Double Amputee Looks To Be The First To Circumnavigate The Globe

On an October night in 2008, 30-year-old Dustin Reynolds was hit by a drunk driver while riding his motorcycle home after an outing with friends. He lost his left arm and leg, and barely escaped with his life.

“It was all just really strange, my memory of it. First, I came to on the road, and tried to take off my helmet, but I realized my arm was missing. I was pretty confused, and all I really knew was that I had been in a bad accident, and I had lost one of my legs and one of my arms,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds was living in Hawaii at the time. A drunk driver swerved into his lane and made direct impact, flinging him out across the road, crushing his leg and arm, and causing massive internal damage.

After a three-year recovery process, Reynolds had accrued almost half a million dollars in medical debt, so he was forced into bankruptcy after his health insurance company put a lien on him. He went from owning multiple businesses and living comfortably to barely being able to afford his payments for regular prosthetic fittings.

Seeking new purpose, Reynolds said he was reading online when he saw an advertisement for the Captain Joshua Slocum Society, a group of sailors who had sailed around the world by themselves and set various records for such feats. Captain Slocum was the first person to circumnavigate the world alone, and he did so on a tiny sloop.

“I was not in a good spot, and I knew I needed a big change,” Reynolds said. “It was really inspiring to see all these people doing these amazing things, and I wanted to do something like that too. I said, ‘Oh man, there’s no double amputee on that list,’ and so with that, I just knew this is what I wanted to do. I was going to be that guy — the first double amputee to sail around the world alone.”

After making the decision in his head, Reynolds purchased a 1968 Alberg 35 for $12,000, and learned everything he could about sailing through YouTube and books. “I barely even knew anyone who could sail, so it wasn’t like I was getting lessons,” he said. “I am a self-taught sailor.”

After about a month of sailing around the Big Island of Hawaii and testing the waters of his sailing capabilities, Reynolds set sail to be the first double amputee to sail around the world alone.

With no long-range radio, satellite phone, digital radar, or weather reports, Reynolds threw himself into the life of a solitary sailor.

“It’s impossible to be completely prepared when you are out at sea, and when you sail as much as I do, there are always unexpected things that happen.”

When his motor quit in Fiji, he sailed without it for over a year. His transmission has also failed a number of times, leaving him stranded off the coast of Malaysia.

In Thailand, Reynolds finally upgraded from his initial ship, which he said had become “unsafe” after logging so many miles. That’s when he purchased Tiama, a Bristol 35 that would become his floating home, and his friend. “It was a huge upgrade from my old boat, so I was pretty happy with it.”

During his more than 30,000-mile journey that started in 2014, Reynolds said he has had incredible experiences that have changed the way he sees life. “You meet amazing people and see some of the most wonderful things when traveling to dozens of countries and different places.”

Apart from the expected challenges of being a crew of one sailing across entire oceans in a moderate-size sailboat, Reynolds said being a double amputee doesn’t make things any easier, and he has had to gain enormous amounts of patience to stay on an even keel.

“It’s always frustrating that something that might normally take two seconds with two hands takes five minutes with one hand.”

Reynolds said he is working on writing a book about his journey, both across the sea, and through his life experiences, that he hopes will raise awareness for people with disabilities and inspire people to chase their dreams.

After the hurricane season is over and countries start to lift travel restrictions, he will travel to Panama to start the final part of his journey. Although he is roughly three-quarters of the way through his circumnavigation, he said he doesn’t plan on stopping sailing once he rounds the finish line.

“I could see myself cruising on a sailboat for the next 10 or 20 years, maybe more.” Apart from sailing, Reynolds said he is interested in environmental studies, and may consider conducting research projects surrounding ocean health, if he ever stops sailing.