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Voyage to the Mystic Jungles of Guyana Reid, Soayna, Darshen return from Guyana jungle coast to Georgetown North Carolina to support his father -- contact This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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Reid Stowe returned to Terra Firma on Thur June 17 2010 - 1152 days at sea

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More on Our Jungle Schooner Rebuild
Friday, 13 July 2012
July 9, 1012
Supanaam
 
Our work continues in earnest everyday in spite of mosquitos, torrential downpours, tarantullas, burning tropical sun and all the difficulties of jungle survival. Our work continues even as we marvel at the many moods of the bamboo forest next to us, the river that flows both ways and the constant changing symphony of endangered South American nature music.
 
The most exciting thing we are doing now is bending thirty foot long purpleheart planks around the bulwarks of the schooner. This wood is a very hard top quality tropical hardwood and it would not be possible to bend the wood as much as we do if it was not very long. It is impossible to bend a two inch by six inch by ten foot plank into the curves we need. This is the place to get the wood we need for this job and I went to great lengths to arrive just where we are now. After all the hardships the Schooner Anne has faced and is still facing she deserves the best that will keep her strong and beautiful for a long time to come.
 
The photo shows part of the long plank I described  bent and bolted around the bow. The cap of two inch purple heart is being screwed down to the two pieces of purpleheart bent on both sides of the bulwarks. We laid the big plank on top of the curved planks and then traced its shape and cut it out with a chain saw. Then we rounded the edges off with a big power planner and ground it down with a heavy grit disc on a big grinder. We will fit another plank out behind this one in much the same manner. This work is difficult and time consuming, but it is a pleasure.
 In the meantime we continue with all the other details that the schooner needs. We work in the motor room and on our electrical system, our rigging, our spars and many other details.  We are rebuilding the interior from the bow to the stern of the boat. Most of the interior was still good but doors were broken, pieces were missing and many pieces had to be removed to get at the insulation and hull behind them. We are also re modeling to make the schooner more beautiful and efficient. I have been doing this for many years. Often during the 1000 day Voyage in the middle of dangerous situations I rubbed against a little detail and marveled at how glad I was that I had done it and how helpful it was and how thankful I am. This kind of care and detailing is what gives the schooner her magic and part of what made it possible for her to sail continuously longer than any boat in history. So now in spite of our lack of funds and not knowing what we will do next or how we will survive we continue to work towards this mysterious elegance.
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Purpleheart Wood for the Schooner
Tuesday, 12 June 2012

June 11, 2012

Supanaam

 I have written before about my long relationship with Purpleheart wood from Guyana. It goes back to 1971 when I first saw the wood and heard its unforgettable name in New Zealand aboard the 26 foot gaff rigged cutter Plumbelly.  The Purpleheart beam we now have on the deck was a long time coming. Since we got to Guyana we had a lot of opportunities to get wood. There is a lumber mill within sight of us just up the river, but we have a very low budget so I had to wait for the right opportunity. There are giant rafts of wood that float down the river next to us, but the wood is not milled. Our boat builder friend Nato is now working on his fifth boat in the fifty to sixty foot range. His wood is chainsaw milled for his frames and planks. Some of the planks that are floated up to the shore of his boat yard are two by eight inches and 50 feet long so that one plank stretches the length of the boat. He has been offering us this wood but I just couldn’t figure out how to work with such freshly cut rough wood. Nato’s brother Chevon is also a boat builder, but now he is cutting wood out of the jungle with a portable bandsaw type mill. I have noticed that most of the Greenheart and Moro wood that they use warps incredibly, but they know how to use the wood to their advantage. So I asked Chevon to find some Purpleheart wood for me and I gave him the sizes we needed.

