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    Gabby Maria - an Enigma

    Gabby Maria is not the name of any one in particular, rather the name is representative of all of us. It's you and I, our obnoxious brothers, and annoying sisters, and even Aunt Harriett who passed away 20 years ago. Gabby Maria represents beloved parents, doting grandmothers, crotchety, but lovable uncles and kindred from generations past who are now beyond the veil. The name represents every spirit in the timeline of humankind, but to avoid confusion with pronous, we'll view Gabby Maria as female.

    From her earliest struggles at community building, to the construction of Pulsar engines for star exploration, she was present. She was there when Gutenberg’s printing press began operation, when IBM fired up its first computer, when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon and when Lucent Space Corporation perfected time travel machines.

    She sailed with Columbus and watched over the colonists at Jamestown. She filed reports on the battle of Gettysburg, the  D-Day invasion of Europe, and helped raise the flag at Iwo Jima. She’s a walking encyclopedia of facts and figures. She’s been there, experienced it and written extensively on the events. Gabby Maria is us. She embodies our hopes and dreams, our bucket-lists, our curiosity and insatiable desire for exploration and adventure, for peace and harmony. She represents the Walter Mitty in all of us. In short, Gabby Maria is you and I and wearing a pair of her world famous socks reminds us of our past, connects us with the present and raises our dreams and expectations for the future. Besides all this, wearing a pair of Gabby Maria's socks is a hoot; they're crazy, funny, and funky and they're guaranteed to put put a smile on your face. 

    Our lives are built on bits and pieces of memories that reside in our hearts and in our minds and the best memories are often associated with gifts received from another – a child’s handwritten Valentine’s card, a thank you note from a teenage son or daughter, well wishes from a grandparent. A simple gift of a pair of socks will often trigger the memories of the joy and happiness of those special moments. Socks, appropriately given will always bring a smile to the recipient’s face, and feelings of joy for years to come.

      Years ago, advenurer Richard Jones hiked the Appalachian Trail along the Eastern Seaboard. Nearing the end of the tail, his wife and daughter flew to Millinocket, Maine, to join him on the climp up Mount Katahdin and the end of the trail. On their way to Boston, to catch their flight home, the threesome passed through Freeport, Maine, home to L.L. Bean – the famous outdoor clothier. A stop was made to browse the shops. While there, Richard's daughter bought him a pair of L.L. Bean socks, and years later, as he recounts the event, he says that every time he puts them on, they bring a smile to his face, as they are a reminder of the joy he experienced at having his wife and daughter with him on that special occasion. So, it is with Gabby Maria Socks, they are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face, or you may exchange them for a pair of equal value.

    Richard Jones - Quintessential Gabby Maria

    Why sail around the globe? Why not?

       Whether you think he's crazy or not, whether you think at 57 he should be past such nonsense, spend any time at all with Richard Jones, modern-day adventurer, and you'll come away impressed with the pureness of his intent.

    Why does this man who graduated from Salt Lake City's Granite High School 40 school years ago want to row 4,000 miles alone across the Atlantic Ocean?

    For profit? Nope. Already in the hole and getting deeper.

    For fame? Hardly. When he shoves off from the Canary Islands on or around Oct. 7, 2000, there won't be a camcorder or satellite feed in sight.

    For the record books? No chance. Already been done, first by an Englishman more than 30 years ago.

    For a higher cause? Nah. Nobody's paying charity pledges per knot or per mile on this voyage; there will be no banners urging the legalization or the de-legalization of anything. Look Richard Jones square in his steel blue eyes and ask him why he's planning to row straight through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day and Valentine's Day, dodging hurricanes, perfect storms, sharks, vessels 400 times bigger than his, and subsisting on warm water and freeze-dried backpacker food, and here's what he'll tell you:

    "I just want to."

    It isn't Mallory's "Because it's there," but it will do.

    "I believe most everybody has a dream," says Jones, who just concluded a weekend of rowing from one end of Bear Lake to the other to make sure everything is ship-shape with his custom row boat "The Brother of Jared" before shipping it off to the Canaries. "It's important to chase your dreams, whatever they are," Jones continues. "The trouble is, it's so easy to get caught up in just trying to make a living that you don't get around to them. Then one day you retire and you look back and you wonder why."

    Well, Richard Jones isn't going to wonder why. He's already bicycled across the country and hiked all over the continent and run all the rivers in the West. He started World Wide River Expeditions in 1971 and has steered rafts through Cataract Canyon alone more times than you could count. All that river running made him think of rowing across something longer, something like the Atlantic. This will be his second attempt. The first was two years ago, when the starting point was Lisbon and the ending point was Lisbon. In between there was a colossal storm, a breakdown of his de-salinization drinking-water pump, and a compass reading that said he was closing in on England, not Florida.

    Back to the drawing board. Now, the de-salinization pump is working fine, the point of departure has been changed from Lisbon to the Canary Islands -- the site, by the way, of Christopher Columbus' first launch -- and Richard is confident if he can just get a start with three straight days of good weather, he and the trade winds will be on their inevitable way to Miami Beach.

    As Richard says, he's got a backup for everything . . . except his back.

    He's named his craft "The Brother of Jared" after some of the earliest trans-oceanic travelers to the New World, as recorded in the Book of Mormon by a man calling himself the brother of Jared.

    That was 2,700 B.C.

    Richard doesn't know how long it took the Jaredites to cross the ocean; all he knows is he has seven months of food, limitless water, almost limitless (solar) power, 25,000 miles of river-running rowing behind him . . .

    . . . and a dream he's still chasing.

    By Lee Benson

    Deseret News columnist


    Utah rower not alone on oceans

    Some men are driven by wealth, others by power.

