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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 on November 14, 1997 5:31 AM