Odd mates shove off

An experienced sailor and a landlubber embark on a global voyage.

Published April 22, 2007

HOBOKEN, N.J. - He's a veteran of long-distance sailing voyages in all kinds of weather. She's never sailed outside the Hudson River.

But together, 55-year-old Reid Stowe and his 23-year-old girlfriend, Soanya Ahmad, embarked Saturday on a voyage that they intend to take them three times around the globe and last 1,000 days and nights - nonstop, with no port calls for supplies or a walk on solid ground.

They set sail Saturday afternoon aboard his 70-foot, two-masted schooner, named the Schooner Anne, from a Hudson River marina in North Hoboken, in bright sunshine and temperatures in the 70s.

"This will be my first time sailing ever - except for up and down the Hudson River," said Ahmad, the New York-raised daughter of immigrants from Guyana. "I haven't gotten seasick - so far," she said with a grin.

She may be tested when the yacht rounds South America's Cape Horn on the way from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, an area infamous for waves as high as 100 feet, as well as icebergs.

If they succeed, they say their time away from land will surpass the 657 days spent at sea by Australian Jon Sanders, who circumnavigated the globe three times from 1986 to 1988.

Provisions were packed into every nook and cranny of the schooner's hull. Sprouts were growing in boxes for salads.

The rest of their food will be caught fresh from the sea - automatically. Two contraptions at the stern will troll for fish, and when one is caught, the line is rigged to alert them by tapping a piece of wood.

Rainwater will be collected in tarps stretched over the deck, and a desalinator will turn sea water into drinking water.

Crammed in alongside the food was a ton of coal and 100 boxes of firewood, plus diesel oil for a motor. Solar panels will generate enough electricity for the satellite communication and navigation system and for lights. Along with sending and receiving e-mail via satellite, they expect to post photographs, videos and blogs on their Web site.

They also have a small library and every book written by Herman Melville, including Moby Dick.

The cost of the journey is covered by corporate and individual donations, plus donations of food, the sails and marine ropes.

Their message to the world, they say, is that any human being can persevere and survive while staying inspired and in love.

"It's inside everyone to go into the unknown, to sail by the sun and the winds of fate. Our ability to control our minds will allow us to do this," said Stowe, an artist born in Washington state who has been living on the Anne for years.