About Charles Doane

Charles Doane is an editor-at-large for SAIL, where he previously was a senior editor. He also served as managing editor at Offshore and associate editor at Cruising World. Charles has logged more than 40,000 miles as an offshore sailor, including six transatlantic passages and some single-handed passages. His blog posts appear courtesy of his website www.WaveTrain.net.

A Daysail With Reid Stowe


Reid Stowe at Sandy Hook

Twas about 6 a.m. yesterday when we aboard the good ship Avocation arrived at Sandy Hook and found Reid Stowe aboard the schooner Anne getting ready to hoist anchor and head up the bay to Manhattan for his big homecoming. The wind had been southerly when Reid first anchored two days earlier, but now it was westerly, blowing about 15 knots and building. It looked like he might have a hard time hoisting anchor and getting under sail without getting blown down on to the Coast Guard station a few hundred yards behind him.

“You need some help?” I shouted.

Reid glanced around at the 70-foot, 60-ton gaff-rigged vessel he’d been singlehanding out on the open ocean for the past two years. Then he looked to windward.

“Yes,” he shouted back.

Hank Schmitt, master of Avocation, and a master of close-quarters maneuvering, had no trouble getting me close enough to hop on to Anne‘s transom. Tania Aebi was thoughtful enough to take command of the camera I left behind and snapped these pix as we hoisted anchor and raised sail:

Charlie Doane and Reid Stowe on Anne

Raising sail on the schooner Anne

That’s full sail, mind you. By the time we got everything up (Reid did all the work; I just managed the helm and engine and kept Anne‘s nose to the wind), the wind had piped up to 20 knots, and I was beginning to wonder if we should take something down again. But Reid was determined to fly as much canvas as possible.

We enjoyed a glorious power reach most of the way to the Verrazano Narrows. With the sails properly trimmed we were making better than 7 knots, but the helm was heavy as hell, thanks to Anne‘s missing bowsprit (from the freighter collision, see Day 15 of Reid’s record-breaking 1,152-day voyage). So most of the time we kept the main trimmed loose and easy. Still, even when we were scrubbing speed, the helm needed a firm hand and the jury-rigged wheel did not exactly inspire confidence.

Jury-rigged wheel on schooner Anne

The wind went northerly as we approached the big bridge and kept right on building. We abandoned plans to put me back aboard Avocation, and proceeded to short tack our way under the bridge and into New York Harbor proper, which was alive with commercial traffic and gathering well-wishers. You can check out the whole scene in this video here.

What a blast! The most amazing part was when we took one super-short tack over to the Brooklyn side (to avoid a big tug and barge that were charging into the harbor at 11 knots) and found a car full of Reid’s family on shore. They somehow managed to get down the Belt Parkway and had pulled over to give us a big wave at the exact spot where we needed to tack away again.

By the time we beat up to the Statue of Liberty, the wind was gusting to well over 25. We hove to to wait for the press boat, and soon, fortunately, it died down again to below 20. For the last legs, a reach over to the Battery and a close-hauled board up the Hudson to Pier 81 at 42nd Street, I stayed below and let Reid bask alone in the glare of the publicity he had attracted.

(Before all you grumpy anonymous-forum types start muttering about Reid’s ego here, I should also point out that Reid gave me full credit for helping him sail up the harbor after we got ashore.)

The scene on the pier was intense. Reid couldn’t stop crying and had altogether too much to say about how much he loves everyone and everything. The best bits were when he was reunited with Soanya (whom he does refer to as his wife in private conversation) and met his two-year-old son Darshen for the first time…

Reid Stowe homecoming

…and when he was reunited with his daughter Viva and met his three-year-old granddaughter Lucy for the first time.

Reid Stowe with daughter Viva

Reid and I obviously had lots to talk about during our sail together. His immediate plan is to live with Soanya and Darshen on the same pier in Hoboken from which he and Soanya set out way back in April 2007. He hopes to somehow capitalize on his voyage, but in fact has no clear notion of how to do that. In discussing his options, I was surprised at how prosaic he’s become on the subject. Previously my impression had been that Reid was upset by the fact that he’s never garnered as much public attention as he would like. Now he seems to accept that most of the world may never understand or appreciate him.

His biggest priority is organizing a refit for Anne. She is in surprisingly good shape for a vessel that’s spent three years at sea, but obviously there are many, many things that need work. First thing Monday, Reid told me, he plans to take everything off the boat and pressure-wash the interior. Then he’s getting right to work checking items off his to-do list.

BoaterMouth link: here

COMPREHENDING REID STOWE: Crucified on the Internet

For marathon sailor Reid Stowe, as for many of us, the Internet is very much a two-edged sword. In Reid’s case, it has on the one hand allowed him to document and verify his record-breaking 1,000-day voyage to the world as it has unfolded. Through his 1,000 Days website he has been able to connect with and solicit support from an audience who might otherwise have been oblivious to his efforts. On the other hand, the Internet has enabled and served as a venue for a small band of anonymous critics who have sought tirelessly to mock and humiliate both Reid and Soanya Ahmad (his former crew member and the mother of his young son) through out all the three years he has been at sea. I can think of no other long-distance ocean sailor who has ever endured such relentless and venomous public abuse while actively engaged in a voyage.

The locus of anti-Reid criticism has been a forum thread at the Sailing Anarchy website, Couple Cruise for 1,000 Days, that may itself have set some kind of record for marathon web commentary. The thread, as I write, is 1,149 pages long, contains 28,711 posts, and has registered over 930,000 hits. Some of those participating have also created two anti-Reid blogs (1000 Days at Sea Reality Check and 1000 Days of Hell), have repeatedly inserted negative material into Reid’s Wikipedia entry, and have often commented negatively on news articles and blogs about Reid that have been posted online.

