Oh, and McCormick was part of a four-man crew, all of whom were experienced sailors — and none of whom ever had to take a 10-hour shift at the helm, for example, dodging icebergs in the fog of Baffin Bay off the coast of Greenland while clocking eight knots, as Rutherford did.
They didn’t sleep nightly in a damp sleeping bag, or lay their heads on a damp, moldy pillow, as Rutherford does. They didn’t smash their head into the ceiling if they tried to stand up in their cabin. They didn’t have to pump a manual desalinator for 30 minutes every time they wanted a cup of water. They almost certainly didn’t go walking around their boat wearing a paintball mask to do the job of a more suitable piece of waterproof headgear that they couldn’t afford.
“What Matt is trying to do, I’m absolutely blown away by it,” McCormick said. “He’s doing this in a boat that, frankly, I’d be scared to sail from Newport to Bermuda. I’m in awe of the guy. This is such a mammoth undertaking, and to do it without stopping — alone — is mind-boggling.
“It’s almost teetering on the edge of blood-insanity, frankly. When I heard what he was trying to do, I thought it was a suicide mission. I was fearful for him.”
A quest for self-knowledge
What, then, would compel a 30-year-old Ohio native with a passion for the Cleveland Browns and the history of exploration to climb aboard an old sailboat, loaded with hand-me-down equipment and freeze-dried food, and embark on a mission that more experienced and practical sailors equate to suicide?
The simple answer is charity. Rutherford concocted his idea as a way to raise money for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB), an Annapolis-based organization that aims to provide sailing opportunities for physically and/or developmentally disabled persons. While Rutherford is about 80 percent done with his voyage, he is only about 10 percent of the way to his fundraising goal of $250,000 for CRAB’s projects.
But as one would expect, there is a larger mission at work here, a quest for self-knowledge and inner peace that Rutherford hasn’t always been able to find on dry land. He was born and raised, he says, in a cult, before becoming “angry and confused” as a youth and taking to street life, spending much of his teens going in and out of juvenile detention centers.
The life of adventure that he chose in his 20s as a means of escape has led him, among other places, to a solo bicycle journey across Southeast Asia and a pair of trans-Atlantic sails. His latest adventure makes those seem like child’s play.
“Ultimately,” he said, “I am trying to accomplish something that is greater than myself.”
The payoff, when it chooses to reveal itself, is the occasional brush with nature’s overwhelming glory: seals, whales, walruses, narwhals, great albatrosses, penguins. In the Arctic (before his camera broke), he snapped pictures of icebergs the size of office buildings. One recent night, in the austral summer just on this side of Cape Horn, he marveled at the magnificence of the stars, the Milky Way appearing like a thick cloud.