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June 29, 2000

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #21

Thu, 29 Jun 2000 15:12:32 -0700
Tulagi Report #2
Vanita's restaurant
Tulagi Island
Central Province, Solomon Islands
Latitude: 09 degs 05' South
Longitude: 160 degs 36' East

Chris and I went for a walk yesterday around the island. Since debarking from Moksha nearly a week ago we've both felt increasingly restless from relative inactivity, combined with a mysterious mid-afternoon sugar low cum lethargy attack that neither have known the likes of before. Tulagi-itus we suspect. Most of the islanders seem to have it already. Add malaria (which nearly everyone has in some form or another) and the mildly narcotic habit of chewing betel nut and its wonder anyone on Tulagi ever gets off the horizontal. We thought Kiribati was bad for apathy. This place takes the biscuit.

So we managed to haul ourselves to our feet at around 11a.m. and point ourselves in the general direction of the island market where we had vague plans to buy some fresh produce grown locally on the island: sweet potato, green coconuts, bananas, and if we were lucky, a pineapple. But by the time we got there nothing was left except betel nuts. A lot of betel nuts in fact - rows and rows of them in every direction. Little green rugger-ball shaped things the size of a plum. So, when in Rome...We each parted with 20 cents (equivalent to 5 cents US/3 pence UK sterling) for one nut, a pinch of lime and handful of green leaves that combined together in the right order make up the fearful blood curdling brew you see dribbling out of people's mouths all over the Solomon's.

"OK, we're betel virgins," I informed the old guy we'd just bought our nuts from - rather preemptively to avoid complete humiliation. "I'm afraid you're going to have to walk us through our first experience." "No problem. Taking betel very easy."

He was right about the first bit at least. This entailed cutting away the green peel to expose a light brown nut which is then divided into two and wedged into the mouth one at a time to be well and truly masticated before the next stage. This next stage - adding a dab of lime on the end of one of the green leaves - required a little more bravery in my opinion, for it is the addition of these second two ingredients that spark the potent chemical reaction the partaker is really after. By now the usual crowd of locals had encircled us and stood gawping at the white men about to make complete arses of themselves doing something they could do in their sleep.

"OK, don't swallow any of the nut," instructed our patient teacher, "next thing to do is...".

But it was already too late. During the mastication stage I'd inadvertently allowed some of the now incredibly bitter mulch filling my mouth leak down my throat. I remember doing something similar the first time I had a tooth out at the dentist and was told to rinse my mouth out with the purple liquid provided. I'd managed to get most of the stuff down my neck before being stopped by the nurse. It had tasted awful, but nothing compared to the experience I was now having. It felt as if a billiard ball had lodged in my throat.

"Jesus", I spluttered, sending a shower of half-chewed betel and saliva over the now thoroughly entertained crowd, "you folks pay money to do this?"

I spat the rest out in the grass and retired thoroughly defeated to the store opposite in search of a drink to remove the billiard ball from my throat. Chris on the other hand seemed to be doing a little better and had the beginnings of a thin line of red lipstick appearing on each lip, a sign that he was doing it correctly.

"Getting a buzz?" I asked. "Sort of. Only lasts for a minute or so though. Helluva hassle for just for a 60 second high" mumbled the reply.

Bidding farewell to our gracious betel nut host and the goldfish bowl crowd we resumed our circumnavigation of the island. To exit the village we had to pass through a concentrated area of very well kept houses surrounded by neat vegetable gardens and the respective owners either sitting on the steps shooting the local breeze or lying comatose in hammocks. The path then turned northwards along the westward shore, past beautiful sandy beaches with dugouts dragged casually up above the tide line and small grass houses roofed with pandanus leaves set back into the bush. After a snorkel, cut short due to Chris nearly bumping in one of the most venomous snakes available in Solomon waters (a 4 foot thing with black and white rings that according to a local who we spoke to later that day, can kill a man in less time than it would take to get him to hospital, which would be a waste of time anyway because there is no known antidote), we hit the path again which wound its way past rather unsightly piles of rusty washing machines and dismembered vehicle parts that people had obviously just driven out here in the middle of the night and dumped. And then it started to rain. The path became a sea of mud and mosquito infested muddles and we laboured on past dark and festering mangroves that looked like five star croc-motels before emerging in the rather rundown community of Sesape marina, the once thriving government-run boat yard, now lying idle. We would have pushed straight on through this rather depressed and run down area had it not been for the sound of music that came to us from one of the cheap, prefab houses that lined the track. Rounding a corner we came face to face with two young boys each banging a pair of old flip flops on a set of panpipes made out of 3/4 inch PVC tubing of varying lengths and tied together in groups of three with coconut fibre. Alan and Randall, both 12 years old, were taking advantage of the current suspension of school (no pay for the teachers due to the conflict) to practice on their older brother's kit. As with all the children we've met here so far here in the Solomon's, they were more than happy to run through a couple of numbers for the video camera and pose for a photograph. We gave them a couple of dollars each for their performance before we left. Having been a musician myself, I know how people who play live music often get stiffed. Audiences are more often than not under the metaphysical miscomprehension that because musicians have smiles on their faces while singing or playing their instruments, the music is itself food enough to keep body and soul enough together.