The general tone of the SA forum thread (and the two anti-Reid blogs) is absolutely consistent with that of the Sailing Anarchy website as a whole. Pitched primarily at competitive racing sailors, SA prides itself on telling it like it is and has in fact (to its credit) covered several important stories that other sailing publications and websites have shamelessly shied away from for fear of offending advertisers. The site also affects a snarky, irreverent, in-your-face attitude and panders to its mostly male competitive sailing audience by often publishing provocative pix of female sailors (the Sailing Chick of the Week, or SCOTW, for example, is a popular feature) with a special emphasis (as Frank Zappa once put it) on mammalian protuberances.

But even by SA standards, the anti-Reid thread has been a bit over the top. Participants have, for example, posted at least one blatantly misogynistic Photoshopped image of Soanya nude and in chains and have also implicitly threatened violence against Reid. (Both the image up top, and the one below, are copied from the 1000 Days of Hell blog site.) More recently they’ve posted Photoshopped images mocking Soanya and Reid’s son Darshen. Scroll through the SA forum thread and you’ll see that many of the attached images are now deleted (note: you need to register with SA to view images in the forums), but you’ll also see that the verbiage is overwhelmingly hostile and antagonistic.

I would characterize the substantive complaints made by Reid’s critics as follows:

1. Reid is egotistical and sometimes exaggerates and stretches the truth when promoting himself. (This is true. But I would say these tendencies are very consistent with those exhibited by some famous sailors and many other creative artists I have known who seek to create and maintain large public personas.)

2. Reid has not accomplished some of the things he set out to do. (True. See my Various Purposes post for a more detailed discussion.)

3. Reid was once busted for smuggling pot and was once delinquent making child support payments. (True. Reid served nine months in federal prison on a pot charge and was once about $11,000 in arrears on support payments pertaining to his daughter Viva, who is now an adult attorney. Contrary to what many of Reid’s detractors have asserted, Reid was not caught smuggling pot on his own boat. He was hired as a laborer to help transfer a load between other boats.)

4. Reid did not use a holding tank while docked in New York. (True. Like many other sailors I know, Reid has ignored the irrational federal marine toilet laws.)

5. Soanya had no sailing experience prior to setting out with Reid, is much younger than Reid, and was impregnated by him. (All true. But Soanya is, after all, an adult.)

6. Reid is an incompetent sailor and his boat was poorly prepared. (Not true. Having followed Reid’s preparations closely, I would say he did an excellent job given his budget constraints. His one big mistake, IMHO, was not bringing a sewing machine. He is also a very experienced, highly competent ocean sailor.)

I leave it to you to decide for yourselves whether the heinous crimes outlined in points 1 thru 5 really merit the three years of vituperative commentary Reid has provoked at Sailing Anarchy. As to the last point, I would say a part of what we are seeing here is a clash between two very different aspects of sailing culture. The macho competitive racing guys, who look up to sailors like Peter Blake and Torben Grael, versus certain crunchy granola cruising types, who look up to sailors like Bernard Moitessier and Jim Wharram. Some of the former, who are used to sailing over-powered lightweight modern boats with fine foils and laminated sails, apparently have little appreciation for the skills needed to manage a heavy under-powered gaff-rigged traditional vessel. Based on what I’ve read on SA’s anti-Reid thread, I would say too they have no appreciation of sailing as a spiritual pursuit.

To get a better sense of what motivates these people I discussed Reid via e-mail with one of the most active SA posters, who goes by the handle Regatta Dog. I wasn’t surprised to learn that “RD” is a very active racing sailor who has little offshore experience and sails mostly on Long Island Sound and Chesapeake Bay. He insists he does not hate Reid, but that he is passionate about the sport of sailing and feels strongly that Reid should not be held up as one of its paragons. He also, however, asked that I maintain his anonymity. He said does not want people he races with to know about his “1,000 Days hobby,” as he is afraid he would lose his spot crewing on a Melges 32 if they did.

What RD calls a hobby, others might call an obsession. He has, in fact, been involved in something like a cyber war with members of Reid’s shore team. He claims he has never “researched” Reid. But he has accessed the 1,000 Days shore team’s internal e-mail, has made FOIA requests pertaining to Reid, has visited public archives seeking documents, has solicited information via phone and e-mail, and has met with a disgruntled ex-girlfriend of Reid’s. He also attempted to meet Soanya’s plane at JFK airport when she returned from being evacuated from the boat in Australia and succeeded in attending her welcome-home party.

Reid’s shore team, for its part, after RD appeared at Soanya’s party, succeeded in discovering his identity and that of his ex-wife and children (evidently with Reid’s knowledge). They published some of what they learned on the 1,000 Days thread at SA, an act which RD says he felt was very threatening. But when I pointed out to him that Reid’s people might have felt threatened by his actions, he did not reply.

Clearly there has been a fair amount of animosity on both sides. Even if we accept RD’s statement that he does not actually hate Reid, we then have ask why it is he acts like he does. The answer, I think, has much to do with the nature of the Internet. Forums that encourage the spouting of anonymous opinions, such as those sponsored by SA, tend to be steeped in hostility. People post mean, hateful things they are not willing to accept personal responsibility for. It is not a healthy way to communicate.

In this case, too, I think part of the answer has to do with Reid himself. He and this great dream of his, which he has at last realized, appear as a confusing Rorschach blot to the rest of us. His multiple purposes, some of them a bit contradictory, all of them out of the ordinary, present us with a multitude of ways to interpret him. You can pick out the negative bits and focus on those, or the positive bits, or some of each, and construct any sort of Reid you like. The Reid you construct may say something about what sort of person you are. But in most cases, I wager, it probably won’t tell you much about Reid.

UPDATE: I’m finishing this up on Avocation, which I’ve just boarded with Hank Schmitt and Tania Aebi (along with her teenage entourage). In a few moments we cast off to head down to Sandy Hook to join Reid, who finally cast anchor yesterday, after 1,152 days at sea.

