Dustin Reynolds, a Hawaii resident, became the first man to complete a solo expedition around the world as a double amputee (left arm and leg limb loss). This accomplishment is remarkable because no other recreational sailor has ever achieved it alone.
The self-proclaimed Single-Handed Sailor sailed from Kailua Kona, Hawaii, USA, on June 18, 2014, and finished the seven-and-a-half-year, around-the-world journey on December 4, 2021.
The search for an ocean of possibilities
Reynolds lost his left arm and leg in 2008 when a drunk driver slammed into his motorcycle. Losing both limbs was a significant adjustment for the former rescue diver. And four years later, he went bankrupt.
Without any cash or credit to reinvest, he began searching for something to dedicate his time to.
He came across the Slocum Society website that featured people who set sailing records worldwide. He noticed that there were no double amputees on the list, so Reynolds decided that he would set the record.
Reynolds prepared for the voyage by sailing around the Hawaiian Islands for a month with a friend. When he returned from that practice trip, he identified some problem areas on his 45-year-old budget sailboat and fixed them before departing on June 18, 2014.
“I don’t think anything could have fully prepared me,” Reynolds said in an interview with the Guinness World Records. But he did his best to get the boat in the best shape possible and equipped the boat with tons of spare parts and lots of food and rum. By that point, Reynolds could comfortably walk and swim using a prosthetic leg and had adapted to life with one hand.
Challenges and obstacles
Throughout the seven-year voyage, Reynolds has encountered several challenges. For example, his boat wasn’t adapted for use by a double amputee, so Reynolds used his teeth instead of a second hand to raise the sail.
But his biggest obstacle was not sailing with one hand but the boat’s uncooperative engine and transmission. He also had difficulties with maintenance work on his sailboat due to a lack of funds; fortunately, he could raise the money he needed to finish the journey.
As for the ocean, Reynolds said that the Indian Ocean is the most difficult to navigate, specifically the Cape D’Ambre and Cape of Good Hope. But the Pacific Ocean is his favorite body of water as it encompasses many beautiful islands and unique cultures. He also found the Pacific Ocean to be excellent for fishing and diving.
Reynolds initially planned for the voyage to take five years. However, issues with his sailboat and eventually the COVID-19 restrictions forced him to extend his timeline.
Life on a sailboat
During his voyage, Reynolds had the opportunity to visit 36 countries and overseas territories. Although his trip spanned seven and a half years, he mentioned in the World Guinness Records interview that he only spent 11 months at sea, and the most time he spent on land was ten months in Indonesia.
He prepared to sail from one country to another by checking a cruise planning website that lists rules and regulations for every country. Reynolds then makes the necessary adjustments to his sailboat and prepares whatever is required before his next stop.
The sailboat contained the bare necessities to keep him afloat, and he slept in the main salon to hear the sails and alarms easily. As for communication, Reynolds has learned to be patient and creative. He only had internet access when he reached land, and he used a Garmin inReach to chat with friends and receive weather updates via text.
While the lack of connectivity can easily make others anxious, Reynolds welcomed the solitude when at sea. He had various marine life to accompany him, like dolphins, seabirds, and whales. Reynolds had an amazing opportunity to swim for 45 minutes with a juvenile whale shark 250 miles southwest of Mentawai, Indonesia.
The start of something new
Although Reynolds has just concluded his open sea escapade, his adventures are just beginning. He hopes to eventually earn a record title for being the first double amputee to land on the moon.
Reynolds also hopes the rest of the world will learn something from his experience. No matter how rough things get, there’s an ocean of opportunities waiting to be discovered.
“I lost my arm, my leg, and was financially ruined. But somehow, that led me to a grand adventure,” he said.