 

I would like to go up into the jungle with them but we have chosen to stay on the malaria free coastal area and I don’t want to risk it by going up into the jungle. We have had so much work to do on the schooner that I have not been in any hurry to get the wood we need to put around the top of our bulwarks. Finally the wood arrived and we stacked and covered it in Nato’s boatyard. We carried one 31 foot by 2 by 6 inch plank out to the schooner with our Boston Whaler and hoisted it up on deck with our halyards. First we used a twice as light one inch thick plank to get some experience and now we are almost ready to try to fit out and bolt on a big plank. This is very exciting and a little intimidating to have such a piece of wood on the deck ready to become a part of the schooner.

 

We still have a lot of other jobs going on around the schooner such as rebuilding the Purpleheart wood floor in the cargo hold. We are trying to patch every leak and crack in the fiberglass hull inside and out. We are mostly done outside and the schooner has a very patchy look that blends in with the jungle. We don’t intend to finish paint the schooner until the very end of our rebuild job. Fiberglas repairs inside the schooner require removing woodwork and insulation and putting it all back together again. We have been rebuilding the interior carpentry and sanding and varnishing it outside as we go. We have mostly used tropical hardwoods on the interior and they are varnishing up really beautifully. Most of the wood has sheen so when one looks into the wood closely it appears to have shiny layers whose dimensions can be looked into.

 

 It is all a lot of hard work but it is satisfying and we must Save the Mighty Schooner. At this point I must add that our biggest difficulty is getting the modest amount of money we need t do the job. Anybody who thinks it was a worthy endeavor to sail on the high seas longer than any man or woman or boat in history, please help us out so we can save the boat that did it and return to civilization. We receive donations through the Pay Pal on our website and we have a tax deductible partner on the front page of our website. We welcome personal letters from anyone interested in talking to us about how we can go forward.

Best wishes to all.

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The Family Love Tool Box Top
Wednesday, 30 May 2012
May 29, 2012
Supanaam
 
We are working very hard trying to repair the schooner and make her seaworthy again and strong enough to live indefinitely into the future. This takes hours of nitty gritty difficult work. One might think I should save all my energies only for that which is necessary to make the boat seaworthy. But what is making a boat seaworthy? I always give the example of the dragons on the bows of the Viking boats. I am sure the men would not have thought the boats were seaworthy with out their figureheads. I feel the same way. I don’t even think about it, I have always sculpted creations for the Gods since I began building my boats at twenty years of age. I have always seen my tools as sacred and carved on them and communicated with them as if they had their own lives. Several of my tools have been with me for 40 years. They deserve to live in boxes that are treasure boxes. We love to live with treasure boxes and sit on them and open and close them. My Dad built one of my tool boxes out of wood we collected in Dominica in the 70’s. The carved turtle top has found a new home and now we are making a new top. The title of the top is Famly Love.
 
The tool box is made of heavy hardwood, but the new carved top is made of fairly light wood so it is easy to lift and not too dangerous to drop on fingers. The Family Love carving shows my hand with Soanya’s hand and Darshen’s reaching up between ours, all together reaching above the sea and up to the sun and the moon. Many of the doors on the schooner are made of wood so beautiful that I appreciate them as much on both sides, so I finish and carve them on both sides. The toolboxes spend a lot of their time open, so I thought they deserved to also be carved, to make opening them all the more beautiful. The inside of the boxes are carved with floating lotuses. Their timing and magic was affirmed as we took a walk on the beach and looked behind the seawall to see the biggest and most gorgeous violet lotus flowers growing out of the canal.
 