BoaterMouth link: here

ABBY SUNDERLAND: Three-Ring Circus


Abby Sunderland

If I wanted to I could now blog about this almost hourly and seem relevant, but really I have better things to do with my time. Abby’s rescue in the Southern Ocean has unleashed a firestorm of publicity and commentary, with one legion of critics denouncing Abby’s voyage and her family and another smaller legion denouncing the larger legion as being armchair after-the-fact ignorant sexist nay-sayers. As a member of the larger legion (one who has been nay-saying, I should note, from the very beginning of the voyage), I’m going to respond to some of the points raised by the smaller legion (which evidently includes my fellow BoaterMouth blogger Zuzana Prochazka) and by Abby and her family… and then that’s it. I’m over it!

This isn’t about whether or not Abby’s parents should have “allowed” her to sail around the world. They didn’t merely grant permission. They enabled her, abetted her, actively encouraged her, and may have even pushed her into it. The most recent revelation, that Abby’s parents are broke and months ago signed a deal to star in a reality TV show–to be called Adventures in Sunderland–belies any insistence on their part that this has only been about Abby fulfilling her own dream.

Read through Abby’s blog and website and you’ll see that through out the voyage it has been her family running the show. Abby seems a cypher and almost a non-entity. It seems questionable to me whether or not she was even writing her own blog entries. Whenever she had problems, she phoned home for instructions. She clearly wasn’t capable of coping with the boat and its systems on her own. And at the end, once she lost both her communications and her rig, it was obvious she stood no chance of being able to rescue herself.

This also isn’t about Abby’s age or gender. The voyage, regardless of who was undertaking it, was ill conceived from the start. The boat, a high-strung lightweight racing craft, was inappropriate for a voyage of this type and was not properly prepared. The schedule was way too ambitious. Even if Abby was a 40-year-old guy who proposed to sail around the world non-stop in a powerful, hastily prepped racing boat he had no experience handling, on a route that would take him through the Southern Ocean during winter, I would tell you, and him, that this is a very bad idea. Indeed, I’ve been complaining for years about inexperienced middle-aged men who sail south from New England in the fall expecting other people to come save them if they get into trouble. They and Abby (and those who have aided and encouraged Abby) are behaving irresponsibly.

I do not think sailors like Abby who impulsively bite off more than they can chew should be prohibited from doing so. People like this make life interesting and diverse and personify an important element of the human spirit. I do think they should be held accountable for their actions. Abby’s rescue, once it is complete (she apparently now is en route to the Kerguelen Islands, where she’ll hop a ride to Reunion, off Madagascar), will have cost upwards of half a million dollars. She and her family should pony up and cover that expense, even if they have to be in a goofy TV show to do it.


PS to everyone: For an example of how a real ocean sailor handles these sorts of situations, I urge you once again to pay attention to Alessandro di Benedetto. He’s sailing around the world alone, non-stop, on a 21-foot Mini. He got dismasted while approaching Cape Horn, put up a jury rig on his own while at sea, and is now set to finish his voyage in the next few weeks. This is the sort of person who should be the poster-child for our sport, NOT Abby Sunderland.

PPS to Zuzana: The terms “lost at sea” and missing at sea” are perfectly synonymous, IMHO. Granted, “lost” sounds more dramatic than “missing,” but this whole rumpus has been nothing if not dramatic.


BoaterMouth link: here




Ile De La Reunion

Abby has been taken off Wild Eyes and is now aboard F/V Ile De La Reunion. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has released the following statement:

The rescue of 16 year old US solo sailor, Abby Sunderland, from the yacht Wild Eyes to the fishing vessel Ile De La Reunion was successfully conducted at 7:45pm AEST today – approximately 2000 nautical miles off the West Australian coast.

The rescue, coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s Rescue Coordination Centre – Australia (RCC Australia), was conducted with the support of a Global Express aircraft which provided top cover during the transfer and served as a communications relay between Wild Eyes and the Ile De La Reunion. The crew of the Ile De La Reunion conducted the rescue with a boat launched from the fishing vessel.

RCC Australia has notified Ms Sunderland’s family of the successful rescue. Arrangements to land Ms Sunderland will now be negotiated with the three ships that have responded to the distress situation.

International Maritime Organization guidelines indicate that such arrangements should avoid disruption to commercial shipping as far as possible. Since the fishing vessel would suffer a significant commercial penalty from leaving the fishing grounds, it is possible that Ms Sunderland will be transferred to one of the other two ships. One ship is bound for Australia and the other would likely return to its home port at La Reunion.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority wishes to acknowledge the cooperation of operators and authorities, both national and international, that have worked together to successfully conduct this rescue – these include Maritime RCC La Reunion, Qantas, WA Police, Fire and Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia, Defence and the three ships which are responding.


To watch a video of an interview with Abby’s family, click here.

BoaterMouth link: here

ABBY SUNDERLAND: Alive and Well (Updated)


Abby Sunderland dismasted in Southern Ocean

Excellent news! An Australian search plane launched from Perth early today has located and established contact with Abby. As you can see in this photo, the rig on Wild Eyes is down, but the hull is afloat and upright, and Abby reports she is uninjured. A French fishing vessel is expected to reach the scene at about 0730 UTC tomorrow.

Abby’s father has reportedly announced that Abby will not be continuing her record attempt.

One would think this would go without saying, but with parents like this, you never know. I could spout off at length on this subject, but now, obviously, is not the time.

BoaterMouth link: here



Abby Sunderland


really, really sucks. Teen circumnavigator Abby Sunderland is in serious trouble deep in the Southern Ocean well east of Madagascar. Reportedly her shore team lost sat-phone contact with her very early this morning when they were helping her troubleshoot some engine problems. Shortly afterwards two of her EPIRBs were manually ignited. Evidently she had suffered at least two knockdowns during the night in winds to 60 knots.

