The schooner navigated by a man that had been alone at sea for 1152 days circled around Pier 81 yesterday afternoon as it prepared to dock for his return. A crowd of family and friends were silent as the battered boat approached and they caught sight of Reid Stowe for the first time in three years. He was weathered and chapped, his lips nearly white. "You ready for a cold beer?" someone called, breaking the silence. Stowe yelled back his first word in the affirmative.
Waiting to greet him when he stepped onto land for the first time, along with the applauding masses, was Soanya Ahmad, his estranged partner. They departed together to break the world record for longest sea voyage in 2007, but she started feeling ill around day 306. The last time Stowe saw her she was getting reeled into a helicopter from the middle of the Indian Ocean. After settling on land she found out she'd been suffering from morning sickness. Waiting beside her yesterday was Darshen, Stowe's two-year-old son.
Stowe returns to civilization the holder of a world record. No human has ever been at sea for so long a duration. But in addition to setting a record, Stowe sought to simulate a trip to Mars: a trip that takes approximately 1,000 days and that consists of total solitude.
After some initial awkwardness yesterday, Stowe comfortably fell back into the practice to talking to people as he made an emotional speech to the crowd. He thanked the 35 members of his family that were in attendance, the companies that supplied him with food to last for his trip, and to the satellite company that tracked his voyage. "I'm already losing my voice talking here today," he said, welling with tears, "and I haven't talked to people in 2 years."
He described some of the hardships he faced at sea. At one point he suffered a head on collision with another boat and he once almost ran out of water while he was in the Indian Sea, forcing him to sail to the Galapagos Islands to catch rain. His biggest hardship however was letting his shipmate Soanya go. "I was depressed after that," he said. "It was very hard. I was all alone. I had to learn to live with nature after that."
Emotion gripped Stowe towards the end of his speech. "This is a new human experience," he said, "and no one understands what I went though physically and mentally. My words may sound bold but nothing can match the majesty of the sea."