fb-pixel Skip to main content

Teenager with ties to Massachusetts sailing across the Atlantic by himself

Cal Currier, 16, is sailing across the Atlantic Ocean by himself.James Currier

A 16-year-old boy with ties to Massachusetts is sailing across the Atlantic Ocean by himself.

Cal Currier left Marion on June 27 and on Friday reached the Azores, which are nine volcanic islands that are part of Portugal.

“I thought it would take 25 days to get to the Azores,” said Currier, speaking by phone from his sailboat on Friday afternoon. “This is the 18th day. I’m so far ahead of schedule it’s shocking.”

Currier lives in California but spends every summer in Duxbury, where his family owns a cottage, and Marion, where his grandfather lives.

Currier just learned how to sail this year.

Advertisement



“I just started sailing in January. I started sailing with this goal in mind: I’m going to sail across the Atlantic solo.”

Currier began taking sailing lessons at a yacht club in San Francisco, but he kept quiet about his ambitious goal. He didn’t want to tell people about the journey he was planning in case something fell through and it didn’t work out.

While shopping around online looking for a boat to buy, he found the Argo, a 30-foot Tartan monohull sailboat that was built in 1976. Using his own money (which he made from a summer camp that he started with his three brothers and by getting sponsorships), he bought the sailboat for $12,000 from Sandy Van Zandt, a legendary sailmaker who lives in Connecticut.

Cal bought the sailboat from Sandy Van Zandt, the founder of Van Zandt Sails.James Currier

Van Zandt had spent years working on the sailboat and was planning to embark on a long distance sailing trip of his own — but then the coronavirus pandemic put those plans on hold.

As time went on, Van Zandt said he realized he was “physically not as fresh” as he once was, and decided to put the sailboat up for sale.

“It was time to give her to someone who would be able to enjoy her,” Van Zandt said in a phone interview.

Advertisement



Van Zandt said when he met Currier he found him to be an incredibly fast learner.

“He was such a natural,” said Van Zandt. “I didn’t know he was just learning how to sail.”

Van Zandt said he knew his sailboat was capable of crossing the Atlantic, but he had not anticipated for Currier to embark on such an epic journey so quickly.

“I thought he might want to sail around New England to get used to it,” Van Zandt said with a chuckle.

Currier said he was honored to take ownership of Van Zandt’s sailboat.

“He passed the boat, that dream, that legacy onto me,” he said. “One person sailing in open water — it’s what he designed the boat for.”

Currier may be new to sailing, but it runs in Currier’s blood. His father, James Currier, 54, grew up racing dinghies and then sailed across both the Atlantic and the Pacific in his twenties; his maternal grandfather, Bill Saltonstall, who lives in Marion and was co-founder of the Buzzards Bay Regatta, sailed across the Atlantic twice; and his paternal great-grandfather, the late Stephen Currier, built a wooden boat and sailed to the Galapagos in 1948.

Cal Currier, 16, embarked on his solo transatlantic sailing trip on June 27. He left Marion and is scheduled to arrive in Spain in early August. Bodie Currier

Currier said sailing solo is like an endurance sport.

“It’s like running a marathon,” he said, “but instead of feeling pain of the physical sort, it’s pain of the mental sort.”

It’s lonely out there on the open sea. Time can seem to pass by slowly, and the constant movement of the boat makes him feel slightly seasick.

Advertisement



But besides that, he’s enjoyed the journey so far. He’s been living off lots of freeze dried food — eggs, chicken, mashed potatoes, spaghetti — because the meals are easy to prep.

Currier said the weather has been much better than he expected.

“I’ve had great weather,” he said. “There was only one night of rain and nastiness, that was my first night.”

It’s been smooth sailing since then.

“It’s been pretty dreamy,” he said. “It’s been pretty amazing.”

As he approached the Azores on Friday, he saw turtles, dolphins, and whales in the water. Up until that point, all he’d seen were jellyfish — lots of jellyfish.

After he lands in the Azores, he will stay there for a few days and then head to Portugal. If all goes according to plan, he should arrive in Spain in early August. “That’s the hope,” he said.

His father, James Currier, believes he may be the youngest person ever to sail solo across the Atlantic from west to east completely unassisted, with no chase boat.

He said he offered to accompany his son on the journey, but Cal wanted to do it on his own.

“So many people say, you can’t do this, you’re too young, too inexperienced,” said his father. “Why can’t a 16-year-old do this?”

A map showing Currier’s progress and his sailboat’s current location can be viewed online at https://share.garmin.com/FFAKP.

Advertisement



Here's the map of the route that Cal Currier is taking to get to Spain. James Currier




Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.