Crossing the Atlantic the Easy Way

Bertish’s Atlantic crossing was impressive, but not a hundredth as impressive as if he’d gone west to east. 

© 2017 Brian Overfelt / The SUP Crossing

People have used all kinds of ultimate superlatives to describe Chris Bertish paddling an SUP from Morocco to Antigua over the last few months. The Wanderer is here to agree that while it was an excellent effort by Bertish, it wasn’t all that great.

Above all, I question how much of Bertish’s progress can be attributed to paddling. He covered 4,050 miles in 93 days, an average of 1.8 miles an hour.

Let’s compare that with the progress Steve Callahan made on much the same route in his liferaft after his boat sank in 1982. Callahan covered 1,800 miles to Antigua in 76 days, an average of about 1 knot.

At first glance then, more than half of Bertish’s speed can be attributed to… drifting.

There’s more. Bertish’s SUP is not like any SUP we’ve seen before and is actually more like one of the boats that people row across the Atlantic every winter. Surely it is very light and was built to be as fast as possible. I’d like to see how fast his SUP would go in 20 knots of following wind, with him standing up as a ‘sail’ and/or standing and holding up a sheet as a sail. I bet it really moves.

However Callahan’s liferaft, which was designed to stay in place, was nearly as fast. In those terms Bertish’s achievement doesn’t seem that impressive, does it?

Here are a couple of other contexts. The founder of Klepper inflatable kayaks had no trouble drifting across the Atlantic in his kayak, nor did the founder of Bombard inflatables.

Then, too, about 30 years ago a French guy crossed the Atlantic — on the same wind- and current-friendly course — on a mooring ball! And years later a Frenchman ‘swam’ across the Atlantic.

I’m not going to knock Bertish’s bravery, courage, skill or any of that. But if any of these Transatlantic people want to impress the Wanderer, they are going to have to go from Antigua to Morocco.

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