by Linus Wilson
Reclusive Russian sailor Kris Larsen, who is sailing around the world in his junk-rigged steel sailboat, says he plans to leave Hawaii within 10 days of being towed into Maui on December 31, 2017, by the US Coast Guard. Coast Guard pictures of his unusual boat and word of his over 100 days at sea got the attention of many news outlets ever so briefly.
Mr. Larsen sails by celestial navigation and his boat has no engine. The boat, SV Kehaar, has little or no electrical equipment on board, but his wife, Nat Uhing, confirmed to Slow Boat Sailing that he owns an old laptop. Reports on the size of the junk-rigged boat vary from 30 to 34 feet. He left his wife, who lives in a fishing vessel in Darwin, Australia in 2014. He has sailed alone and with her for various legs that included crossing the Indian Ocean, crossing the South Atlantic, and transiting the Panama Canal. The USCG reported that he was blown off course on his 104-day voyage from Panama to Maui and was “disoriented.”
Photo by Raymond Bideaux reproduced with permission. Kris Larsen on his boat SV Kehaar in Haiti in 2016.
Mr. Larsen and his Ms. Uhing wrote in Ms. Uhing’s blog:
“Fortunately, yesterday’s media scrum has had no impact on Kris, whatsoever. He is engrossed in stocking up on food and water, the authorities have granted him 10 days waived visa privileges (he only asked for 10…if he wants more, they told him, ‘Just ask.’) and weather maps for the next leg of the trip.”
“Unless someone tries to prevent him from sailing onward, he will be quite content, living in his head, making his plans, ignoring the internet. The world will think what it thinks, but you are right: whatever anyone says of his chosen path, he has just sailed most of the way round the world—from Australia to Hawaii—has spent the past 4 years exploring Africa (on bicycle) and South America (on foot), has acquired fluent Spanish as his 8th language, and collected a treasure trove of stories, friends, and unique experiences from all the countries visited along the way. On a budget, I might add, of a few hundred dollars a month. Thanks to a home-built boat that requires no maintenance he can’t do, himself, using materials that can be found in even the smallest Third-World towns, that can take a pounding, and that isn’t worth anything to thieves or pirates but the scrap steel it is made of.
He is that rare thing in these hobbled times: a free man.”
Mr. Larsen is on track for a quick, 4-year circumnavigation by cruising standards. My book found that most successful sailing yacht circumnavigators take 5.5 years or more. Instead,of telling his interesting story, he and his wife lashed out at the media and other sailors in their jointly written letter on her blog:
“What others say he can or can’t do isn’t his problem…in fact, he quite enjoys playing the ‘gormless idiot’ in the presence of scandalised, angry ‘proper sailors’. It makes them feel good about themselves, they pronounce him a lost cause, and swagger off with a ripping good story to tell The Boys back at the yacht club…leaving him alone to get on with his plans.”
Most sailors that follow Slow Boat Sailing far from condemning his voyage want to hear more, but his Mr. Larsen and his wife would rather criticize than entertain us with his fascinating travels under sail. That is a pity. As we reported earlier, his self-published books are impossible to buy, which of course is his own doing. I have interviewed many wildly successful sailing vloggers and writers for the Slow Boat Sailing Podcast. What they all have in common is that they are polite, gracious, and love to tell stories. Mr. Larson may have farther to go on his personal journey before he catches the imagination of cruising sailors like so many of the Slow Boat Sailing Podcast’s guests have.
Finally, most of the most cruising sailors who tell their stories in their blogs or vlogs have not had the benefit of any free media. Mr. Larsen and his wife declined Slow Boat Sailing’s request to clear up any factual inaccuracies that were reported by the AP or other outlets. Most likely, if Mr. Larsen and Ms. Uhing want their story to be told in the future, the’ll have to do it on their own. If they want complete privacy, they should take down their blogs and stop asking for free tows. Given that Mr. Larsen’s boat has no engine, this is unlikely to have been his first or last tow into port.
I will not be the first or last sailor to wish him fair winds on his journey.
January 5, 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. Dr. Wilson holds a six-pack captain’s license.