Finally we came to journey's end - Vanita's restaurant - which to be honest deserves the focus of one update all to itself - its that mad of a place. It's a chaotic mixture of what you'd imagine the Eagles' Hotel California to be like, a home for waifs and strays (both of the animal and human variety) and a knocking shop. And one of its more dependable characteristics, head and shoulders above the promptness or temperature of food when eventually it arrives, is the resident mosquito population. Here's a photo of one that crash-landed in my omelet this evening.

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 12:27 PM

June 22, 2000

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #20

Click on image to play video

Mon, 26 Jun 2000 16:53:04 -0700
Tulagi Report #1
Vanita's restaurant
Tulagi Island
Central Province, Solomon Islands
Latitude: 09 degs 05' South
Longitude: 160 degs 36' East

Tulagi, for all its merits as a safe haven for Moksha, is a bit of a let down in comparison to the island of Malaita where we were a few days ago. Not only is the island still winding down from its once elevated status as political and business centre for the Solomon's but there is also an atmosphere of general weariness and malaise as a result of the conflict that that doesn't seem to have affected the feisty Malaitans to such a degree. All the big businesses have closed bar one - the National Fisheries Developments tuna processing plant against whose wharf we have Moksha currently tied up to - staples supplies are running low in the island's two main stores with no prospect of significant re-supply coming in from Honiara in the foreseeable future and only the employees of the NFD seem to be getting paid, and even they are on a knife edge with keeping their jobs. Everyone is feeling the pinch and looking increasingly to their land and the sea to keep their families from going hungry. The place is perhaps a microcosm of the slippery slope being experienced all over the Solomon's right now.

And the people, especially the younger more 'international generation' who are more dependent on foreign trade than their fathers and grandfathers, all look more than a little depressed. Chris and I are already feeling ourselves sinking into quicksand.

But let's back up a little and come up to speed on how we got here. After a thoroughly memorable introduction to the Solomon Islands by way of the town of Auki on Malaita Island - which we'll get around to writing about in the next day or so and posting retrospectively - Chris and I slipped Moksha's mooring lines last Thursday evening and embarked on the final 50 nautical miles across the Indispensable Strait to the relative safe haven of Tulagi Island here in the Central Province. The reason for having to move on from Malaita so soon after making landfall was the absence of immigration and customs services there. All communications lines with Honiara had been cut, so after a two day stay of execution was granted by the local police to allow us a couple of decent nights' rest, we were obliged to continue onto complete customs and immigration either in Tulagi or Honiara. (At one point the police were going to make us get straight back in the boat an hour after arriving and continue on!)

We got underway just before dark at 6.45pm shortly after fulfilling our promises to two local youngsters - Alphones and Calvin, who had taken it in turns to keep an eye on Moksha during our stay - to have a go pedaling the boat. The wharf was jammed with people come to see us off it seemed, although in the fast fading light all we could make out was the dim outline of hundreds of hands held aloft in silent farewell. Then there was nothing save for the black, moonless night and splashing of paddles either side belonging to the same gaggle of children that had intercepted our arrival and had taken it upon themselves to escort us in their dugouts the few hundred yards to the entrance of the harbour. Finally they peeled away with a couple of last "Gooood-byeee's" trailing off into the night and a few distant "Gooood-night's" came wafting across to us from village of Ambu whose grass huts line the entrance. A rather sobering and sad departure. We would like to have stayed a little longer.

