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November 26, 1997

Monterey CA to Hawaii First Attempt. Update #3

November 26, 1997 10:25PM
36° 40.11' N, 123° 26.09' W

I have a feeling this update wont last too long. Our world has shrunk to an infinitesimal point since our last nessage, as for nearly 24 hours we have been unable to pedal. A steadily dropping barometer has brought with it winds of about force 5 - 6, and the associated seas are breaking over Moksha about every minute or so. The sea anchor is deployed, which moderates the ride somewhat, but with not much to do other than look for ships, lisen to the CARD radar detector and wait for fairer seas things tend to get pretty introspective. Things better improve soon, as I've done enough exploring of my own head for one day, and want to ge back to using my legs a little. I wonder how this much weather this soon bodes for the rest of the voyage - must be care...

- John


Posted at 5:44 AM

November 24, 1997

Monterey CA to Hawaii First Attempt. Update #2

November 24, 1997 9:03PM
36° 44.72' N, 122° 46.37' W

There is a bird out here called a Phalarope - a tiny, dainty little thing which seems out of its depth in this environment, yet spends most of its life on the ocean. I can feel a sympathy for them, as another living creature which really has no place being here. It is now the morning of the second day, and it is already apparent what a boost in morale the rising of the sun brings. During darkness some night fears began to rear their heads and I began to hear things - feet walking on a gravel drive, someone tapping gently on the hull and my father calling my name (there must be something Freudian in there), and it was a time of self doubt and questioning, but at sunrise sanity reasserted itself and all was well with the world. Whales could be heard spouting during the night - we BOTH heard them! - but there were none to be seen at daybreak.

The weather is chopping up a bit today, with mainly southerly winds and a short, broken sea rather than a decent swell, making for quite a bumpy ride. We were taken quite a bit to the north in the night, when it proved quite difficult to hold a course, and are now making up that ground slowly. I figure in about 24 hours we will point our bows at Hawaii and take what comes. For now with land out of sight, the wildlife is providing sufficient companionship, with swarms of jellyfish, soaring petrels and shearwaters and possibly the odd albatros looking us over - and then there's always Casey! Spirits are high, and reality is well and truly set in.

- John

Posted at 5:42 AM

Monterey CA to Hawaii First Attempt. Update #1

November 24, 1997 6:35PM
36° 45.92' N, 122° 44.85' W

We completed our first full day at sea two hours ago. I had hoped to send an update at some point yesterday, but looking at a small computer screen below decks was the last thing on my mind- if I wasn't pedaling or sleeping, I was usually puking. Both the seas and my stomach are calmer today, and I am happy to inform the world that everything is going great onboard Moksha. The drive train that had held us up last week is now functioning perfectly, and the only glitch has been a burnt out light bulb.

The ocean's color has changed from green to deep blue, and the last of land has long since slipped beneath the horizon. We have passed through several schools of jellyfish, and pedaled the night away listening to whales as they surfaced to breath. We never cought a glimpse of the mammoths, but were very much aware of their presence.

John and I have decided to send our updates seperately. We will not read any of each other's writings until we arrive in Hawaii, but they will be juxtaposed on the web page for everyone else to see. It is our hope that this will give you a sincere idea of what each of us are getting from the trip. It will also emphasize that even the crew might have a very different take on the expedition in progress, and that we all play a different role- even everyone still on shore.


Posted at 5:40 AM

November 21, 1997

Monterey CA, Hawaii pre-departure. Update #8

Friday, November 21, 12:00 PM
Monterey, California

The whole team visited NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this morning to assess the current weather situation. They were incredibly helpful, and their wealth of knowledge very useful. There are high winds coming into Monterey from the west Saturday evening, and then calm conditions at sea through next Friday. Rather than risk the small chance of being blown back into land at the onset of our trip, we decided to postpone the launch a day and put as much space between the coast and us before any unfavorable conditions roll in.

Everything is now ready- the boat is fully provisioned, and Neptune is sending good things our way. So our last couple days on land will be easy ones, and everyone's thoughts are turned westward.


Posted at 5:39 AM

November 19, 1997

Monterey CA, Hawaii pre-departure. Update #7

Wednesday, November 19, 1997 21:48:22 GMT
36 36.56'N 121 53.12'W

The sea stretches away from us like a warped pane of glass and the boat sways in the easy swell. After the other day's sea trials we have chosen the light of day and blessings of a calm to test the water maker, pedal system, satellite equipment, and other tid-bits on board Moksha. All is well, and besides a slightly burnt meal and the spoon John threw overboard while doing dishes there have been no hitches. Even now- with land still so close- one gets an amazing sense of the beauty of the sea, the boat, and the journey to come. Or are we already on it?


