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|Interview with Richard Jones (July 2000 Moab Utah)|
tape recorded interview I did with Richard Jones last July,
just prior to his departure from the United States.
Kenneth F. Crutchlow
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, July 7, 1943. Lived in Phoenix until 10 years
moved to Salt Lake City. Did all my schooling there. Five years of
college at University of Utah and Brigham Young University.
Six months of active duty and 7 years as weekend warrior in National Guard
paid for college education. Learned discipline. Enjoyed the active duty
but not the years of weekend work, twice a month. It was an obligation to
I'm a member of the LDS, Latter Day Saints. I served a mission for the
church, 2 1/2 years, 1962-1965--in Bavaria, Germany.
Upon my return, I started college education and worked as a river guide.
At the University of Utah, I couldn't find my niche, something that really
drove me. Finally, decided to become teacher of religion in the church.
Church didn't care what my major was, as long as I had a degree. I loved
history, and so I decided to major in archaeology.
Transferred to Brigham Young University . After three days of a class on
statistics, I realized it was the wrong choice. Returned to University of Utah to study speech pathology and lasted one semester. Quit school altogether in 1971 and
became a professional river runner.
Adventure: When I was 14, an adventurer named John Goddard came to lecture
at Granite High School. He'd made a 16mm movie called "Kayaks Down the
Nile." He and a partner had kayaked the length of the Nile River. His
partner was killed by a large crocodile. John had written out the goals he
wanted to accomplish in his life--about 200 in all! By the time he spoke
at my high school, he had crossed off 168 of those goals.
At age 14, I had the opportunity in the Boy Scouts to take my first river
trip through Glen Canyon (today Lake Powell). I was hooked. I went back
every summer, sometimes twice a summer. Saved money for the trips with
paper routes. Highlight of my summers.
By the time I started my own company in 1971, I'd been on the river for 13
years. I got married that year.
Also that year, at age 27, I remembered John Goddard and his list of goals.
I sat down to write out my own goals. Most of the 125 were adventure
goals. But then I forgot about it--it was just something to do.
That list surfaced years later. Looking at it, I realized there were none
I would erase and many more I would add.
I divorced five years ago; have four children. Oldest daughter, Susan,
manages the river office. When I made the first attempt at the Atlantic,
Susan accompanied me to Lisbon. Second daughter, Allison, managed the
river operation in Idaho for five years. Kathy, third daughter, was never
interested in the river business. Son Scott has been on rivers since he
was 18 and thoroughly loves it.
Ocean rowing: In 1991, I read in the Salt Lake Tribune about Gerard
d'Aboville, who had arrived at Ilwaco on the coast of Washington State,
having crossed the Pacific Ocean from Chosi Japan. At that time, I had 33 years and 25,000 miles of river experience. Gerard captured my imagination. Later, I saw pictures of Gerard at sea in Life magazine and thought: if I had a boat, I could do
that.A bug took hold and wouldn't let go. I asked my wife to find the
writer of the article about Gerard. The writer provided a phone number for
Gerard's PR firm. Got his address and wrote to say I was interested in
doing what he had done. Either he didn't get letter or chose not to
answer. I never heard from him.
Another key moment: I did a cross-country bike ride, ending up at
Yorktown, Virginia, site of last battle of Revolutionary War. I put my
tire in Atlantic Ocean and thought how great it would be to get in a boat
and just keep going across the Atlantic Ocean. I was sad to see that
journey come to an end; it had been so enjoyable. If the ocean had not
been there, I would have kept going.
I knew I had to have a special, self-righting boat. Began to check in
boating magazines for designers. I called a few, but nothing came of that.
In 1993, I saw an article in Outside magazine about Peter Bird, who was the
first to row the Pacific solo, he had
rowed from San Frasncisco California to Australia. He was rescued by HMAS
Bendigo just before crashing onto the Great Barrier Reef of Lockhart River.
A debate raged in the press over whether he had actually made it to
Australia, because he came up about
30 miles short, this after he had spent 294 days at sea, The Governor
General of Australia settled it when he said to Peter "the Great Barrier
reef is part of Australia congratulations Mr. Bird".
Peter Bird's home was in London, and I decided to contact him. In 1994 I
had to go to London to participate in a World Travel Conference. While there, I
met some English tour operators and asked about Bird. The first four or
five knew nothing about Peter, but one said he would try to find him. Back
home, I got a FAX from one who had found him in the Guinness Book of World
records for the longest row (California - Australia). Eventually got his PR
firm, which provided number of Kenneth Crutchlow, who at that time was living in Santa Rosa, California. Kenneth provided phone numbers of both Peter and Peter's boat designer. Never heard from Peter but did hear from Nic Bailey, boat designer.
