On Tuesday, June 8, Chris Bertish launched a strange little craft from Half Moon Bay. It was the beginning of the Transpacific Wing Project, a voyage that, if all goes well, will see him traveling from California to Hawaii by wing-foil, entirely alone and unsupported. And although the project ran into problems within the first few days, Bertish has already set a world record for the longest distance traveled on a wing-foil, solo and unsupported. The distance comes in at a pretty staggering 212 miles — although it pales in comparison to the distance he plans on traveling. Bertish’s route from Half Moon Bay to Oahu is approximately 2,750 miles.
Since this isn’t his first rodeo — he’s already crossed the Atlantic by paddle — Bertish planned out a route that allowed him to skirt the coast, heading south, before he ventured out into the middle of the Pacific. It was a smart strategy, and it might have saved his life. He did it so he’d have a chance to deal with any major issues that might arise in the first 72 hours, and sure enough, major issues did arise. Issues major enough to force him to halt the project temporarily.
At about 7 p.m. on his second night, Bertish realized that his beloved ImpiFish had sprung a leak. Although he managed to fix it within a few hours with a little help from some expandable foam sealant, by the time he was nearing Big Sur, it became apparent that he had another problem.
“When I got down to the Big Sur region, the fog rolled in and seas increased to 2-4 meters and wind set in to 25-35 knots,” Bertish explained. “As the winds started easing a whole lot of my main electronics systems drained, which shouldn’t happen through the night.”
Bertish dropped his sea anchor, a parachute-like anchor that’s used when tethering a vessel to the seafloor isn’t possible. Instead of snagging the bottom and holding the craft in place, a parachute anchor uses drag to drastically limit progress. He hoped that the morning sun would recharge his systems, but it was then that he realized he couldn’t reasonably move forward across the Pacific without addressing those two key issues. Bertish is a man who prides himself on self-reliance — but he also knows when to take a breather.
“When this happens at near the end of your journey, you find a way to make it work and get to the finish,” he said. “But when it happens at the beginning of your expedition and you have the choice to correct it or move forward despite not addressing it appropriately. That is the definition of foolish and reckless. On expeditions like this, those decisions become pivotal decisions that save your life and don’t put yourself and many other resources at risk.”
Late on Sunday evening, Bertish arrived at Morro Bay. The Coast Guard towed him to shore, and now he plans on restarting the crossing once everything is fixed. When that might be, however, isn’t clear. Depending on how long it takes for the repairs and to find a decent weather window, it could be as early as July or as late as next season. Still, though, Bertish isn’t discouraged. He did set a world record, after all.
“I’m very happy and proud of what we’ve managed to achieve with the new world record,” he said. “I had a great opportunity to be able to test all the systems and find solutions to making the craft right so I can leave again once the weather and craft are ready, whenever that may be. We’re looking forward to being able to restart and finish the project soon. With all these adventures you have to be 100 percent confident in your craft and the integrity of the vessel you’re with. Until that’s in place, the only right and rational decision is to get the craft up to speed before continuing on.”
Follow Bertish’s Transpacific Crossing here.