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!
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.
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.
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.
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