 We have several more carving projects around the schooner and even in the cockpit with us. Through the geometric cut outs in old purple heart wood the bamboo leaves flicker and wave in the wind. Tropical green shades shift through the day. Monkeys run through the trees and the river carries fallen trees downstream to the sea. Once on a rising tide the current carried a huge tree upstream past us. I worried that tree would land on us when it came back down stream, but we never saw it again. A huge tree snagged on our bow anchor line and it took five of us an hour to saw and break it and push it off. Then it went under the boat. We walked to the stern to watch it come up, but it never did. At slack tide I swam under the schooner to see if it snagged, but it didn’t. I wondered if it got caught in our stern anchor line. By the way, we had some pretty big barnacles on our hull, but it seems the fresh water has washed them all off and now we have a clean bottom and we have not hauled the schooner out of the water in seven years!  
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Sandy Beach
Tuesday, 29 May 2012
May 21, 2012
Supanam
 
On Sunday afternoons, we take the local mini bus up along the coast of the Essequibo River and out to where the land meets the wide open sea. It is a beautiful flat coastline of bush, coconut trees and occasional tall trees. Looking in towards the land are water-filled rice paddies lined with coconut trees. All of the houses are built facing the coast road instead of facing the sea.
 
The coast of Guyana is supposed to be lower than the ocean. Most of the coast has a seawall so we can’t see the ocean while driving along. If we do make the effort and look over the wall we see mud flats extending far out and merging with the sea in the far away distance. There aren’t many sandy beaches above the mud flats, but there are piles of rocks that make us feel separated from the ocean.
 
We had almost given up hope of finding a white sandy beach with little waves rolling in. One day, we spontaneously told the driver of our minibus to let us off at the next place where we could see the ocean. The driver pulled over and we got out at a canal of dark water that was flowing out towards the sea. Along the canal were wooden tables where fishermen could clean their catch. A variety of colorful fishing boats were tied against the banks of the canal.
 
Looking out to the sea we could see lots of beautiful white sand and one high dune. The wind picked up speed and a rain shower blew in from the ocean. Darshen and I stood on the sand dune and beheld the beach stretching out in both directions as far as the eye could see. The rain drove us back to the fisherman’s collective shed where they stretched their nets out to dry. The fisherman, as all fisherman that I’ve met, were very friendly. They filled us in on how they catch fish and shrimp and that there were plenty of fish in the sea.
 
When the rain stopped, Darshen and I went swimming. Then we spread a blanket on the beach and had a picnic of our bagged lunch we bring when we go out. Afterwards we went for a long walk down the isolated beach. The jungle behind the beach was accessible by little foot paths that led into it. There were often grassy clearings with tall flower trees hanging with vines. Beautiful butterflies flitted by and big buzzards roosted high in the trees. The jungle clearings were exquisite and at times so uniform that we wondered if man had a hand in their making. Why didn’t bushes grow up in the grassy clearings? As we walked further inland to find our way back to the coast road, the jungle changed into a completely different type of vegetation with skinny spiny palm trees.
 
We decided this was the nicest secret beach, but we plan to search further in both directions.
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Boatlife to the Rescue!
Tuesday, 29 May 2012
May 7, 2012
Supanaam
 
We are on an adventure in a wild far away place, but our mission, besides growing together towards God and inspiring the world, is to Save the Schooner Anne. As you know, she sailed longer on the high seas without stopping than any boat in history and she did it on contributions and virtually no budget. Thanks to the continued help of such companies as Boatlife we are attempting to rebuild the schooner.
 
When we originally built the schooner over thirty years ago we sailed the schooner raw down to the Caribbean to finish her off. Little did we know that the work would go on for many more years. One thing we learned was how to work on the schooner on the go in far away places on a small budget. That was part of my reasoning in choosing to come to Guyana. Then there was a long winter coming on in NYC and we didn’t have a host or place to stay. So off we sailed!
 
Before we left we tried to think of every thing we would need to accomplish this mission, somewhat like we did for the 1000 Day Voyage. Imagine thinking of everything you might need for three years and packing it up nice and tight! If it is not packed up waterproof, then it might be destroyed by the elements. We learned that by experience. We contacted the companies that helped us for the 1000 Day Voyage and it was amazing how many of them said they had fallen upon hard times and couldn’t help us now.
 
