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Local veteran launches 6,000-mile voyage to raise funds for vets, try for record

May 23, 2011

North Fort Myers resident and veteran George Sinko took off last weekend on a 6,000 mile voyage to both raise funds for veterans, and set a Guinness Record title.

He is traveling on a 26-foot pontoon boat, along what is known as the Great Circle Tour, the circumnavigation of Eastern North America via ICW.

ICW is the Intracoastal Waterway, a 3,000-mile waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. He plans to go down and back home here.

"The main goal is to contribute to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation," he said. It is a group that has earned its fifth consecutive 4-star rating from the nation's leading charity watchdog group.

He requested individuals and organizations to pledge a tax free contribution from one cent or less per mile, a $60 to $300 total pledge or more.

A resident of the Sabal Springs community, he had many locals wishing him bon voyage from his launch off the public dock in Fort Myers, and asked them to sign his boat, The Patriot, as a special gesture.

Sabal Springs residents and friends included Mike Matera, co-owner of The Palms at Sabal Springs restaurant, residents and friends Linda Thon, Joseph Loda, Mike Matera, Frank Harris, Bill Banfield, Douglas Pechstein and Jen and Rodger Williams.

Matera will be getting regular e-mail updates from Sinko on his journey, which he will provide to the North Fort Myers Neighbor. The Neighbor will post those on its "Breaking News" banners, and send them to our Facebook and Twitter contacts.

"This project actually started in a bunker in Iraq in October of 2008. We came home and I thought about it for a few years," veteran Sinko said.

After retiring, he started to work on The Patriot to make the idea become a reality.

"Then one night at Mike's place (The Palms at Sabal Springs) we were all talking about it, and people said nothing like the trip on that size pontoon boat had been done. So we sent a letter to the Guinness people."

They initially accepted the project, and it went from there.

"He was looking for a meaningful retirement project," said wife Jean.

She accompanied him on the first leg of his stretch, from the downtown launch to Clewiston. He will then stop at many locations along the East Coast to promote his mission.

Sinko will have a traveling companion, his chocolate labrador, Chase. At the launch, Chase couldn't wait to get out on the water.

Many from Sabal Springs are excited about this venture, including Matera.

"I've known George for over 10 years, For anybody else (to try this) I'd say they were crazy, but George can pull it off," Matera said.

"When we talked about this at the Palms restaurant, several suggested I talk to the Guinness World Record people about this - they said it hadn't been done," said Sinko.

Bill Banfield has known Sinko since 1985. "He did two tours in Laos in Media with Special Forces. We met when he was coming home and I was going to Vietnam.

"Sinko has excellent navigational capabilities," Banfield said. "If he runs into a problem, he'll figure it out."

When Sinko started on The Patriot, it was an old boat basically a shell, which he gutted and completely refurbished.

The North Fort Myers Neighbor photos of the launch are key to proving his documented journey, he said.

You can learn more about the Special Operations Warrior Foundation at



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