Cal Closes Generation Gap on High Seas

Cal Currier didn’t know when he left Marion harbor alone on Argo that he’d be gone 28 hours, much less 28 days. The option was always there to bail, and it wasn’t a matter of bravado.

            At age 16, the California-raised grandson of longtime Marion resident Bill Saltonstall knew he has his whole life in front of him and easily could have entertained a very reasonable argument to wait a year, what’s the rush, imagine how much easier this will be with that much more sailing experience.

His thinking? Why not do it while he had the chance.

            “What made it possible and made me not nervous … is my father and I labbed it all out, we did all the math, we figured out what the real dangers were, what the less-real dangers were, and we realized that the dangers weren’t as great as many people think they are,” said Currier on Monday during a visit to the Saltonstalls’ Front Street home.

            So Currier turned the corner around Bird Island and sailed across the Atlantic in his Tartan-brand, 30-foot sailboat that he bought for $12,000 from 90-year-old Sandy Van Zandt in Noank, Connecticut.

            As Bill Saltonstall explained, Van Zandt had been tweaking the early-fiberglass design for just such an excursion. In addition, being “a tank” as Bill Saltonstall called it; the tightly spaced Argo is useful for little else.

            Late last year, Currier was sailing for the first time. He only started taking lessons in January in San Francisco Bay, but his pedigree is impressive. Both his grandfather and his father James Currier, had sailed solo across the Atlantic. His mother Katrina (Saltonstall) Currier readily admits that she needed some convincing, but she also knew her husband and father would not place her son in harm’s way.

            “I left in 20-knot winds because I wasn’t sure if I was going to go all the way across, and I wanted to either prove to myself that I couldn’t do it and therefore turn around or prove to myself that I could do it so I left in as nasty conditions as I could,” he said.

            The increments were the first three days if yes or no, followed by nine days “in the thick of it,” but Currier knew he had enough from that point to motor to the Azores if “something bad happened.”

            The 3,900-mile journey took 28 days. He once overslept and went 50 miles off course but says he learned his lesson. Marion-based sailor and climatologist Jennifer Francis lent her assistance in monitoring the weather.

            Though the pedigree was not literally along for the ride, much in the way of experience, guidance and technology was present via their preparation. Currier was reminded he could turn back at any point – experienced sailors say it is harder to sail the Atlantic east to west than west to east – but when he reached the Azores, he wanted to continue and finally landed his boat in Lagos on the southern coast of Portugal.

            “Satisfaction and relief, I guess. I was really excited to see people that I could talk to,” he said. “It was nice to land there to see my family, but I guess what I had done hadn’t really registered in my mind because every day blended together.”

            Currier’s accomplishment was featured on the NBC Today show on July 26, as he was celebrated as likely the youngest ever to sail solo west to east across the Atlantic.

Asked on Today about the darkness out on the open ocean and what he learned most about himself, Currier thought about those whom he missed out there by himself.

            “I guess what I’d say I learned most about myself is how important people are to me,” he told the panel. “I’ve always considered myself to be somewhat of an introverted extrovert, where I like to be with myself, but at the end of the day I love people, and that was reaffirmed with that. I really missed people the whole time so I don’t think I’ll do any large solo expeditions anymore; it’s just more fun to be with people.”

            Cal Currier, twin to brother Bodie, the two being the youngest of four Currier children, is a serious volleyball player at Palo Alto (California) High School, and the sport may play a role as he figures out a college.

            Sailing is not a one-off, however, as Cal is plotting a potential sail next summer in the Mediterranean Sea.

By Mick Colageo

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