    Right about now, Richard Jones is being driven by a northwesterly trade wind allowing him to lay down an average of 35 miles a day. Jones is the longtime Utah river-runner who is on what he is calling the ultimate river trip -- crossing the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to Miami Beach in a rowboat. He has been on the ocean for almost a month now since leaving the Canary Islands port of Los Gigantes on Oct. 10, 2000. Richard's 23-year-old son, Scott, shoved him off, and that was as ceremonial as it got. It took Richard two days to break out of the currents orbiting the islands and he has been rowing west ever since, surfing crossways across the swells that roll out of the northeast. He was seasick for a six-day period that, from the tone of his Web site reports, he will forever want to forget and will no doubt forever remember.

    But then he found his sea legs, and life returned to a bearable state. He is making, by his own account, good time. Almost 900 miles between him and the Canaries so far. If Salt Lake and San Diego were separated by water, he would have already covered the distance. He is almost a fourth of the way to Florida, as the shark swims. There are no signposts where he is, no signs of land, no rest areas. His only company is a three-foot green fish with a yellow tail that keeps following the boat. As Richard writes in his captain's log: "I'm at the edge of nowhere heading for the middle of nowhere -- and it's where I'm supposed to be."

    He then adds, "What this all means, I have no idea."

    The current less traveled? Absolutely.

    "Being here, I'm certainly not in a position to help anyone or to be of service to anyone," says Jones in his captain's log from Wednesday, Oct. 25, pondering his current isolation.

    "You know, this is really not very adventurous," he adds. "One might get the same effect sitting on a hard board in front of an old-fashioned washing machine." Then again, one might not. Because if one is in front of the washing machine, one can leave. Plus, the waves in the washing machine never rise to 10 feet and drench you. And in another few days, it's over the side to scrape off the barnacles. It is a test out there, a test of wills, of nature, of limits, of courage. There is no telling how many people might be inspired by Richard Jones. With every pull of the oars, Jones is closing in on a plethora of firsts.

    First American male to row solo across an ocean; oldest person (57) to row an ocean; first grandparent to row an ocean; and the first American to row the Atlantic to his home country. Already, he has been a part of ocean-rowing history. With his boat in the Atlantic joining the boat of Jim Shekhdar's in the Pacific and the boat of Mick Bird's in the Indian, it marks the first time in history solo ocean-rowers have been on these three oceans at the same time.

    A group called the Ocean Rowing Society in London keeps track of all this. Shekhdar is attempting to row from Peru to Sydney, Australia. Bird is attempting to circumnavigate the Earth. So, there are others like Richard Jones. He is not alone. Even if it feels like it.

    The Ocean Rowing Society has pictures and updates on all three of the above-named rowers, incidentally. You can access them on the Web at Click on the Jones file and you will see color photos of the Utah solo rower leaving Los Gigantes and of a beautiful sunset at sea.

    Right at the edge of nowhere.

     By Lee Benson

    Deseret News columnist


     Young man and the sea - and me

    The phone rang this past Monday at just after 1 in the afternoon.

    "This is Richard," said the caller, the connection crystal clear.

    "Richard who?" I asked.

    "Richard Jones."

    Any of you who have been following the progress of modern-day adventurer Richard Jones have to know what I asked next.

    "So, who," I wanted to know, "is manning the oars?"

    In case you just tuned in, Richard Jones is the Salt Lake river runner who is in the midst of a five-month-or-so quest to row the Atlantic Ocean from East to West, a 4,000-mile voyage, hoping to land on Miami Beach sometime this coming spring. He left the Canary Islands on Oct. 10, 2000 and has been rowing southwesterly ever since, averaging around 35 miles a day. His quest is foolhardy, dangerous, unnecessary, irresponsible, high risk and monotonous -- and I, for one, am completely engrossed. Richard is speaking to the Walter Mitty in all of us. In my case this past Monday, you could make that literal.

    "So, how is it out there in the middle of the ocean?" I asked him after he explained to me that it was already nighttime in the Atlantic, and he had pulled the oars in for the night. His 12-hour shift for Monday, Nov. 20, was history, and so were approximately 35 more miles of ocean. Richard's description of a spot on the planet few if any of us will ever physically see was actually quite encouraging. He said the air was absolutely pristine, the water was clean and pure, the temperature of both air and water hovered around 80 degrees, and all day long on that particular Monday, he'd chased fluffy little white clouds across the sky. Also, a couple of schools of dolphins, maybe 20 each in number, cruised by, bound for who knows where, and a huge sea turtle, about 2 1/2 feet in diameter, developed a fixation for the rowboat's rudder and tagged along for several hours before finally losing interest.

    "Sounds great," I said to Richard, "Anything you miss about civilization?"

    Long pause.

    Finally, "I'd love some lettuce, tomatoes and poppy seed dressing," he said.

    For Thanksgiving dinner, Richard said he'll enjoy freeze-dried mashed potatoes, a can of turkey with gravy, chocolate milk and a Fig Newton -- although he didn't exactly use the word "enjoy." One problem he's discovered out there is that he's lost his sense of taste, for some reason. He's lost 30 pounds. He's also lost track of the news. He had no idea the presidential election was still being sorted out in Florida. I told him at the rate he's going, he should get to Miami before they get it decided. Richard expects to reach the 1,500-mile mark by Sunday and the halfway point another couple of weeks later. After that, it's all downhill. At least psychologically.

    He said he deals with the boredom by keeping his mind occupied with projects -- he's taken apart and put together the vintage Model A back home in his garage at least a hundred times -- and he deals with the huge 15-foot swells that routinely roll in from the north by taking himself back to the days on the Colorado River when he would run category fives. The only difference now is that sometimes the cat 5's last all day long.

