Blown sails were problematic, but they paled in comparison to Soanya's chronic seasickness. Ultimately, the couple decided that she'd abandon the voyage and Reid would continue alone, so on Day 306, off Western Australia, Soanya stepped aboard a Royal Perth Yacht Club launch piloted by none other than Aussie sailor Jon Sanders, who holds the record for the longest nonstop solo voyage ever: 657 days. (If Reid reaches 1,000 days, he'll easily break the singlehanded record set by Sanders, but because Soanya sailed the first 306 days with him, he hasn't yet.)
As it turned out, Soanya wasn't only seasick; she was pregnant. Five months later, in July 2008, she gave birth to a boy named Darshen Ahmad Stowe. (Reid has yet to see his son, who's living with his mother in Queens, New York; he likens the situation to his own childhood, when his dad was deployed overseas for long stretches.)
By that time, the new father had experienced more torn sails off South Australia as well as a busted desalinator, so he decided to sail north across the equator and into the North Pacific to fill his water tanks with rainwater. With that mission accomplished, and now well into his second year under way, he turned back toward Cape Horn to complete his first circumnavigation aboard Anne. In an e-mail message, Reid described what happened next:
"After I filled my water tanks, I decided to sail south back into the trade winds. I let nature dictate my course, continuing with my daily seamanship work as usual. At the bottom of the trade winds, I got a wind shift, and as it was much too early to head to Cape Horn, I followed the wind around and headed back up into warmer weather.
"Around October 2 , I got an e-mail from an old sailing buddy saying, 'Congratulations, Reid, you've drawn a whale with your course.' I looked at my map, and sure enough, it was a 4,600-nautical-mile whale! This accidental art confirmed to me that I was in tune with the ocean, as my style of sailing created an unbelievable but true spiritual and technical wonder. This gave me the freedom to go deeper into oceanic prayer, and I slowed down and looked around in awe and wonder. My divine spirit swelled with love. This is where I am now, living out my lifelong dream close to the sea and the grace of the universe."
With that, Reid rounded the Horn and sailed back into the Atlantic, where he passed the two-year milestone on Day 730 and kept right on going.
The Love Voyage
In early August, I sent Reid an e-mail asking the exact date of his 1,000th day and where precisely he planned on concluding his journey in early 2010. A few days later came this reply:
"I still plan on arriving in [New York City, but] not on Day 1,000. It is no longer that to me. Nor is it the Mars Ocean Odyssey. Anyone who has been reading my story closely knows that. It is now The Love Voyage, and I intend for The Love Voyage to go on. And when I do come back, The Love Voyage will continue and keep going and take on new direction and meaning."
Along the way, Reid has had his detractors, some of whom seem dangerously obsessive. One such critic has gone so far as to build entire websites devoted to Reid's claims, deeds, and transgressions over the years.
"I'm not a perfect sailor, and they've found some flaws," Reid says of his more vocal denouncers. "They don't like my lifestyle, my philosophy, my woman, my personality, my boat, and perhaps the fact that I'm following my dreams. But I can't see how any man who spends any amount of time at sea alone could hate me. At sea, you learn respect; otherwise, you couldn't do it."
Here's how Reid has described his quest: "I've come to see that my mission is to inspire the world while using love to adapt to living with the forces of the sea. The human society part of me says, 'You must go; set a course.' The divine searcher side of me says, 'Pray here for a while; this is your place, your moment.' I've always seen my journeys into the wilderness of the sea as a spiritual quest. The winds and seas and wildlife follow me saying, 'Save us.' I say, 'Take me where you will, I'm seaworthy.'"
Meanwhile, he sails on and on. "I'm on the back side of the Atlantic trades," he wrote in his last e-mail to me, "sailing gently, having new experiences."
Where and how will this odyssey, this very long journey through space and time, ultimately end? Only Reid knows. Like Kurtz, the rogue ivory trader in Conrad's Heart of Darkness, he's ventured to the far side of his soul. But while Kurtz chose to dance with the darkness, Reid has tacked for the opposite shore and is flirting with different obsessions. Alone with his sea, he's bathing himself in the light.
Herb McCormick is a CW editor at large.