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Lobster Pots and Tree Saws

Published on November 17th, 2015

Aboard his Class40 GryphonSolo2, American Joe Harris departed Newport (RI) on November 15 in a bid to break the 40 Foot Monohull Solo Non-Stop Round the World Record. Here’s an update from Joe on November 17…

As I approached the continental shelf, I was wary about snagging one of those big offshore lobster pots that I have snagged so many times before, watching closely on the radar as some of them have radar reflectors. We were screaming along at about 13 knots in 25-35 knots of wind when I heard the telltale bang and the boat began to slow down. I knew I was screwed.

The boat came to a complete stop and the sails began to flap madly and the auto-pilot alarm went off and all of this in the pitch black of midnight. Frickin’ awesome. I went forward to furl the solent jib but there was too much load on it and it would not furl, so I returned to the cockpit and sheeted both the main and solent in tight to stop the flapping.

I was not at all sure what I was going to do next when I remembered that I had just received a bon voyage gift from fellow solo sailor Rich Wilson, which was a 22-foot extendable Japanese tree saw with a very sharp two foot blade at the end. I dove below to retrieve it, assembled it quickly on deck, and then lay on my belly on the deck and leaned over the windward side of the boat. I lowered the saw in and with one cut the big aluminum pot stick popped out of the water and floated away. A tremendous sense of relief swept over me.

But now the boat was moving again, and I had this dangerously long weapon that I had to sheath and disassemble. After the boat decided to gybe itself a few times for fun, I finally got the saw put away below and got the boat moving in the right direction. Relieved, I poured myself a Jameson and cocoa, now drenched in the salt of sweat and sea water. Thank you Rich Wilson, you saved my bacon…I’m really not sure what I would have done without the saw.

It has been consistently blowing over 20 knots of wind from the WNW and we have been making good time, sailing under A5 fractional kite and two reefs in the main at a 140-degree True Wind Angle. Ken Campbell from Commanders Weather is adamant that we get East early, so I am dutifully heading East as we speak and am somewhere near the north wall of the Gulf Stream.

I am still trying to get used to the fact that I am actually out here and doing this – my lifelong dream – but it’s a little bit of “be careful what you wish for” as the reality of the enormity of the challenge is setting in. So I’m trying to take it one minute, one hour, one day, one week, one month at a time. I am focused on breathing – that seems to help.

Background: The existing record of 137 days, 20 hours, 01 minute, 57 seconds was set by Chinese sailor Guo Chuan in 2013. Finishing in Newport, Joe will need to average 195 miles per day, or approximately 8.2 knots, to beat the record. Website:

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