    Finally, after an enjoyable half-hour of conversation that seemed like five minutes, we hung up, Richard returning to his solitude, me to my keyboard, where I developed a sudden urge to finish this column and go out and have a nice tossed salad with tomatoes drenched in poppy seed dressing.

    By Lee Benson

    Deseret News columnist


    Rower faces rough seas and 'Maytag' 

    You're trying to get it all done by Christmas, you're wondering if those tires will make it through February, you're planning what you'll do on New Year's Eve. Meanwhile, Richard Jones is trying to make it to the Caicos Passage without a rudder and with batteries that are soaking wet. Our intrepid adventurer and veteran Utah river-runner has been at sea for almost two and a half months now, ever since dropping his rowboat over the side of a Los Gigantes, Canary Islands dock on Oct. 10 and aiming for Miami, 4,029 miles away. He overcame seasickness and some tricky currents to row safely out into the heart of the Atlantic, where Halloween and Thanksgiving passed quite peaceably. But about a week ago the ocean changed its mind and ever since, Richard has been battling high seas and a nasty prevailing north wind that wants to deposit him somewhere in Brazil. 

    So every day he rows northwest, against the current, uphill all the way, bound or bust for the Caicos Passage, a patch of deep water that sits between the Bahamas and the Caicos Islands in the upper Carribean. It is the only viable entrance to the coast of North America when you're a 30-foot rowboat without radar, sonar or an engine. 

    "If my starting point was the State Capitol and my ending point was somewhere in Utah Valley," Richard explained yesterday via satellite phone, "I'd have to take State Street to get through the Point of the Mountain. Well, the 22nd Parallel is State Street for me. I have to be on it to get through the Caicos Passage." As if that isn't enough to worry about, he currently has to ride out the high pressure system that has settled on him like an anvil, bringing with it temperatures of 110 degrees and waves that never quit. Just yesterday they took out his rudder. But that wasn't the worst. The worst was last Friday, when a violent wave put the boat through what surfers call a "Maytag." 

    Picked it up and rolled it completely over. "To my utter, utter amazement, the boat righted itself," said Richard. "That's something it never did in all the test trials I put it through on the lakes back in Utah." That 360-degree roll, along with the constant pounding seas, have managed to soak the compartments fore and aft, knocking out the cabin lights. Now, Richard is left only with flashlights at night, and he's working hard to keep the electrical connections for his batteries and phone dry enough to be functional. 

    "We'll keep going forward," Richard said, as stoically as possible with 1,700 miles remaining to Miami and 1,100 to the Caicos Passage. "It's hour-by- hour and day-by-day and pray things don't deteriorate any more than they already have." 

    For Christmas, he'll open a number of small wrapped packages put in the boat by friends and family when he left Utah last September, and he'll call his family. 
    "I miss the little things," said Richard as he thought of home and the holidays. "I miss singing hymns at church, visiting the old people, dinner at the table and the warmth of friends. Those things mean a lot." 

    By Lee Benson

    Deseret News columnist 


    Rower counts on oars, faith

    However slow the year's starting out for you, rest assured you're still making better time than Richard Jones.

    Since slamming into a weather pattern Dec. 31 that he refers to, and not fondly, as "The Wall," Richard and his rowboat, "The Brother of Jared," have covered barely a hundred miles of the Atlantic Ocean.

    That works out to about a half mile an hour. For two straight weeks.
    At this rate, Richard and his boat will arrive at their intended destination on the coast of Florida in time for the next millennium.

    "It's a roller-coaster of emotions out here," Richard reported Thursday via his sat phone during our usual bi-monthly update. "It's been one mile forward, one mile back." That's the discouraging news. The encouraging news is he feels strong as an ox, he still has 70 days of food left, and there's a high-pressure system that just might break through sometime later this week, bringing back those lovely northwest breezes that helped Richard cruise through the first 2,000 of his intended 4,000-mile trans-Atlantic crossing in just under two months.

    "For some reason, I feel stronger than I should, and I have a peaceful calm feeling, so I'm not shaken up so much by every loss of mile that occurs," said Richard.

    At least three times since the first of January he's lost every mile gained due to the dreaded southwest headwind.

    When he's asleep, he dreams of sailboats. One consolation: He never thought it would be easy. If he'd wanted comfort, he'd have crossed the Atlantic the way most people cross the Atlantic -- crammed into a coach seat and asking the flight attendant to please leave the whole can of 7-Up.

    Another consolation: all the people who are rooting for him, pulling for him (although not literally) and, especially, praying for him. A religious man -- the name of his boat refers to a scriptural character in the Book of Mormon who crossed the ocean -- Richard sent out an SOS of sorts when the cross currents hit and the southwest wind started blowing two weeks ago, threatening to return him to the Canary Islands where he started, like a human version of fast-reverse. On his Web site at he asked everyone to pray with him and for him. "God knows how much I'd like to finish this," he said on the phone. "If it's to be in the boat or on a freighter, more than ever I now believe that's up to Him."

    All Richard can do is man the oars and hang on to his faith. Lately, he's been rowing at night in an added attempt to counteract the contrary winds. "It is beautiful at night, especially now with a silver moon," he said. "It's so peaceful and relaxing and cool."

    He'd enjoy it even more if he wasn't going backwards. He reckons he's 1,260 miles from Florida -- if he rows on a straight line. At 25 miles a day he'll be in sight of Miami in a mere 50 days. He'd have 20 days food to spare. He could just cruise around the harbor for three weeks, but of course he won't.

    Meanwhile, he's out there alone, with only a whale that's taken a liking to
    "The Brother of Jared" for company.

