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Reid Stowe: Home After Three Years at Sea

Round the world sailing is in the news. We talk with a sailor who just made it home, after a thousand days at sea.

Reid Stowe and Soanya Ahmad stand aboard their 70 foot gaff-rigged Schooner Anne, Friday, April 20, 2007(AP)

Reid Stowe and Soanya Ahmad stand aboard their 70 foot gaff-rigged Schooner Anne, Friday, April 20, 2007(AP)

Sixteen-year-old Abby Sunderland didn’t make it, sailing around the world.

She scuppered off South Africa. Had to be plucked from the sea by a French fishing boat. Fifty-eight year old Reid Stowe did make it around the world. But not in a hurry.

He took 1152 days to do it, never setting foot on land. Set records, on purpose, for the length of his time at sea. Most of it solo. Without re-supply, for more than a thousand days.

What’s the allure of the endless sail? The challenge? We’ll ask.

This hour, On Point: Reid Stowe, on his vast global voyage, on his schooner at sea.


Reid Stowe, sailor who smashed all existing records by spending three years at sea

Soanya Ahmad, Stowe’s partner. She was his shipmate during the first 306 days of the voyage.

Charles Doane, editor-at-large at Sail magazine joins us from his boat in Bermuda.  He followed Stowe’s voyage.

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  • AL

    You know, I’m all for folks going on adventures and such, but with these kids going out and sailing around the world solo what always returns to my mind is “must be nice to be wealthy enough to take on these silly endeavors”. Like the kid that was all over the news last year for sailing solo around the world. Is he a hero? Or is it really that his family had the (substantial) resources to support his venture, and that’s the bottom line?

    When I was 16 or 17 I was working after school & on weekends, scraping money together for college. It would have been impossible for me to sail around the world because my family didn’t have the resources.

    My point is that I have a hard time getting fired up about the foolish pursuits of rich people and celebrating them like some huge human achievment when the primary factor in the venture is personal wealth.

  • Todd

    Yup, what AL said!

  • Kash Hoffa

    The age discrepancy between Reid and his girlfriend is disturbing – and no, I is not player hatin!


  • Dirk Funk

    A couple of years ago, I started (accidenally) getting e-mails from a couple who were sailing around the world in their boat. I have to admit that I occasionally think about them and what they are up to while I am tethered to my 9-5 desk job and I do get a little bit jealous.

  • Linda

    Great adventure, and really a ‘luxury’ for young folks if they can do that. Is this a ‘luxury’?

  • Nick

    This is not news worthy; wealthy adventurers.

    Watch out for the book + documentary!!

  • Danielle

    Sounds like these Reid and Soanya hooked up on the boat. Sounds like he didn’t care too much about the baby or its mama.

  • Paul

    Very interesting, thanks. I would like to see a book and documentary. Tom, could you ask Reid how he financed the voyage?

  • hiero2

    Neither Neil nor Abby are rich, at least in money. They made it happen.

  • Lynn B.

    Reading some of the comments tells me some people don’t understand. I spent 90 days in the Indian Ocean while in the U.S.Navy. I must say that it is nothing like 3 years.I want to sail maybe not around the world but the down in the Islands.You are and inspiration. Some day,some day.

  • Dean Crowell

    Hi Tom,

    Wasn’t Capt Slocum the first recorded solo circumnavigator…
    ..in 1895? (Boston April 25, 1895, returning to Newport RI June 27, 1898)

    Thanks! Dean

  • Will Doar

    Congrats to Reid! I am a first-cousin of his and think that such an achieved goal is spectacular!
    Much of preparations for his trip was provided by friends, family, volunteers, donations, fund raisers, etc.
    I am so happy your show has picked this story up!

    Fair Winds!

  • Will Doar

    BTW, Reid’s Uncle Bill is currently sailing back from Bermuda on his 40′ sloop “Advent II” on which he and his wife sailed around the world a few years ago. We are a sailing family.

  • jim charles

    Thank you for a terrific story about a very brave artist and sailor. What a great guest is Reid Stowe.

