Best of ExplorersWeb 2010 Awards: Mars Ocean Odyssey

Posted: Dec 29, 2010 04:18 am EST

He didn't go mad, and the boat held up well. But Reid Stowe encountered another dilemma: Who will make the new rules when astronauts actually go to space? The voyage a world record and the skipper a friend: today's ExplorersWeb award goes to the 1000-day Mars Ocean Odyssey.

Meeting Reid

We first heard about him on a Manhattan pier, where we were sending off a polar helicopter crew. An onlooker turned to us and said, "have you heard of the guy who wants to spend 1000 days at sea? He is on the other pier down there."

We found Reid refitting his ancient 76-foot Schooner by a dock in mid-Manhattan. We'd spend evenings debating the voyage with his artist friends by a wood stove casting shadows at the carved walls around us. The idea was grand but the project seemed too monumental. Truth to be told, we never really believed that Reid would ever really leave. Some time later, at a cafe, he offered us to come with him. We stared at him in disbelief. To join him on a rocket to Mars, sure, but this? Never.

Reid saw the 1000 days as a space type expedition because the voyage would involve the same length of time as a round trip to Mars. Moreover, it would address the very issue most feared by NASA astronauts: total isolation.

And then Reid said goodbye. To our big surprise, with three years of food and supplies, now reportedly with a certain Soanya Ahmad onboard: schooner Anne sailed off on April 21, 2007 -- three months after the first iPhone was introduced.

A son named Darshen

The first meteorite hit in the Atlantic on Day 15 -- a freighter impact that resulted in the loss of the bowsprit. In the South Indian Ocean, both the foresail and mainsail were gone. On day 306, Soanya was out.

Seasick for much of her time on the voyage, in January she and Stowe decided she would have to leave the boat. A docking at sea with another ship was arranged. Once ashore and back in the States, the real story came out: Soanya was pregnant and on July 16, 2008, Reid had his first kid: a son named Darshen Ahmad Stowe.

Reid's parallel universe

Somewhere around this time, the Chinese Olympics kicked off. Now with HQ in Colorado, ExplorersWeb needed someone in New York to shoot a pic of the "Red torch for Tibet" banner we flew over the Financial district and Statue of Liberty. In a sleepy summer Manhattan, Reid's home team kindly snapped the picture and sent it our way.

And so the voyage continued, with Reid living in his parallel universe and the old world rushing by. The Wall Street crashed, and then the banks. Reid navigated yet another symbolic turtle with his ship on the Oceans, and America got its first black president.


Stowe posted frequent posts and pictures on the 1000 days website. He didn't lose his mind, although some of his dispatches made us wonder what exactly he was growing in his sunny cabin. But that was just Reid, who also offered interesting perspectives:

"Will astronauts be able to communicate without censorship?" he asked in one of the dispatches, and continued, "How about religious statements or discussing social and environmental issues or their ideas about political propaganda?"

Good question. Astronauts' emails from the Space Station are already closely monitored we knew. And Reid went on:

"Will astronauts be able to gamble or do business from space? What if they want to teach or preach? So many rules. Who will make new ones and enforce and change them? There is so much to figure out on the human level."

Hard work and a whole lot of love

Before Reid, Australian Jon Sanders16 had the record for continuous solo sailing: 657 days. On 16 January 2010; following 1,000 days at sea without touch of land or taking any resupplies, Reid broke this world record and then some -- just as the Droid was launched.

The old sails worn out, his last laptop shot on day 970, Reid decided to stay out a while longer, and wait for better landing weather. His hull, the mast, the rigging and electrical system were all holding up great. He had spares, and plenty of food. Nothing had been left to luck, or metric confusion.

About to meet his son for the first time, Stowe returned to New York in June, 2010. Following more than three years of total isolation out at sea, his simple message to future astronauts: With hard work on every level and a whole lot of love, it is possible for normal people to achieve what has never been dreamed of.

Reid's Schooner Anne has proved her seaworthiness throughout the world's oceans: in Antarctica (1987); on the 100 day out-of-sight of land North Atlantic (1994); on the 200 day Odyssey of the Sea Turtle (1996); and on the Voyage of the Argonauts (1998), where she survived a knockdown by a 60-foot rogue wave. There are numerous written and photographic accounts of the building of the Anne and her voyages, and all supporting publications are available on Reid's website.

While docked in New York over a period of several years, Stowe, along with numerous sponsors and friends refurbished and refitted the schooner to ready her for the 1,000 days voyage. The schooner contained three years of food and supplies and provided its own energy from sun and sea for lights, winch and satellite communications through the use of solar panels and water generators driven by the forward motion of the boat. The Anne, in addition to not resupplying on the voyage, had been off shore power since September of 2006, a full 225 days before her departure on April 21, 2007.

Previous Awards in 2010

4. Best of ExplorersWeb 2010 Awards: Mars Ocean Odyssey
5. Teen solo world circumnavigation, Jessica Watson
6. Indian Ocean row, Erden Eruc
7. Himalayan Knights, Joao García and Piotr Pustelnik
8. North Pole circumnavigation, Peter 1st and Northern Passage

Special mentions:
Dan Darley and Amelia Russell; North Pole unsupported
Ed Stafford (and Cho); Amazon from source to sea
Valery Rozov; Antarctica BASE jump
Jean-Louis Etienne; North Pole crossing in a rozière balloon.
Special climbs: Denis Urubko's Lhotse, Basque traverse on Broad Peak, Ukraine nMakalu, Ralf and Gerlinde's Everest, Eric Larsen's Everest, Chad Kellogg on Aconcagua.

We have covered hundreds of expeditions in 2010. It's difficult to choose the best, as they all contributed in their own way, sharing their story - their very soul in fact - with us and the world.

And yet, there are those who continue to linger in our minds long after their final debrief. We have chosen 8 expeditions who have contributed in an extraordinary way to the Spirit of Adventure in 2010.

By their performance, these expeditions have proved themselves outstanding in all or most of the following:

- Courage
- Determination
- Persistence
- Self reliance
- Ingenuity
- Pioneering
- Idealism
- Comradeship
- Compassion
- Respect towards competition
- Honesty

#Oceans #Space #topstory

Image by reid Stowe courtesy Reid Stowe, SOURCE
Soanya was pregnant and on July 16, 2008, Reid had his first kid: a son named Darshen Ahmad Stowe.
Being solo again was a bit emotional for Reid.
Some of his dispatches made us wonder what exactly he was growing on his ship.
Reid provisioned well before his departure, but was supplying with fresh fish, rainwater and desilnated water, and sprouts that he grew from his beans during the journey.
One of Reid's beautiful carvings, the ship is full of them (check background in image).
Climbing the mast.
"Is praying to God for better weather considered assistance?" Reid asked at one point.
A Mars rocket crew will have to be self-reliant. Reid dealt with all the wear-and-tear without too much trouble. The ship arrived home battered but holding up well.
The 76-foot, 2-masted, 50-ton Schooner Anne, named after Stowe's mother, is based on a nineteenth-century Gloucester fishing schooner. Built by Reid with his family in their North Carolina seashore front yard in 1978, the Anne has been Stowe's home and platform for over 27 years of compelling voyages.

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