    "At least I think it's a whale," said Richard. "He's surfaced a bit a couple of times, and it looks like a whale."

    Sometimes, he said, when he's snuggled in his hold, getting some rest, he can hear it breathing. "Not a whole lot of people get to do this," he said as he hung up. "I'm very fortunate."

    By Lee Benson

    Deseret News columnist


    Utah rower well on way to Miami or somewhere

    Sitting on a sofa in a home in Midvale surrounded by Richard Jones' family, Kenneth F. Crutchlow, executive director of the Ocean Rowing Society of London, England, summed up Jones' current situation very British-like. "He cannot say 'I'm going to land in Miami,' " said Crutchlow, "What he can say is 'I'd like to land in Miami.' " Jones, of course, is our man in the Atlantic Ocean, attempting as we speak to become the first Utahn, the first American male and the second human being in history to row all the way from the Canary Islands and run into Florida, preferably Miami Beach.

    He's been at it 111 days now, ever since he left Los Gigantes in the Canaries on Oct. 10, 2000. Seeing him off that day was Crutchlow, a rowing aficionado of the first order who helped start the Ocean Rowing Society in 1983 and persistently keeps the organization afloat as doggedly as any lone adventurer on the high seas bucking the currents, the winds, the unrelenting challenges, and, of course, the odds. Crutchlow has never personally attempted anything so far-reaching as an ocean row, he was saying from the sofa.

    But he's all for those who do.

    Crutchlow made his appearance here in Utah to meet the rest of Richard Jones' family -- he already met Richard's son, Scott, at Los Gigantes in October -- and help coordinate plans for what is starting to look like a successful, keep your fingers crossed, crossing. Richard has over 3,000 miles down and less than a thousand to go, and while it's true he's been bucking strong currents and wicked head winds for the past month -- and he's lost his rudder -- it's also true he keeps inching closer to land forms in the southwest Atlantic. Crutchlow puts the odds of the Utah rower finding land under his own power as "very high."

    "It's practically an inevitability now that he'll land somewhere," said the executive director. "What I'm not prepared to say is where."

    "He could hit the currents and wind up in North Carolina . . ."

    " . . . Or he could hit Cuba."  Thirty-two years ago, when the only other human to leave the Canaries and successfully row to Florida came ashore in Miami, Crutchlow was there. The rower was John Fairfax of Great Britain. Fairfax and his rowboat, Britannia, took 180 days to cross the Atlantic from January to June of 1969, and as Crutchlow recalled, they narrowly avoided catching the currents that could have easily sent them another 90 miles south. "Fairfax almost ended up in Cuba," Crutchlow said. "You really can't control it. It's winds and currents." Landing in Cuba now would be a dicey bureaucratic situation, but nothing compared to landing in Cuba in 1969. Fairfax might still be there. Wherever and whenever Richard Jones comes ashore, Crutchlow wants to be there to greet him. That's what he told the Joneses on his visit to their Midvale home. An ocean crossing is no small accomplishment and it deserves to be officially sanctioned on the spot, and by nothing less than the world's governing body of such things. The uncertainty of it all is the least of Crutchlow's concerns. "I told (the Jones family) to buy airline tickets that you can change for just the $75 fee," he said as he sat on their sofa. He's learned from experience that you have to have that flexibility. That's airline tickets to Miami, by the way. No time now to stop being positive.

    By Lee Benson

    Deseret News columnist

    Richard's rowing trip is over. 

    I just now received a phone call from Richard's daughter Allison. She said " My dad's row is over. He asked some fisherman to tow him to Ragged Island in the Bahamas (which was 6 miles away from where he met them). During the tow Dad's boat filled with water and capsized". Allison added "he is safe but exhausted, and is waiting to see if he and his boat can be taken by ship to Florida"

    Kenneth F. Crutchlow Executive Director Ocean Rowing Society

    Richard Jones is credited with crossing the Atlantic Ocean

    I have just spoken to Mr. Frank Davis 2nd Secretary and Vice Consul for the Bahamas High Commission in London. Mr. Davis confirmed that Ragged Island (where Richard landed) is one of the  Bahama Islands he said "it is one of our least inhabited Island" The official  name of where Richard landed is, "The Commonwealth of the Bahamas", it is an Independent country that is a member of the British Commonwealth. Mr. Davis also suggested that Richard has landed within a 100 miles of where Christopher Columbus landed. When Richard left The Canary Island he started within sight of the spot where Columbus took on water at Gomera. In other words Richard followed in the wake of Columbus.

    Kenneth F. Crutchlow Executive Director Ocean Rowing Society


    Rower back in Family’s arms

    Utahn is greeted by children and grandchildren on Nassau dock


    Nassau, Bahamas – The still of the early morning on the fishing docks here was broken by a single word.

    “Dad.” At that universal yet intensely personal salutation, Utah’s intrepid ocean rower, Richard Jones, deeply tanned and sporting a Tom Hanks “Cast Away” beard, turned from the front of the Bahamian mail boat he had just arrived on and embraced his daughter Allison.

    His voyage had ended.

    On Monday morning all four of Jones’ children, first Allison, then Suzie, then Kathy and finally Scott, took turns tearfully welcoming their adventure-minded father back to their ranks. His two grandchildren, twins William and Nathan Newell, kept their distance, however, hanging onto the legs of their father, Eric. They were barely a year old when their grandfather began his quest to row nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean, all by himself, last October. Now, at 18 months, they weren’t at all sure who this tall, tanned man was, or for that matter, what the deal was with that huge beard.

    The next thing Richard Jones hugged was a cold can of root beer personally delivered by Scott. It wasn’t his favorite brand, Hire’s, it was A & W, but it did not matter. He drank it down in one gulp.