  • Bob

    Wonderful Interview!

    What about pirates ??

    any close calls, dangerous areas ??


    Sounds like these Reid and Soanya hooked up on the boat. Sounds like he didn’t care too much about the baby or its mama.

    Posted by Danielle

    I agree Danielle, but they both should have discussed the possibility and thought about birth control before they left on such a momentous trip. Didn’t open the medical kit, huh, no condoms in there I guess!

  • Polly

    What an insufferable egotist!

  • Booker Feld

    Reid does not appear to be a wealthy guy. He had help from friends, family, and sponsors. He appears to have invested much of his own effort in preparing and planning for the voyage. He certainly was not handed a boat. It seems like it took him decades to make the trip happen. He should be an inspiration to all. Too bad that some can not appreciate and enjoy the accomplishments of others.

  • Justin

    “they both should have discussed the possibility and thought about birth control before they left on such a momentous trip”

    they did. neither intended for the pregnancy to happen, but that’s the way things go..

  • denise bartolac

    your experiences were wonderful to share in…especially the sealife that hovered around you…you went on a quest and are the hero of your own story!!!

  • Miranda

    Shaman of the Sea. Thank you for this amazing story – what an antidote for these saddest of days concerning the oil spill. I hope he brings his presence to the Gulf of Mexico. Perhaps I am a dreamer, but for me, these kinds of spiritually toned conversations bring in much needed perspective to the destruction that is all around us and our now dying planet. If we all spent some time looking within, maybe humanity would make life giving choices and we could all live in that “state of grace”.

  • joshua

    Great comment Al–I would love to be a sailor but one has got to be filthy rich, maybe inherit wealth.

    i dont get the point of breaking records-talk about testosterone nonsense. how about breaking records feeding the poor with all that wealth–or providing health care, or distributing renewable energy, etc…

    These people are disgusting.

  • http://Yahoo.com Anne Stowe

    Reid is a very brave man with a BIG heart… Sorry he comes across as egotistical.. He has had an amazing adventure and we are all very proud of him!

  • Tom

    Don’t take discussion boards seriously Anne. It seems that some people would like everyone on the planet to fit into their own little box.

    Reid will be teaching the world about the ocean for the rest of his life (if they are smart enough to wake up.)
    Thanks !


  • Nick

    In response to Tom (12:41pm):

    Wide awake here!

  • TC

    There were several mentions of a pioneering sailor who sounded interesting, but I could not catch the name — something like “Matissier”. Does anyone know who they were talking about?

  • AL

    While I stand by my original comment, I don’t want to come across as someone who can’t romanticize the notion of sailing around the world, or more, as in Reid Stowe.

    However, as a person with a family that I’m responsible to, and the primary earner, reality always colors my response to stories such as this. Sure, I would love to sail around the world for 3 years – who wouldn’t? Folks who get the opportunity to do so are people of priveledge – even if they don’t have money themselves it’s got to come from somewhere. And that “priveledge” means more than money, it’s the opportunity to have no responsibilities and being able to walk away from whatever life you have to sail around the world for 3 years. It doesn’t take a “hero” to do that, just someone with the opportunity to do so, and I’d wager that most of us dream of such an opportunity.

  • An obese male


  • Hugh S.

    well someone is excitable about the producer.
    I also agree with Al; this idea of the world voyage is so highly romanticized, and an unrealistic hobby for the average person. I’d like to sail around the world just as much as the next guy, but not all of us can have our own fishing schooners.

  • Brad B

    Question; Reid Stowe came back to the Carolinas 1976 after sailing the Atlantic for 2-years. Construction was started right away on Tantra aka Anne in 1985 > 1987. Where did a 24 year old with no job get the money & materials to build a 70′ schooner? If my sons started an endeavor like that they would get a talking to.

    It is public record that Stowe was convicted for his part in smuggling between 26,000 to 30,000 lbs of marijuana 1985 > 1987. Is there a connection? NPR, what say you?