Boatlife company was ready to help and asked us what we needed. I always try to be modest and not ask for too much and Boatlife supplied us with all our needs. The product they made and supplied us with is a rubbery, silicone-like sealant of different mixes for different jobs. When we laid down our wooden deck, we caulked all the seams with Boatlife. Now we are using Boatlife to re bed all of our windows, fittings and new deck woodwork. My experience over thirty years using Boatlife is that the product lasts forever. It has always been the surface or thing that it is attached to that breaks down. So we are doing the best we can to make sure that the work we do is long lasting. Thanks to Boatlife for helping to Save the Schooner Anne!
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The Frontier
Tuesday, 29 May 2012
April 12, 2012
Supanaam
 
Soanya’s View:
We decided to take a walk on the shore just a little way up the river to see what was there. “There” was right on the edge of civilization. Literally. Laid out before us was land that had recently been cleared maybe in the past month or so. The trees were cut down and foliage burned. A house frame stood in the ashes and beyond was space enough to for the eye to stretch before hitting trees outlined against the sky. We were witnessing life on the frontier before sewage and water pipes were installed and before the electrical wires ran through. These are the first non-indigenous people to settle the area. There was even a dispute over who had rights to the land.
 
The vibe of the land was beautiful. I had the same profound feeling I had when I first visited Supanaam ten years ago and saw a big black bird sweep across the blue sky over a wild valley a little ways up the coast. It was a different world on the land than on the river and the schooner on the river, though we could see the schooner through the trees.  Then the sounds of someone’s video game on surround sound speakers came from a small house behind me somewhere and I saw a phone tower high above the palm trees. I know that not only is civilization encroaching upon this quiet and peaceful existence but so is modernity. In twenty years, there will be hotels and paved streets in this very spot and the river that everyone bathes and washes in will be too polluted to use for anything. It’s not a vision. This was exactly how the most urban places began. Manhattan was once all woods.
 
When I climbed back on to our schooner, I saw Reid’s primitivist sculptures greeting me and I realize how even in the modern world, the one I grew up in, there are people who understand that society needs to return to some of this simplicity, some of this living with nature and awareness of man, earth and sky unity. The urbanites call it the “Green Movement” or “going green.” That’s why Reid and I were here expressing our urge to get back to nature. We represent those who have come full circle. We are the forerunners just like Reid always said, of humans who are seeking eternity while alive, with the earth, not just on the earth.
 
Our visit ended with a fiery sunset that made the moment so perfect, I stood for a good ten minutes on deck trying to absorb all that I had seen. Truly, I am privileged to experience the two extremes of life and be a part of it yet outside the drama of both.  It made us translators in a time when both the primitive and the modern were in a transition towards a middle ground, a balance that will include the soul of man as well as the creations of man.
 
By Reid:
 
Our life may appear simple and small and since we are not on a record breaking challenge we may not appear as shining examples of humans evolving to new heights, but we are still the “Green Runners.” I see us like the periphery of a plant, little green shoots and vines bursting with life force, growing at a rapid rate, twisting and turning, rolling gently and reaching out into the unknown and beyond. Most of the rest of the plant of humanity doesn’t know we are out here but they are still sending us juice to grow.
 
A few friends and family are sending us a little money so we can keep going and send back out inspiration to keep nourishing that invisible part of ourselves that is our subconscious. We roam the realms of dreams and in this way are all connected to something bigger in life.  We see the little things we do and simultaneously we see how we are interconnected to the big breathing earth as we fly through space faster than we can comprehend. Then we go into the realm of that which is beyond words and is indescribable. Here we connect to eternity and feel immortal.
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Trees Snag on Us
Tuesday, 29 May 2012
April 28, 2012
Supanaam
 
We often see giant logs and trees floating down the river and some of them snag on us. A few months ago, a log jam hit us and pulled our anchors out of the bottom and drove us into the jungle. The tree in the photo wasn’t big enough to do that. To get that tree out, I had to climb down the anchor line and kick the branches off. The current took the tree away down the Supanaam  River to the big Essequibo River and then down to the ocean that is not far away.
 