SAR authorities are attempting to launch a search, but Abby’s boat, a modified Open 40 called Wild Eyes, was reportedly 400 miles from the nearest vessel when its EPIRBs went off. The two closest vessels that might render assistance are said to be 40 to 48 hours away. Her shore team is now scrambling to see if any aerial assets can be deployed.

Hopefully we’ll learn more soon, but right now it is very unclear what the situation is on Wild Eyes. One of the EPIRBs that went off (a Personal Locator Beacon) is said to have been attached to a survival suit and was intended for use when Abby was in her liferaft or in the water. Another EPIRB attached to the boat itself, wired to go off automatically in 15 feet of water, has not ignited.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and I urge you to do the same. I’ve had a bad feeling about Abby’s trip from the start, and it’s only gotten worse since she left Cape Town (after putting in there for repairs) on May 21. Her intention was to complete her projected Southern Ocean circumnavigation, in spite of the fact that winter is fast approaching down there.

I really, really don’t want to be right about this one. I’ll post again when more info is available.


BoaterMouth link: here


WEATHER RULES: Still Stuck in Bermuda


June 10 2010 gale synpotic chart

That ugly thing you see here labelled GALE, right under New England, is why I decided to abort my attempt to bring Lunacy home from Bermuda this week. Back when I lived on the boat I was cruising this wouldn’t have been a wrenching decision. There are, after all, worse fates in life than having to wait on weather in Bermuda. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time right now to do my waiting in Bermuda. So crew member Jeff Bolster and I reluctantly crawled onto a Jet Blue plane and “jetted” back here to the mainland, just two days after we flew in and boarded the boat expecting to immediately cast off and sail north.

What a difference 12 hours can make. Last Saturday night, when I checked the weather, it looked like we’d have a reasonable window to work with. The following morning, after packing to go to the airport, I checked again and saw the first glimmerings, five days out, of this burgeoning knot of wind. Of course, back when I lived on boats they didn’t have such things as five-day forecasts, and from time to time I got caught out in nastiness like this. So of course this time there was a small voice in my head telling me I should just go anyway and everything would be fine. I would survive. But it was only a small voice. The louder ones were spouting off about valor and its better parts.

Hoping to game the situation, after we arrived in Bermuda I sought professional advice from Rick Shema, the Weather Guy, who routed Lunacy south last fall. He told me Thursday morning was our earliest reasonable departure window for Portland, Maine, which is where I want the boat to end up. If we headed further west, to New York City, he said we could leave early Wednesday morning and get there in plenty of time for me to greet Reid Stowe on the 16th and 17th. In the end I ruled this out, for scheduling reasons (I also have to be in Maine on the 19th for my mom’s memorial service), and when I rechecked the Gulf Stream charts, I was glad I did. Looks like we would have been bucking some serious current on a passage to New York.

June 2010 Gulf Stream chart

Fortunately, Jeff and I did accomplish something. Lunacy‘s brand new engine was suffering from a mysterious starter disease, which first manifested itself right after I cleared customs back in May. Getting stuck with a dead starter on the customs dock at St. Georges is, I assure you, both embarrassing and extremely inconvenient. Fortunately, I was saved by Sandra Soares, of Bermuda Yacht Services, who organized a tow to get me off the customs dock, helped me wrangle permission from customs in Hamilton to leave the boat uninhabited on a mooring, and organized storage for my dinghy, all in time for me to catch a flight I had already booked to Boston that same afternoon. (I should note, too, Sandra also had organized my mooring, on quite short notice, before I ever arrived in the first place.)

FYI: Bermuda Yacht Services was started by Sandra’s son, Mark, just a few years ago and is already utterly indispensable to transient sailors passing thru St. Georges. They’re now doing everything from assigning spots to boats that want to tie up on the wall, to providing free Wifi service to the anchorage, to wrangling repairs and spares, to babysitting boats for absentee owners like myself. And in the last year, since Sandra’s taken on the job of office administrator, her kind nature, good humor, calm demeanor, and ruthless efficiency have pretty much made her Queen of St. Georges (at least as far as anyone in a boat is concerned).

Sandra Soares of Bermuda Yacht Services

Anyway… about that starter. While I was away Sandra organized a visit from Anfossi Marine, the local Westerbeke rep, and I was mortified to learn that the engine started right up for them–no fuss, no muss. It also started right up for Jeff and me when we showed up on Sunday afternoon. After we dropped our mooring and were running down the harbor, we noticed Dowlings fuel dock was both open and empty and thought we should stop and top up while the topping was good. Jeff was already hanging fenders when I abruptly vetoed the idea, having been plagued with visions of getting stuck with a dead starter at the fuel dock. This, if anything, would have been worse than being stuck on the customs dock.

Sure enough, after we anchored and later tried to restart the engine, it was resolutely silent. The problem in the end was pretty simple (as I hoped it might be), just a loose connection on the starter’s solenoid wire, which Jeff and I were able to replace on our own.

SV Yumapi at St. Georges, Bermuda

Later, while strolling about the waterfront, we were utterly amazed by this boat, which was bristling with intriguing features:

Yumapi cockpit

A cockpit with enough control lines to confuse a spider.

Yumapi mast

Ditto on the mast.

Yumapi tiller

An industrial-grade tiller with three cleats on it. (I may copy this idea, though I think one cleat should be enough.)

Yumapi autopilot

A belowdeck autopilot mounted on deck, all wrapped up and shielded with a plywood dodger to protect it from weather (or so we assumed).

Yumapi deck

A nice shelf under the boom to stand on while flaking the mainsail.

Forward hatch on Yumapi

Raised hatches to reduce the likelihood of leaks.