  • Karl K

    Brad B, you certainly know how to make false accusations. Let’s get the dates right here first, before you put NPR on the spot, and try to make them squirm. :)
    The schooner “Anne” was built between the years 1976 and 1978. I don’t know how you can make your accusations, when your dates don’t match with the truth. Go find another place to spread your rumors, maybe at a local pub?

  • http://ronthehanyman.biz ron erle

    nice interview tom. one of your best. whew and woweee.

  • Karl K

    TC, your question was about Bernard Moitessier (Frenchman) who took part in a famous round-the-world sailing race in 1968 called the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, a race to become the first sailor to circumnavigate the earth alone and non-stop. He would have won the race, but instead turned around after nearly completing the circumnavigation, to return to Tahiti. He wrote a famous book on the journey called “The Long Way,” translated to English in 1973.

  • http://kalinasodyssey.blogspot.com/ Justin

    Well done Reid!
    Regardless of wealth or situation in life, sacrifices are made. Great amounts of time and thought are put into traveling on a sailboat. What’s great about sailors is their collective acknowledgement that the sea doesn’t give a shit how much money you have. This tends to make a humble person, out of any adventurist out there on the sea or in the mountains.

  • brad b

    Karl, thank you for correcting me on the dates. Tantra was built from ’76 >’ 78. Why so defensive? No accusations. Just a question, where did the money come from to build Tantra? Where did the money come from to fund the cruises? NPR, facts or Fox.

  • Karl K

    Brad B, I repeat, go find another place to spread your rumors. In any interviews I have heard about Reid Stowe, it is clear that the building of the schooner was a group effort by family and friends. The voyages on his schooner were funded by sponsors and friends who supported what he was doing. Why do you make claims without any background knowledge. Are you a sucker for Fox News?
    So, before you jump to conclusions, do your research and do your speculating at your local pub, with the aid of a good cold pint.

  • http://yahoo. kiran Shah

    Well done Mr.Reid and Soanya.I enjoyed your interview on NPR.Excellent achievement.Is there any other plan to go around world? Best of luck

    Kiran Shah

  • http://jknearomatics@gmail.com Jason Klosse

    Stowe told everyone he was going to do 4 circumnavigations. Did one, drifting with little or no sail up most of the time. He hung out on a boat for 1152 days. No story here.
    Oh yeah, he departed terra firma owing over $10,000 in unpaid child support for a previous child which was finally paid during his voyage. My only hope is that he supports his new son better than his previous offspring.

  • Karl K

    Jason, how many sons or daughters are YOU supporting? “No story here,” you say. I am sorry, but that choice is not yours. There are other people who listen to NPR, and they can choose for themselves.

  • James Comer

    I’ve known Reid and been on the Schooner ANN many times over the years and it’s not a Luxury Liner. If some of the negative commenters would knowledge from literature they may understand one’s LOVE of the sea and determination to follow their dreams..like Thoreau said. In the minds of disbelievers..nothing ever happens at all. Positive people GIVE energy ~ Negative people TAKE energy. REID IS VERY MUCH POSITIVE ENERGY!

    James Comer/Love Arts

  • Rixie

    Well done Reid and Sonya and all people to help you with this adventure.

  • Polly

    Sail around the world as many times as you like, just don’t pretend you’re doing it for anyone but yourself.

  • Ingrid

    It seems that during these difficult economic times, people are extremely bitter and against those who are better off or pursuit their dreams. I know this is a fantasy for many but can not afford it. Why take this dream away from those who can and would like to listen to them? Don’t we have enough negative news and interviews out there? The great thing about On Point is the balance it provides in its interviews.
    Thank you Tom and the On Point staff.

  • http://knauth.org/gsk Geoff Knauth

    What Ingrid said.

  • Karl K

    Thanks NPR, for a well-orchestrated interview, and for covering so many aspects of the voyage, without pandering to the subject. It was also interesting to hear about Reid’s thoughts on survival on the open seas, which as we all know is not a guarantee, as the power of nature is much superior to even our best efforts to harness it.

