Sunday, November fourth, was a perfect Cape Cod day. The sun was shining, there was a good wind, and it wasn’t too cold. In the eyes of Ryan Peterson, it was the perfect day for sailing. In fact, there is no question that sailing is what he would have decided to do on any November day with these weather conditions—just as he and his brother, our Captain Kurt, have done their entire lives—and sail, he did. However, this November Fourth was very different. This November Fourth, Ryan Peterson and SURPRISE, the twenty-five-foot catboat, new to the Catboat Charters fleet, left Cape Cod and set sail for New York City. His goal was to sail our Stars & Stripes around The Statue Of Liberty on Veteran’s Day. To so many of us, this was an incredible undertaking. Our social media followers wanted to know more. So, we sat Ryan down to ask him a few questions about his incredible journey.
What was the most challenging part of the sail? Were the actual challenges different from the challenges you anticipated?
“The big challenge was that sailing down, I was on a schedule. Trying to keep to a schedule can be difficult and dangerous. You push yourself harder. The other big challenge is trying to ensure that everything stays dry. If something gets wet on a boat, it stays wet!”
What do you think might surprise someone reading this who is not an avid sailor like you or Captain Kurt?
“I’m not really sure. Sailors do this all the time; however, there is a difference between sailing a modern boat and a catboat. Catboats require that you be at the helm constantly, especially in inclement weather. The elements are fighting the rudder all the time. It’s like being in a constant nor’easter. Wind is crazy…and cold!”
You sent some photos to Captain Kurt and me where the temperature was 28º and Surprise was covered in snow! How did you stay warm?
“Rather than relying on a heat source, I made sure I had good sleeping bags and warm socks. I did have a propane heater, but mainly, I used it to dry off after a long day of sailing. Each day usually entailed about ten hours at the helm.”
What did you eat? How did you plan meals?
“I’m so grateful for all of the support and suggestions that I received from other sailors. They gave me excellent recommendations. I ate a lot of chilli and soup, fruit cups are easy, corned beef hash and eggs, cereal. I was always drinking hot chocolate and tea. That was an important part of keeping warm.”
A lot of our Instagram followers want to know what you did to combat loneliness?
“Ha! Ha! I’m so surprised by how many people have asked me that too. I think a big part of being a sailor is being a loner. I don’t really get lonely. I also met fantastic people in every port. Some connections were really astonishing. When I sailed into Stonington, Connecticut, a couple came up to me who run a catboat charter www.sailtrimagain.com out of Watch Hill, Rhode Island—that’s where Tigress came from! Captain Jack remembers Tigress well, and like all of us, he thinks she’s magnificent. It was an incredible experience spending time with them.”
We saw some great photos that weren’t taken by the New York Media Boat, how did that happen?
“Photos often got back to us from mutual friends in the catboat community. A photo of SURPRISE sailing into Five Mile River was sent to us by our good friend Peter Layne Arguimbau, a maritime artist and the current owner of MOLLY ROSE, the wooden catboat that Kurt and I, and our brothers, grew up on.”
Do you have a stand-out spot or port from this whole journey?
“New York City itself.”
Tell us about that!
“Coming into New York was thrilling! There was so much going on. The traffic was astonishing—helicopters, boats, the ferry, everything! After a week off of the coast of New England, it was amazing.”
And the photo shoot?
“Kurt found him. I’m not sure how it was arranged but clearly, Kurt made the right choice. When I pulled into the city and checked in with the Harbor Master, I told him why I was there. He said flat-out, ‘You will not be disappointed.’ I wasn’t. The technology of Bjoern’s fleet was amazing. It’s the opposite of the catboat world. He walked me through everything including an infrared camera that helped him save a dog that had fallen through the ice in New York. It was incredibly impressive.”
The photos are fantastic! Our followers on social media have really been enjoying them.
“He is truly the master of his craft.”
You were gone for almost two weeks. What was the first thing you did when you got home?
“Hugged my Dad.”
Yesterday was Thanksgiving. How does that tie this whole experience together for you?
“This Thanksgiving, I am thankful that my brother Kurt welcomed me to be a part of something that he has put his whole heart into and cares so deeply for. I am so lucky to sail the most beautiful waters in the world, and nothing excites me more than sharing that with my friends. Every second spent at the helm of SURPRISE is a truly an honor. Sitting under the Stars & Stripes, looking up at the Statue of Liberty, as our great-grandmother had when she first arrived in America, was a spiritual moment. Last but not least, I am Thankful for the thousands of hours of work and the endless knowledge that my father continues to share with us to make this possible, and the food and treats packed with love by my mother. The support I’ve received from my family, my friends, and new friends I met along the way is overwhelming. I would also like to thank the Coast Guard and the NYPD for keeping our harbors and sea-goers safe.”
We’d like to thank you, Ryan, for your incredible journey and for being a part of the Catboat Charters team.