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February 22, 2008

Maltese Falcon on Fishery Patrol

Tom Perkins swims with the fishes.

© 2008 Tom Perkins

"We have finished four of the most incredible days of diving ever," reports Tom Perkins of the Belvedere-based 289-ft Dyna-Rig Maltese Falcon from Cocos Island, Costa Rica. "The eight or so species of sharks in the Cocos were in full abundance, the water clear, and the temperature perfect. The accompanying photo is typical of the 2.5-meter hammerheads we saw, and we swam with hundreds. Cocos Island is a diver’s paradise, and the island itself is beautiful. Cocos is the world’s largest uninhabited island — only a handful of park rangers, camping ashore, together with a young marine biologist (who joined us for some dives), are present.

"We were told that their ‘patrol boat’, a 12-ft outboard-powered skiff, was out of commission with motor troubles. Accordingly, fishing boats from several nations were poaching by fishing well inside the 12-mile prohibited zone. When we departed Cocos after dark, we immediately encountered seven illegal fishing boats only three miles offshore. In the darkness they interpreted our radar footprint — which must be awesome with our high carbon masts and reflective carbon yards — as probably that of a warship so, upon our approach they pulled their nets and headed for legal waters. We chased them for a couple of hours in radio silence, scanned the horizon with our powerful searchlight, and saw them over the border. They’ll be back, of course, but it was fun helping enforce the law, if only for a few hours."

Soanya Ahmad Jumps Ship

When Reid Stowe and Soanya Ahmad left Hoboken, New Jersey, on April 21, 2007, their plan was to sail Stowe’s 70-ft schooner Anne out of sight of land for 1,000 days non-stop. Stowe, 56, had been dreaming of the voyage for many years and dubbed it the Mars Ocean Odyssey, referring to the time it would take  for a round trip to the Red Planet.

During the planning, preparation and fundraising stage of Stowe’s ‘Odyssey’, the then-19-year-old Ahmad was introduced to the skipper. A romance blossomed and she was soon invited to become crew for the trip. As of their departure date, Ahmad had never sailed more than a few daysails on the Hudson River.

The couple had many detractors and critics. For example, Gordon Hargraves reported "For those of you who live, work or visit NYC, it was easy to access his boat on the West Side, just north of the Chelsea piers. From the dock, the boat appeared to be in poor shape. As an example, the sails looked particularly shabby and were always left exposed to the sun, so one has to assume there was significant UV damage – hard to see how they can last 1,000 days at sea." Indeed, Anne‘s mainsail blew out just a few days ago and Stowe has resorted to his tattered spare.

But the pair ignored such naysayers and continued on for the better part of a year. That’s not to say they didn’t have problems. Just 15 days out, Anne struck a container ship in the middle of the night — presumably because Stowe and Ahmad were down below sleeping — breaking the bowsprit and requiring serious jury-rigging. Through their blog, they recounted their adventures while adding a serene glow to it all.

Soanya Ahmad, 25, who’s lost an alarming amount of weight since the beginning of the trip, waves goodbye as she prepares to leave Anne.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Apparently, it wasn’t all rosy as yesterday they unexpectedly announced on their blog that Ahmad was leaving the boat. It seems that, since they entered the Southern Ocean in December, she hasn’t been able to shake her seasickness, leaving her nearly immobile. (While some may think that’s a flimsy excuse, unchecked seasickness can lead to extremely serious health problems.) This morning she was plucked off Anne near Australia, out of sight of land so as to maintain one of Stowe’s many hopeful ‘records’, and is headed back home to New York.

In the meantime, Stowe will continue on in his quest to be recognized for the following records:

  • Longest man and woman sea voyage — At 306 days, no couple has ever stayed at sea longer.
  • Longest consecutive time at sea for a woman — Ahmad has this one hands down.
  • Longest time out of sight of land — He has a ways to go for this one. Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev holds the record for the longest total stay in space, clocking 803 days.
  • Longest non-stop American sea voyage — Initially, Stowe wanted the ‘longest non-stop sea voyage’ record, currently held by Aussie Jon Sanders for 657 days spent at sea. If he falls short, tacking ‘American’ to it still makes it a record, right?
  • Longest space analogous experiment on the ocean — Is this really a record?

The next 700 days will be made harder for Stowe now that he’s alone. Not only will he be responsible for all the duties onboard, but such solitude can often be crippling itself. To follow his journey, go to

Cheyenne at Nelson’s

Swingin’ cat – Cheyenne in the slings at Nelsons.

© 2008 Mark Featherstone

The late Steve Fosset’s 125-ft catamaran Cheyenne is on the hard at Nelson’s to assess damage reportedly caused by an exploded liferaft canister. There’s been no word yet as to the extent of the damage. Most recently, she was converted to a power cat and served as the camera platform for filming Roy Disney’s Morning Light project in 2007 — chasing the project’s namesake Transpac 52 across the Pacific. Prior to that, she set what’s now the third fastest time around the globe under sail. She was commissioned by Fosset, and designed by the Southern California firm Morelli and Melvin to compete as PlayStation in Bruno Peyron’s The Race at the turn of the millenium.

International Boat Watch Network is asking for help in tracking down Ralph "Jeff" Peak, 59, aboard the 32-ft woodie Richmond II.
If you think the threat of a little rain is going to stop the hardy ladies signed up for this Saturday’s Sadie Hawkins Race on the Estuary, think again, buster.