Drum and Bugle Corp played “It’s a Small World” as cannons shot off and kids waved signs that read “Welcome Home, Matt!” His family stood eagerly in anticipation of Matt’s first steps onto land. As St. Brendan glided to the dock and his CRAB friends hopped aboard to throw over the fenders and tie up the boat, a brief near-silence fell as people awaited his first official steps onto land. Media lined up, ready to capture the moment. But like he handled the rest of the day, the barefoot 31-year-old redhead in a “Popeye” t-shirt with a short, scruffy beard, just sort of hopped onto the dock with an entertaining nonchalance. Applause erupted.
“He’s my hero,” his sister, Rachel Rutherford, said as she waited for his arrival. “It’s funny, I said ‘Matt, you’re my hero,’ and he said ‘Rachel, you’re my corporate hero…’” Rachel was the one responsible for stocking Matt’s boat prior to his initial departure, including 36 boxes of free dried food (a representative from Shelf Reliance, Matt’s freeze dried food of choice, was also present for the ceremony), as well as a selection of books and a Kindle. “I was on anti-insanity duty,” says Rachel. “So I got him a laptop and loaded it with games, got him a Kindle, got him an iPod touch… [We put about 40 books on the Kindle]…it’s funny too, he’s got some interesting taste, let me tell you, he was like ‘Caligula!? Absolutely Caligula!’”
“'The rise and fall of the Roman Empire? Yea! Gotta have that,'” his mom, Marlowe Macintyre added with an adoring laugh. “He’s into history.”
After hugging his family and closest friends, he was escorted to a nearby stage where world-class sailor and National Sailing Hall of Fame inductee Gary Jobson emceed a homecoming ceremony that included comments by Governor Martin O’Malley, Mayor Josh Cohen, CRAB executive director Don Backe. Iowa Senator Tom Harken, author of the Americans with Disabilities Act, appeared to welcome Matt via Skype and iPad. At the end, Matt spoke briefly about how the journey to raise money for CRAB “made sense” for him as his two passions, non-profits and sailing, were put hand-in-hand.
After the ceremony Rutherford said that he never got to a point where he wanted to turn around, but even if he had, he was so far out in the ocean he wouldn’t have been able to. “There were times when things were breaking and you’re cold and you’re wet and your sleeping bag is wet, and everything is wet and nasty and you just want a clean shirt and a dry bed and you know it’s just not going to happen. So, those times you just want to throw your arms and say ‘Enough!’ but you should never give up. You should always try to accomplish that goal and that dream and there was no real thought of giving up.” Solid advice from such a voyager.
But asked what sorts of things he missed the most, and what he was most looking forward to doing on land, he responded, perfectly in character, “A shower would be nice… It’s hard to say… ribs, beer… Talking to nice lady? That’s up there with the shower and the beer.”
To date, Matt has raised more than $70,000, however, the crew of Godspeed, a boat that Matt once worked on, recently announced a $21,000 matching grant for all donations made to Matt’s Challenge for CRAB from now until May 31st. During the ceremony, Rutherford reiterated that in order to get the matching grant, they have to raise the first $21,000. “So yea, donate money to CRAB,” he said.
To read his blog or make a donation, visit solotheamericas.org.
Photos by Karly Kolaja