Man rowing from Miami to NYC to promote tranquility

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Greg Dougherty holds an oar next to his 18-foot rowing skiff as he stands on a dock in Bell’s Island, Monday. Dougherty, who is rowing the Intracoastal Waterway, stopped in Currituck while on his journey from Miami to New York City.


By William F. West
Staff Writer

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

CURRITUCK — Greg Dougherty is rowing a skiff from Florida to New York City to promote world tranquility but the weather he encountered this week on the Intracoastal Waterway was anything but peaceful. 

Dougherty in fact spent a couple of days on dry land in Currituck County this week so he could avoid the high winds and choppy seas caused by the near tropical storm conditions off the North Carolina coast.

Dougherty, 48, launched his 18-foot skiff from St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Miami Beach on June 13. His goal is to row, via the Intracoastal Waterway, all the way to New York City, where he plans to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Dougherty is with the Covington Diocese World Apostolate of Fatima in northern Kentucky. Fatima is the name of the Portuguese village where three children herding sheep said they were visited by the Virgin Mary in 1917. The children reported that the Virgin Mary promised them heaven would grant peace across the globe if her requests for prayer were heard and obeyed. With the world then engaged in World War I, it was a compelling message to Catholics across the world.  

Dougherty hopes, through his voyage, to promote the message from the Fatima sightings of Mary.

Doughtery, whose skiff is outfitted with a sliding platform and two oars, said he’s been averaging a little over 30 miles a day during his voyage, but notes he’s also had to stop for periods that probably add up to about a month. That includes two weeks of repairs to his skiff.

Asked how he rows so far for so long, Doughtery said it probably has a lot to do with his faith. 

"The grace of God is the only way I can explain it," he said. "I pray when I row."

Doughterty said his stops, before Currituck, have included Delray Beach, Titusville and Jacksonville in Florida; Savannah, Georgia; Charleston and Georgetown in South Carolina; and Wilmington and Morehead City. He in fact was in Morehead City because of weather conditions when members of Holy Family Catholic Church in Elizabeth City learned that he was headed toward the Albemarle.

Tom Scott, a retired Navy captain and member of St. Catherine Drexel Catholic Church in Maple, said he phoned Doughtery in Morehead City and invited him to make a stop here. Doughtery caught a ride to Elizabeth City — his skiff was attached to a trailer — and attended Sunday Mass at Holy Family. After the service, Doughtery and his skiff were transported to Coinjock Marina where he hoped to relaunch onto the Intracoastal Waterway again. 

Scott said he spoke with Dougherty by phone mid-afternoon Sunday and learned he was attempting to reach the Hampton Roads area. "But he couldn't fight the current and the winds and the waves," Scott said.

So seeking a safe place to ride out the storm, Dougherty diverted from the waterway and entered a canal in the Bells Island area. There he rowed up to dock just outside the home of former Currituck Commissioner Paul Martin and his wife, Charlotte.

Dougherty said after a brief conversation, Martin told him, "My wife is a wonderful cook. Have you eaten yet? We're having spaghetti."

Martin said he initially was startled early Sunday evening to see a man climbing up onto the small wooden deck he and his wife have along the canal. He said he went out and met Dougherty, learned about his mission and invited him in for supper before driving him to Scott's residence.

"We became the safe harbor for him," Martin said.

Martin said his wife asked Dougherty why he had tied up in front of their house — he had passed a number of others as he rowed up the canal — and he replied, “It just seemed the right place to stop."

Martin said he admires anyone who feels strongly enough about something to do something like Dougherty is doing.

"I think we need more love in our country today – and I think we've gone away from the church's teachings," he said.

Scott, with whom Doughtery stayed during his brief stop in Currituck, was equally impressed with Dougherty’s endeavor.

"That's kind of tough," he said.

Asked what’s the biggest enjoyment he’s gotten out of his voyage so far, Doughtery said, "Meeting people."

He said the number of strangers like Scott and Martin who’ve opened their doors and shown him so much hospitality “has just been wonderful."

"Meeting people like that has been incredible to me," Doughtery said.