The landing across the river where we row ashore would be a muddy area but over the years the boat builders have thrown their cast off lumber in. At low tide, the rest of the river bank is roots and trees spilling over into the river. My favorite jungle growth  is bamboo. The rest of the jungle is a indiscernible tangle of greenery. The distinct shapes of the bamboo stalks fan out and gracefully bend down over the river. We have learned to see and hear the many moods of the bamboo next to us as the daylight and weather changes. In a strong wind, the big stalks of bamboo tap together making a hollow sounding music. The small soft leaves rustle lightly and twirl as they fall. When the sun sets behind the grove, parts of the jungle take on an intense magical emerald green color. Often I don’t have time to observe all the nuances of jungle because I work so hard, but finally I reached a point of exhaustion. I fell into the hammock and gazed at the jungle around us.
 
A fifteen minute car ride along the Essequibo river takes us to the open ocean and what a sight it is to see the open ocean after living so long on a little jungle river. It looks like the wide ocean but the water is as brown as the muddy river and tastes fresh. The first time I saw the ocean here was in the twilight just after sailing. Everything was the color pink and mauve with little distinction between the ocean and sky. Something was funny about the ocean. I picked up a rock and threw it as far as I could. The rock landed splat leaving a little crater. It wasn’t water! It was a sea of mud at low tide for as far as I could see. Tons of silt from the Amazon and many other jungle rivers settles all along this NE coast of South America.
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Darshen and Daddy Row to School
Tuesday, 17 April 2012
April 17, 2012
Supanam
 
Every morning of the week, Darshen and daddy row across the river and walk through Nato’s boatyard. DArshen has his own paddle custom made with his name on it. He proudly helps to paddle ashore. We were inspired by the local Native Americans who paddle their families under colorful sun umbrellas. Even the smallest girls help paddle surprisingly efficiently like their parents. We’ve seen only one canoe on the Supanam river. Most of the river boats are made from chain-sawed planks, but the motor boats used to ferry people are quite finely made with bows that swoop way up.
 
Work boats carry sawed planks down the river. Barges of logs float down the river using cross-trees as pontoon arms to keep the heavier than water logs from sinking. A five foot long snake swims briskly againstthe strong current next to the schooner lifting his head right out of the water to try to find his way onboard. There is an eight foot tide that would normally make getting onshore a muddy affair, but split and warped planks spill out of Nato’s boatyard and gives us a sort of ramp we can walk on. This is where many village ladies sit waist and chest deep doing their laundry in big brightly colored buckets while their children play and splash around them. This is the colorful jungle river we cross many times a day.
 
When Darshen and I get on land, we borrow Nato’s bicycle  and head off to nursery school. Everybody says “Good Morning” so we say “Good Morning” twenty times on the way to school. It surprises me how many kids call out “Darshen” when they see us. He is a well known boy in town and is oftern called “Ocean” because he came in on a boat from the ocean.
 
We are the only people who live on a boat here. In fact, we haven’t seen any signs of anyone else living on a boat since we got to Guyana. It is not easy, but we love living on the water and that makes us unique.
 
I feel that I do the work of titans and I tire as lunch arrives. I row my young crew of workers ashore, jump out, hop on the bicycle, and ride off to pick up Darshen from school. He will be four in July and we see him experiencing the things of life for the first time. This evening, we went up the steps of his friend Raj’s house and found him watching cartoons. I wasn’t there to hear, but he was going to ask Raj to come out and run with him. Within minutes they and other village kids were running in circles chasing each other and letting out high pitched squeals of joy.
 
I interrupted the fun to get Darshen home before dark. He insisted I carry him because there were too many hopping toad frogs. I put his life jacket on and rowed him home to Mommy for a big dinner in the cockpit and a bucket bath from the river before bed.
 
