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Listening In

The Schooner Anne

Gideon D'Arcangelo

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Reid Stowe on the Schooner Anne
(Courtesy of Reid Stowe)
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On April 23, 2007, Reid Stowe and Soanya Ahmad set out from New York harbor on an ambitious sailing voyage. Their goal was to sail for 1000 days without touching land, carrying all their provisions with them. Reid and Soanya set out to beat the world record of endurance sailing - sailing without resupply - which currently stands at 658 days, held by Australian sailor Jon Sanders. This weekend, the voyage has lasted just under 540 days. In the next installment of our "Listening In" series, producer Gideon D'Arcangelo talks with Reid and Soanya to find out how music helps mark the time out on the open seas.

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"I'm in the South Pacific," says Reid, "A thousand miles south of the Galapagos Islands, right in the middle of the wide open part of the open ocean." He's standing on the deck of the Schooner Anne, the 70-foot wooden boat he built himself some 31 years ago. Reid is on his satellite phone, telling me how he survives out on the water day to day.

"First thing I do is I check the deck, because I've been getting a lot of flying fish on deck, and they're delicious." When fish don't come straight to Reid, he catches them the traditional way, with a line. He gets his veggies by sprouting mung beans for salads. But life on a boat isn't always that romantic.

"There were times when we ran out of something in the galley, that's the kitchen," says Soanya, Reid's girlfriend and partner on the voyage. She's back on land now. We'll get to that in a minute.

"If we ran out of oats," she says, "we'd have to go get more oats in the cargo hold. The cargo hold is all stacked with boxes chest high…So we'd start into that stack of heavy boxes, moving them aside. Dolly Parton would be blasting, 'Workin' 9 to 5' and we'd be sampling our dates, and going 'Oh my gosh, we haven't had dates in months…'"

But life for Soanya on the Schooner Anne wasn't all work.

"Sometimes after dinner, we'd just sit outside on the cockpit table. Sometimes we'd put on some very slow instrumental music." Soanya plays me an instrumental track that she had on the voyage.

"Sailors are not supposed to like being becalmed, but that was some of my favorite times, when the winds stopped. Usually I would say this happened in the Doldrums, around the equator, in the Mid Atlantic. So we'd be becalmed, no wind, the boat would just be there, on the ocean. And the water would be glassy. Then we'd also have a school of mahi-mahi following us, and those are rainbow fish: very beautiful, iridescent colors. Unfortunately, when you catch them and kill them, their colors fade to grey, so they look like any other fish. But in the water, they're like magic fish."

Calm moments like this were rare, and Soanya found herself becoming overwhelmed with sea-sickness. After 305 days, the non-stop record for a woman at sea, a boat had to come and pick her up off the coast of Australia. For nearly eight months now, Reid has been sailing solo.

"After 500 days, and some very stormy weather, my sails have gotten quite damaged, and that's a lot of hard work for me, sewing my sails and keeping them together. Usually I put music on when I go into my cargo hold to sew sails. Surprisingly, I've had this Jimmy Buffett thing going. It's music that I can sing along with, and it's music about sailing."

Reid is preparing to round Cape Horn, the tip of South America, which is infamous for its hazardous currents and rough weather. As the months of sailing solo wear on, Reid is reaching for songs that make him feel most connected to his people back home.

"It seems I've reverted back to a lot of old classic rock and roll," says Reid, sounding a little surprised, "and it just makes me feel good. And the songs remind me of my youth, when it was an innocent time and I was happy and carefree. Like, 'Wooden Ships,' by Crosby Stills and Nash. And when I play it now, it reminds me of the innocence of my youth, and being at home with my loving parents and family, and those things that are so far from me right now."

When Reid finally returns to land, he will be welcomed by a new face at the shore. Remember Soanya's seasickness?

"I suspected by the time I got off in Australia, but I did not know for sure," remembers Soanya. "When I got off, I checked and yes, I was pregnant!"

Reid and Soanya's son, Darshen, was born in July. It was a tough call, but together they decided that Reid will stay the course and try to break the endurance sailing record.

"Time is passing fast," says Reid. "Like Ulysses, it will be a little while before I get home, but I'll be home to my family, and I'm looking forward to it."

Darshen will be almost two years old when Reid sails into New York harbor in the spring of 2010. After his 1000 days at sea, the family will be united for the first time, and you can be sure there'll be a happy celebration on the Schooner Anne.