    Congratulations, Reid and Soanya, for a wonderful display of tenacity and enthusiasm for life! May you live in peace and happiness, and enjoy the curiosity of your son.

  • Rob L

    Good show, a welcome break from politics. I think we all need a reminder every now and then of what is possible, not just cheapest or seemingly most responsible. Yes, guys like Reid are by definition a bit out there, and yes, if we all lived that way the economy would fall apart. But same goes for movie stars or ball players. Again, good show, good story.

  • Gilbert Cremese

    Dear Reid, Excellent interview. Let the puritans and the jealous spit their venom in the wind. Your life, your art, and your boat are one. Your way of asking the question “Who am I ?” to the sea, the stars, and the winds is, in my modest knowledge and opinion, a rare act of philosophical bravery. For Paul Gauguin, the question was mostly a distraction, not really a confrontation. From this Love Voyage, you bring us an example of courage, spiritual as well as physical.

    This is a great lesson for all of us.

    Thanks Reid, thanks Soanya, hello Darshen. G+Connie, from France/Tennessee

  • Jason Klosse

    Karl K
    Sorry mate, raised two children and paid two college tuitions. Currently enjoying 2 grandchildren.
    FYI, sailed over 50 years with 3 transantlantics and 2 Transpacs. Followed Stowe’s voyage closely. I’m not one of the evil cynical racers cited by Doane but as most voyagers do, I sail with purpose. Most of Stowe’s time at sea was spent bobbing about aimlessly in light winds. Look at his course track. I give him credit for spending a long time on a boat without resupply. He could have accomplished the same had he anchored in the Hudson. In fact, had he been anchored in the Hudson more tidal water would have passed under his keel during that time period than he actually “sailed” over during his “voyage”.
    Had Stowe done the 4 circumnavigations that he advertised prior to departure, I would have been impressed. Like most of his prevoyage goals, Mission Not Accomplished. By the way, Sanders did 3 circumnavigations in a boat less than half the size of the Anne by himself during only 600+ days at sea.

  • LP

    Karl K. and other defenders miss the point.

    If Reid wants to sail around and miss the birth of his child and first two years of its life, that’s his prerogative… I just don’t think he’s heroic or inspirational for doing it, and I don’t find it newsworthy or an interesting On Point topic.

    Gotcha, he’s not rich, and he got money from family, friends and supporters. Gee, I sure wish I had a bunch of people shelling out money, food and supplies for me to follow a selfish dream or hobby for a few years!

    Actually, if my family and friends offered to do that, I’d tell them to direct the resources to Haiti or something… I’d rather WORK to earn my own vacations, toys, and spiritual voyages rather than getting handouts and acting like I’m somehow “enlightened” for doing it.

  • Chris

    Men are so simple. Only one thing Reid Stowe could not do without for 3 years. Welcome aboard Soanya!

  • Mel B

    Jason Klosse and LP hit it on the head perfectly.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/74615773@N00/711961219/in/set-72157600635920643/ Mike W


    Lets list the many reasons why Stowe doesn’t rate our approval – then, look at ourselves in the mirror and seek honesty for the REAL reason we have to be so petty.

    Jeepers folks, what he did was a spiritual thing and obviously something difficult for the negative minded to comprehend …or to even consider. Personally, i dont love the sea and get sick at the memory of the smell of deisel fuel and salt water, while rocking across the pacific on the president wilson. Horrible trip (My navy capt dad was ashamed but mercifully acquiesced to my daily begging to disembark and fly the rest of the way to the states).
    What happens if you accidentally fall overboard?

    This is not my kind of adventure but it’s also not going to be an opportunity to be petty about it. So, whats your excuse for that? (detractors).