Yumapi bowsprit

And the obligatory asymmetric sprit, but with a foot rail welded on beneath it.

Burned boat at St. Georges, Bermuda

We also found this boat, most of which has somehow succeeded in combining with the oxygen in the atmosphere.

Our current plan is to return to St. Georges on the 21st and at last complete this interminable delivery. I’ll keep you posted on developments.


BoaterMouth link: here


TARTAN 27: Classic Pocket Cruiser

Tartan 27

The Tartan 27 is sometimes hailed as the first fiberglass boat ever to be designed by Sparkman & Stephens. This, however, is not quite accurate, as a few years prior to its creation S&S designed a similar, but slightly smaller glass boat, the 25-foot New Horizons, for Ray Greene. The introduction of the Tartan 27 in 1961 is said to have ruined the market for the earlier boat, a fact that Greene always resented.

The 27 was the first Tartan ever built, though its builder was originally known as Douglass & McLeod Plastic Corp. and did not reorganize as Tartan Yachts until 1971, after its first plant in Ohio was destroyed in a fire. All told 712 Tartan 27s (including 24 built under license by W.D. Schock in California in the mid-60s) were launched over the course of an 18-year production run, making it one of the more successful fiberglass auxiliary sailboats built during the CCA era.

Unlike larger CCA boats, the Tartan 27 has short overhangs, but also sports a shoal-draft full keel and centerboard as popularized by Carleton Mitchell’s Finisterre. In typical CCA fashion, the 27 was also sold as both a sloop and a yawl, though very few of the latter were ever built. It was a successful racing boat in its prime, both on a one-design and handicap basis, but ultimately has endured as a great low-budget pocket cruiser. Most every hull built is still afloat, though a relatively small percentage are ever on the brokerage market at one time, as owners tend to cling to them.

Construction is typical for an early fiberglass sailboat. The hull is solid laminate composed of mat and woven roving set in polyester resin and built to heavy scantlings–3/4” thick at the keel–with tabbed bulkheads and glass-reinforced stringers helping to stiffen the structure. The deck is balsa-cored with plywood sustituted under deck hardware.

As with many old balsa decks there is a good chance areas will have delaminated over time as moisture invades the core, particularly around the chainplates. The original deck joint, which is “mechanically and chemically bonded,” according to old brochures, is very secure and reports of leaks are rare. The lead ballast in the first 200 or so boats was external, but in 1966 was increased by 350 pounds and encapsulated in the keel. Likewise, the centerboards on the first dozen boats built in 1961 were bronze, but on subsequent boats were steel sheathed in fiberglass.

Like any older boat, the Tartan 27 has weak points that sooner or later must be addressed. These include the wood maststep over the keel, which eventually rots and needs replacing; the rudder post, which lacks a bearing that should be retrofitted; the fuel tank (on some boats), which may leak and if so should be replaced; the centerboard, which is prone to wear at its pivot point and eventually wants replacing; the gate valves threaded on to brass through-hull fittings, which should be replaced with proper seacocks; and a lack of backing plates under deck hardware, which also should be retrofitted. The boat is certainly worthy of the attention, however, particularly as its overall finish quality is superior to that found on most production boats of similar vintage. Many Tartan 27s, in spite of their age, are extremely well cared for, a process facilitated by the builder, which still sells critical replacement parts like centerboards, tanks, hatches, and rudders.

By modern standards the Tartan 27’s original accomodation plan is cramped and awkward. This features a small dinette to port in the saloon opposite a small midship galley aft of which is a somewhat exposed quarterberth. Because the stove is fixed and the outboard sink floods when the boat heels to starboard, the galley is not too useful while underway. The icebox is also unusual, as it is to port, overhanging the aft end of the dinette settee, with access hatches both inside the cabin and out in the cockpit. Up forward there is a good-sized V-berth, but the head compartment behind it is quite tiny.

In 1977 the boat was redesigned, with a raised sheerline and a longer, rounder cabinhouse to increase interior living space. The revised accomodation plan on the 27-2 (as it was designated) is more conventional and liveable, with an aft galley opposite an icebox/nav desk, two long settees between a fold-down table, plus a larger athwartship head. The great drawback to the 27-2, 63 of which were built before production finally stopped in 1979, is that–to my eye, at least–it is not nearly as attractive and shippy looking as the original. Also, raising the sheer without changing the hull mold required a much more vulnerable outward-facing deck joint.

Tartan 27 under sail

Because of its relatively long waterline, the Tartan 27 does sail faster than you might otherwise expect, especially on a reach, but compared to much lighter, more contemporary boats it inevitably seems a bit slow. It is, however, very well balanced, so much so that one can steer it by letting go the tiller and shifting the centerboard up and down. Like many CCA boats with slack bilges it does heel quite easily, leaning to an angle of about 20 degrees before stiffening up. Usually, though, it sails best when kept more upright, so it is wise to reef early. When overpowered the boat also does develop quite a bit of weather helm, but otherwise is moderate in its habits and is easy to sail singlehanded. The later version, it should be noted, does not sail much differently than the first, as Tartan was careful to preserve parity for the sake of what was then a lively one-design racing class.

Performance under power is very much a function of what engine is installed. The original standard powerplant was the venerable 30-hp gas-driven Atomic 4, which reportedly drives the Tartan 27 at hull speed with the throttle just half open. In the mid-70s a smaller 12-hp two-cylinder Farymann diesel engine was offered and evidently became standard in 1977 when the boat was redesigned. The Farymann by all accounts is too weak to drive the boat well, causes excessive vibration, and requires expensive replacement parts. Some Tartan 27s have been repowered, but many are still equipped with their original engines, presumably because the boat is so inexpensive it is hard to justify splurging on a new one. To my mind, however, it makes more sense to buy an older boat with an Atomic 4 at a discount and invest the difference toward an appropriately sized new diesel than it does to pay extra for a funky undersized Farymann.