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Sculpture in the Jungle
Saturday, 14 April 2012
April 9, 2012
Supanam
 
In the midst of surviving in the jungle, I have been creating tropical hardwood carvings from the local wood that I find. On my first voyage to Brazil in 1973 on my catamaran I made carvings from abandoned canoes. I shipped some of the carvings back home, but the biggest one, a boy riding a dolphin, I carried over the pontoons. When the weather got too rough, I sacrificed it to the Gods of the Sea. That act familiarized me with spirits in the world culture of man that dwell in the artistic creations of man and help us adapt and thrive on the earth as our souls venture into space. It has become a necessity for me to create art objects to aid our survival as we adventure into the unknown.
 
Of course we are busy working on the boat. Now is the time that we must work to save the schooner. She needs and deserves it. After her epic voyage, she is worn out in every way and rebuilding an aging schooner is demanding work. It takes all my time and is a challenge for me after the physical feat of departing the terra firma longer than any man. I thought my time of extreme physicality was over and that I would never sculpt again. But the mystical spirits call me and visions of gods and goddesses appear in all the wood shapes I see and I must answer their call. On a full moon extreme low tide, as we landed our dinghy, we stepped out on an old smooth holey three foot wide black plank. Four of us pulled it up and sawed it up into four foot pieces as we hauled it up on the river bank.
 
The first statement I made was cutting a big circle out of the plank. Much to my surprise, I found it was purple heart wood! I have had a love relationship with purple heart wood since 1971 when the solo sailor, Klaus, showed me the purple heart wood from Guyana in the interior of the little cutter he built on the beach in Bequia. When I sailed to Bequia a few years later, I began carving in purple heart. Now we see the jungle through a polished circle and are taken around the world to zen-like spaces. A praying goddess subtly appears in what looks like flames coming out of the circle.
 
I have several more pieces in progress, both on the shore and on the schooner. The tall slender form of a mystical creature emerges from a piece of heavy mora wood. Can you imagine that I actually hear and sea in my mind’s eye the jungle around me thank me for carving its wood and lifting its presence above domestic and commercial uses towards eternal callings. This is part of what compels me to create even when the realities of life and the huge job of rebuilding the schooner overwhelm me.
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The Work Goes On
Saturday, 31 March 2012
 Mar. 29, 2012
Supanam            58.31 W    6. 58 N
 
In the midst of all the adventures we are having in the jungles of Guyana, the hard work on the schooner goes on. It is actually quite surprising that despite the environment we are carrying on with full work days. We wake up early and get Darshen off to nursery school. Then the work day begins. Soanya has all the household as well as communication duties while I do everything I can to “save the schooner.” Now that we have chipped into all the damaged fiberglass, puttied the hull, fiberglass matted all over, I feel, after nearly two months, that we have taken care of the basics to save the schooner. We still have more puttying, sanding, and faring to do. We also have to take out the masts and stop the rot which is of utmost importance. We have already begun changing the double thick plexi glass windows in the hull. The list of work goes on and we have most of the materials we need, so it is a matter of doing the work.
 
I like to mix all the jobs around and work on lots of things at a time. That way I can mull over all the difficult jobs for the creative solutions I need to complete them. Besides working on the hull and decks, we are gutting and painting the galley lockers, giving the motor room a much needed overhaul and rebuilding the whole cargo hold. In the cargo hold, the floor, cabinets, and bathroom as well as the whole roof, skylights, and main hatch is getting rebuilt.
 
The whole schooner is in a jumbled mess with work going on everywhere. Gear and supplies are pile here and there. In the middle of all of this I am crating some new sculptures. On deck, the main hatch area has big and odd chunks of tropical hardwood. We will start sending back some pictures of artistic work in progress real soon.
 
We are continuing to bring our daily focus more over to the “mystical” aspects of life. What does mystical mean? We live and work in a state of awe and wonder while we feel connected to so much that is greater than us. This is our special gift that we strive to share.
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