TA News

Where is Sofia? Rob and Finbar ’16 Set Sail

When Finbar Curtin and Rob Root (Class of 2016) met at Thetford Academy a decade ago they could not have predicted that they would one day set sail from Mallets Bay on Lake Champlain bound for the Caribbean on a refurbished sailboat named Sofia.

TA’s alumni relations team recently caught up with the pair.
TA: Thanks for taking the time to chat with your alma mater! Can you tell the TA community how you got the idea to sail together from Vermont to the Caribbean?

Finbar: Sure. Rob and I have been friends since we were at TA and we both grew up as homesteaders in Vermont. I am from Washington and Rob is from Strafford. We were both on the baseball team at TA and often talked about things we wanted to do, including sailing. After graduating from TA, I went to UVA and Rob went to Montana State University. In 2020, we had a chance to reconnect in Vermont during the pandemic. We both studied engineering in college – I studied electrical engineering and Rob civil engineering. We lived in Burlington and had a twenty foot boat for a year so that was where our talks about this kind of sailing trip started.

TA: Wow – so it helps to have an engineering background on a trip like this. Can you tell us more about your boat and how one sails from Vermont to the Caribbean?

Rob: Yeah, we found Sofia on Lake Champlain when we were sailing our 20’ boat. She is a 1969 Tartan 34. Her previous owners did some rehab work but it was mostly aesthetic. We focused on the structural needs and, most importantly, the functionality of the boat. We wanted to be sure it was ready for this big trip. On sailing from Vermont to the Caribbean: we left Lake Champlain and sailed through the Hudson River while stopping along the way in New York City. We are currently anchored along the Potomac River in the Chesapeake – a couple of weeks out from our big two week crossing into the Caribbean. 

TA: What is your plan once you reach the Bahamas?

Finbar and Rob: We don’t really have one – maybe stay there and see what happens?

To learn more about Rob and Finbar’s adventures, follow their trip on their Substack, Where is Sofia? You can also find them on Instagram and via their interactive map!

As parents, we decided to also check in with Jennifer Curtin and Kate Root about their sons’ adventures.

Jennifer Curtin, Finbar’s mother, is both “excited and terrified” about her son’s latest endeavor. She shared her pride in what Finbar and Rob are doing now. “My late husband, Jim and I, intentionally raised our kids to make the most of their lives and to try not to focus so much on how much money you can make. Just plan your life to be about your life.”

Finbar, Jennifer says, has always been the kind of person who liked to try new things, absorbing as much information as possible along the way. For example, before they left for their sailing trip, Finbar and Rob decided they would need a drogue. (A drogue is a device attached to the stern of the boat that assists with balance and sturdiness in stormy waters.) Finbar immersed himself in the research and fashioned a drogue for Sofia himself!

The boys, according to Jennifer, were also both meticulous in their planning and research for their trip. In preparation, they helped crew a delivery of a 50 foot catamaran from Fort Lauderdale to Panama and through the Panama Canal – giving them the confidence to take Sofia out of the lake and into some more serious waters. Jennifer is very proud of the way Rob and Finbar live life to the fullest and loves following them on their adventures.

Kate Root, Rob’s mother, said her son was always up for a challenge, “Even when Rob was three years old and learning how to cross country ski he had grit. He would be blown down by the wind or fall down on a snow bank but he would always pick himself up and go.” When she initially heard about Sofia, she said, “My instinct as a mom was to be nervous for the boys’ safety, but when I watched how they were 100% committed to planning, researching, and talking to experts – my worries eased. I have seen them use their practical and formal education to apply the research intelligently and cautiously. I know that they are prepared.”

Kate remembers Rob and Finbar as kindred spirits during their time at TA. They met in 9th grade and immediately became friends. She reminds us that this is not their first joint adventure, “I can remember when the boys were at TA, on a crisp February morning, they decided to cut a hole in the ice and jump in – they’ve been on an adventure since I can remember.” And after they graduated from TA in 2016, Rob and Finbar joined their fellow classmate, George Essex on an extended kayaking trip along Maine’s coast. 

We at TA will be following Rob and Finbar as they make their way the Caribbean, and feel pretty sure there will be more adventures to come.



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