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The Little Boat That Could

Ruben Gabriel sailed his Pearson Electra Sparky into Hanalei Bay under jury rig at daybreak yesterday morning.

© 2008

For the last 12 days of his 27-day passage from the Bay to Kauai in the Singlehanded TransPac, Ruben Gabriel was sailing his Pearson Electra Sparky under jury rig. On July 27, Gabriel got a gust of wind that Sparky‘s mast just couldn’t contain. It snapped a couple feet above the gooseneck, dropping everything on the foredeck. When Gabriel called Race Chair Synthia Petroka to alert her of his situation, she inspired him by saying “You’re a singlehander — you’ll figure it out.” And indeed he did. While some may have thrown in the towel and requested assistance, Gabriel became more determined than ever to finish what he started.

Ruben Gabriel spent 27 days crossing from SF to Hanalei – 12 of them under jury rig.

© 2008

Yesterday, just after 7 a.m., Sparky crossed the finish line and was taken under tow by fellow racer Skip Allan aboard Wildflower. Gabriel was greeted by the ersatz race committee — Petroka and her committee had to fly home earlier in the week — and his girlfriend Robbie Murphree, who had not only kept family and friends updated on Sparky‘s progress, but also kept Gabriel motivated by reading him supportive emails. When he arrived onshore, he was greeted by a host of remaining racers along with his family, who flew in as a surprise.

Ruben was surprised to see his brother and parents on shore.


“I’ve come to the realization that this wasn’t just a sailboat race, but a test of human spirit,” Gabriel wrote in an update to friends. “I was able start the race due to all the support from friends and family, and I was able to complete it due to all of you who sent positive thoughts and well wishes. This race really did change my life in so many wonderful ways.”


  1. James Borton 2 years ago

    Really inspiring. I have a 1962 Pearson Electra in South Carolina. Would like to contact Ruben Gabriel. Any email address? Thank you.

  2. Ted Fagerburg 2 years ago

    Great story that I just now found. Congratulations on your perseverance and finishing the race! My first “big” sailboat was a Pearson Electra which I named Soul Possession. Wish I knew where she is now (and I’d be tempted to buy her back). Fair winds and sunny shores!

  3. Thomas Thomas 2 years ago

    Hope I’m not to late to post this, I owned Sparky for 10 years, sailed it all over SF Bay in every kind of weather, I would wait for storms to come thru just to go out, did the Farallones Race in 1983, got 10th overall, tough little boat, was never scared sailing it, many trips to the Delta, best boat I have ever owned. Can’t say enough of how much I loved that boat, glad it made it to Hawaii safe. Would like to talk with Ruben if has time.

    • Ted Fagerburg 2 years ago

      I sold my beloved Pearson Electra “Soul Possession” to a Michael Walsh in 1978 in Normal, Illinois. Hull number 57. I’ve often wondered what became of her. Anyone have any ideas?

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