It's quite a big place after all, this ocean thing. Although we are well within sight of Monterey harbour today, on a sunny day without a breath of wind, everything is still so big and deep and wonderful, when viewed from the little fragile soap bubble of existence that is Moksha. She is now almost completely self-sufficient. We can make water, heat our food, listen to our favourite music and talk to whoever is reading this by means of the Galaxy satcom unit on board. This is being written as Casey pedals for the harbour entrance, after a very civilised dinner of charcoaled rice and orange powder drink. All the bells and whistles are now in place and working, all is right with the world and we are riding high. Hold that thought.


Posted at 5:36 AM

November 14, 1997

Monterey CA, Hawaii pre-departure. Update #6

Friday, November 14, 6:00 AM
Monterey, California

As the Sun rises the nights events recede behind us. And what a night… Moksha is almost fully provisioned- all of our supplies for the trip are packed and stowed. The electronic systems are working well, and all of the satellite communication equipment is fully operational. All the bits and pieces- lashing oars, sealing leaks, making tapes- are very close to completion. So John and I slipped our mooring lines at 6:45 last night and silently pedaled out for a trial run in the swell of Monterey Bay.

There are many things we were hoping to accomplish on this short foray into what is still an unknown world for both of us. It was important to make sure that we could actually log in to a satellite from open water and transmit a web update. We were also hoping to work out small things- where to stow certain supplies, see if the weight distribution was trimmed for optimum performance, make sure the stove worked, that we were comfortable in the small sleeping cabin, and that we had all the smaller, easy to overlook necessities. And we wanted to make sure the boat’s new pedal system could do the job.

We set a course of north- northwest once out of the harbor and began taking one hour pedaling shifts, both watching as the shore lights receded and sometimes disappeared behind the waves. Seas picked up, and we stopped early on to cook dinner. The boat was swallowed up between fifteen foot swells, and the burrito I had for lunch was un-swallowed. John and I soon lost interest in cooking anything, settled for a cup of tea, and went back to pedaling.

One minute the full Moon cast a silver lining on the clouds, lighting up the black sky in billows of gray, the next we would have to close the hatch to keep out torrential rains. I was ready for a barren landscape, but instead found an amazing new world in the rolling waves and stormy night. I also found a new world inside the boat. So much of the focus on our trip is the pedaling- the human power part. In turn, most focus is on the exertion part of pedaling- the work. The actual job of turning the cranks, though, isn’t difficult at all, it will just take two months. That doesn’t make it any harder at any given moment. Once the body has fallen into a steady rhythm (juxtaposed against the absolutely unpredictable ebb and sway of natural forces just outside the boat), it somehow becomes easier to let the mind drift, to explore ideas that would normally go unnoticed. It was a very small taste of what is to come over the next couple of months, but enough to reaffirm that there is something so much bigger to the whole thing than pedaling, sleeping, and puking.

John turned the boat around on one of his watches and we began to follow our course back to the harbor. I then took the helm as he climbed into the bunk and began to make himself comfortable. I adjusted myself in the pedal seat, placed my feet on the pedals, and almost completed one full revolution of the cranks before I heard the dreaded snap and rattle of the drive chain snapping and falling to the bottom of the drive unit. The chains are expected to break as they wear, but not within the first six hours of their life span.

The new pedal system was designed to allow easy maintenance of the drive train after an old system proved too difficult to fix mid-sea. The pedals, gears, chain, bushings, shaft, and prop are all built into a single unit that is clamped down in a well in the bottom of the boat. The top of the well is above the water line, so water doesn’t flood the boat even though there is a hole in the bottom of the hull. We carry three of these drives, and they can be taken out, interchanged, and worked on out of the water even while we are adrift at sea.

It was when we went to remove the broken drive from the well that we realized we hadn’t brought the tool needed to unbolt the unit from its resting place. Who would need it on a trip around the bay? Our easy accessibility was useless, and we were stuck… nothing we had would do the job, and none of our improvised wrenches did the trick. Finally John suggested we forget the bolts entirely and just remove the unit by force. On the third try he had it loose.

But the bolts turned out to be just the first problem. When the chain broke, it wrapped around the gears and locked the propeller in place- we couldn’t rotate it by hand into a position that would completely free the broken drive from the boat and allow it to slip up through the well. Foiled again. The prop can’t be removed while still in the water, and there was no other way we could swap drives or change the chain. We radioed base camp and informed them we were immobile and in need of a tow back home. The harbor security boat finally found us at about 2:00 AM, and we were on land by 4:30AM.