Tartan 27 line drawing


LOA:  27’0”
LWL:  21’5”
Beam:  8’7”
–Board up:  3’2”
–Board down:  6’4”
Ballast:  2,400 lbs.
Displacement:  7,400 lbs.
Sail area (100% foretriangle)
–Sloop:  376 sq.ft.
–Yawl:  394 sq.ft.
Fuel:  20 gal.
Water:  30 gal.
D/L ratio:  336
SA/D ratio
–Sloop:  15.82
–Yawl:  16.57
Comfort ratio:  28.07
Capsize screening:  1.76
Nominal hull speed:  6.2 knots

Typical asking prices:  $6K – $19K

BoaterMouth link: here


Reid Stowe aboard Anne

Preparations for the return of marathon solo sailor Reid Stowe and the schooner Anne are proceeding apace. You can see a detailed float plan for Reid’s June 17 re-entry into New York City at his 1,000 Days at Sea website. If you have a boat at your disposal and are in the area I urge you to join the welcoming flotilla. I suspect it will be an unusual experience. My current plan is to survey the madness with Hank Schmitt (of Offshore Passage Opportunities) and Tania Aebi (ex teen sailing prodigy) from onboard Avocation, Hank’s Swan 48. I will, of course, file a full report here for your perusal.

Meanwhile, let’s continue our perusal of Reid and his voyage. In our last episode I hoped to give you some sense of where he’s coming from by describing his early career as an ocean sailor. This time I think we need to confront the big question head on. As in: WTF is the point of all this? Why spend more than three years at sea without once touching shore?

Many people, I’ve found, are simply bamboozled by the concept. Indeed, bamboozlement is a reaction Reid has often had to confront throughout his career as a sailor. The first time I met him, when I interviewed him for SAIL in the fall of 2002, he admitted to me that even members of his own family have trouble understanding what he does. At the time he’d seized on a phrase I used to describe him in a sidebar to a story SAIL had published on record-breaking sailors. What I’d written was that Reid was seeking to “define and conquer new realms of sailing achievement.” I gathered from some of those who were helping to prepare for this current venture that Reid had adopted this as a mantra of sorts. An all-purpose explanation that might silence those incapable of comprehending his intentions. As the inventor of this tidy definition, I was, of course, flattered. But I knew, too, it in fact explains very little. To make any sense of Reid we must examine his purposes in some detail.

With respect then to the present voyage there are (at least) four different “realms of achievement” in which Reid is consciously seeking to make his mark:


1. Setting Sailing Records

This, of course, is the most obvious objective. From the outset Reid has sought to break at least some of the records that were set by Australian Jon Sanders when he completed his non-stop 658-day solo triple circumnavigation of the world back in 1988. Reid’s primary record target has always been voyage duration, and in this respect he has clearly been successful. As I’ve discussed previously, when he set out Reid believed Sanders’ 658 days at sea was the mark to beat. Critics subsequently cited Fridtjof Nansen‘s Arctic voyage (1893-96, with an estimated 1,067 days without touching land) as the controlling precedent. Whichever way you slice it, Reid’s projected 1,152-day record for duration of voyage will definitely take the cake.

In all other respects, Reid’s voyage, as planned and as it has unfolded, has been very different from that of Jon Sanders. For example, Reid originally hoped to sail multiple circumnavigations, as had Sanders before him. He never (to my knowledge) announced that he hoped to set a record by making more than three circuits of the globe, but Reid did several times publicly state and imply he’d be going around more than once. This has not happened. In the end Reid will have completed only one non-stop circumnavigation and can claim, if so inclined, that his is probably the slowest such voyage ever made.

There have been at least four limiting factors here. First: Reid, unlike Sanders, is sailing a very heavy, oversized gaff-rigged vessel with no self-steering apparatus. This wouldn’t be an issue if Reid had sailed with a full crew (as he once hoped he might) and could, if necessary, keep someone on the helm much of the time. But in fact he’s been alone most of the voyage, and even when he had company (just one other crew member, Soanya Ahmad, who had no prior sailing experience) he’s had to get the boat to steer itself with its sails balanced against its helm the entire time he’s been underway.

Deck of the schooner Anne

This in itself must be a record of some sort. There have been others (Robin Knox-Johnston comes to mind) who have set forth on non-stop solo circumnavigations that they’ve had to finish without self-steering gear due to equipment failure, but I know of no one else who has ever set out on, and completed, such a voyage without any self-steering gear at all. Reid (rather uncharacteristically) has never made much of this, but to have sailed a 60-ton gaff-rigged vessel so far and so long with so little crew and with no steering assistance is a phenomenal achievement. To do this, however, he has had to sail slowly and conservatively.

Reid Stowe repairs bowsprit on Anne

Second: Just two weeks into his voyage, Reid suffered a collision with a freighter that severely damaged Anne‘s bowsprit. To repair the damage Reid (assisted by Soanya) had to cut away most of the sprit, shorten the headstay it supported, and recut his headsails to a smaller size. This greatly reduced Anne‘s foretriangle area and unbalanced her sail plan. To keep the rig balanced so the boat can steer itself, Reid has often had to fly considerably less sail aft than conditions would otherwise warrant, which has further limited Anne’s sailing speed. Reportedly, the truncated foretriangle has also inhibited the boat’s windward ability.

Third: Anne‘s sail inventory, though large, was much too old for a voyage of this type. The schooner’s youngest sails were built back in 1998 or ’99 and many are far older. Given Reid’s very limited budget, replacing even just the basic working sails (which likely would have cost around $100,000) was out of the question. Predictably enough, sails have been blowing out repeatedly during the three years of the voyage, and all repairs, unfortunately, have had to be made by hand. On a 70-foot vessel flying approximately 2,000 square feet of sail, with only one pair of hands available to ply needle and thread, this is a significant burden and has provided Reid with yet another major incentive to sail conservatively.

