The second human contact was a resupply on the other side of the Northwest Passage, near Dutch Harbor, Alaska, when he found himself in need of a new inverter, for charging his electronics. A boat tied off to his and handed over a replacement inverter, a hot pizza, a stack of newspapers, a bottle of scotch, a Virginia ham, some vegetables and 25 gallons of diesel. Rutherford, meantime, handed over a flash drive containing his iceberg pictures, which were subsequently uploaded to his blog.
In both cases, he never dropped anchor, and no one came aboard his boat, thus preserving the nonstop, solo designation of the journey. Still, in a blog post detailing the resupply, Rutherford lamented his concession to reality — noting that his idol, the Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton, never had such creature comforts delivered to his own boat.
“When I left on this trip, I wanted to suffer like [Shackleton] suffered,” Rutherford wrote. “I felt that the resupply was infringing on my suffering.”
Ultimately, though, he concluded, “There is no reason to make this trip harder than it already is.” He ended the blog post, as he has each one, with the Shackleton family motto: Fortitudine Vincimus, or “by endurance we conquer.”
Contemplating life on land
The hardest parts of the voyage are over now — the treacherous ice of the Northwest Passage, the typhoons blowing off Japan and across the north Pacific, the unpredictable weather and currents around Cape Horn — but Rutherford is hardly home free. McCormick noted the worst weather his crew encountered during their entire journey came around North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras.
“The worst night of our entire trip. . . . We got absolutely creamed off Cape Hatteras,” McCormick said. “It’s called the Graveyard of the North Atlantic for good reason.” Assuming Rutherford makes it, McCormick believes he should be listed among names such as Joshua Slocum, the first man to sail solo around the world; Robin Knox-Johnston, the first to do so non-stop; and Sir Francis Chichester, the first to do so by the southern “clipper route.”
“His name belongs in the annals of history, alongside those men,” he said.
For Rutherford, the most ecstatic and most terrifying parts of the trip will be the same one — the moment at Annapolis’s City Dock when he sets foot on dry land again, for the first time in some 10 months. There is some sort of reception planned — his friends and benefactors won’t tell Rutherford exactly what, and he doesn’t really want to know. People will be looking at him. He might feel as if he should say something.
As much as he craves a hot shower, a cold beer and the company of “the ladies,” as he likes to say, there is plenty about life at sea that is simply easier than life on land.
“I have mixed feelings about being on land again,” he said. “I know I have to go — I’m going to need toilet paper, and I could use a drink. But I’m broke on land. I live on a really small boat. I struggle on land with a lot of things.
“I guess you just trade one struggle for another.”