Bob Brown

2 POSTS

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Facing the daunting task of preparing to navigate the smallest powerboat ever to cross the North Atlantic and set a distance record, my brother Ralph and I were inspired by the hopes that this might be a wonderful vehicle to help raise the attention of the public and gain needed monies for Wounded Hero Foundations in the United States, Canada, and Britian in the memory of three Marines that died in 1979: Sgt.John Harvey, Cpl.George Homes, and SSgt.Dewy Johnson, in the rescue attempt of the 54 American Hostages held captive in Iran. Our boat was a 21 foot Intruder which we named “I Am Second”. The journey was to take us up the U. S. East Coast and then across the Northern Atlantic via the coasts of Canada, Greenland, and down past Scotland to England.

As we prepared to set out on our adventure, Ralph and I found out, about a week before, that there was a large enough chunk of money sponsored by the people from the I Am Second Organization and Interstate Battery to keep the departure date that they had drawn in the sand: June 27, 2009. Ralph and his boat company started to bring the 2006 Intruder 21(first of this type built) up to his new deck height. Because of information gained from their first trip two years ago, North Carolina to Bermuda and Bermuda back to New York, the floor of the Intruder was raised 3 inches. At the time, the boat was weighted down with 328 U.S. gallons of fuel, and seawater would come in through the two 3 inch scupper holes when the boat was standing still. He wanted his boats to be dryer when fully loaded.
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This remodeling was very extensive and wasn’t really completely completed, but time was up and we departed from Tampa Florida ready and willing, but definitely underfunded and underequiped as to some desired items. We drove south through the Keys and up the east coast of the United States and Canada motoring often at night to be availible for media interviews, as this was the I Am Second Wounded Hero Voyage.
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Even though the purpose of this voyage was to raise money for Wounded Hero Foundations in the United States, Canada, and Britian in the memory of three Marines that died in 1979; Sgt.John Harvey, Cpl.George Homes, and SSgt.Dewy Johnson, in the rescue attempt of the 54 American Hostages held captive in Iran, we also were afforded the great opportunity of witnessing many whales, dolphins, and spending hours video taping as well as the thrill of wakeboarding around our first up close iceberg.
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The journey from Canada to Greenland was in jepardy from the get-go. We left in strong opposing curents, strong winds, and big seas. With the hopes that the weather preditions would come true, we left on the supposibly 2-day crossing of 625 miles with 310 US gallons of gasoline. Without a favorible change in the weather, actually the conditions worsened, and with 180 miles to go,we were down to just 60-gallons of gasoline. After considering all their options including possibly drifting back to Canada to refuel and then begin again, we agreed to trudge onward without our trusty Suzuki 115 hp engine. It was replaced with our not-so-thirsty 9.9 hp Suzuki and used for 3-days going 180-miles at the riviting speed of 4 mph, (walking speed). Greenland was a welcome site especially since we were down to just under a cup of gasoline aboard.
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Greenland, although a beautiful country, with some of the most memorible landscapes, was frigid (water temp 35 degrees F.and numbing winds). It was home to many seals, whale, puffins, but most breathtaking were the thousands of icebergs, clift faces, and glaciers. Gasoline and towns were almost non-existant, but the few people that we came into contact with, left many favorible impressions. Some of the “What are the odds?” situations found on our website www.crosstheatlantic.com can hardly be believed, but are true.

The trip over to Iceland was better than we could have ever hoped for. Seas mainly flat or at least small rolling swells. we had a few days rest staying aboard the Elding Whale Watching Centre while Ralph worked on fundraising for the continuation of the trip. I had a chance to experience the Blue Lagoon Hot Springs and some of the other Iceland treasures until Ralph got to take a day off and join me on a tour to the Geothermo power station, geisers, waterfalls, and of course one of the public pools heated by the Geothermo station.

The run to the Faroes was one that had us constandly looking over our shoulders, for we were attempting to outrun a storm the whole way. Having safely made it the point of sighting land, we decided to make an unscheduled stop at a small town just as the sun had gone below the horizon. To make a long story short, —No Harbor—Back-Out-To-Sea—Storm Arrives—Shallow-Un-Seen-Shoals—Fifteen Foot Breaking Seas—Helicopter—Strong Currents—Cold and Wet on dock—we became known as “the last Vikings” and got to go to a professional soccer game, tour the island, hike down stone steps, and see what makes these islands so famous.