Eventually, met with Nic in England. He took me to a workshop where Peter
was working on his boat . I met Peter. He had his boat upside down and was
cutting the keel out. It hadn't worked well on his last row, and so they
were making it a flat-bottom boat with only a small keel.
I spent all day talking with Peter and Nic, and a fiberglass expert named
Wiz Dees. I had hundreds of questions and they answered them all-about
building boat, navigation, currents, etc.
Andrew Halsey's boat was also there, and I had a chance to crawl through it
and check out the workmanship. At the end of the day, I asked Wiz what he
would charge to build me a boat and he said $18,000. I decided I had more
time than money, and could, if I had a set of plans, do it myself. Four
years later, $18,000 seemed like a real bargain. It took me three years
to build it. If I consider the time spent and the equipment put into boat,
it was easily $100,000.
As Nic put me on a train, he suggested I wait and see how Peter's and
Andrew's boats worked before going ahead. After two weeks of thinking it
over, I told him to go ahead with the design. I bought a book on boat
building and studied it. I began to realize how complicated it was;
wondered whether I could do it.
I began to build it in my garage. The boat was 27 feet long; the garage
was 30 feet. I had barely enough room. First I built a wooden model of
the boat. I built it upside down, bottom first, applying first rigid foam,
then layers of fiberglass. Painted it; added hatches, solar panels, wired
it. Added radios, lights, radar. In beginning, had no idea how to do the
work. Followed instructions of Nic and Wiz. Constantly in touch with them
by phone, because didn't understand all the techniques.
Electrical part - a particular frustration. Didn't know the difference
between 18- and 20-gauge wire. Got help from electrical expert who drew it
out to me. Spent two weeks curled up in that boat doing wiring from one
end to the other. Time to flick switch, and nothing happened. Frustrated;
didn't even know where to begin. Sat back in boat and said a little
prayer, and waited for answer. In five minutes, the answer came to me. It
worked--lit up like a Christmas tree--and has not stopped working since.
Now, having built it myself, know how to troubleshoot it. Glad I did it
myself. Now I'm trusting my life to something I know about. A great sense
of not only satisfaction but comfort.
Even when frustrated or slowed, I knew the die was cast, that I wasn't
going to quit.
In 1997, put the boat in the water for the first time--in a Utah lake.
Tested it, rowed it, as did some of my river buddies. Flipped the boat
over to test its self-righting ability. Amazingly, it stayed upside down,
just floated there. Decided not enough weight in bottom. That weight
comes from food, equipment, and water in three ballast tanks under the
rowing seat. Filled the third water tank, flipped it over, and again it
was content to ride upside down.
Put a friend inside, flipped it over, and again it just sat there. But by
rocking it, could flip it upright. Then I tried it, with the same results.
Maybe fully loaded, it will right on its own, but at least I know I can
rock it and do it that way.
Eventually, decided to follow in footsteps of Christopher Columbus, leaving
from Cadiz, Spain to New World. Peter Bird discouraged it. He had tried it with
Derek King from Gibraltar; they had to go by mouth of Mediterranean. Had
made it with two rowers, but one rower may not make it. Recommended starting from Lisbon, Portugal. Shipped the boat there. We followed, including my daughter, Susan.
Left six in the morning with outgoing tide, followed by others, including
Kenneth Crutchlow of ORS in another boat for about an hour. Said good-byes, and I was on my way.
Alone: On second day, a calm sea, blue skies, bright sun, a perfect day
for departure. Aimed for island of Madeira. Knew if I made it, my
navigation skills in tact. Rowed that day until out of sight of land.
Stopped for night about 9:00 pm.
About 10 miles from land, went to bed. During night, the
collision-avoidance radar system went off several times. Got up to check
if any ships in vicinity. Never were, until 2 am, when saw a ship in
distance. Assumed that was triggering alarm. But then, to my utter
amazement, I saw a lighthouse high up on a cliff, and light indicating a
Decided to wait for first light to check position. Turned on GPS and found
I was 30 miles north of my position the evening before. I had been caught
in a fast-moving current heading toward England, instead of moving
southwest, as I had anticipated. My surprise - due to the pilot charts, that
sea captains use, the current flows down the coast of France,
down the coast of Portugal, and heads toward the Canary Islands.
Didn't bother me that this had happened, because I had all the time in the
world to correct things. Figured - the current was like the Colorado River,
something I was very familiar with, and could just row until I got out of
it. Rowed until noon or one o'clock. I was in good health, not seasick.
Sea was placid. But about one o'clock, wind shifted, and began to blow
from northwest, blowing me back onto the coast. Weather turned foul.
Major storm set in.
Fearful of being blown back onto the coast, I threw out my sea anchor.
Instructions say just to drop it overboard and it will deploy. I'd never
done it before, wasn't sure what to expect.
