2 Rock Hall pals set sail for Ireland Atlantic crossing will be men's first


ROCK HALL -- Like thousands of other boating enthusiasts this Memorial Day weekend, Ed Kurowski and John Schnoering plan to spend the holiday on the water.

But what makes these two friends and business partners unusual is that they don't expect to return to shore for almost a month. And when landfall finally arrives, it should be at Kinsale, a tiny port on the southwestern coast of Ireland.

"We'll travel a long distance for a Guinness," joked Mr. Schnoering, who owns the Celtic Joy, the single-mast, 29-foot Island Packet sailboat the two men set out in yesterday morning from Spring Cove outside Rock Hall.

Although Mr. Kurowski, 50, and Mr. Schnoering, 42, have sailed from the Chesapeake Bay to Bermuda and to the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Atlantic Ocean crossover -- a nonstop voyage of nearly 3,000 miles that could take up to 25 days -- will be a first for both men.

"It's something every sailor thinks about doing," Mr. Kurowski said.

Chance of ice floes

Despite the certainty of cold weather, fog, high seas and the possibility of encountering ice floes off the coast of Labrador, to save time the two sailors chose a shorter northern route to Ireland instead of the warmer southern course. Their course also means they will not see land until they reach Ireland.

Most sailors attempting trans-Atlantic cruises choose boats at least 40 feet long, Mr. Kurowski said. Although beamy and comfortable inside, the 29-footer is slower than larger vessels.

Mr. Schnoering said the selection of the Celtic Joy, which was built in Largo, Fla., had more to do with economics than any other consideration. The boat cost $95,000 new, and he has added another $40,000 in electronic equipment, a desalinator to make ocean water drinkable, a life raft and other features intended to make the trip safe and successful.

The men said they will not use the inboard diesel engine unless necessary. But just in case, Mr. Schnoering added a 35-gallon fuel tank to supplement the 29-gallon tank already on board.

The men also stocked 50 gallons of water and another 50 in ice. They are carrying a short supply of fresh meat and vegetables to eat, but figure they will be dining on canned food by the time they reach Ireland.

The trip, a year in the planning, began yesterday morning when )) the two sailors and their wives boarded the vessel and bid farewell to a handful of well-wishers who waved at them from the dock at Spring Cove.

On board, Mr. Kurowski stashed a bottle of champagne to be uncorked when they reach their destination. Mr. Schnoering, who has visited Ireland before, popped a cassette into a tape player and checked lines as fiddle and tin whistle music filled the cabin.

Linda Kurowski and Joyce Schnoering were scheduled to disembark at a point along the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal. (( Unless they decide to stop briefly at a New Jersey marina to top off their fuel tank, the men said they will hoist sail today in Delaware Bay and head for the wide open Atlantic.

Daily radio contact

During the voyage, the men will make daily radio contact with Mrs. Schnoering at her home in Deltaville, Va., where the Schnoerings run Gratitude Boat Sales. Mr. Schnoering is general manager of the company and Mr. Kurowski, who is based in Rock Hall, is president.

Mrs. Kurowski, who will stay behind in Rock Hall to run the couple's charter boat business, said she probably won't hear from her husband for several weeks.

"I'd rather not know anything until they reach Ireland," she said. "I'm confident in them as sailors, but, knowing myself, I'll be anxious. I don't know if they'll run into an iceberg or another ship."

The men will take turns keeping four-hour watches. In case one of them has trouble waking up for his turn, there's a bugle on board that will be used to get his attention.

Both say they're in good physical condition and have easygoing personalities, which will help them remain friends as they live together in the small boat for more than three weeks. "When we're in the boat together, it's not like one of us will be the captain," Mr. Schnoering said. "It'll be a consensus."

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