At this point there is no way we can launch for Hawaii tomorrow. These are pretty fundamental problems need to be cleared up before we go anywhere. Our best guess is that it will take about a week to resolve them. Although the trip was technically a mess, and our anticipated departure will be delayed, I am very excited- even more so than before this little jaunt. What I glimpsed on the water from Moksha was so beautiful and completely beyond any expectation I could of had. I feel good having pushed the boat to its limit, and now look forward to pushing the limit itself.


Posted at 5:31 AM

Monterey CA, Hawaii pre-departure. Update #5

Friday, November 14, 6:00 AM
Monterey, California

So, a new concrete reality has been added to the heady sense of momentum which we have all been party to in recent days. Last night’s trial run was an immensely valuable learning experience for all of us, in terms of our own interaction with Moksha and her interaction with a new ocean. Our enthusiasm and eagerness to begin our journey can only take us so far before the need for real experience sets in, and although Casey and I both have areas of knowledge which complement each other well, we were before tonight united in a common lack of experience with Moksha in open seas. Our first steps down this road were quite interesting…

Our plan was to leave in daylight and be some distance offshore before dark, but timetables being what they are we missed the sunset before casting off, heading out into Monterey Bay with a full moon making silver of the shifting water, and the sealions barking their farewells from beneath the wharves. Storms to the north were sending eighteen foot swells into the bay, and our transition to the motion of open water was predictable, each of us paying our regards to Neptune over the side on a couple of occasions. At least the fish got the benefit of our dinners, because we didn’t hold onto them for long enough. Just to add to our sense of fun, we navigated flawlessly into the heart of the only kelp patch for miles, which meant handfuls of the stuff being pulled away from the prop - like performing surgery on Moksha, her guts open to the sea while we delved around inside. Seals blew and huffed around us, and thoughts of the rotting hulks in the Sargasso Sea, their bare timbers settling gently into the weed’s embrace, crossed my mind and were quickly shelved. Surgery complete, we pointed our stern at Monterey and headed out, settling into hour watches and quickly discovering what a meditative exercise the action of pedaling becomes. As the body is occupied the mind is free to drift, and make whatever association it wants with the new world around. I feel that tonight our time was too brief to lose the feeling of "battling" the elements rather than going with whatever flow becomes apparent, but with time will come a growing sense of acceptance - and confidence along with it.

The fact that we were unable to come back in under our own power grates on me even now, after sleep and hot drinks. Five miles out, Moksha decided we were becoming too complacent and secure, and threw a broken chain and jammed prop into the equation to remind us that plain sailing is never to be relied upon. Naturally, such a problem had to occur just after I had clambered into the bunk - which proved to be womb-like in it’s snug comfort - so it was up and about in order to bring our combined, limited brain power to bear on the problem. Although the prevailing current was taking us very slowly out of the bay and the swells were high enough to shrink our horizon down as we dropped into the troughs, safety was never in question and the overall feeling was one of annoyance that we were unable to fix such a problem and remove the unit, especially with a pristine spare stowed aft. All manner of strange and shaky tool combinations were tried to no avail, before we had to admit defeat, and speak to Jason and Steve on VHF to arrange a tow. We arrived in harbor at 4:00 AM, a little cold, a little wet and very thoughtful about the implications of our experience - and with about an hour to get showered and clothed and switch on our 100-volt smiles for a live TV interview.

It is undeniably obvious that we won’t be leaving tomorrow, with chains that potentially break after six hours pedaling, but the time delay can only be useful. It was the first time that Casey and I have worked together in the confines of Moksha at sea, and if the night had been uneventful we would have learned nothing about each others capability and style in a situation out of the ordinary. I think we learned positive things about each other, and our approach to the journey has certainly been cemented into a wholly more unified and focused mode. The sense of unreality which we have both spoken of was pretty much blown and washed away during the long tow back to the harbor, with salt spray in our faces (and getting my cigarettes wet) and lightning illuminating the gray horizon behind us. A new timetable has been dictated to us by chance, but with it comes new knowledge and purpose to add to the current momentum. Watch this space.


Posted at 5:26 AM

November 10, 1997

Monterey CA, Hawaii pre-departure. Update #4

Monday, November 10th, 8:30 PM
Monterey, California

As this is written, Casey and I can hardly keep our eyes open, the combination of fresh air and salt water brings on a deep sense of weariness. Salt water! The focus has shifted from the static to the mobile, as Moksha felt water under her keel today for the first time in months. Neatened up and moving to the rhythm of the sea rather than that of people clambering aboard while she languished on her trailer, it was similar to a creature shaking off the long days of hibernation, shrugging off the accumulated dust and cobwebs and returning to a living, vital existence on the element where she belongs. Our muscles worked, her propeller turned, and she made her way through the water - a simple concept to grasp technically yet still a heady reality for us both, and for those who have all worked so long and hard to make this happen again. Today we tested her ability to right herself should she be put on her beam, and with several of us paddling anxiously in the water and more watching ashore a crane mimicked the action of an angry ocean. But true to form Moksha shrugged it off, rising upright with hardly a pause. It proved impossible to resist taking her out into Monterey harbor after sunset, standing smoking at the hatch and feeling her move with a gentle swell, looking at the lights of the city with such a different perspective. Getting lost amongst the yacht berths on the way back to our slip took nothing at all away from the experience.


