THOMASTON, Maine — Stanley Paris sailed down the St. George River on Monday afternoon, headed for Florida, Bermuda and around the world.
At 76, he hopes to circumnavigate the world in 120 days. That would net the native New Zealander the official title of the oldest person to circle the world nonstop and unassisted. It also would be the fastest trip in a cruising boat, without sponsors, in the “Corinthian” fashion of Dodge Morgan, the late Maine sailor who holds the record for that particular type of circumnavigation, Paris said Monday.
He also wants to be the first to complete the voyage “totally green,” without fuel.
To do so, Paris must cross thousands of miles of empty ocean on his yacht, KiwiSpirit, traveling around the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn before circling back to Bermuda. He’ll encounter icebergs, torrential rainstorms, collisions and, perhaps most challenging, thousands of hours of solitude.
But Paris isn’t frightened. An experienced sailor who already holds several records, Paris has downloaded e-books, packed 150 days’ worth of dehydrated food, and stashed enough single-malt Scotch to last just 120 days. That’s incentive, he said, to arrive on time.
Paris was a teacher for years and founded the University of St. Augustine in Florida.
Years ago, he sailed around the world with family and friends. In 2002, his son raced around the world and Paris was introduced to the ocean racing world.
“I thought, ‘I can do that,’ and the more I looked at it … I decided to design a boat to go real fast,” he said Monday aboard the KiwiSpirit just before setting sail.
With a vacation house in Cape Split, near Columbia Falls, Paris chose Lyman-Morse Boatyard to build the 63-foot, carbon-fiber yacht. It can do as many as 27.1 knots in stormy conditions, he said.
The vessel cost “somewhere between $1 million and $1 billion,” Paris joked Monday.
Determined to make the voyage “green,” Paris will use solar panels, wind generators and hydrogenerators — although he has an emergency engine and fuel just in case.
As his voyage continues, Paris will survive on 30 minutes of sleep at a time, although he may grab a two-hour nap once a week if he finds calm seas out of the shipping lanes.
He expects parts of the yacht to break because odds are he’ll hit a log or a “bergy bit” — a piece of an iceberg.
“The boat will be knocked down on its side two or three times,” he said. “One day the sails will get around the wrong side and I’ll have a real crisis … and things like that will happen.”
In expectation of such a crisis, Paris wears a device around his neck that — should he fall off — will turn the boat around and return it to him. He also wears a personal transmitter that sends his location to a satellite.
No novice to extreme challenges, Paris said he has driven across America on a motorcycle in less than 48 hours and completed a World Championship Ironman Triathalon at age 45. He also said he swam the English Channel twice.
And he already has raced the KiwiSpirit to Bermuda and from Marblehead, Mass., to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“As long as I have the ability to do these things, I will,” Paris said. “I was only meant to live to 62. When I was born that was the life expectancy in New Zealand … I’m on borrowed time.”
Early Monday afternoon, as friends and fans gathered on the dock for handshakes, hugs and best wishes, Cabot Lyman of Lyman-Morse Boatyard presented Paris with a photo of the staff alongside the KiwiSpirit. And he handed him bottles of Talisker scotch and Mt. Gay rum.
“He doesn’t need luck,” Lyman said as Paris sailed away. “He’s got a great boat under him. He just needs Stanley.”