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Politics : Sailing

Sailing Alone Around the World

Of all the great travel narratives the most epic are set at sea—tossed in the waves, lost in fog, pounded by storms. They traverse a world populated by leviathans and ghost ships and bizarre natural forces, the landscape itself so moving and alive it becomes a character in the book.

Melville comes to mind with his descriptions of great tempests and great men, the “sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seems to speak of some hidden soul beneath…” Joseph Conrad, Ernest Hemingway, Jonathan Raban and Nathaniel Philbrick were all taken by its spell and wrote about it in their books. They were all mariners, as was Joshua Slocum, maybe one of the greatest maritime authors—and for some reason the least known—who became the first man to circumnavigate the world solo in 1898.

 

Sailing Alone Around the World recounts Slocum’s three-year, 46,000-mile journey. (Read it free at Google Books here.)  It is candid and lyrical, self-deprecating to a charming, often hilarious, extent.  It was written by an aspiring author and lifelong sea captain who was once marooned in Brazil—and spent six months with his wife and two sons building a “half Cape Ann dory and half Japanese [sic] sampan” to sail home on. (Voyage of the Liberdade recounts the adventure, also free here.) Slocum climbed the rigging of his thirty-six-foot sloop, Spray, once when a rogue wave submerged the boat, outran pirates with a broken boom, warded off Fuegean natives by placing tacks—points up—on the deck and once sailed the Spray 2,000 miles across the Pacific without touching helm.

After his book came out, Slocum’s life became the subject of academics who thrive at taking apart anyone or anything that claimed to have set a record. A book out last fall by Geoffrey Wolff, The Hard Way Around (Knopf, 2010) avoids the muckraking and simply tells the story of the man many have called the greatest mariner of modern times. Wolff writes about Slocum’s decision to attempt the feat—near the end of the Age Sail when steamers and steel hulls were pushing schooners aside, and sailor’s work was hard to come by—the love of his life, Virginia Walker, who bore him four sons at foreign ports and on the sea; his rise through the ranks of the shipping business and lastly, his mysterious disappearance at sea in 1908.

Slocum told his story throughout his journey, in dispatches and presentations around the world. Yet there wasn’t much fanfare when he returned to Newport, Rhode Island, on June 27, 1898. In fact, it wasn’t until he published his account of the journey a year later that Slocum's was cast into the limelight. So when Reid Stowe broke the world record for the longest sea voyage in history last June—1,152 days without resupply; he saw land only once; lived for three years off food he packed; was at sea longer than the Essex on its ill-fated journey or Magellan and Shackleton combined—he found solace in Slocum’s trials and eventual success.

  

Stowe set out from the 12th St. Pier in Hoboken, New Jersey on April 21, 2007 on the 70-foot schooner, Anne, that he built with friends. His partner, Soanya Ahmad, joined him for the first 306 days until they discovered she was pregnant and she had go ashore—having setting the record for the longest continuous sea voyage for a woman. The story was covered on Reid’s blog, http://1000days.net, and in brief updates in major news outlets. But after reports of his return—and his reunion with Soanya and their, then, two-year old son Darshen—he was quickly forgotten, and his story forgotten too.

Since then, 30 publishers have turned down the story of the longest voyage ever recorded at sea. Stowe has a best-selling ghostwriter working with him, and a top New York agent. Throughout his trip he was stalked by internet hacks who sent hate mail and criticized his spirituality and—admittedly—New Agey posts on his web site. It’s possible this factored into the publisher's hesitation, as is the fact that they simply thought the story of a man sitting on his boat for three years wouldn't sell.

I sat down with Reid and Soanya recently to talk with them about the difference between an adventure and an adventure story, the trials of the publishing world and the real reason he committed three years of his life to live on the sea in the first place. We met in the salon onboard the Anne, docked near 44th Avenue in Queens. The New York skyline reflected off the East River behind the boat. Reid and Soanya were preparing to leave the following day—they’d been asked to vacate the dock to make room for commercial traffic and were sailing to the abandoned New Jersey dock they started their trip from in 2008.

Why did you take this trip? For the story, the voyage or something else?
RS:
Because I love going to sea so much, and I always did. I never really cared about where I went. It was more about going on the boat and being at sea…It was really about what the sea did to me in a spiritual way, how it opened my mind and how it thrilled me with what it made me see.

