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Jerome and The Mighty Sparrow

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Published on Scuttlebutt Sailing on July 2nd, 2018

Not long after Hurricane Irma had raked the Bitter End Yacht Club and pretty much everything else on the British Virgin Island, the resort’s beloved watersports director Jerome Rand set out on an epic solo, non-stop circumnavigation of the globe.

The Michigan native, a veteran sailor whose family has summered in Gloucester for decades, departed on his nautical quest just after noontime on Oct. 3, 2017, from his mooring in the Massachusetts harbor between Niles Beach and Ten Pound Island.

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The Mighty Sparrow.
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“In 2012 I hiked the Appalachian Trail. Out there I felt like I was finally living, and I think that’s when I realized this dream I always had in the back of my mind was entirely possible.” - Rand

Thus began a 29,800-mile odyssey in his Westsail 32 that came to end on June 30, 2018 with Rand’s first step in almost nine months onto what passed for land — the slightly swaying Gloucester Harbormaster’s dock at Harbor Loop.

“Whoa, I’m having a little trouble standing up,” Rand reported to the Gloucester Times, laughing with the joy of someone who made it to the finish line despite the overwhelming odds against a solitary man sailing around the world in a 32-foot sailboat.

Rand had endured all that nature could throw at him and his little boat. High winds and rough seas barely come close to describing the conditions during several portions of the journey, including a particularly harrowing night as he sailed in the Pacific Ocean toward Chile to ultimately make the turn for home around Cape Horn.

“I’ve never seen swells and waves like that,” Rand said. “Somehow the ocean let me through.”

The physical hazards of a sail around the globe are daunting enough. But to do it alone with only your own thoughts and musings for company, with only your own hands and skills to extract you from calamity, is nothing short of extraordinary.

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"So, lots of people are asking about the big seas in the Southern Ocean. It is hard to capture the true size and feeling of the waves down there. This picture was taken about 500 miles south of Australia after three depressions in a row had passed over. The thing to note is that the breaking wave is well away from the boat, then you get an idea of just how big some of the seas were. But Sparrow rode them well and kept Me safe!" - Rand

Jerome's means of communication was a Garmin inReach, a satellite communication device his cousin told him about six months prior to his journey. Jerome also had a satellite phone.

His brother, Sven, a sailmaker at Doyle Sails Gulf Coast, had built new Dacron Hybrid sails for the Mighty Sparrow and said that he received a text from Jerome's satellite device mid-Southern Ocean and said "my god, these sails are bullet-proof!"

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Rand and the Mighty Sparrow entering Gloucester
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Rand hugs his mother, Irma as he steps onto the dock for the first time after 270 days at sea

Was the journey about as he expected? “No, it was a whole lot more,” he said. “It was way more dangerous than I expected and I almost agree with people who said a boat like this has no business going around the world.”

Not only was Rand alone on his boat, but there was no overstating the solitude along the course too. “I rarely saw any other vessels, maybe about 20 ships in all during the whole time,” said Rand, who celebrated his 39th birthday while sailing off the west coast of Australia in January.

His world started becoming more populated as he neared the islands off Cape Cod and his senses started adjusting to civilization. “It was pretty interesting … I was about 15 miles off Martha’s Vineyard and I started seeing planes in the sky and fishing boats.”

While he finally made land, Rand said he still has one more sail to Maine. “I’ve got one more overnighter and then I’m going to haul her out for a little tender, loving care.”

An overnighter to Maine? Given all he’s accomplished in the last eight months, that should be like sail around the harbor for the man who sailed around the world. By himself.

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The map Jerome kept onboard and marked dates throughout his route
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Words of encouragement for those long nights through the Southern Ocean

With time to reflect, Jerome shares this sentiment on his Facebook page:

“An ocean sailor that sets out alone to sea always dreams of the land fall. No matter if the trip is an overnight or an ocean crossing, from the minute the lines are cast off part your brain always thinks about the immense feelings that will accompany reaching land once more.

“Without a doubt I dreamt about this land fall for many many months while alone in the vast world ocean, through calm and storms, scary nights and wonderful days, I always thought of sailing back into Gloucester.

“I did not imagine just how amazing and humbling it would be seeing all the friends and family, reading posts and well wishes, and having such a heartfelt greeting. The cannon blasts, airhorns, boats that joined in the last miles to the Harbormasters dock, for me was unbelievable. As much as I tried to play it cool, my heart was jumping out of my chest!

“I can’t thank you enough for the support, encouragement, and enthusiasm for my endeavor over the last nine months. It has been a pleasure to share this experience and I do hope it may spark the thought of going after a dream in your life.”

Wonderful images were taken by Andrew Noel http://andyandtegan.com

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