Exclusive: Junk Skipper Towed by USCG Off Hawaii on New Years Eve Left Oz Bound for South Africa in 2014 on Round the World Trip

by Linus Wilson

Slow Boat Sailing has learned that Kris Larsen is the name of the Russian skipper of the SV Kehaar, a 31-foot, steel, junk-rigged sailboat that the USCG towed into port off Maui on December 31, 2017. The USCG was not releasing the skipper’s name. Based on his reported ports, it appears Mr. Larsen has been sailing west-bound around the world by way of Cape of Good Hope and through the Panama Canal since departing Darwin, Australia in 2014. Mr. Larsen sailed out of Darwin, Australian in 2014 bound for South Africa. His boat was recently towed into Maui by the USCG after 104 days at sea after his last port of Panama. His wife, Nat Uhing, wrote in her blog that his boat lacked basic electrical gear and an engine.  She wrote:

Kris Larsen on boat with crew Snapped by Raymond Bideaux

Photo by Raymond Bideaux reproduced with permission. Kris Larsen and his wife Nat Uhing sailing off Haiti in 2016.

He was intentionally vague about his departure…didn’t want any parties, last minute well-wishers, or the generally curious trying to catch up for one last handshake, lame joke, or to ask the same dozen questions he has answered, over and over again, since he first built his steel Chinese-junk-rigged sailboat and started sailing around without the usual engine, GPS, EPIRB, digital charts, radio, solar panels, water-maker, or toilet.

Kris Larsen Snapped by Raymond Bideaux in Haiti

Photo by Raymond Bideaux reproduced with permission. Kris Larsen on his boat SV Kehaar in Haiti in 2016.

His original destination was South Africa according to the Nat’s blog.

Public domain photos by the USCG of SV Kehaar right before it was towed into Maui on December 31, 2017.

He was towed into Sugar Beach in Maui, Hawaii, by a 45-foot USCG boat on Sunday, December 31, 2017, after 104 days at sea. His last port was Panama. He meant to sail the South Pacific, but was blown off course, according to USCG interviewers.

Mr. Larson is the author of several books, including an account of his previous 45,000 nautical miles in his junk-rigged sailboat, Moonsoon Dervish.  He also wrote a 19-page manual on celestial navigation. Slow Boat Sailing saw several of the self-published titles marked as sold on Ms. Uhing’s Etsy page, but could find none currently for sale. James Baldwin devotes a chapter, “A Law Unto Himself,” to Mr. Larsen’s voyaging in his 40s in the book The Next Distant Sea available on Amazon.

Mr. Larsen’s wife described herself on her blog as a “Filipina-American” who lives on a fishing trawler in “crocodile-infested” Darwin, Australia with her cat named Dude.

His wife quoted his reasons for departing without her in 2014:

“I’ll be turning 60 later this year. I’ve been working for a living for the past 40 years and I am tired of working. Humans are the only animals who work for a living. All other creatures live for a living. And I still have five years to go till my old age pension. I have decided I am going sailing for those five years. I will live for a living, like all other creatures in the world.”

On her Etsy page, she said in 2015 that she had rejoined her husband on the boat in Brazil. A pictures in Haiti from 2016, shows Ms. Uhing sitting at the stern of the boat. On a recent blog she wrote, ” I left him behind in Guatemala in August 2016.”

Mr. Larsen was sailing alone when he was towed by the USCG on the last day of 2017. He signaled to a passing boat, requesting a tow when the USCG was called out.

Slow Boat Sailing has reached out to Mr. Larsen and his wife, Nat Uhing, to hear more about this amazing voyage, but both declined. Ms. Uhing, wrote on her Facebook page on December 31, she got the following text message from a strange number:

“Relaying a message from your husband: ‘I have arrived in Maui, Hawaii, and I am OK.'”

In an e-mail to Slow Boat Sailing, she said she got her first e-mail from him on January 4, 2018, Darwin time.

Mr. Larsen’s wife wrote on her “The Smallest Forest” Facebook page in response to a comment about her blog celebrating his arrival in Hawaii:

“I have been a nightly sniffles and tears machine for a month…”

In their press release about the incident, the USCG Honolulu wrote:

“The Coast Guard also strongly recommends that all mariners file a float plan with a friend or family member, with an approximate time of return and route. It is also recommended mariners check in regularly especially if plans should change.”

Ms. Uhing, wrote to Slow Boat Sailing by way of Facebook messenger:

“Being alone for so much time has made him sensitive to people, he tends to be very introspective and reticent, being among lots of people all a sudden can be a shock and disappointment for a couple of weeks.”

In his January 4, 2017, (Darwin time) e-mail to his wife which Ms. Uhing posted in part on her Facebook page, Mr. Larsen wrote:

‘”I am entering informational overload, after 3 and half month alone  I am very sensitive to people.”‘

In written communications, both Ms. Uhing and Mr. Larsen claimed there were inaccuracies in the USCG’s press release of the account that appeared in the Associated Press and other outlets, but both declined to state what those inaccuracies were. It’s going to be hard for the Associated Press to print a retraction, if they don’t know what is wrong.

“Being disoriented while at sea in a vessel with no communication capabilities aboard can be deadly if not handled quickly,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Schlereth, a boarding officer and engineer at Station Maui. “We commend the good Samaritan for recognizing the complications and contacting the proper authorities to initiate a rescue.”

Ms. Uhing seemed to dispute that passenger ship the Trilogy V was a “good Samaritan” for arranging for the USCG tow in her comment on her Facebook page:

“Hmm, no, Kris says he was just bobbing like a cork, it wasn’t particularly dangerous, just no wind, so he asked a passing boat to tow him into harbour! Instead the boat decides to call the coastguard. Americans. Must’ve been the ‘Good Samaritan’, then, giving his ‘heroic’ account to the press? LOL”

Soon after the tow the “nightly sniffles and tears machine,” Ms Uhing got the first word from her husband in over 100 days when a USCG service man texted her.

The USCG wrote in their press release about the tow:

“The Coast Guard strongly recommends all mariners ensure they have proper safety gear aboard their vessel prior to departure. Properly fitting life jackets, a VHF radio or some form of communication and signaling devices are examples of safety gear that can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency.”

There is little evidence that the SV Kehaar had any of that gear or its skipper was likely to obtain such gear anytime soon. As solar power became cheaper, Herb McCormick wrote that Lin and Larry Pardey carried on the engineless, 29-foot sailboat SV Seraffyn both a backup GPS and a handheld VHF radio, which were seldom used.

One nagging inconsistency is the size of the boat, Kehaar. The USCG says its 30-feet long, the Monsoon Dervish book website says it is 31-feet long, Raymond Bideaux who met up with Mr. Larsen in 2016 in Haiti wrote that Kehaar was 32-feet long, an interview on the Atom Voyages blog says it is 33-feet long, and the Goodreads page from Monsoon Dervish says its 34-feet long. Slow Boat Sailing suspects that Mr. Larsen is the ultimate source in most or all those cases. We’ll have to wait for the next book sold on Etsy to clear this one up.

This blog was first posted on January 3, 2018. The current draft was posted on January 6, 2018.

Dr. Linus Wilson, is the creator of the Slow Boat Sailing Podcast and YouTube channel.  He has written three books about sailing including How to Sail Around the World Part-Time. He sails out of New Orleans and his 31-foot Island Packet sailboat at the time of writing was awaiting the next leg of the Pacific crossing in Tahiti. Wilson holds a six-pack captain’s license.

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