The Schooner AnneOCTOBER 11, 2008
- 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.
"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.
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