Mallorca by Land, Air and Sea

USA. Rutherford Storm prepared with Fiorentino Para-Anchor & Shark Drogue

Wednesday, 05 June 2013

Fiorentino Para-Anchor of Newport Beach, Ca, market-leading provider of storm surviving drag devices announces solo sailor Matt Rutherford of Annapolis, Md, who completed a solo non-stop 309-day circumnavigation of the Americas in 2012 and the first person to do so, has embarked on a 6,500 nautical mile Atlantic Ocean environmental mission to survey Atlantic “Garbage Patches” and carries aboard a Fiorentino Para-Anchor and Shark Drogue Set-up. The company joined as a sponsor with the equipment. Other sponsors include the well known Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB) for physically challenged sailors that Rutherford and Fiorentino have long supported.

For this journey he pilots a “floating scientific research station” --  a 1990 Tom Colvin-designed 42’ steel hulled sailboat AULT named after his grandfather’s WWII service on the USS AULT. He is accompanied on the estimated 75-day trip including within fifty miles of the Azores and Bermuda dragging nets to sample debris and filming documentary footage by Nicole Trenholm, Program Director/Field Operations Scientist for the non-profit Ocean Research Project which Rutherford formed for this and future scientific and environmental observational and data collection projects. Previously educated in the geosciences and a NOAA Office Coast Survey Technician with contractor Earth Resources Technology, she has considerable experience in hydrographic surveys and “a genuine interest in exploring the marine geologic environment.” A five-month Arctic/Northwest passage trip will include the Mercy Bay area is planned as a possibility for 2014. Both agree that technology has advanced to conduct these surveys with smaller vessels and crew and considerably more economically than in the past.

The term “garbage patches” as they are often referred to are, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), areas of marine debris concentrations mostly of small bits of floatable plastics, (though there are other associated objects like metal barrels, derelict fishing nets and the like.). While it remains difficult for scientists to predict exact locations, content and size in the world’s oceans, it has not stopped the labor-intensive and expensive collection of samples when opportunities arise despite changes in movement, sometimes daily, the agency explains.

Nonetheless, the effort continues guided by huge “gyres” (defined as a large scale circular feature made up of ocean currents that spiral around a central point, clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, counterclockwise in the Southern.). There are five subtropical oceanic “gyres.” In the Atlantic there exists a North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre made up of four major currents –North Equatorial, Gulf Stream, North Atlantic and Canary Current.)

Scientists and civilian ocean conservationist organizations will pursue the mission of conducting a Sargasso Sea marine debris reconnaissance survey for example to add to global understanding  says NOAA, of the quantity of marine debris in the gyre and to bring awareness to the problem which Ocean Research Project organization may reveal a significant concentration of high acidic marine water that could jeopardize the likelihood of critical marine life.”  

The Atlantic Ocean survey aboard the R/V AULT has three objectives, according to Rutherford and Trenholm.  One is to conduct a Sargasso Sea marine pollution survey through a debris reconnaissance survey and post toxicology study to add to the global understanding of the quantity of marine debris and its consequences. Second, to collect detection files of monitored marine life within the Sargasso Gyre to provide to Dalhousie University’s Ocean Tracking Network for scientists to monitor migratory routes of tagged species. Third, the research vessel will act as a mobile reporting platform of atmospheric and oceanic observations to NOAA and feed information into international modeling databases which depict global weather forecasts and climate studies to support mariner safety at sea as a Voluntary Observing Ship, plus made accessible to the Atlantic Ocean and Meteorological Laboratory and to multiple open source portals. Film footage they will shoot of their activities will be produced as an educational documentary of the survey project.

During the expedition Rutherford says he expects to do his best to avoid heavy weather. “I’m not looking for any more storm experiences but I’m sure I’ll be in plenty of them. When you stay out there long enough storms are inevitable.” He is confident when they happen he’ll be storm prepared. Rutherford decided to equip the vessel with a Fiorentino Para-Anchor and Shark Storm drogue after sitting in on one of Zack Smith’s “Constant Rode Tension” seminars at the Annapolis Boat Show. “I listened to Zack, and Zack sat in on one of mine….since both of us have storms on our brains, it didn’t take either one of us long to strike up a conversation about them, “ he explains, “and I was thrilled when Zack agreed to offer me a Fiorentino offshore anchor and a Shark Storm Drogue.”

Rutherford said he wants to use a head-to-wind position with his para-anchor if crew become too tired or gets into trouble. Smith agreed it would be fine, but that it was important to maintain “constant force” on the rode by either deploying:  Shorter rode lengths, placing some chain next to the para-anchor, or by “flying a riding sail like a kite” from the back of the boat. Smith also suggested kicking the “engine in reverse” if Rutherford didn’t feel like deploying a riding sail. The solutions presented by Smith are all designed to reduce yawing that can overload equipment.  Typically, Fiorentino suggests using a 12’ para-anchor for a 42’ sailboat, but due to Rutherford’s boat design and the head-to-wind position, a 16 footer was better since it grabs additional water to place extra force on the anchor rode.

Follow Matt Rutherford and Nicole Trenholm at Ocean Research Project’s website and his blog at  For updates and information on the Fiorentino Para-Anchor, Shark Storm Drogue, or Zack Smith’s Constant Rode Tension seminars visit

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 05 June 2013 )