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Postscript: We received comments on this piece questioning whether the current endurance sailing record is held by Jon Sanders of Australia or the crew of the Fram in the 1890s. According to The Guinness Book of World Records, Jon Sanders holds the record at 658 days. We recognize, though, that records are difficult to pin down and can be open to interpretation.

More stories from our Listening In series

Comments

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  • By Regatta Dog

    From Pacific Gyre, 12/02/2008

    CB - I don't have a policy, I have a hobby. Please take a few minutes to visit the two blogs set up to follow Reid from a less than flattering viewpoint and you'll see that they've been inactive for months. I think you are misguided by how much time and effort I spend on this. Right now I'm probably typing a response that will be read by an audience of one - you.

    I also agree that there are far bigger threats to our environment than Reid and the Anne. Nothing is deserving of criticism until it has been confirmed. At this point, the fate of the tires is merely an inquiry.

    By Concerned Bystander

    From ME, 11/30/2008

    In other words, you would rather stick to your policy of blackening Reid Stowe's name as often as you can and by any and all means possible. Very well, but, as I stated before, it blunts any real points that you have to make.

    For instance, I would agree that Reid's claiming any kind of environmental
    benefit for the world due to his trip is inappropriate, but complaining about a pile of tires that may or may not have fallen overboard? How many thousands of gallons of oil is spilled into the oceans every year by supertankers? Do you really think this constitutes a worthwhile criticism?

    By Regatta Dog

    From Prayer Mountain, CT, 11/29/2008

    Concerned Bystander - Challenge the facts. BTW - Some people at Sailing Anarchy are wondering what happened to all those tires that were on deck when he left New Jersey. They're not there now. Are they stowed below deck now or have they been dumped into the ocean?

    By Concerned Bystander

    From ME, 11/28/2008

    So two years alone at sea is a cruise? Believe me, your blogging suggests something more than embarrassment when it come to the subject of Reid Stowe. You also have the bad politician's habit of attacking every aspect of the man and his admittedly strange goal. You would be more persuasive to rational people (who aren't quite willing believe that he's the devil himself) if you just chose the one aspect of this whole thing that you find the most objectionable and stuck to that. Is it his past and his lifestyle that should concern us, or that he hasn't lived up to his stated goal, or that that goal isn't worthwhile in the first place? All your endless pages of angry ranting only serve to blunt any legitimate points that you may also have.

    By Regatta Dog

    From CT, 11/22/2008

    Concerned Bystander -- Reid has not been out for three years and has yet to complete a single circumnavigation, which would still fall short of the goal he set for himself of 3. I happily pay my child support and am an integral part of the daily lives of my children. My off shore experience is limited mostly by choice, as my responsibilities and lifestyle are not conducive to extended time away from home - I support my children financially and emotionally. I have no interest in wasting 3 years of my life in what amounts to aquatic pole sitting. I have too much integrity to abandon the responsibilities in my life, and I don't envy Reid Stowe a bit but rather am embarrassed for him. I don't think that taking off for 3 years with an outstanding child support debt is courageous, I believe it is cowardly.

    If you choose to support a person who has abandoned responsibility for his own child and shamelessly solicited funds based on false claims and promises, that's your choice, but I believe most people have much higher standards.

    By Concerned Bystander

    From ME, 11/17/2008

    Calling a circumnavigation and three years of singlehanded sailing on the open ocean a cruise? Who would make such a statement? Well, if you read even a little bit of the rest of "Regatta Dog's" mountains of blogging on the subject of Reid Stowe, it quickly becomes clear that he himself is a divorced father who has issues with paying his own child support. In other words, this is a personal issue for him. "RD" is also a club sailor who's probably only been offshore once or twice in his life, and never singlehanded. One can only hope that someday his odious life obligations will free him to take a journey like this himself--since he's clearly so jealous of it--although one has to wonder, if it ever came down to it, whether he'd have the courage to do anything like this himself.

    By regatta dog

    From CT, 10/26/2008

    Bill -- I don't know why someone posting facts about Reid is being hurtful. He's a convicted drug smuggler and deadbeat dad. Those are facts, not opinions.

    You mention that his efforts could be educational and meaningful to all of us. The educational goals that he himself set have not been realized and there's no chance they will be. So what does Reid do? He changes the goals. Meaningful? If you can find meaning in any of this, I congratulate you. Maybe you could enlighten me on what's meaningful about taking a 1000 day, all expenses paid cruise on a 70 foot sailing yacht.

