Local pair prepares for transatlantic voyage | SummitDaily.com

Local pair prepares for transatlantic voyage

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

Shel Reichardt plans to spend all of June wet, sleep-deprived and far from home. The longtime Summit County local can hardly wait.”I’ve always dreamed of sailing across the ocean,” Reichardt said during an interview Wednesday at the Boatyard Grill in Frisco. “I thought a lot about it because it’s a major time and financial commitment, and I decided to go because I’d be kicking myself in the butt for the rest of my life if I missed this opportunity.”Opportunity knocked on Reichardt’s door one day last fall when fellow Keystone ski instructor Daniel Bennett mentioned that he had recently purchased a 52-foot long sloop that he intended to sail from Long Island, New York to Southampton, England.”We got to talking,” recalled Reichardt, who grew up sailing in Michigan.Before long, Reichardt was signed on as one of four crew members for a roughly one-month voyage, which is scheduled to depart from New York in late May.Englishmen William Bowers and Christopher Semple will round out the group of intrepid sailors, who will head directly to New Bedford, Mass., in order to clear U.S. Customs, then to Halifax, Nova Scotia.The trip up north is designed in part to provide crucial training time for a crew that’s never before sailed Lotus (Bennett’s 55 Swede, built in 1978).”We’ll have some time to shake down the boat and determine if there’s any work that needs to be done,” Reichardt said. “And to experiment with all the systems in the boat.”Vessel familiarity will help ensure the safety of the Lotus crew as it attempts to sail 1,800 nautical miles.”The most important thing you can do is know your boat bow to stern,” said local pro sailor Kevin Kelble, who made a transatlantic voyage in 1989. “If you get woken up off watch at 2:30 in the morning because you just hit a whale or a container, or a thunderstorm hits you, you have to know where every working piece of the boat is and how to use it in the pitch dark with 20 foot waves and 50 knots of breeze.”All four members of Lotus’ crew have sailed in the ocean before, but none have gone from continent to continent like Kelble.”I like to playfully say that the minute you get out there away from land, you just went to the bottom of the food chain,” Kelble said regarding the stress level associated with life on the high seas. “If you end up swimming, than even the plankton are going to eat you.”Bennett and company seem to be bringing a healthy amount of respect for the ocean into their expedition, but they’re not afraid of the open water.”I wouldn’t say it’s hugely risky,” Bennett said Thursday by phone from New York. “A lot of people do it on considerably shorter boats. But we’re apprehensive. It’s sensible to be apprehensive because you tend to be more cautious and make all the proper preparations.”Bennett, who hopes to charter his boat once he reaches Europe, is currently working long days to prepare Lotus for the voyage.”It will be tight,” he said. “But I think we’ll be ready”Once out at sea, the crew will split into two pairs, both of which will be responsible for watching the ship for six-hour installments.Activities will include sleeping, eating, navigating, fishing (once the boat reaches the Grand Banks) and filing correspondences to the outside world via satellite phone. The crew has also established the web address http://lotustransat.blogspot.com., for their blogs. When crew members aren’t otherwise occupied, they’ll have a chance to take in their vast and wild surroundings.”You see stuff you’ll never see again in your life,” Kelble said. “Sunsets, dolphins, nights on watch with full moons and stars that are like beyond conception. Those things are just unforgettable.”Adam Boffey can be contacted at (970) 668-4634, or at aboffey@summitdaily.com.

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