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Across the Atlantic in a 21-foot flats boat

Two brothers recently completed an 8,312-mile voyage that took them across the Atlantic in a 21-foot open boat, hoping the feat will help them raise money for charities that benefit wounded soldiers.

Florida residents Ralph and Robert Brown, 50 and 52, respectively, got under way June 27 from Tampa in the center console catamaran flats boat. Ralph Brown, owner of Dream Boats in Hudson, Fla., designed the cat ( It took the brothers 76 days to complete the passage, which was done in legs and took them up the East Coast to Canada and then across the Atlantic, arriving in Germany Sept. 10.

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“Our limit was about 12-foot seas,” says Ralph Brown. “Between the Shetland Islands and the Orkney Islands [off Scotland’s north coast], we got into some breaking 12- to 15-foot waves with gale-force winds coming out of the north. We were headed southwest. We probably should have thrown the sea anchor, but we decided to keep at it.”

It was one of three times the boat nearly went over, says Brown. The cat is unsinkable, with foam injected into the hulls, he says. A single 140-hp Suzuki 4-stroke powers the cat, which also has a 9.9-hp Suzuki kicker. Safety equipment included an EPIRB, two satellite phones, a VHF radio, life jackets and survival suits.

The voyage commemorated three of Ralph Brown’s Marine Corps comrades, who died in an ill-fated 1980 attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran. Brown was scheduled to deploy in the same mission, but his unit was never sent, he says.

The 593-mile passage from Canada to Greenland was the longest leg. “We got stuck in 7- to 9-foot waves,” says Brown. “We almost ran out of fuel and ended up throwing the sea anchor and waiting for the winds to shift out of the north.” They finished the last 180 miles or so with the kicker “because it gets better fuel economy.”

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This article originally appeared in the November 2009 issue.