Posted at 4:00 PM

Monterey CA, Hawaii pre-departure. Update #3

Monday, November 10th, 9:00 PM
Monterey, California

Each day the boat comes closer to being sea-worthy for our sixty day voyage. Even more impressionable than the actual preparation of Moksha, though, is the way in which my perspective of her evolves as the launch date nears. It is somehow as if my tie to her- the beauty of her original construction, the wear and tear that wizened her across the Atlantic, and what I myself have put into her- is becoming more focused, more refined. What began as a passionate interest is growing into something like an umbilical chord.

All the work John and I have put into Moksha was done on dry land, and today we saw her in her true element. After trailering her to the boat ramp from her resting place at the Monterey Maritime Museum, we pedaled Moksha to a waiting crane. By hoisting up lines wrapped around her belly the team was able to turn her on her side and test her performance as she came around when the lines were slackened. And she passed with flying colors- we had her on her side three times, and each time she came up on her own. It is good to know that we will never be trapped inside a capsized boat in high seas...

After the morning's tests were over, John and I had a bit of a chance to pedal her around the harbor. Her maneuverability is impressive, and both of us were amazed at how well she handled. There are still quite a few things that need to be taken care of before our launch on Saturday, but it looks like everything will come together on time.


Posted at 5:22 AM

November 6, 1997

Monterey CA, Hawaii pre-departure. Update #2

Thursday, November 6th 9:00PM
Monterey, California

Same desk chair, different day. Moksha, the people around her and the expedition as a whole are on a definite roll, and the sense of momentum is noticeably building as the day of departure approaches. As long as the weather keeps on smiling at us, we should be bound for the islands just over a week from now, and the list of things to do never seems to grow shorter. It is an interesting exercise in faith, trusting that essentials are winging their way across the country by mail even as we speak, and will arrive when they are most needed, but despite the headaches and seemingly endless phone calls it is all working out, and I guess we can start to allow the tiniest shred of optimism to enter our thoughts.

Today, Casey and I were involved directly for the first time in the educational aspect of the Expedition, when a 4th Grade class from Santa Catalina School came to visit Moksha, under the capable eye of their teacher Suzanne Geller. It was a mutual learning process, the children hopefully gaining an insight to the materials and ideals behind our journey, and happy astonishment on our part at the energy and curiosity which the children showed. It will be as fulfilling for us as for them to make the most of our daily updates once we are at sea, and it may give us a much needed chance to exercise our brains as well as our legs!

There is still an element of unreality about all this for Casey and I, as if the enormity of it all is a little too much to grasp at once. The momentum is there, the preparations are proceeding well, but the end result of all this work is still somehow remote. I'm guessing that it will only seem real and immediate when the land begins to drop beneath the horizon, but for now the sense of detachment is helping to keep the worst of the butterflies at bay!


Posted at 5:20 AM

November 4, 1997

Monterey CA, Hawaii pre-departure. Update #1

Monterey, ca to hawaii (failed attempt)
November 4 - December 12, 1997

Tuesday, November 4th 9:30PM
Monterey, California

Our first Update From the Pacific is brought to you from the comfort of a desk chair in a house not far from where we will launch in a week. We are not yet on the water, but the air is thick with anticipation. Everyday new supplies arrive- food, electrical hardware, and all the other thousand bits and pieces that go into a pedal powered trip across the Pacific.

A mast has grown from the cabin of Moksha, and is now sprouting wind generators, radar receivers, and strobe lights. Her belly is growing fat with life rafts, wires, and grub. For the most part we have divided up the tasks of preparation, I'm taking care of the electronics and communication network, John is packing food and supplies, and other expedition members are raising money for last minute purchases, coordinating the educational program, doing mechanical repairs, and taking care of the so many so important things that need to be done.

It is very much a team effort, and it is amazing to see everyone's work as it comes together. I am beginning to think that doing the actual pedaling is only a very small part of the whole picture. John and I have also been taking advantage of this last week to pick the brains of Steve and Jason for the critical wisdom they gained in a trip across the Atlantic in the same
boat several years ago.


Posted at 5:17 AM