Lisa Stansfield sang about looking “All Around the World” for her former love, and Reid Stowe spent more than three years sailing it, nonstop, in his lifetime love.
The mariner and artist, whose “Flight into Abstraction” exhibit of 20 mixed media paintings has opened for July at Sunset River Marketplace, in Calabash, N.C., will give a talk and slide show about his journey 2-3 p.m. Wednesday. In “Reflections of an Artist at Sea,” part of the gallery’s “Creative Exchange” series, he’ll recount building the 70-foot-long schooner he named Anne and taking it on a global voyage to and from New York for 1,152 days until this past December.
That record in maritime circles, which included Stowe having his girlfriend and sailing partner, Soanya Ahmad, aboard for the first 306 days until her transfer to another ship at sea for relay back to New York, also led to another reward for Stowe: meeting his son, Darshan, to whom Ahmad gave birth two years ago.
The reunited family has resettled to care for Stowe’s widowed father in Greensboro, N.C., where he said his parents had lived for 40 years along with keeping a summer cottage in Ocean Isle Beach, Stowe’s favorite place growing up. He also brought up memories of visiting Myrtle Beach more than 40 years ago, and the former Pavilion Amusement Park downtown.
Question | What new routine or pastime have you added since returning to land?
Answer | I have no other mission or plan, along with not knowing what’s going to happen next. This gives us time to relax. … It was a lot of work, a challenge as a captain and sailor, and off Africa, having pirates all around, and being on a real adventure. It’s peaceful and quiet here, and that gives us a chance to work on our books … such as what you eat, being isolated at sea. … We’ve actually nearly completed a book on how I learned to stock up on food, and I lived for three years with only that food.
Q. | How different did the landscape in general look upon finishing your landmark voyage?
A. | It was very different, and very difficult for me. Even though I spent my lifetime sailing since I was a teenager, and I have on many voyages around the world, including being just north of Antarctica, I haven’t been gone for years at a time. … After being at sea for more than three years and not seeing a person for two years, it hasn’t been so easy for me to adjust to being back on land, because at sea, I entered into kind of a state of prayer of thankfulness to God and the universe for allowing me to live in such an amazing environment. It really lifted my mind to where I experienced the greatest ecstasy and love.
Coming back to land, I’ve had to adapt. … Now … I have to work on how to make money … how to share my story, so now as I’m working on my book, I’m realizing that I’m not in the same state of mind that I was at sea.
Q. | Creating art at sea, and having the drive to build boats – another art in itself – how do those talents feed each other?
A. | Art is very important to me. I’ve been an artist all of my life. … Even as a child and growing up, I felt I was a gifted artist and what I was painting was magical. But it really came into effect when I built my first boat, a 26-foot catamaran … and before going off to sea, I saw the need to make figureheads for the boat to take care of me. … Even at that early age, I was tapping into the ancient power of figureheads on boats. Every culture in the world had figureheads or eyes on boats, because men had to have the help of spirits to take care of them at sea. …
That’s how my art was helping me. The proof of the voyage backs up what I have to say about my art. I was able to do the sailing I did through the power of my art.
Q. | What was the most common form of wildlife you’d see in the various marine settings?
A. | Pretty much there was only birds and fish out there. You’d be surprised how often, and how most of the time, you don’t see anything but the sky, and the wind, and the clouds, and the wind blowing the waves across the ocean. … Then there were all the changing weather patterns, from extreme … cold weather … to the most beautiful and crystal blue sea. … I’ve seen every kind of wildlife; that’s more special when they come to me. In the southern ocean, I might see some whales blitzing by, and that’s it. … When I was by the equator … 15-foot-long fish would swim up. … I was watching nature all around me, including sharks, whale sharks and manta rays.
I have an underwater window in the boat. … The boat would get barnacles, and triggerfish would nibble the bottom of the whole boat on the barnacles, and that would leave a clean bottom.
Q. | How was the selection of works chosen for the art exhibit at Sunset River Marketplace?
A. | There is some abstract work in the show. … Abstract art also helped me with the voyage. … A lot of the painting have connections, things from my family and childhood. … Some of the paintings are … birds in N.C. settings, then you can see the birds and the settings become more abstract. … That’s where the name came from, “Flight into Abstraction.” It beings with flight and goes step and step into abstraction.
Q. | How’d your enthusiasm for expression unfurl more and more as your life progressed?
A. | I like to share my story; I always have since I first started talking, and as a teenager. … My mom had me going to school and telling stories.