Year after year as I sailed, I kept doing longer and longer voyages, and I never needed to stop. And I said this is what I like, why should I stop? By the time I was planning to go to Antarctica and I was down in New Zealand, I said what can I do next? And I said, well, I’ll just keep sailing at sea longer than anyone ever has.

SA: I learned about the project when I was still in school, and when I finished the degree that I was still studying, which was photography, I was thinking, where do I go next? I wanted to be on the water, but I wasn’t exactly sure where my niche was. I pursued another degree where I was looking at the possibilities of working on the waterfront in New York City and none of them seemed to fit me quite right. Then I met Reid and he was going to sea for this long period of time and that appealed to me more than any of the other mundane working waterfront kind of careers. Since I was at a crossroads in my life, I thought, this was something that I could really do, and that would be interesting, and I knew I would learn a lot from. 

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Stephen Colbert Races to Bermuda Again



Comedian Stephen Colbert announced today at the New York Auto Show that he will once again be competing in the biennial Charleston Bermuda Race, this time with the newly formed Team Audi, according to Audi USA News.

“If you're going to win a race, you want to be in an Audi,” exclaimed Colbert. “I tried bolting a mast and sail to an S5 cabriolet and took her for spin on the harbor, and the results were, well...moist! So I decided if I couldn’t sail an Audi, I would ask them to sponsor my boat.”

Colbert's yacht—a 65-foot ocean-racing yacht dubbed, you guessed it, "The Audi"—will depart May 21 from Charleston, South Carolina, and race 777 miles to Bermuda. Colbert himself will be Team Audi's official "Morale Officer."

Johan de Nysschen, president of Audi of America, joined Colbert in announcing Team Audi. "We’re proud to support winning teams in this arena and are expecting nothing less than greatness from Stephen and Team Audi. Not to put too much pressure on them, but we’re looking forward to watching the team cross the finish line first this time around.”

Colbert also competed in the 2005 Charleston Bermuda Race, with less than stellar results, which he talks about in our May Issue. This year he began his training early, as documented during our cover shoot.

--Michael Webster

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Sarah Outen Does London 2 London: Via the World

Sarah Outen, Photo by Nigel Millard Sarah Outen, Photo by Nigel Millard

Two years ago today, 25-year-old English adventurer Sarah Outen set out to row the Indian Ocean solo, becoming the first and only woman to do so when she finished in August 2009. Today, she's upping the ante by setting off on a two-and-a-half-year, 20,000-mile human-powered journey from London back to London via fourteen countries of the world. She starts by kayaking down the Thames from the Tower Bridge in London and across the English Channel to France. Then she'll jump on a bike, cycle across Europe and Asia to far-eastern Russian, kayak to Japan, and load up the rowboat for a four- to seven-month trip across the Pacific to Vancouver. Once she crosses the U.S. and Canada on bike, she'll row the Atlantic, then kayak back up the Thames to London. I caught up with Sarah before she kicks off to talk ocean rowing, going solo, and conquering the world one stroke at a time.
--Nick Davidson 

How was it rowing across the Indian Ocean?
It was the biggest journey I ever made in my life. It took me one failed attempt and four months at sea. It was huge and every bit the challenge you'd expect it to be. It had all the drama and excitement of a massive expedition, too--all the highs, lows, and scary and sometimes monotonous bits and wonderful moments of being at one with the world. It's brilliant. 

How did you decide on the Indian Ocean?
I first heard about the idea of ocean rowing in late 2005. I was a student at the time and had initially planned to go into the army on a scholarship. Then I damaged my knee playing hockey. So all those plans for the army had been wiped away, and I didn't have a plan. Ocean rowing completely captured my imagination, and I thought, one day I'm going to do this. The Atlantic is the most widely rowed ocean, but I wanted to be different. And the Pacific Ocean is obviously massive. The Indian is really the forgotten ocean in all respects, so I decided that would be my ocean. No woman had ever attempted it. 

