A 57 year-old just spent 307 days sailing around Antarctica and the Americas. He never slept more than 90 minutes at a time.

Reeves navigates shifting wind patterns, roughly a thousand miles north of Bermuda on May 23, 2019. Randall Reeves, The Figure 8 Voyage

He went to sea for 307 days, toting 200 cans of beer, 50 pounds of brown rice, 687 Clif bars, 40 cans of pizza sauce, and “bags and bags of chocolate M&M’s.”

It was a journey no one else had ever attempted.

57 year-old Randall Reeves just became the first known person to log what he calls a “figure-8” circumnativation. In one season, he travelled in a circle around North and South America and lassoed the South Pole too, braving the choppy waves around Antarctica.

“One does miss green,” he said after arriving back on dry land at his home in Oakland, California on October 19. “The green of the grass, and the green of the lavender, and across the street there’s an Aspen tree that’s changing colours for fall. It’s lovely to be home.”

Take a look at what Reeves endured during his journey out to sea.

Reeves left California on September 30, 2018 in this 45-foot long aluminium boat that he estimates weighs as much as six cars.

The boat is named ‘Mōli.’ Randall Reeves / Figure 8 Voyage

A former restaurant manager and hospitality industry veteran who worked at online restaurant reservation company Open Table for 11 years, Reeves has always enjoyed being around boats, and he’s been sailing since his high school days.

In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Reeves mapped out a course toward the equator with squalls approaching on all sides on May 10, 2019. Randall Reeves, The Figure 8 Voyage

But it wasn’t until he became an adult that Reeves itched to embark on open ocean “blue water cruising” sails.

In 2010, he said he “took off for a couple of years” on a 12,000-mile loop around the Pacific Ocean “just to see if I would enjoy this thing I’d been fantasizing about.”

He was hooked.

His “figure-8” journey this year circled both the Americas and Antarctica in one season.


Reeves tried to complete the journey once before, in 2017, but had to turn back when he hit rough seas below South Africa.

“I’ve been sailing almost constantly for three years,” he said.

Reeves said his wife Joanna is his “enabler” for the trips, and a key player on the back end of the operation.

Already behind schedule, Reeves suffered an oil leak aboard Mōli in Sisimuit, Greenland on July 30, 2019. Randall Reeves, The Figure 8 Voyage

“Guys who go cruising who are married are usually divorced rather quickly,” Reeves said.”I’ve just been really fortunate that Joanna is supportive of this kind of stuff.”

He said the trip would have never happened if she hadn’t said “go do this thing already, or stop talking about it.”

She managed his website, as well as all the PR and communications for the trip.

Reeves calculated that he’d need about 6,000 calories per day during near-freezing Arctic and Antarctic summers. He said he ate “hugely” on the boat, especially at dinner, and he’s still getting acclimated to eating normal-sized meals back home.

Reeves surveys thick fog from his pilot house, 670 miles from his next stop in Nuuk Greenland on July 17, 2019. Randall Reeves, The Figure 8 Voyage

“I’d make enough for two days and eat it all in one sitting,” he said. “That’s the only way you’re staying warm.”

There’s no fridge or freezer on his boat for storing leftovers, anyway.

His one-pot dinners, a rotating menu of chillis, meats, lentil and rice dishes, were cooked over a special propane-fuelled stove that is designed to keep itself upright in the waves. It’s housed on a pivoting system of gimbals, which are suspension devices sailors use often to keep compasses and foods level as a boat sways back and forth. He said the gimbals worked well, most of the time, but there were a few spills in really rough weather.

Reeves brought 200 gallons of fresh water on the boat because he had no desalination system on board.

Reeves’s boat, Mōli, on rough seas in the North Atlantic, May 22, 2019. Randall Reeves, The Figure 8 Voyage

He caught additional rainwater along the way, so he never had a shortage of drinking or cooking fluid.

“I used salt water for everything except drinking and cooking,” Reeves said. “So salt water-washing the dishes, salt water-washing the self.”

His trip, a north to south and around the bottom of the world sail, “encompasses two classic sailing routes.” But technically speaking, one leg was much more treacherous than the other.

Reeves and his boat Mōli on rough seas after passing Cape Horn just off the southern tip of South America the final time. March 20, 2019. Randall Reeves, The Figure 8 Voyage

“The Southern Ocean is so incredibly wild, and the wind and the seas are so strong and so high,” Reeves said.

Sailors call the latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere between the 40th and 70th parallel south the “roaring forties,” “furious fifties,” and “shrieking sixties” because the winds are so strong there.

Part of the issue is that there aren’t very many continents around to serve as windbreaks, as warm air from the Equator rushes south.

Cruising past rocky Cape Horn, off the southern tip of South America is like “the Everest of sailing,” Reeves said.

