Mariners working along the coast from Beaufort, N.C., up Chesapeake Bay to Annapolis, Md., may be seeing a certain small vessel — and in an emergency, its outsized AIS signal.
Sailor Robert Suhay of Norfolk, Va. is attempting to outdo his own 2014 “Guinness Book of World Records” title for the longest single-handed voyage in a sailing dinghy, by taking a 14' Laser up the coast 340 miles.
After years of experience sailing near the Elizabeth River and Hampton Roads industrial waterfront, Suhay said he is giving commercial traffic a wide berth on his last leg up the Chesapeake after entering the bay Wednesday night.
“It’s one of the busiest stretches of river around here. I always tell my sons to stay clear of the channel,” said Suhay, 52.
If only more people were like that. Sharing the water with errant recreational boaters is a major stressor for professional mariners.
But if anything goes wrong, Suhay can reach out to those commercial operators. He’s carrying a McMurdo Marine Smartfind S10 man overboard (MOB) device, plus a FastFind emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) lent by McMurdo for the attempt.
“We were originally trying to find an AIS system we could fit on the Laser, but that would need a 12-volt system which is more than we could carry,” Suhay said. But then McMurdo agreed to supply the small personal transponders.
Years ago I worked along with Suhay as a reporter at the Asbury Park Press. A 340 mile, nearly four-day trip in a small racing dinghy may sound screwy, but he is a careful man.
Last year, Suhay beat down Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore for 326 miles, before squalls ahead of a tropical system forced him to land on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, beating the previous dinghy record by 1 mile.
This time, there’s been a lot of preparation: conferring with the Coast Guard Fifth District in Portsmouth, Va., getting sponsors and equipment suppliers like McMurdo, and a new Laser from Shoreline Sailboats, Avon, N.Y.
The ambitious trip has taken Suhay off Cape Hatteras and through shipping lanes into the lower Chesapeake. After sailing about 80 hours nonstop he should be in Annapolis by mid-day Friday. It’s being followed by a lot of people on the water through social media orchestrated by his wife and support manager Lisa Suhay.
“Keep your eye on that yellow line on the map by Solomons, MD that’s where the world record breaks!” Lisa reported Thursday morning on Twitter.