By four o'clock, 30-foot swells coming into the boat, wind was howling. I
put up my wind meter, and it was clocking winds of 18-20 mph, with gusts up
to 25 mph. It was a wonderful storm; I'd really wanted to experience a
storm at sea. Nothing to do but crawl into my bunk; took off my wet
clothes and stayed there for 16 hours. Storm raged all night long, but I
was warm and snug inside. All night I could feel the boat jerk and pull.
Next morning I poked my head out. The rain had slowed, but the waves
still seemed huge. My first time at sea, and they seemed like mountains.
Still, I thought I might be able to row. I pulled in the sea anchor, but I
had to do it slowly so as not to aggravate the nausea I felt.
I began to row west, still feeling poorly. Couldn't eat or drink anything,
and I'm worried about growing too weak to row. Finally rest on my oars,
still in sight of the coast. A warning voice suddenly told me: Richard,
nice try, but you need to go home. Not tomorrow or next week--now! After
all the years and money preparing for this trip, it was disappointing, but
I knew it was true. It was similar to the voice I heard when I quit
archaeology. No way to avoid it. Figured I'd have another chance.
Now task was to get back to the harbor at Lisbon, which was no small task.
I could row slightly faster than the current trying to push me north, but
if I ever stopped rowing, I would quickly lose ground. So I rowed all day
Saturday, Saturday night, into Sunday morning--18 hours straight, but
couldn't make the lighthouse. By 4 in the morning, I was totally exhausted
and my hands were ripped to shreds.
I rested for two hours, until 6:00, and awoke to find that I had lost all
the mileage--and more--I had gained in that 18 hours of nonstop rowing.
Tried to call for help on my radio, though I had wired it myself and had no
idea if it even worked. I couldn't reach anyone at six o'clock on a Sunday
morning, so I resumed rowing west, hoping to get out of the current.
I could monitor my progress with the GPS--every second that ticked off was
worth about 88 feet--but by 10:00 I had to conclude that I wasn't going
anywhere. The weather was fine now, and as I looked up the coast, I could
see two sailing ships heading my way. When they got close, I got on the
radio and said, "here isn't an emergency, but I could use some assistance.
Can you help me"? Nothing. Maybe the radio didn't work, maybe they didn't
have theirs turned on, maybe they didn't speak English. Maybe they didn't
want to be bothered. Who knows? Tried again and again. Finally, on the
third try, a very British voice came on and asked for my position. When I
told them, they said they doubted they were the boat I could see. They
estimated they were 15 miles up the coast, two hours away, but said to be
patient, that they would come and help.
So I sat in my rowing seat and waited, enjoying the sunshine. Two hours
later, here comes the biggest sailing ship I'd ever seen--65-70 feet. They
came alongside, I threw them a rope, they tied me on, and away we went. So
much spray coming off the boat, I had to retreat to my back compartment,
where I stayed for several hours.
As we got near harbor, I went aboard their yacht. They told me there was
gale due to hit and that was why they were seeking shelter, too. When we
got close, they cut me loose and I rowed back into the same harbor I'd left
5 days before. Saw a lot of the same people who had seen me off.
Sure enough, a hurricane hit that night. If I'd been out at sea, probably
would've been no problem, but if I'd been close to shore, it might have
blown me back on land.
Incidentally, when I knew the trip was over, I finally turned on my
desalinator to make some water. I hadn't done so, because I'd had fresh
water. To my utter surprise, it didn't work. That alone would've been
enough to cancel the trip. Then I tried some fresh water from my tanks and
found they were contaminated with seawater. I hadn't sealed the tanks with
the right kind of sealant.
When I got into the harbor, the harbor officials were upset because we
hadn't filled out the proper forms when we left. They made sure I went
down to the police station and filled out the proper forms.
I lived in the boat at the boat docks for two weeks while I arranged to
ship the boat back to the States. I had plenty of food--it was my hotel.
When I got home and checked the Internet weather, I learned there were
several hurricanes lined up out in the Atlantic.
Attitude upon return? I thought it was a great adventure. I learned a
lot. No question about my leaving again, just a matter of timing.
I was going to take a test run through Gulf of Mexico, was quite close to
leaving, when I read an article about a guy who had kayaked in the Gulf.
He made it, but had to sleep with one eye open because of all the freighter
traffic in the Gulf. He was almost run down several times by ships that
couldn't see him. I decided it wasn't such a good idea.
As for the Russian, --Slava--who is hoping to leave Tenerife at the same
time I will, it is definitely not a race. Some people might see it that way, with Russia and U.S. such longtime political antagonists, but it is not the nature of this
kind of adventure.
Just two men, who happen to be the same age, living out their dreams.
©1983-2001 Ocean Rowing Society