    “Thanks,” Jones said to his son, “I’ve waited five months for that.”

    It was last October 10, 2000 when Jones, 57, set off from the Canary Islands port of Los Gigantes with an oar in each hand and a seasickness bracelet around his left wrist. His quest was to row the Atlantic Ocean all the way to Miami, Fla, a distance calculated on a straight line at just under 4,000 miles. Only one person had ever done such a thing solo and without stopping, England’s John Fairfax, in 1969. Jones set off to be the second.

    He didn’t quite make Miami, however. He was forced to abort his mission 376 miles  short of the Florida coast late last Monday, Feb. 19, 2001, when his 29 foot rowboat, “The Brother of Jared,” capsized and didn't right itself during an emergency tow off the coast of Ragged Island in the Bahama chain.

    With his family gathered around him on the docks, Jones explained the details of that tow gone bad. He said that, ironically, it was the most perilous part of the entire 133-day sea voyage. And all because he was trying to avoid a disaster, not create one.

    The problem had begun with strong northerly winds that first shot up alongside the rugged Ragged Island chain and then abruptly stopped, leaving Jones in high seas and strong currents taking him directly toward land and the jagged reefs that typically surround the islands in the tropics. With nightfall coming, Jones sensed his situation was critical and decided to radio for help. To his surprise, he was answered immediately by residents of Duncan Town, the main settlement on Ragged Island.

    A 35’ fishing vessel with a crew of three motored out to provide assistance. The plan was to tow the boat beyond the island and point Jones in the direction of Miami. But the seas were too high and the rope connecting the boats too long, causing “The Brother of Jared” to roll over. The problem was, Jones was still in his rowboat with his safety harness securely fastened. If the fishermen hadn’t kept a close watch in the dark, he could have easily drowned.

    As it was, he had to unhook the harness and make his way along the side of the sleek rowboat to the fishing vessel – in 10’ seas.

    “One slip and I would not be here,” said Jones.

    “But then I got to the boat and I saw these black arms hanging over the side to grab me. Big, strong, black arms, and I was safe.”

    Only then did he realize how cold he was. “I hadn’t had time to be scared,” he said. “Or to realize I was freezing.”

    The fishermen took him to Duncan Town, where he and “The Brother of Jared” sat on dry land for the first time in nearly five months.

    He could have called for replacement parts for his soaked batteries and other navigational electronics and continued his voyage, but it would have been a $20,000 repair, at least, Jones estimated. Instead, he opted to pay the $250.00 that The Bahamian mail boat charged to get him and the rowboat to Nassau. That took a week, about the same pace he’d have made if he’d kept rowing.

    Well before the shipwreck, his voyage had already been declared a success by the Ocean Rowing Society of London, England—the 56th certified transoceanic row in history and the 11th certified east-to-west transatlantic solo row, most of which have ended in or near the West Indies, 600 miles southeast of the Bahamas.

    As Kenneth Crutchlow, the society’s director, said Monday morning as he congratulated Jones at the Nassau dock, “Well done, Bravo. You have rowed the ocean.”

    Crutchlow explained the Ocean Society’s “Columbus rationale” regarding ocean crossings. “Columbus made it from Europe to the islands,” he said. “And everyone agrees he crossed the Atlantic. If it’s good enough for Columbus, it’s good enough for us.”

    The spot many believe Columbus docked 509 years ago, the Bahamian Island of San Salvador, is less than 100 miles northeast of Ragged Island.

    Officially, Jones’ row goes in the books at 3,675 miles from the Canary Islands to Ragged Island.

    Jones began running rivers when he was 14 years old, and he’s had a fascination for waves and water throughout his life. He owned his own Moab-based river running company, Worldwide River Expeditions, for 29 years until he sold out a little over a year ago and began preparing in earnest for his Atlantic crossing.

    “It was something I wanted to do,” he said, “and I have no regrets, not a single one.

    “I think what sums up my feelings best is a quote e-mailed to me by my friend Larry Lake (while on the voyage). I think it might be from Mark Twain, but it goes, “Now that it’s over, I’m glad I did it. Partly because it was worth it and partly because I don’t have to do it again.”

    Jones planned to spend Monday night with his family here in the Bahamas before flying to Miami late Tuesday. He will be a guest on CBS’s The Early Show” with Bryant Gumbel and Jane Clayson Wednesday morning.

    “It is so good to see everybody.” Jones said as he left the Nassau dockyards early Monday morning arm in arm with his children. “It is so good to be back.”

    By Lee Benson

    Deseret News columnist


    Warships on the Atlantic 

    When I row, I face the stern of the boat, meaning I can see where I’v been but not where I’m going, and my vision is primarily focused on the mesmerizing swirls of water formed by the disturbance of my oars as I pull them through the slate gray water. To break the monotony of rowing, I try to gauge the distance the boat travels before dipping the oars back in the water to create another swirl. When the water is calm, I can see 5 - 6 swirls trailing out behind my boat before they dissipate and vanish altogether. My best guess is that each stroke of the oars nets me between 25 to 30’ before the stroke cycle repeats.

    For hours on end, I row robotically, taking breaks only for lunch, snacks, and an afternoon siesta. Only my body is present in the boat, as my mind checks out the moment the oars hit the water and begins the day’s work of trying to make another 35 miles toward Miami. My mind is not needed for the mindless and repetitive action of rowing; no thought or intelligence need be presence for the task at hand.

    Accordingly, my mind is free to venture out to the unknown, maybe to the stars and galaxies like my father who was a noted Science-Fiction writer, or like the fictitious adventurer Walter Mitty who lived his life in a fantasy world of adventure – fighter pilot, mountain climber, race car driver and martyr by firing squad for being a spy.