Then we were on our own, cutting a course of 230 degrees magnetic to take us up to the entrance of the Mboli passage at Siota by morning light. We'd pulled less than a mile away from land however when we took a fix on the GPS and realised the need to steer a more aggressive heading of 215 degrees magnetic to counter the considerable drift and windage being exerted on us by the increasing 20-25 knot wind and accompanying swell from the Southeast. Whether it was the effect of being in a confined passage between two sets of islands or just a freak weather pattern that had moved in, we found ourselves battling against the heaviest seas since leaving Kiribati. By morning a good 2-3 inches of water was sloshing around in the bottom of the boat and everything inside the cockpit was soaked from a few of the larger breaking waves making it up and over the side. Earlier on the previous evening I'd tried to write an update on this laptop but had to abort the idea after feeling queasy. But a swig of The Glenlivet and a couple of hours wearing a pair of anti-seasickness wrist bands that press a small 1/4 inch button into a pressure point on the underside of each wrist soon had me back on track.

The Mboli passage forms a narrow division between the two central province islands of Nggela Sule (Big Nggele) and Nggela Pine (Small Nggele). At 6 miles in length and at times only 30 metres in width, it looked from the chart and some local knowledge we picked up before leaving Auki to be a rather fun and unusual short cut to the alternative option of pedaling around the southern edge of the Florida islands. The only question mark was navigating the fairly comprehensive reef system guarding the northern entrance at Siota. Fortunately before leaving San Francisco I'd forked out the $59.95 for Warwick Clay's 'South Pacific Anchorages' cruising guide to the south Pacific which although a little pricey has already more than paid its way in providing essential information about the final approaches to Auki. Our navigation and plan to leave Auki at nightfall and arrive at the entrance the following morning proved spot-on. At 7 a.m. with enough light to distinguish the ill-kempt and fading red and green markers indicating a safe passage through the maze of treacherous reefs, we slowly nosed our way past the mouth and into the throat of the passage where we could relax a little more. There was more than a hint of Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' on our minds as we meandered our way at a lugubrious pace up the channel, keeping eyes keen to both banks for signs of saltwater crocodiles slipping into the water behind us or the first sound of poisoned arrows whistling across the water from the depths of the jungle not far beyond.

After a little ways we were accosted by a group of fishermen in dugouts who clambered aboard and spent the best part of half an hour learning about the pedal mechanism, where we'd come from, where we were headed next etc. While we talked story, exchanged songs on the guitar and generic jokes that have a priceless way of translating between any culture, we all slowly drifted downstream (which happened to be the direction we wanted to go) as one huge raft: one pedal boat and half a dozen 12ft dugout canoes trailing along behind. Many times I've been struck by how powerful a catalyst Moksha is for bringing people together from different walks of life, but none more so than on this occasion. For a collection of wood and glue to make it to the opposite side of the globe from where it was made and to provide the stage for such a special and unique meeting of different souls - such as I will never forget - is to me the single most powerful aspect of this whole project. Theoretically Chris and I were a world apart from these fishermen in every respect. But the fact they had wooden canoes powered by human power, and we had a slightly bigger wooden canoe also powered by human power brought us all down to the same level.

Finally the combined weight of 12 people aboard Moksha was taking its toll in the form of water seeping in around the pedal unit well, so we had to break up the happy host. Peter - seen here in the photo pedaling the boat - stayed on for a ride to his parent's house a mile further downstream. Along the way we took it in turns to play songs on the guitar and pedal the boat. Peter taught us the only song he knew (a hymn), a short section of which you can catch in the video clip. We reciprocated by sharing with him the chords and melody of Bob Dylan's Blowing in the Wind. And then it was time for him to slip the knot attaching his dugout to Moksha and paddle the 40 or so yards to his house and rather concerned looking father standing by the water's edge, obviously wondering what the hell his son was doing with these white men and on such a strange and demented looking craft. One thing was for sure, Peter had a bit of explaining ahead of him, not least how he came into possession of the coconut cream topped bun we'd bought from the hot bread shop in Auki and given to him to take home.

