Teen sailor takes off from Marion Harbor to navigate the Atlantic

Jul 6, 2022

Just this past spring, 16-year-old Cal Currier was attending his first sailing lesson. This August, he may be the youngest person to sail across the Atlantic Ocean alone.

Currier began his journey on June 27, when he set sail from the Marion Harbor with the intention of docking in Spain later this summer.

His father says that it was a day “without a lot of fanfare.” Currier planned to go offshore for a few days, and if he felt okay, he would keep going.

Currier felt okay.

He sailed upwind around Cuttyhunk and continued forward with 100 days of food and 400 miles of diesel. Currier will make a stop at the Azores before making it the rest of the way to Spain.

However, there’s one part of the journey that Currier didn’t anticipate – the boredom. Currier’s father, James Currier, says that Currier is very social, and it’s the first time that he has been on his own for such a long period of time.

“I knew how many days it would take, but it was hard to imagine 30 days without contact,” Currier told Sippican Week in a satellite text message. Currier brought 10 books and has already finished them all, and has “done everything [he] can think of.”

He says there just aren’t that many ways to pass the time.

However, Currier has already traveled more than 900 miles, and his family will be waiting for him in Spain to hear every detail of his journey when he docks.

Currier’s father predicts that Currier will arrive in early August, possibly making him the youngest person ever to sail the Atlantic alone. He noted that it was hard to be completely sure, because the Guiness Book of World Records told him that they did not want to encourage anyone younger than 16 to take the trip.

“The youngest record I could find from them was someone 17 and a half in 1976 who sailed from Ireland to Newport,” Currier’s father explained.

Currier follows in the nautical footsteps of his family. His father grew up racing dinghies and sailed across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans in his twenties. His grandfather, Marion native, Bill Saltonstall, was co-founder of the Buzzards Bay Regatta, and sailed across the Atlantic twice.

Currier lives in Palo Alto, California, but he’s familiar with the South Coast, as he and his four siblings have spent every summer with his grandparents in Marion. Currier is a twin with two older brothers.

His father says that one day, he was talking in the car with Currier, and they were just making a list of “crazy things to do,” such as hiking to Canada or scaling Mount Whitney in California, and the idea of sailing the Atlantic came up.

Currier couldn’t shake the thought, and brought the idea up to his father again a month later, asking him what it would take to make that happen.

Then Currier got to work.

While most students his age are starting to think about SATs and college applications, Currier was also attending sailing classes every weekend, making planning spreadsheets, and raising the money to buy a boat.

Currier found his boat from an online listing. Ninety-year-old Sandy Van Zandt had been working on a 30-foot Tartan sailboat in his home in Mystic, Conn., with the plans to make a similar trek. But due to his age and the covid pandemic, Van Zandt realized he would be unable to make the journey. He sold the boat to Currier for $12,000, and became a mentor to him, providing advice and making sure the boat was fully equipped for the boy’s journey.

Currier’s father said that his son “knows every inch of that boat.”

Currier raised the money for the boat himself by starting a camp with his brothers to teach younger kids about physics and recruiting sponsorships for his journey, including Defender Industries, a marine supply store, and Farrar Sails, a sail making company, both in Connecticut.

The boat is named Argo, after Jason and the Argonauts of Greek history. Currier is a lover of Greek culture, and plans to sail there next year. Works by the Greek philosopher Plato were among the books that Currier brought on his journey.

The name also has familial significance, as Currier’s great-grandfather Stephen Currier built a boat named Argo in 1948 and sailed with a friend to the Galapagos. Currier grew up with a map on the wall of his family’s home that showed the exact course that his great-grandfather took.

“There’s a lot of history, this sailing idea wasn’t totally out of the blue,” said Currier’s father.

Throughout the journey, Currier has faced engine issues and radio issues on the boat, but “he fixes things.”

His father says that Currier is the sort of person who is fearless and rises to the challenge.

“He keeps at it. He’s tenacious,” he added. “Something won’t work and then a few hours later, we’ll get a message saying he figured it out.”