A view of Cape Horn and Tierra del Fuego, across Drake Passage. Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

This used to be the only feasible year-round route for merchant ships to travel around the Americas, before the Panama Canal opened in 1914.

There’s even a memorial plaque on the Cape, honouring the thousands of sailors who’ve died attempting to round the horn.

“Wind velocities change every two, three, four hours,” Reeves said. “So you’re on deck a lot, 24 hours a day, changing sails as the gales roll through.”

Cape Horn. Dea/C. Dani I. Jeske/De Agostini via Getty Images

Reeves sailed past Cape Horn twice. Once was when he travelled south from California, and then it happened again after he circled Antarctica.

With Cape Horn in the background on Reeves second – and last – passage there, March 20, 2019. Randall Reeves, The Figure 8 Voyage

That stretch of 237 days off shore was by far his longest non-stop leg of the trip.

During the eight month-long haul from California to Nova Scotia, Reeves sailed 32,000 miles before heading north toward the Arctic.

Nearing the North Pole, he embarked on the Northwest Passage. “Until recently, it’s been mostly ice, most of the time,” he said of the Arctic waters sandwiched between Canada, Greenland, Alaska, and Russia.

Navigating through the ice of the Northwest Passage near Peel Sound on August 16, 2019. Randall Reeves, The Figure 8 Voyage

Arctic sea ice is melting at an arresting pace today, with Greenland’s ice sheet melting six times faster than it was just 40 years ago.

It’s not just changing landscapes in the Arctic and Antarctic oceans. Coastal cities around the world will start to endure more aggressive sea level rise in the coming years.

Reeves said the “flat tabletop mountains” of the Arctic Tundra in the summer “look like a desert. Just an odd alien place, with polar bears.”

Male Polar Bear, Bellott Strait, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Arctic Canada. Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The desert-like tundra conditions of the Arctic Circle mean the bears see, on average, fewer than 14 inches of precipitation a year.

“One of the challenges in the Arctic is you just can’t sleep,” Reeves said.

Sea Ice, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Arctic Canada. Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

“You have about 5,000 miles to make in two months and then it all freezes up again,” Reeves said of the Northwest Passage. “So if it’s open, you go and you sleep when you can.”

By that point in the trip, he was used to getting by on naps. Reeves said he never goes below deck for more than 90 minutes at a time to crawl into his sleeping bag, and though he tries to reserve the hours between 10 pm and 6 am for those sleep sessions, nature often has other ideas.

“Your life as a sailor is full of interruption and you have to adapt to that,” he said. “I’m in this perpetual motion machine called the ocean.”

To make up for his toxic sleep debt during the day, Reeves said he catnaps a lot.

“Have a little lunch, sit down, fall asleep for 10 minutes. You do that six or eight times during the day, and you kinda get caught up,” he said.

It’s a system that sleep scientists like Matthew Walker would disagree with.

“The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life,” he told Business Insider in 2017.

According to Reeves, the largest risk in the Arctic is “getting stuck there for the winter.”

Ice forming in Resolute Bay, Nunavut, Arctic Canada. Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

“It’s not difficult sailing, it’s not difficult piloting, but it’s very shallow in a lot of places, lots of islands, lots of things to hit, including pack ice,” he said.

Once, while attempting to take a 5-minute nap after 18 hours of steering through the icy waters, he hit an ice block so hard that he thought his boat might sink.

“I had been so tired, I hadn’t seen it,” he said.

“It’s only been more or less consistently passable by small boats like mine since about 1990,” Reeves said of the passage.

Canadian coast guard icebreaker Amundsen breaks through ice to the west of Cornwallis Island in the Canadian Arctic, January 2015. Alice Li/The Washington Post via Getty Images

As global temperatures warm, it opens up the passage to sloops like Reeves,’ and other boats too.

Scientists expect the Northwest Passage may become a more economically-feasible, watery shipping lane by 2050 for shutting commercial goods around the world.

People often ask Reeves if he gets lonely while out at sea for so many months all by himself, but he said “I enjoy solitude,” and “I love where I am.”

Reeves completing the Northwest Passage, in the home stretch on the Figure 8 Voyage, on September 13, 2019. Randall Reeves, The Figure 8 Voyage

Besides, Reeves said he’s usually so busy, that there isn’t much time for feeling lonely, or even “for sitting back with a good book.”

“You’re the sailor, you’re the navigator, you’re the cook, you’re the cleaner. If anything breaks, you’re fixing it, and always something breaks. So there’s lots to do. There’s very little downtime.”

“I just really enjoy seeing that wild, wild world,” Reeves said. “There are creatures out there that live their entire lives at sea, and I’ve had them crash into the boat.”

A black-browed Albatross cruises above the Southern Ocean off Cape Horn, November 2005. Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

“The complexity of blues and whites and grays and the wildlife. It’s just so beautiful,” he said. “Not monotonous at all.”