The Shetland Islands were where we first got our mouths on some Fish and Chips, visited with the Coast Guard station for weather checks, got video-taped by a patrol boat leaving out into a storm that beat us down with 10 to 15 foot seas for most of our crossing. For a short time, we contemplated a stop at some islands half-way to the Orkney Islands but couldn’t bring ourselves to taking the chance of getting stranded there for the duration of the three day storm that we were traveling through. Hopefully the helicopter that hoovered for fifteen minutes had their cameras rolling as it isn’t often a 21 foot open fishing boat takes on the ten to fifteen foot waves miles from shore.

The Oakney Island was where we Brown brothers drank our victory cans of fruit contail thinking from here to London would be a simple run along the coast. Success was now about to be granted, only a few hundred miles to go for our World Records. Suprise, Suprise, Suprise how wrong we could be. With the T-top now about to fall off, two inch support poles now had to be splinted with whatever materials that could be had:duck tape, wire ties, table knives, wrenches, and strips of steel.
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Fifteen miles off the Scottish coast we experienced a three hour period where our big motor and kicker went out on strike. Actually it wasn’t the big guy’s fault. That 115 Suzuki ran perrfect, only it needed the help of electricity flowing through a hiden broken wire to keep it energized. Ralph was the hero then. Through his specs and on his knees he discovered the cause. The careless brothers, in their quest to keep everything of importance dry, had constantly cramed everything under the console in the hatchway that the wires ran through. Scottland was also the site of where we might be on Discovery TV because we were following a life boat from the empty big ship harbour over to the small ship harbour via the gale force winds long after the sun went down. That might have been the reason for the bright spot light in Ralph’s eyes.

England seemed just out of reach, as the North Sea kept reaching up and trying to get her hands on the battered old T-top. The Atlantic and the North Sea requrie a toll. After collecting a bunch of this and that off of the “I Am Second Wounded Hero Voyage” we still wanted the T-top. More splices were made. This time wooden splints and eventurally my hammock pole had to be cut in half to resupport the T-top. So during the 35 mph gale just before the Thames river, the wind took the engine cover. Yep the Suzuki was running naked, and the seas were lapping cold water on her exposed electronics causing her to spit and sputter. What luck we Brown brothers had lay in the fortuitous happening of Interstate Battery having given us some new signs only the night before when we met for a early celebration dinner because Interstate Battery had to get back to the States due to the London delays. Bob wrapped the signs around the Suzuki and using wireties held the signs in place.
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Ralph and I were welcomed in through the locks of the Limehouse Marina and with cameras rolling made our official completion of our Atlantic crossing. The good people from Cruising Association were there to operate the cameras and offer us a place to recover before we were to continue on towards France, by crossing the English Channel. As luck would have it, God gave us our last cossing and night at sea, one that we would be able to chearish forever. With an incredible sunset, calm prestine seas, and an almost full moon France was just an hour or two journey, and since there was no one availible from Customs and Immigration, we continued up the coast to Holland.

We navigated our vessel onto the Rhine River as we headed into the last phase of our journey. Screaming down the Rhine and weaving around the massive container barges was only slowed by the availibility of gasoline, until the Rhine got into cahoots with the North Sea and decided to take a speed propeller off the Suzuki. After a few more glances off the rocky bottom of the Rhine with our only remaining propeller, Ralph decided to follow a huge container barge while waiting for the sun to show it’s face. Those non-reflective un-lit red or green channel bouys were pretty much invisible until morning.
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We finally parked the boat in Wiesbaden, Germany, and drove a rental car to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for the final destination of our voyage. A visit to the Hospital and meeting a couple of the patients was all that was left except the arrangements to have the “I Am Second” and the two of us flown back to the states. Now with all the media help, we hope to continue raising money for the Wounded Hero Foundations and at least meet our goal of having 150,000 people join our team by collectively raising 3 million dollars. This will be possible by each member donating 30 dollars on our web-site www.crosstheatlantic.com , and those donating will recieve a “Do More than Just Say Thanks” shirt to wear and spead the word. And be sure to order our book to get the full story of this historic crossing:
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Last year, late in April, my phone rang on a Wednesday night. It was my brother Ralph. He wanted me to go on a boat trip to some island, called Bermuda, off of North Carolina. I was not home, but my wife told him, absolutely not, no way!