    By bill stevens

    From pittsburgh, PA, 10/23/2008

    I just discovered this and it sounds like something that could turn into an epic story of survival. I went to th website and read up on a few things, and he seems like a wonderfully earnest person who is trying his best to find meaning in life through solitude. I simply don't understand the slew of negative hurtful comments here from people who have nothing in mind but destroying this person's efforts to make his trip (and life) meaningful. What's with all the smears? Even if half this stuff is as bad as these characters who are commeting here are making it out to be, this person should be heroized for attempting to DO SOMETHING with his life and talents. Shame on all of you!!! Does anyone here realize that Mr. Stowe, if the worst is true of his past, is trying his best to do that which is the most difficult of things for all older american adults: have a "second (or third) act" in his american life? Fitzgerald be damned - this guy has survived so far for 500+ non-stop days in a boat he made himself carrying only that which he departed with! This is such a wonderful "green" example of what can be done to conserve and live peacefully in the worst of odds and conditions. Is this what people have to look forward to if they try to change their lives and move in a different direction? A hundred naysayers and armchair idiots trying to impugn his every effort? Why don't you folks get a life and try and understand that this effort and his great perserverance is something that should be applauded and could possibly be very educational and meaningful for all of us? Try harder to see the forest, and not try to see that the hiker knock his head on every tree. You people are simply being the ugliest americans possible... Doesn't anyone see ANYTHING positive in all this? If you don't then I think you should all disappear - life is too short to focus on the negatives. you're losing me, and I would love to see this guy do what he has set out to do ~ and when he does, I for one, am going to search him out and shake his hand. Horray for the adventurer - let the idiots be silenced!

    By Billy Backstay

    10/13/2008

    Most sailors who have spent time offshore recognize that this so-called "mission", is merely a publicity stunt by a narcissist, trying to scam donations from non-sailors. He cares not about his girlfriend Soanya, who is younger than his owne daughter, or their son. He only cares about himself, and boosting his inflated self-ego. This 1000 days of aimless drifting is a joke. And to compare himself to the likes of Jon Sanders and other real adventurers is highly offensive to many real sailors all over the world

    By regatta dog

    From Duracell, CT, 10/12/2008

    To keep going and going and going takes a good battery or a pink bunny and a drum.

    What's all this stuff about Reid and drugs and back child support?

    Are there so many naysayers out there or is there any truth to the accusations? If these people can't back up their negative accusations about Reid, they should be sued.

    By angie lowe

    From nyc, NY, 10/12/2008

    I think this voyage speaks for itself, whatever the background on the Captain may be. I have never heard of anyone who wanted to stay out at sea for so long. Ask anyone who has actually been out on the ocean if its easy to be out there for even two months without re-supply, much less almost three years without resupply. The constant assault of salt air, pounding waves, stiff winds and usual storms will take its toll on any manmade vessel in a very short period of time. To keep going and going and going requires many skills, from seamanship to construction knowledge. Anyone who can sail for as long as Reid Stowe already has deserves a gold medal.

    By Tom McGow

    From Lake Worth, FL, 10/12/2008

    I'm a sailor too, been at it for over 40 years. And yes I find some aspects of his trip interesting.

    However the fact remains he is not doing what he told others he was going to do in order to raise funds and secure sponsorships. I am not sure how that elevates his status above the "Wall Street Captains" Mr. Jones compares him too.

    Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I cannot give my respect to a venture that was in a large part by seemingly false claims as to what it was intended to accomplish.

    By Jayson Jones

    From Mt. Gilead, OH, 10/12/2008

    Despite the above, I have great respect for Stowe, and his adventure. Leaving aside any 'record' or 'degree of difficulty', Stowe is doing what he set out to do....1000 days at sea without support from land.

    I am a sailor, having owned and sailed several boats over the years. I get the point about not 'racing around', about the beauty of being on the ocean without the urge to 'go fast' or go 'dangerous'.

    As to the 'criminal record', 'child support arrears' and other defamatory tidbits...so what. It is very seldom that anything or anyone is exactly what they appear to be. That a 26 year old decides to sail away with a 56 year old is a story as old as the sea, and "good on you, Mate" to Stowe and Soanya.

