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.
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 www.1000days.net.