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The Man Who Fell to Shore

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1. Day One: On April 21, 2007, Reid and Soanya set sail; Reid returns, alone, June 17, 2010.
2. Day 307: Soanya departs the Anne, picked up by a yacht off Australia.
3. Day 530: Reid is alerted to the fact that his ship inadvertently traced the shape of a whale.
4. Day 659: A rogue wave overturns the Anne; Reid is briefly knocked unconscious.
5. Day 749: Reid completes his deliberate tracing of the “Oceanic Heart,” as recorded by the GPS.  

You do not ask a tame seagull why it needs to disappear from time to time toward the open sea. It goes, that’s all, and it is as simple as a ray of sunshine, as normal as the blue of the sky.
—Moitessier, The Long Way


The ‘Anne’ bobs lightly in the green water of the Hudson off Hoboken. “You’re looking at the boat that completed the longest sea voyage in history!” Reid often shouts to visitors who wander by, to which one visitor responded drily, “It looks it.”

“I know, and I wouldn’t change a thing!” Reid answered brightly.

The Anne’s not seaworthy at the moment. Ropes need replacing, masts need repairing, and winches have seized with salt and rust. Reid has months of repairs ahead of him, but he’s not discouraged. “Sometimes I look around New York and think I may be the only person in the city living in a home I built with my own hands,” he says proudly. Soanya and Darshen, who’d been staying with her family, are also now living on the Anne. Darshen is a bubbly and curious toddler, and he finds the schooner to be a fascinating playground. He rambles fearlessly over wooden steps and ledges, exploring the enticing corners and nooks, his legs dotted with red bites where mosquitoes snuck through the netting under which they all sleep. On hot days, of which there were plenty this summer, Darshen plays under a blue plastic tarp that Reid’s strung over the cockpit, splashing in a large, translucent plastic bin half-full of water, which serves as a makeshift kiddie pool.

Reid’s driver’s license expired while he was at sea, so when he needs to run errands, he rides his bike to the nearby path station to go to the dentist, or the bank, or to photocopy the hundreds of pages of journals he kept, a job that takes two hours and leaves him so antsy, standing next to that rattling machine, that he starts doing yoga squats in the copy shop.

One day, the family needed to get off the boat for a few hours, while one of Reid’s friends worked on sanding and revarnishing the deck. When they returned, Soanya was worried about all the fiberglass dust. “Fiberglass dust is toxic!” she said.

Darshen lunged toward his wading pool, reaching to splash in the water.
“Darshen, don’t put that water in your mouth!” she called out.
“There’s no dust in there. Do you see any dust in there?” Reid said.
“I don’t need to see it! If it got in, it got in.”
“Do you want me to pour it out?”
“Yes, I think you should.”
And over the water went into the river.

Reid is gradually adjusting to being a father. Darshen is gradually warming up to Reid. Reid has a full-grown daughter, Viva, from a previous relationship, who also had a baby while Reid was away, his first grandchild; his daughter and granddaughter greeted him on the pier when he returned. Previously, though, Reid’s life was sailing and everything else was secondary. The only thing you could count on was that, one day, he’d sail away again. Now he’s ready to be a family man. One of his recent chores was to cut and hang a perimeter of black netting all around the deck, to make sure that Darshen wouldn’t wander away and accidentally fall overboard.

While Reid was at sea, and Soanya was raising Darshen alone, the two of them would talk by satellite phone, their voices seeming scratchy and faraway. Sometimes she would put Darshen on. But Darshen had only an abstract idea of where his father was, or even what “father” meant at all. If someone showed him a picture of a sailboat in a book, he’d point to it and say “Daddy.”

During his thousand days at sea, Reid survived one collision (Day 15: with a freighter, which grazed the Anne) and one really bad storm (Day 659: a monster wave upended the Anne and knocked Reid unconscious in the galley; he suspected the boat had rolled completely over because, when he came to, rice was stuck to the ceiling). But the worst day, he thinks now, was the day when Soanya decided she had to quit.

After she left, Reid started to despair that the voyage was hopeless. The Anne was damaged. The work was endless. The sails were shredding. He’d sew them by hand and they’d shred again. Eventually Reid pulled down all but one of his sails. He stopped setting courses and let the wind take him where it might. The pain in his arms from the constant work got so bad it started to wake him up at night. He prayed for God to send Jesus and the Buddha to heal him. Then he had a vision: Jesus came and laid his hand on Reid’s left arm and the Buddha appeared and laid hands on his right arm. And God appeared to Reid and he was 60 years old with a long white beard, just like in old Italian paintings. At one point, the vision changed and Reid saw floating there in front of him an enormous platter of barbecued spare ribs. But he refocused and the ribs vanished and Jesus and Buddha reappeared and the ship lurched and God and Jesus and Buddha all bumped heads. Then the Buddha turned to Reid and winked at him.


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