    I accidentally stumbled on this when perusing npr sites for downloadable podcasts – something new for me (some npr sites are easy to download but sadly NOT onpoint – yet). So it was by chance i saw the name reid stowe in print. Thats not a very common name, so i did a quick check and found he is the same reid stowe that signed my little league football certificate in 1965, at clark air base, philippines. Here…
    We were on the last place team, but we had the 1st place in fun. He must have been wearing a cast when he signed that – very strange… Our dads were stationed there the same time – it was a jewel of a place to live. I’m certain he wouldn’t remember me, ..but it doesn’t matter. It was just interesting to see what a familiar face looks like today and the difference in paths taken of another military brat. (Part of the working class not known to make alot of money.)

  • Karl K

    Mike W, not too many people can claim such an association from that long ago with Reid Stowe. I wonder if he was already a dreamer then? His jerky handwriting skills might have presaged his later deliberate breaks with convention and his setting on a unique course in life. He probably did not enjoy fitting into a mold, even at that young age, wouldn’t you think?

    Thanks for those tidbits, most interesting!

  • http://www.yahoo.com Anne Stowe

    So interesting to hear that Mike W. remembers Reid form Clark Air Force Base… What a small world… I am Reid’s Mom… His dad thinks he coached that team…
    What is your last name, Mike ? Yes, the Philippines was a wonderful place to be stationed .Wish we could have stayed longer.. Reid was the youngest in a 60hr. SCUBA course we took together and he loved diving..

  • Jana

    To all the nay sayers:

    You know, whether you are a winner or whether you are a loser has very little to do with money, and anyone with any type of self-esteem, rich or poor, knows that.

    You can CHOOSE your way of life, which is something that Reid Stowe has not been afraid to do, and from which most if not all of the nay sayers would probably have to admit if being forced to tell the truth would say; the truth being that they are afraid to choose a different way of life, they are afraid to move from the status quo, they are afraid of maneuvering a 70 some odd foot boat across the ocean by themselves and the CHOICES that have lead them to a life of 9 to 5 sitting at a desk or where ever they are in life is a fault they can blame on no one but themselves.

    Life IS about choices, and unfortunately some people can’t see the glory or specialness of doing something different and/or doing something different and being respected and/or esteemed for it. I salute Reid Stowe. God bless his family, his child, his significant other and everyone who has surrounded him to help him on his journey. Who would any of us be without those people who are not afraid to journey out on a venture by themselves or journey on a venture that no one else has done before? Doesn’t that by definition define who we are as AMERICANS???????? Explore the great outdoors, move West, landing on the North American continent and finding a New Land and a New World. We would not even be here discussing this if it were not for those types of people, America would not even be a country. For those types of people who did that were not in a race, they did it for themselves and for their country and for their families and for the love of the earth and for the great sense of excitement and adventure. I would hate to think what this world would be like if everything and everyone was defined by a race, how fast you got someplace or the status quo and/or having to measure everything you did my mediocre means and measures, how boring is that?

    God Bless you Reid Stowe and many happy days to both you and your family and PLEASE, keep everyone informed on your future voyages.


  • mamabearnyc

    Welcome back to NYC. I followed you for 1000 days throughout your journey and appreciated your thoughts and photos. I was happy to see your return from the end of the Christopher Street pier (which I videotaped and posted on YouTube) on the windy 17th of June as you sailed up the Hudson from the narrows to Pier 81.

    Best of luck to you and your family on your future endeavors.

  • justanother

    Really love how he truly value solitaire. When we are busy chatting away, we are farther away from our inner self. How true!

  • http://www.flexseg.net Webstermentor

    Good Work Reid and Sonya..u are Heros and True Pioneers in our eyes and Hearts. Many peaceful days upon your PAths.
    Leadership throguh Light 2012!

  • Mel B

    Freeloading, selfishness, and spewing vague meaningless new age bs disguised as “spirituality” does not a hero make.

  • Bob Insinger

    Reid, In 1976 I worked with you and your family building Tantra’s Scooner.These were the days of wire mesh and wire ties. I was on my way to Key West in a 13ft. homemade sailboat.You let me work for you to pick up some money to continue on.I’ll be in New York Thursday the 5th of August and would like to see you again. Please e-mail your phone number to scubabob13@gmail.com Thanks again for your help 35 years later.
    Bob Insinger

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