    With my mind free of the physical constraints and limitations associated with this pile of dust that has to endure the almost unbearable pain of sitting on a hard-wooden rowing seat, for hours on end, my mind is free to soar like the sea birds I encounter here on the water, who exert  little to no effort to stay aloft, simply gliding on the air currents that spill off the waves like water over a waterfall.

    Unlike my father who lived his whole life among the stars fantasizing about space travel, time machines and space creatures and writing about them, my fantasizing turns to entrepreneurial projects.

    A 1931, 5 window Ford Coupe that still awaits final completion at home, in my garage, has, in my mind been restored numerous times, as well as dozen of other Model A Fords. When I finally got tired of dreaming about these beautiful cars, I had a fleet of over 200 restored Model A’s and was offering tours through the National Parks with these beauties. This car restoration project was followed by building a nation-wide cookie empire, with such notable cookie names as ‘Hubcap Charlie’ a monstrous chocolate chip cookie; Matterhorn – a mouth-watering white cookie stuffed with white chocolate. Then there was the Porter Rockwell cookie and the Wincherter 76 cookie. 

    On occasion, I have mentioned that I have seen ships in the vicinity of my rowboat, most being freighters and sailboats.

    Well, how about a couple of aircraft carriers!

    As I row, I seldom move my head from side to side to see what is around me. But yesterday, as I was settling into my robotic and zoned out rowing posture, I noticed what appeared to be a fishing vessel come into view, from the left side of my vision. It was only about 2,000 yards from me, less than a half mile. I watched it for a few moments, then decided to make radio contact with it. As I reached behind me, to open the hatch and turn on the radio, I noticed another ship, just like the first, coming up behind it.

    I put out a call to the captain of the ship, just to engage another human being in a conversation, but received no answer. I called four times.


    I concluded that either their radios did not work, or they did not speak English.

    Frustrated at not being able to make contact with either boat, I stood up in my boat, to get a better look at the vessels, and as I did so, I slowly turned around to take in the view in front of me and to my utter astonishment, about a half mile away steamed a giant aircraft carrier of the U.S. Navy. On its tower was painted the ship’s Identification number – CV-67, which identified it as the USS John 
    F. Kennedy.

    Stunned at what I was seeing, I scanned the surrounding waters for additional ships, and quickly spotted ships in every direction.

    On my right, less than two miles away and fast approaching was another aircraft carrier, which turned out to be CVN-73, nuclear propulsion aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

    Unbeknownst to me, I had rowed into a convoy of the U.S. Navy out on maneuvers, most likely from their home base in Norfolk, Virginia. Flanking each side of the carriers were the support and defense vessels – the frigates, cruisers and destroyers, and possibly submarines, that always accompany the carriers. I estimated a dozen vessels in the convoy.

    Wasting no time, I called again on my VHF radio, on channel 16, the emergency channel for VHF radios and this time to anyone who might be listening:

    “I hope you guys can see me on your radar”, I said, “because I’m a rowboat, and I cannot move out of your way.”

    That got immediate attention. A commanding voice broke radio silence and said, “This is the radioman on the aircraft carrier USS Kennedy.  What is your position?”

    I told the unseen voice that I did not know, as I did not have my GPS on at the moment. He then asked me to describe the two ships I had been trying to contact.

    With that bit of information, I knew the ships I had first tried to contact weren't fishing vessels but military ships and had heard my call, but protocol forbade them from breaking radio silence.  

    Knowing that I would have a more fruitful conversation with the radioman, if I could give him my GPS coordinates, I told him to wait a moment and I would get him my location.

    I put the radio mike in its holder, stepped gingerly over the rowing seat, trying not to cut my feet on the sharp ends of the aluminum rails that kept the rowing seat in a sliding position, opened the back-compartment hatch, and crawled into my coffin size sleeping compartment. Once the GPS unit was powered on, it took forever for the GPS signals to arrive from the orbiting satellite, but once they flashed across my fish-finder GPS screen, I wrote the latitude/longitude numbers on the palm of my hand with a ball-point pen and returned to the front hatch and the radio.

    After giving him my coordinates, he asked me to stand by.  I knew his associates were plotting my position on their clear plexiglass charting tables, just like in the movies, and I suspect they were a bit perplexed and chagrined that their radar hadn’t alerted them to my presence as they certainly didn’t know I was right under their noses.

    After a few minutes, the Kennedy radioman returned my call and said, “All right, we know where you are, we have a visual on you.” And with that, I could see sailors and deck crew begin to line the flight deck, looking and pointing in my direction.

    I would hope so I thought to myself, I am practically under your flight deck and could hit the side of your ship with a baseball, if I had one.

    The USS John F. Kennedy, affectionally known as “Big John,” among crew members was an aging ship even in 2001. Its keel was laid in 1965; it entered service in 1968 and was decommissioned in 2007. There was talk of turning it into a museum, with both Rhode Island and Portland, Maine vying for the rights to display the ship in their respective harbors. But it all came to naught, and in 2018, the illustrious ship – CV-67, aka USS John F. Kennedy was slated to be dismantled and its remains melted down to become common household items like garden rakes and pruning shears.

    Originally, the ship was designed to be a nuclear attack carrier, hosting fixed winged aircraft, with a designated hull number of CVN-67. But somewhere in the planning stage, the propulsion system was changed from nuclear to the more conventional steam powered driven props.

    In naval parlance, aircraft carrier hull numbers always start with the letter C, which designates the vessel as a cruiser of sorts, while the letter V relates to a French word with a double meaning: 1) to fly  2) to steal. The suffix letter N designates the vessel as nuclear powered. The numbers following the last letter indicate its place in the number built thus far.

