Matt Kent has spent five years planning for this voyage and building his small sailboat. He will launch in March on what could be a four-month trip.
Being cooped up in a vessel measuring just 3 feet 6 inches by 3 feet 6 inches for nearly four months is what awaits former U.S. Brig Niagara crew member Matt Kent.
Kent, 33, has spent the past five years designing and building an aluminum boat, “The Undaunted,” as part of his Little Boat Project. He hopes to sail the vessel 4,700 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in the spring.
If he succeeds, he will set a world record for the smallest sailboat to cross the Atlantic.
Hugo Vihlen, a former airline pilot, holds the world record, sailing from Canada to England in 1993 in a sailboat that measured 5 feet, 4 inches in length.
“I’m eager to get underway,” said Kent, a native of Portland, Oregon, who lives in Albany, New York. “It’s been five years that we’ve been planning this. Right now, there is still a lot of work to do.”
Two weeks ago, Kent hauled his vessel to Boston, where it was placed on a container ship for delivery to Kent’s planned departure point — La Gomera Island in the Canary Islands off the African coast.
Kent plans to fly to the Canary Islands on Feb. 27, and depart on his voyage between March 1 and March 10. The journey could take up to four months. His destination is the U.S. coastline near Miami.
Once he arrives on La Gomera Island, Kent will have a lot of preparation work to complete. He and his crew will place the vessel in the water, load it with supplies, rig the sail, perform a test of its inflatable emergency flotation system and do buoyancy tests because the trip will mark the first time the vessel will be in salt water.
“When I leave the Canary Islands, I’ll take a southwest track to start, then head west and northwest to Florida, following the trade winds and the currents in the area,” Kent said. “I’ll be tracking along the eastern Caribbean islands and staying north of Puerto Rico and Cuba.”
Kent has spent the past eight years on the Brig Niagara’s crew, including the 2016 sailing season as the vessel’s fourth mate.
“Matt is a very methodical person,” Niagara Capt. Billy Sabatini said. “He has been thinking and planning this trip for about seven years. He has the right physical and mental makeup to set himself up for success for a project like this. The trip itself is a way to test himself and to do something unique.”
Kent planned the voyage to raise money for science-based education and research programs at The Bioreserve, a nonprofit in Glenmont, New York, where much of his vessel was built.
“The whole idea is to show and explain the preparation and design work that have gone into this project,” Kent said. “Hopefully, this voyage goes very well and is uneventful. I think it is a testament to everybody who has helped me reach this stage.”
The Undaunted is 42 inches wide and 42 inches long. It’s made of aluminum and weighs 420 pounds, but Kent will add 720 pounds of lead as a keel shoe. The vessel’s aluminum is 3/16th-inch-thick above the waterline and 1/4-inch thick below the waterline.
The height of the vessel from its keel to the top of its cabin is 7 feet 6 inches. A 15-foot-high aluminum mast will be connected to the top of the cabin, which contains a bulletproof, Lexan polycarbonate bubble window that covers the hatch and through which he can look out.
The interior has plywood with a half-inch of padded, insulated foam anywhere below the waterline. Floorboards inside can be opened to access storage.
“The vessel is seaworthy and ready to go,” Kent said. “The only unknown is the emergency inflation system.”
Three inflatable bladders contained in cylinders will be placed on the vessel’s exterior, held in place by 11 cargo nets. The bladders can pick up three times the weight of the vessel. If the boat were to become filled with water, the bladders would keep it floating while Kent pumps out the water.
Kent plans to take 155 pounds of food on the journey, about half it dehydrated food, along with protein shakes, nutrition bars, peanut butter, and dried fruits and nuts. He will take 266,000 total calories of food on his voyage.
Kent is just over 6 feet tall and normally weighs about 170 pounds, but has spent the past couple months increasing his weight to 190 because he expects to lose 20 to 25 pounds on the voyage.
His daily caloric intake during his voyage will be about 1,500 calories.
Kent expects to take 300 pounds of supplies (batteries, food, safety equipment) and a 40-gallon emergency water tank (320 pounds), compartmentalized into 10-gallon sections.
He will have a hand-and-foot-crank cycle to use for electricity and will produce his daily water from manual desalinator water makers.
Kent estimates the project will cost about $30,000. Much of that total was picked up by businesses that donated extensive time and services to build, weld and outfit his boat.
Kent has created a GoFundMe page, gofundme.com/littleboatproject, that has raised $9,000.
“I’ve already received a couple offers from museums that want to display my vessel, and we haven’t even done it yet,” Kent said.
Ron Leonardi can be reached at 870-1680 or by email. Follow him on twitter at twitter.com/ETNleonardi.