Worn turnbuckle pins on schooner Anne

Fourth: Anne‘s standing rig has seriously deteriorated over the course of the voyage. What has concerned me the most are the huge steel pins securing the turnbuckles, which have almost completely worn through (see above). There are other weak points as well. After Anne was capsized in early February 2009 after rounding Cape Horn (on day 638 of the voyage), it seems apparent Reid faced a serious choice. He could carry on in high southern latitudes and try to complete at least one more circumnavigation, at the risk of losing all or part of his sail inventory and/or rig. Or he could play it safe and spend the rest of his time at sea babying the rig in lower latitudes in the mid-Atlantic. Given that Reid’s primary goal has always been to maximize voyage duration, it is hardly surprising he chose the latter course.

One record Reid never expected to take from Sanders was that for longest non-stop solo voyage. But since he lost Soanya as crew on day 306 of the voyage (she had been chronically seasick and later turned out to be pregnant), he has been forced to sail alone. As I’ve discussed earlier, Reid surpassed Sanders’ solo record back in December 2009. By the time he returns, the new record should be 846 days.

(I should note that Jon Sanders has expressed support for Reid’s voyage in correspondence with Reid and his ground crew and by helping to evacuate Soanya from the schooner Anne off Western Australia. Sanders has, however, never responded to my repeated efforts to contact him for comments on the voyage.)

Reid has also claimed that he and Soanya, during the 305 days they were together on the boat, set records for “longest man-and-woman non-stop voyage” and “longest non-stop voyage by a woman.” These, however, are difficult to verify. It is not inconceivable, for example, that a 19th century whaling ship might have spent in excess of 300 days at sea with a captain’s wife aboard. To prove otherwise would require much research and might well be impossible in any event. It does, however, seem likely that Reid and Soanya have set a record for longest non-stop voyage by a two-member male-and-female crew. As noted on Reid’s website, their 305 days at sea easily eclipses the famous 126-day voyage (Tahiti to Spain non-stop via Cape Horn) completed by Francoise and Bernard Moitessier in 1966. (Note: the website erroneously puts the Moitessiers’ voyage at 191 days.) I personally know of no other potential claimants to this title.


2. Simulating a Voyage to Mars

Soon after he first began dreaming of making a 1,000-day ocean voyage back in the mid-1980s, Reid realized and hoped such a journey might provide insight and guidance to those planning very long space flights, specifically to the planet Mars. In May 1990, together with Dr. Albert A. Harrison, a social psychologist at the University of California at Davis, Reid published an article in Ad Astra, the journal of the National Space Society, that describes his original vision of his voyage and how it might serve as a useful prelude to a flight to Mars. As Reid and Dr. Harrison wrote in their conclusion to the article: “A 1,000 day voyage is a daunting undertaking. However, if we are not ready to spend 1,000 days at sea, how can we expect to complete a 1,000 day mission in outer space? Anne‘s voyage should help launch the learning process.”

Dr. Albert A. Harrison of UC Davis

The voyage described in the Ad Astra article, however, turned out to be very different from the one Reid is now completing. Reid’s original plan called for a crew of 6 to 8 persons, substantive funding, a full course of serious environmental and psychological research, and a rigorous route leading primarily through high latitudes in the Southern Ocean. None of these ambitions were realized, but Reid never gave up on his dream of somehow making the voyage a reality and has always actively promoted it as a “Mars Odyssey.”

Dr. Harrison, too, has always remained interested in the voyage and still sees it as a useful antecedent to a Mars flight. He referenced Reid’s proposed voyage in his 2001 book Spacefaring: The Human Dimension and is at work now on an article that cites Reid’s voyage (he credits both Reid and Soanya as co-authors) to be published as a chapter in a forthcoming book about human performance in extreme environments. He also gave a talk on Reid’s voyage at the NASA Contact Space Conference (in which Reid and Soanya participated telephonically) in April 2009.

Harrison has long studied marine voyages, specifically those made in whaling ships, submarines, tankers, and long-distance sailing yachts, for insights into the psychology of spaceflight. He concedes he knows of no one at NASA who has been seriously following Reid’s voyage. He also admits that several aspects of Reid’s voyage as it has been carried out, particularly the very small crew size and lack of a formal research regimen, have limited its usefulness as an analogue to a Mars flight. But, he notes, the most important feature of Reid’s voyage, its very long duration, is what makes it most valuable.

“In most other spaceflight simulations, duration is not at all analogous, and this is where Reid, I think, is making an important contribution,” Dr. Harrison told me in a recent conversation. “People aren’t taking him seriously because he’s doing this on a shoestring, and he certainly isn’t telling us everything we need to know to go to Mars, but I’m hoping others in my field will see some value in what he’s doing. Personally, I’m learning a lot from following this voyage.”

Specifically, Harrison cites Reid’s transcendent spiritual experiences while at sea (evidently these are characterized as “oceanic experiences” in psychology literature) as being very similar to the “overview effect” experienced by astronauts, wherein their off-world perspective incites a feeling of unity with the universe. Harrison is also interested in episodes described by Reid in which he has sensed other presences aboard the schooner. Harrison anticipates, too, that any “post-mission let-down” experienced by Reid after he returns to land will be very analogous to what astronauts can expect to feel after completing a very long flight.


3. Making Art

As I described in my last post on Reid, he has created visual art while sailing since his earliest days as an ocean voyager. Besides pursuing a conventional career as a fine artist, he has also sought to fuse his ocean sailing and his creative life into a single entity. As a young man he was content merely to draw and paint while sailing, but later he sought ways to make his voyages themselves into works of art.