    From end to end, the flight deck measured 1,052’, the length of three football fields. The massive ship measured 192’ from waterline to the top of the mast, the equivalent of an 18-story building, with an additional 36’ below waterline.

    It could carry a crew of 5,000, had a maximum speed of approximately 40 mph and could provide 400,000 gallons of fresh water a day via its distilling units. And, in accordance with the mission of an attack aircraft carrier, which is to conduct combat operations by aircraft, whether on land, sea or air, the JFK carried a full contingency of 85 combat ready aircraft.

    The sheer number of weights and measures of a structure this massive might be hard to visualize, sight unseen. But here on the ocean, with this ginormous structure comprised of heavy steel plates, miles of cable wiring, pipes, ventilation, cooling, and electrical systems passing directly in front of Richard’s small craft, its behemoth size became readily apparent.

    Richard recounts that upon first viewing the aircraft carrier, he was awe struck by the incomprehensible size of the ship, this venerable floating city of 5,000 people. As he floated next to it, it towered over him like an 18-story building, and that compares to 24 stories of the second aircraft carrier George Washington that was fast approaching his position. If Richard’s boat were placed side by side of either aircraft carrier, from a distance of a quarter mile or more, (1,300’) it would be difficult to distinguish his boat from the mass of the aircraft carriers.

    In comparison, Richard’s boat The Brother of Jared was 29’ long, 5’ high at its highest point and 4’ wide at its widest point, which essentially comprised the area of Richard’s  workstation – the cockpit containing the rowing seat.

    As primitive as Richard’s tiny rowboat might appear on first inspection, in comparison to the USS John F. Kennedy, it nevertheless had all the essential elements for a safe ocean crossing just the same as “Big John”.

    A comparable comparison could be made between a 1930 Model A Ford that traveled at a maximum speed of 40 mph, with a 2017 F-150 Ford pickup. The 2017 F-150 has four tires, an engine and transmission, a cooling system, a lubricating system, can seat two to five personnel depending on the configuration of the vehicle, runs on gas and can reach speeds in excess of 120 mph. In its most basic form, it merely provides transportation from Point A to Point B. The 1930 Model A Ford does the same thing, just a little slower and with a little less flair.

    Comparing The Brother of Jared with “Big John,” Richard’s vessel carried food for seven months, had cooking facilities, could distill water at the rate of 1 gallon an hour, had air conditioning – a small portable fan, unlimited solar power, GPS navigational units, a communication system via a satellite phone, interior lights, emergency S.O.S. capabilities, carried a crew of one and when properly tuned, had a highly efficient, 2 hp propulsion system – two muscular arms for pulling on oars all day long and legs the size of tree trunks to help propel the boat forward.

    As the conversation with the radioman continued, he asked me if I was in distress, and did I need assistance?

    “No,” I replied, “I just wanted everyone in the vicinity of my boat to be aware of my presence, because I couldn’t move fast enough to avoid a collision.” He acknowledged my response.

    My encounter as an ocean rower with an aircraft carrier of the U.S. Navy in the Atlantic Ocean wasn’t the first. That distinction belongs to an Englishman named John Fairfax who rowed the same waters I was traveling through in 1969.

    From John’s log book, he recounts that around noon, while he was asleep in his cabin, the distinguished aircraft carrier USS Saratoga with hull identification numbers CV-60 meaning she was the 60th aircraft carrier built for the U.S. Navy, noticed his boat floating in the waters and stopped to investigate. A small lifeboat was lowered over the side and proceeded to motor to where John’s boat – the Britannia was resting on the placid waters of the Atlantic.

    After receiving an explanation from John concerning his reasons for being out in the open waters of the Atlantic in such a small boat, the chap in charge of the lifeboat offered to provide John with food which John readily accepted.

    Rather than tow his boat back to the Saratoga, Captain O’Neill, commanding officer on the Saratoga dispatched a helicopter to John’s position and dropped a parcel of food into the water. John says that the package was so heavy he could barely get it into his small boat, and there was so much of it, that he later had to dispose of some of it.

     I told the radioman that I would leave my radio on for a while until they had passed in case, they wished to communicate further with me.  I then heard him make radio contact with the aircraft carrier George Washington, which was about two miles away, and closing fast on my position.

    The Kennedy radioman wanted to know if personnel on the bridge of the GW had a visual on the small rowboat adjacent to his vessel.  The radioman on the GW, who is located somewhere in the bowels of the ship said that they had heard all the conversation, but that they did not, yet, have a visual on the small craft, but to avoid a potential collision with the rowboat, the ship’s captain had ordered a change of course. 

    In the distance, I could the see the massive carrier make two, very sharp, ninety degree turns.

    Under normal circumstances, I do not think the captain would have ordered such sharp turns in rapid succession, but given the close proximity of our two vessels – two miles or less, and the momentum at which his ship was traveling, his ship would close the distance between us very fast, thus, his recourse to move the ship quickly.

    The GW has a displacement of 97,000 tonnes, which in laymen terms is a very heavy object. The ship can hit speeds of 56 mph and is powered by two Westinghouse nuclear reactors and four steam turbines producing 260,000 hp which drive 4 – 5 bladed screws each weighing 66,000 lbs.   

    I can only imagine the comments of the crew in the mess hall as the ship begins to turn abruptly and their cups, dishes and plates of food begin to slide off the tables; likewise, crew members who are off duty and trying to catch some shuteye in their cramped bunk space, find themselves rolling out of their bunks and onto the deck floor. And then to have the same chain of events happen again a few seconds later, only in the opposite direction.