In the morning I called him back. Ralph claimed his flats boat design could run in extremely shallow water and still handle fairly heavy seas, and he wanted to prove it. For eight months, Ralph had been planning this venture, and his first mate had bailed on him at the last minute. He had already spent more than $10,000 promoting the trip. Ralph had airfare, photographers, national press releases, hotels, and people in place to help out, etc. He was in a bind and really needed a ship-mate fast. He was scheduled to leave in a couple of days. I told him I had to work; there was no way I could afford to take off; besides, I was in the middle of a job and was leaving at 2:00 this afternoon on a camping trip in Georgia. Ralph pleaded, offering me more than a week’s salary. There went my major excuse, a paid adventure. I was in!
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I had never seen the boat until he arrived in Georgia two days later, where he picked me up. It was a 21- foot flats boat called “Intruder,” built by his company, Dream Boats. My camping friends, Vince and Chuck, thought we were nuts. Only an hour before, looking at a map in a camping store, we discovered exactly how far off shore Bermuda was, about the distance from the Florida Keys to Atlanta Georgia, close to 700 miles. Ralph planned to go even farther, back to New York Harbor, some 800 miles. I couldn’t believe he wanted to go on a 1,500 miles round trip in a boat with two foot sides, before being weighted down with what he said would be about 2,000 pounds of gasoline. I told Chuck and Vince, that as soon as we hit the Gulf Stream, Ralph would chicken out and we’d be back. If I had the money, I’d have bet a thousand dollars on it.
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We left Atlantic Beach, NC on the morning of April 30, 2007 heading for Bermuda, 700 miles away, with about a foot of freeboard. The seas were relatively calm, two to three foot. After we lost sight of land, we saw a pod of dolphins and a big sail boat a couple of miles away. Later the swells grew to six feet, coming out of the Southwest. The seas had now turned to a heavy chop with a lot of white caps.

All night long we traded off driving, hoping the waves would calm down, at least long enough to heat up some soup. Not so! Late the next afternoon we came real close to a whale, while I was napping. Ralph woke me up and we drove over to where it submerged. With both of us leaning over, looking for signs of it, Ralph started to wonder if it might of had a calf? If it decided to ram us, we were 300 miles from shore, all by our selves, fooling around with a whale, in a 21-foot flats boat. How crazy is that?

That afternoon and evening the waves kicked up to around 9 feet with 35 miles per hour winds. The seas were nothing but white wash. We were way past the half-way point. I couldn’t believe it. The Intruder handled them well. It was actually fun! We were steering for the steepest waves to catch.
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The next day we arrived in Bermuda after having a couple of small problems coming ashore, due to my not letting Ralph reprogram the intermittent GPS, resulting in us not entering properly. An article was written about our trip, including a picture, in the Royal Gazette, warning us not to attempt a return trip to New York. The next day, as people found out about our trip, we were treated like royalty. People actually wanted our autographs!

We waited out Andria, the first tropical storm of 2007, and then headed for New York. We towed a stranded sailboat (broken motor)out past the reefs, so that she could finish her solo circum-navigational trip around the world. Our voyage back dealt with zero to six foot seas. We thought we had engine problems, but it turned out to be a false alarm. Blindly driving through a heavy rain storm during the last night brought an end to the heavy seas. Fog blurred sunlight and the sea became a sheet of glass where we observed over 40 of white-sided dolphins, many playing off our bow. We had a little difficulty arriving in New York Harbor; tickets are given to those who venture behind the Statue of Liberty, even though the signs had blown down months earlier.
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We actually made it into Guinness Book of World Records ™ ; the World Record Academy, and I wrote a book, which includes many pictures, of our the trip: ‘Bermuda Suicide Challenge in a Flats Boat’. The book can be purchased at
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