    I love stories like this, and hear them so seldom on public media that this gem got me interested enough to check further. I certainly respect both these people more than I respect the Wall Street Captains who are ripping off all of us while being fetted as "Important People", certainly more than our politicians who turn which ever way the money flows from, and certainly more than those who spend their time denigrating others who are actually living their dreams.

    Jayson R. Jones

    By Tom McGow

    From Lake Worth, FL, 10/11/2008

    Speaking of fact checking, Anne is not a wooden boat. She is built of steel mesh, "ferra-lite" and polyester resin.

    By Regatta Dog

    10/11/2008

    Hey Gideon,

    That's a great background check you did on Reid before the interview. Check out Wikipedia and type in "Reid Stowe".

    BTW - The beautiful Mahi Mahi --- He killed them whilst listening to CSN.........he didn't mention Young.....and the rainbow of a magnificent denizen of the deep after he killed it, turned gray....because his ego feeds on rainbows, dude.

    By Pilar Quezzaire

    From Brighton, MA, 10/11/2008

    This story makes me a little sick. Soanya Ahmad is really stupid if she thinks this jaunt's going to have a happy ending. Daddy is a deadbeat and a loser. In the NPR interview I heard from both of them...it's wildly clear she's not aware of the court battles she's going to go through, and he doesn't seem too excited about having a kid.

    No wonder. Kids are money, and take away from useless voyages.

    By Regatta Dog

    From Sacred Sea, CT, 10/11/2008

    "For those of you who don't know--and of course how could you--"Regatta Dog" is a mildly disturbed individual who has become dangerously obsessed with Reid, Soanya, and this voyage."

    Hey Concerned By Guy - My mild disturbance is what makes me so cute. I am a danger to no one other than myself. For example - this morning I waxed the hardwood floor in the dining room and ran around the table about a gazillion times with scissors. I think that's probably a record for circumnavigating a dining room table in socks while carrying scissors. The previous record was held by a guy named "Edward". If anyone knows of more laps around a dining room table whilst carrying scissors and clad in hosiery, please let me know.

    RD

    By jerry king

    From brooklyn, NY, 10/11/2008

    Mr. Stowe's adventure might be impressive to someone unfamiliar with the sea however offshore voyagers are not only unimpressed but insulted by this endeavor. While Jon Sanders with whom he compares himself with completed 3 circumnavigations in a vessel less than half the size and therefore half as fast as Stowe's, Stowe will complete one with difficuty if he is lucky and require over 50% more time to do that. Most of the time he is drifting about aimlessly or in circles in the calmest and most tranquil areas of the ocean. Yes he has rounded the Cape of Good Hope and has to round Cape Horn however that isthe extent of his brief exposure to ant areas that might prove challenging. Even after sailing just below Australia he immediately headed north rather than pass South of New Zealand and slightly more difficult conditions.

    Being on a boat for 1000 days without resupply could have been done at anchor in NY harbor, but that even might have been too cold for our intrepid mariner.

    This is a more of apublicity stunt, not a voyage that is heralded by the sailing community.

    Want to see a purposeful singlehanded voyage? Google the Vendee Globe website.
    Here men and women singlehandedly confront the most dangerous waters of the world with purpose. You won't see one of them doing lazy circles in balmy tropical or subtropical waters for months on end.

    By Tom McGow

    From Lake Worth, FL, 10/11/2008

    Often news stories include the ages of the people involved. I thought it is worth noting in this story as well Reid Stowe 56,Soanya Ahmad 25.

    By Concerned Bystander

    From RI, 10/11/2008

    For those of you who don't know--and of course how could you--"Regatta Dog" is a mildly disturbed individual who has become dangerously obsessed with Reid, Soanya, and this voyage.

    By Tom McGow

    From Lake Worth, FL, 10/11/2008

    I am sure people will call me negative for posting this, however before Lionizing Mr. Stowe I would suggest that you look into his past. It would also be worth looking at the manner in which his "project" portrayed itself and solicited funds and compare it to the actual manner in which this "voyage" has been under taken. It is also worth noting that the longest period of time humans have "Left Terra Ferma" (a phrase Mr. Stowe uses frequently) is in the order of 1,153 days, by the crew of the Fram in the 1890's. A little research before posting a story goes a long way.

    By Regatta Dog

    From CT, 10/11/2008

    Oh Boy. Here we go.

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