    When the GW pulled alongside of me, at a distance of about 2,000’ and I could see that they were going to pass by me safely, I called to the radiomen of both aircraft carriers, and told them I was turning off my radio. I thanked them for communicating with me and not running over me, and if they wanted to know more about me, and why I was out here on the ocean, they could read about me from my web site, which address I gave to them. The radioman from the Kennedy acknowledged my contact, thanked me for the information and said when he went off duty, he would look up my web site.

    Click, end of conversation.

    Because I was broadcasting on channel 16, the emergency channel for VHF radios, which every ship carries, I’m quite sure all radiomen on the dozen or so ships in the convey were listening to the two-way conversation between me and the aircraft carrier radiomen, and keeping their commanding officers informed of the situation.

    I am sure it gave them something to write home about; I know it did me.

    Captain’s Log – Gabby Maria

    About Utah: 69-year-old Richard Jones attempts hike from Mexico to Canada

    The phone call came from the top of a mountain somewhere in California. Richard Jones, the man making the call, wasn’t sure exactly where he was. But he knew where he was going. North. Always north.

    At least until he hits Canada.

    The last we saw of Richard Jones, he was shaking off four-and-a-half months of salt water, having just completed rowing the Atlantic Ocean from the Canary Islands to a place in the Bahamas called Ragged Island, which he ran into while trying to go around. The Deseret News had dispatched me to the Caribbean to find Jones, Stanley-meets-Livingston style. I had been receiving periodic updates from him via satellite phone ever since he left Africa in October of 2000 in his 29-foot boat, “The Brother of Jared,” bound, he hoped, for Miami Beach.

    He came up just short, but still his 3,675-mile, 133-day voyage qualified as only the 11th certified crossing of the Atlantic by a solo rower and first by a grandfather.

    Before the 57-year-old onetime Moab river-runner came back home to Utah, he stopped off at the morning TV shows in New York, where, when asked how he felt, he quoted Mark Twain: “I’m glad I did it. Partly because it was worth it and partly because I don’t have to do it again.”

    That, it appeared, was that.

    Until this latest.

    On the doorstep of turning 70, Jones is attempting to hike the length of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, all 2,650 miles of it, encompassing the California, Oregon and Washington. He started at the PCT’s southern terminus in the border town of Campo, Calif., on April 24. Since then he has covered more than 500 miles. If all goes well, he’ll celebrate turning 70 on July 9 in the Sierras, and by late September he’ll step into Canada.

    About two months ago, Richard sent me an email with details of his newest quest — a kind of encore to the Atlantic row. In early April we met at his home in Sugarhouse where he showed me the 26 supply boxes packed with non-perishable food and other necessities that his wife, Jodie, would be shipping over the course of the next five months to various mail drops in close proximity to the PCT — a Chevron station here, a campground store there. He also showed me his lightweight pack that weighs 12 pounds at its most basic, and somewhere between 35 and 40 pounds fully loaded.

    A lot more people try to thru-hike — that’s trail terminology for making it from Mexico to Canada or vice versa — than try to row the Atlantic Ocean. Between 300 and 500 hikers register each season on the PCT — less than half of them actually go the distance.

    For weeks, Jones had been gearing up by walking here and there with his pack, routinely making the 10-mile round trip between his house and downtown Salt Lake City. His most ambitious training hike took him to his daughter Allison’s house in Smithfield, a distance of 90 miles. He did it in three days. At night, to approximate trail conditions of camping where you drop, he slept in farmers’ fields. During the cold nights of March and April, he slept in his backyard in his tent.

    It begins

    Everybody hears their own drummer — Jones’ drummer happens to be Ernest Shackleton.

    As “climatized” as he’d ever be, Jones flew to San Diego, caught the bus to Campo, strapped on his pack and was off.

    He wasn’t sure he’d hold up. He has the usual problems incident to age — knees, a little plantar fasciitis and some heart history with AFib — so he asked me not to write anything until he was confident he had a chance.

    Last week, my phone rang. It was Jones. He was at mile 421, he announced. Somewhere to the east, by point of reference, was Lancaster, Calif. It was sunset and he was ready to turn in. To get through the hot, unshaded portion of the PCT — roughly the first 700 miles — he reported that he was starting out every morning around 4:30 a.m. so he could rest during the heat of the day. Then he’d walk till dark.

    “If you want to do the story, that’s fine. It looks like I’m staying out here,” he said after we exchanged hellos.

    I asked him how hard it is.

    “Harder than I thought,” he said. “On the third day out, I got dehydrated and thought I was done. But I’m still here.”

    I asked him what’s the biggest challenge.

    His answer, to sum it up: his age.

    “I’d say the average age out here is probably late 20s,” he said. “For these kids it’s a piece of cake. Best I can tell I’m the oldest one. I just kinda shuffle up the hills.”

    He’d already shuffled up three major mountain ranges in the Cleveland National Forest and the San Jacinto and San Bernardino Mountains.

    His favorite moment so far?

    That would be the day his wife and some friends surprised him when he walked into the McDonald’s where the trail crosses the I-15 freeway at the Cajon Pass northwest of San Bernardino.

    “That was wonderful. We had a nice meal,” he said in classic understatement.

    Before he signed off, I had to ask him:

    “So is it tougher than the ocean?”

    “Much tougher,” he said. “If I were younger this would be easier. At 57 I was in my prime. I could just row all day long. I can’t walk up these hills all day long. Rowing the ocean was pretty boring. The scenery never changed. I had a lot of time to think about things. I can’t do that here because I have to pay real close attention to the trail. I have to be very careful where I place my feet.”

    “But I’m glad I’m here,” he added, obviously proud about the 21 miles he’d knocked down that day. “You go around every corner and there’s new scenery and new challenges. It’s just fascinating to see what’s over the next horizon.”

    By Lee Benson

    Deseret News columnist