This urge, I believe, first manifested itself in 1986, when Reid took the schooner Anne south to Antarctica on what he called “The First Arts and Cultural Expedition to the Seventh Continent.” This was a demanding Southern Ocean cruise, during which Reid and a group of eight artists, musicians, and comedians (only one of whom had ever been to sea before) toured Antarctic research bases staging performances for base personnel. (Reid has often claimed that Anne on this voyage became the first American sailing yacht ever to visit Antarctica, but in fact she is listed in the Antarctic Sailing Chronology as being the second American yacht to do so. The first was Awahnee II, sailed by Bob and Nancy Griffith, in 1970.)

Subsequently, Reid took the notion of conceptual voyaging one step further when, in 1999, he set out aboard Anne with his third wife, Laurence Guillem, on a 200-day non-stop voyage he entitled “The Odyssey of the Sea Turtle.” Reid intended this to be a prelude to a 1,000-day voyage, but he also set himself the goal of tracing a gigantic figure of a sea turtle over much of the South Atlantic ocean. He was largely successful and hailed his turtle as the largest work of conceptual art ever created.

Likewise, on his current voyage Reid has also sought to draw pictures on the ocean with his boat. After first setting out with Soanya from New York, he hoped to draw a giant heart in the South Atlantic, but the schooner’s crippled rig (thanks to the freighter collision) made it too difficult to sail the windward legs needed to complete the figure. Much later, not long after Soanya left the boat in Australia, Reid found himself sailing disconsolately in a circle near the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific, when a friend alerted him via e-mail that his GPS transponder track as displayed on his website looked something like a whale. Energized by this revelation, Reid spent nearly a month working to complete the whale, first drawing in a side fin, then sailing many miles out of his way to a precise point to complete the figure. He then carefully sailed out of the area on a course reciprocal to the one he’d sailed in on so as not to mess up the picture.

Later, after rounding Cape Horn and re-entering the South Atlantic, Reid looked at the tangled maze of tracks he and Soanya had previosuly laid out in this part of the world and saw he might combine his current track with older ones to at last complete the figure of a heart. As you can see in this Google image here, both the Atlantic and Pacific drawings stand out clearly amidst the record of Anne‘s wanderings.

Track of Anne with heart and whale

Chart of Reid Stowe showing heart

Chart of Reid Stowe showing whale

This all may seem a bit too conceptual for some, but in fact Reid can take credit for pioneering a new art form that is gaining increasing recognition worldwide. Just type the terms “GPS art” or “position art” or “locative art” into your Google search bar and you’ll see what I mean. Since at least 2001 or 2002, serious artists (and many not-so-serious types) have been creating pieces of performance visual art by tracking their movements on the face of the planet with GPS receivers. Ironically, this new art form got its biggest shot in the arm in 2008 when an artist named Erik Nordenankar perpetrated a hoax and claimed to have created “the biggest drawing in the world” (a self-portrait, purportedly) by shipping a GPS unit all around the world via DHL. Since then awareness of GPS art has skyrocketed both on the Web and in mainstream media.

In that Reid created his first piece of “position art” in 1999, it seems he can legitimately claim to be the inventor of this mode of expression. So far, to my knowledge, he is also still the only locative artist to have created drawings on the open sea in a sailing vessel. It also seems, however, that no other locative artists are yet aware of his work. Ironically, too, Reid apparently did not know others had entered the field, at least as of July 2009, when I raised the subject in an e-mail with him.

Painting of ray by Reid Stowe

In addition to creating large-scale locative art, Reid has also been drawing and painting aboard Anne during his current voyage. His most productive period was during what he has called his “sacred sideslip,” when he essentially drifted for about 9 months in the Atlantic doldrums off West Africa during the latter half of 2009 and the first few months of this year.


4. Seeking Spiritual Fulfillment

As discussed earlier, this too has always been one of Reid’s major objectives when sailing offshore. Reid through out his career has practiced yoga and meditation while sailing (Anne has long been equipped with a gimbaled yoga platform) and in preparing for his 1,000-day voyage he always emphasized its “cosmic” potential. As he explained to me when we first met in 2002: “I don’t pose it in terms of a challenge. What I ask is what can I do whereby I will evolve spiritually? I decided I didn’t want to just sail from point A to point B. That shouldn’t be the point of sailing. This is about something much larger than a destination.”

As noted by Dr. Harrison and many others, those spending prolonged periods of time at sea often find themselves uniquely susceptible to spiritual insights and experiences. As Bernard Moitessier once aptly put it (I paraphrase here): at sea a man feels at once that he is only an atom but also a god. Though the sea is certainly not the only physical environment on this planet capable of provoking such states of mind, it may be the most powerful and effective one. (Be warned! I have developed my own crude theories on this subject, which I may well inflict on you in a future blog post.)

Reid Stowe praying aboard Anne

It is probably impossible to quantify what Reid has “accomplished” spiritually during the course of his voyage. He set himself no concrete goal in this respect and thus far has not claimed to have had any novel revelations or experiences that might influence or shape the spiritual practice of others. He was already very spiritually aware himself before he set out on the voyage, so it cannot be said this voyage has “enlightened” him in the conventional sense. But if you read through the many blog entries Reid has posted during the voyage, you’ll see most are of a blatantly spiritual nature. Viewing the voyage as a whole, it is this element that forms its dominant theme, in spite of all Reid’s efforts to spread other purposes and objectives on top of it.

The one important question to ask here, I suppose, is whether Reid’s voyage has changed him spiritually. Has he in fact evolved in some way? Personally, I’ve seen no hint of this in all that Reid has published online since he first set out in April 2007. But I may have missed something. Or Reid may be keeping certain things to himself.

I look forward to posing the question to him directly upon his return.

NEXT EPISODE: His Rabid Critics

BoaterMouth link: here