Royal Warrant
Dr hero

Sailing The World’s Most Remote Waters Single-Handed

A decade ago, Dustin Reynolds lost his left arm and leg in a collision that almost cost him his life. Now, he’s sailing to some of the most beautiful places on the globe on a journey that might never end...

Every year, Dustin Reynolds has a small celebration on the 18th of October. It’s the day his life as he once knew it came to an end, when a head-on collision with a drunk driver left him lying on the road with one arm ripped from his body. After two amputations, a difficult recovery, bankruptcy and bouts of depression he decided to seek a new way of life – and settled on learning to sail.

Ten years later, the only thing he owns is his boat Tiama, but now, he says he understands abundance in its true form – the freedom to be self-supporting as he explores the globe in a way few people ever can. But how hard is it to tackle the Pacific Ocean alone when you’ve only got one working hand?

I’m straddling the one metal thing in the ocean, naked – this seems like a bad idea

Dr 1

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Q: You’ve said you couldn’t sail before your accident. Why did you decide to take it up afterwards?
A: ‘I came up with the idea to sail back when I was doing diving. I was pricing up dive charters, and I’d go: “Oh for that price I could buy a boat and go there myself.” It was always in the back of my head, but I’d never learned. So then after my accident, I was reading about around-the-world sailing records – they have all these notations for largest boat, smallest boat to sail around the world, and I was like: “Hey, I’d be the first double amputee, I’m going to go and sail around the world by myself.”

Q: How did you learn?
A: ‘I watched a bunch of videos and read some books, sailed around Hawaii for about one month with my friends, and then after that I set sail across the pacific. The first time I ever set sail by myself was from Hawaii to Palmyra, which is about a thousand miles.’

Q: Have you made any adaptations to the boat?
A: ‘No, my boat’s not set up for one-handed sailing. Boats are pretty notorious for having things in hard to reach places. So, some things don’t just need two hands but need a left hand, so sometimes I’m pretty much standing on my head. It’s hard to say how much tougher it is than for regular sailors, because I’ve never sailed with two hands before.’

Q: Did you have any particularly difficult moments?
A: ‘Yeah, I still remember the first time I had to reef the sails. I was sailing between Palmyra and Fanning atoll – I was maybe 40 knots away and there was a thunderstorm. After my first four or five days at sea I realised you can’t really wear clothes on deck. There are waves coming over the back of the boat every ten minutes, so everything gets soaked and because you’re keeping the boat closed it doesn’t get dry until you hit the next port. So, I’d be naked, mostly, and the first time reefing the sail I was naked with lightning smacking the water close by and I was like: “I’m here straddling the one metal thing in the whole ocean, naked, this suddenly seems like a bad idea.”

Dr 2

Q: What’s the hardest part for you?
A: ‘Really it’s just fixing stuff it’s that most difficult. Working out the electronics to keep your boat going is a constant learning curve.’

Q: What’s the best thing you’ve experienced on your travels?
A: ‘Probably Palmyra. It has a crazy amount of nesting birds, and the sea life; the reefs are just pristine, go for a swim and you’d see fifty types of fish in one dive. Being my first stop I assumed that the whole South Pacific must be like that, but it’s not. The South Pacific is great because of the people, Palmyra is great because of the lack of people.’

Q: What do you still want to achieve?
A: ‘I’m going on a boat to Antarctica in December. I’d love to do the Northwest Passage, I want to do a lot of cold weather stuff, which this boat really isn’t suited to. I’m always looking for ways to sustain it, so I’m trying to build up some sponsorship.’

‘Maybe after my accident I felt like I had something to prove. I don’t really feel that way anymore: I feel like I belong in this community. Finishing the trip around the world doesn’t even seem that important to me, I’d be happy to just keep sailing around the world and not hit the same spot again. The need to set records is kind of gone.’

You can follow Dustin Reynolds' progress and support him here https://thesinglehandedsailor.com

Words: Joel Snape

Dr 3

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