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Sarah Outen Does London 2 London: Via the World

Sarah Outen, Photo by Nigel Millard Sarah Outen, Photo by Nigel Millard

Two years ago today, 25-year-old English adventurer Sarah Outen set out to row the Indian Ocean solo, becoming the first and only woman to do so when she finished in August 2009. Today, she's upping the ante by setting off on a two-and-a-half-year, 20,000-mile human-powered journey from London back to London via fourteen countries of the world. She starts by kayaking down the Thames from the Tower Bridge in London and across the English Channel to France. Then she'll jump on a bike, cycle across Europe and Asia to far-eastern Russian, kayak to Japan, and load up the rowboat for a four- to seven-month trip across the Pacific to Vancouver. Once she crosses the U.S. and Canada on bike, she'll row the Atlantic, then kayak back up the Thames to London. I caught up with Sarah before she kicks off to talk ocean rowing, going solo, and conquering the world one stroke at a time.
--Nick Davidson 

How was it rowing across the Indian Ocean?
It was the biggest journey I ever made in my life. It took me one failed attempt and four months at sea. It was huge and every bit the challenge you'd expect it to be. It had all the drama and excitement of a massive expedition, too--all the highs, lows, and scary and sometimes monotonous bits and wonderful moments of being at one with the world. It's brilliant. 

How did you decide on the Indian Ocean?
I first heard about the idea of ocean rowing in late 2005. I was a student at the time and had initially planned to go into the army on a scholarship. Then I damaged my knee playing hockey. So all those plans for the army had been wiped away, and I didn't have a plan. Ocean rowing completely captured my imagination, and I thought, one day I'm going to do this. The Atlantic is the most widely rowed ocean, but I wanted to be different. And the Pacific Ocean is obviously massive. The Indian is really the forgotten ocean in all respects, so I decided that would be my ocean. No woman had ever attempted it. 

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Women's Top Cold Weather Gear

Savor the last cold blast of winter and gear up for spring with these tried and tested cold weather favorites. Over the past three months, I've looked for the most versatile, best-in-class clothing to keep warm in a wide range of frosty situations--on the mountain, out on the ocean and deep in the trails. With record snow falls, and fresh powder for days, there's plenty of opportunity left to play. So when the thermometer dips, take advantage of the chill and reach for these:

Icebreaker GT Baselayer L/S Pace Zip Pacelayer

Snug and sleek, the L/S Pace Zip is perfect as a baselayer on the mountain or worn solo on a frosty morning run. Made from the finest New Zealand Merino wool, the Pace Zip kept me toasty without ever getting stuffy when I took it out for a ski test in Tahoe on a warmer weekend. Add to that an athletic fit with feminine raglan sleeves and red cross stitching worthy of Catherine Zeta Jone à la Entrapment, and you'll rarely want to wear anything else.  $100; Icebreaker.com

Wcarlinajacket_W10
Helly Hansen Carlina Jacket

There's something about owning "a nice jacket". You know the kind I'm talking about--a jacket so superior in construction, material and bells and whistles you seek out occasions just to put it on. Ladies, meet the Carlina. Constructed from uber-soft Helly Tech waterproof breathable thinsulate material, the Carlina is not only shockingly lightweight, but I found it to be right at home shredding down the mountain, or in biting  20 knot winds. With comfy thumb holes, subtle tailoring and cheeky cross-colored zippers, the Carlina is a playful and modern take on an old classic. Heads up: you get what you pay for, and the Carlina doesn't come cheap. But if quality is what you're looking for, this is the jacket. $375; Hellyhansen.com

 

Endurance_tight_017 Moving Comfort Endurance Tight

Get ready to hit the ground running. The Endurance Tights were put to the test on the gnarliest trails in northern England, where they came out 100% "winning".  Fitting under that old adage--if ya got it, flaunt it, these drilayer compression tights will hug your curves like a fine-tuned sportscar. Boasting the perfect balance of cozy temperature regulation and fit-like a-glove lines, the Endurance Tight held up just as well as an underlayer skiing on the mountain.  Featuring a flat waistband and a sharp reflective design these tights kept me feeling good and safely bright at night. An extra bonus? The internal pocket for keys. $58; Movingcomfort.com

 

Backitup
Columbia Back it Up Pant

Out there on the slopes, ever feel like the Stay Puft marshallow man in Ghostbusters? Never again. Billed by Columbia as "the sexiest ski pant ever", I'm going to have to wholeheartedly agree. Presenting the waterproof breathable, thermal insulated Back it Up Pant. Out on the slopes,  I found these to be warm, stretchy, and super flattering. For the first time I felt like I was skiing in real pants, rather than a bunchy wingsuit. I especially dug the mechanical vents up each leg  which kept me cool on sunny snow days, the zip-out fleece waistband in the back to keep out out snow sogginess and the comfy leg gaiters to keep me dry and my mind on more important things--like catching air.  $150; Columbia.com

 

 

 

 

 

--Shauna Sweeney

 

 

 

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