By 2 p.m. Tulagi hove into view and we began our final preparations before making landfall: raising the flags of the countries the expedition has visited so far, attaching lines fore and aft and trying to hail anybody in the area on VHF Channel 16 to determine the best place to pull in at. As with our approach to Auki we recieved no reply, save for the yacht 'Apollo' who could barely make us out in Honiara. At 3.40pm we slowly pedaled up the East Side of Tulagi, close enough to examine possible landing sites. Hardly a soul was to be seen in amongst the derelict government buildings and rotting remains of the once flush fishing industry, giving the place the feel of a ghost town. So we continued north until passing the largest wharf we'd see yet and pulled over to ask directions from the guys working on the dockside. Like on the wharf at Auki, though with less of an affable nature to him, a huge guy (who later became known to us as Bradley) with much darker skin than all the rest of his colleagues and a face like a bag of spanners looked down at us with one of the most unfriendly and intimidating scowls I've ever encountered. "Er, we've just pedaled in from England and wondered if you might, um, have a suggestion as to where to put in". I realised how ridiculous this sounded as I said it, as if we'd just decided to 'pop across' for a cup of tea and were planning on 'popping back again' in time for dinner. Typical English modesty I thought, making a mental note to try and be less matter of fact in future. No response from the coal man. I tried again. This time a white face emerged from the background and seemed to register the information I was trying to communicate. "Yeah, you're the guys I saw on TV back in Aussie last year," came the now familiar drawl of another common wealth cousin from down-under. "Poms, pedaling some goddamn fool boat around the world eh? Well, you better come in and explain yourselves to the boss." And with this very different but equally unique reception to the one weathered in Auki, we threw our lines to the waiting hands - one set belonging to Bradley whose expression had suddenly transformed into that of a beaming gentle giant once we'd proved ourselves to be something other than a marauding force of militia - and stepped ashore to this new Happy - though temporarily a little down-in-the-mouth - Island and all it's secrets and wonders therein yet waiting to be discovered.

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 11:50 AM

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #19

Click on image to play video
Click on image to play video

Thursday, 22 Jun 2000
Auki Motel, Malaita Province, Solomon Islands
Latitude: 08 degs 46' South
Longitude: 160 degs 42' East

Following a long, hard day cranking 25 miles up the eastern edge of Malaita Island at less than 2 knots we arrived exhausted at the harbour entrance to Auki just after dark on Monday evening. The decision was then to either wait for the moon and head in later that same evening or wait until morning. On the one hand we had an opportunity to make it in off the ocean, something not to be sniffed at when the weather could change any time and blow us off shore. On the other we weren't in possession of a detailed chart for the final approach, and even with a good moon on our side we could still be at the mercy of lone coral heads hidden submerged beneath the surface. Plus there was the issue of avoiding the Malaria mosquitoes that are most active in the evenings and we would be arriving at the end of the day, floundering around in a strange town trying to find accommodation and perhaps even more importantly a cold beer. We decided to wait until morning.

It actually proved more than the right thing to do. There's certain rightness in pausing before the close of any journey. It allows space to fully appreciate the forces of nature that have allowed safe passage and for one's own accomplishment. Like drinking a fine wine it allows for the experience to be rolled around inside the mouth and fully savoured before being finally swallowed. So we sat out on Moksha's roof, rocking gently back and forth in the undulating swell, mother moon starting her silent passage across the sky to the west, nipping on The Glenlivet and reliving with wry smiles some of the finer experiences of the last three weeks. At around midnight we heard the sound of outboard motors heading our way. Chris switched on the all round white light just in time for two fishing canoes to see us and slow their speed. Two boats, each with six men on board, cut their engines at the last minute and negotiated the last few yards to Moksha with the aid of paddles. Only now did the seriousness of the situation begin to dawn on us as our visitors, now silhouetted by the moon and muttering unintelligible words in Pidgin (the local language) draw up either side of us. For all we knew this was the local militia - the Malaita Eagles - come to rough us up a bit and relieve us of some of our electronic toys. Our only defense was the same Steve and I employed when visited by a gunboat in Cuban national waters during the Atlantic crossing 5 years ago: nakedness. Literally. Maybe, we thought, the sight of a couple of wild-eyed white men in their birthday suites will deter any hasty moves.

"Ho" came the faceless voices out of the darkness.
"Ho" we replied in unison, our faces now under the scrutiny of torchlight.
"You have problem?"
"No, we're just waiting for morning until we go into Auki."

With more than a little relief we began to comprehend the reality of the situation. These were local fishermen who had seen our lights from shore and come out to see if we were in trouble. In Europe and American navigation lights are used for navigation. Not so the rest of the world it would appear from our travels, including the Solomon’s. In the absence of an official coast guard service the local fishermen and sea-faring folk have to watch out for each other and any form of light – including running lights – are interpreted as meaning distress. How the locals keep from colliding with each other while motoring in and out of the harbour at night is a mystery.

After sharing cigarettes and a few words of broken English - in which the fishermen tried to persuade us to travel into the harbour with them as our guide - we parted company; the two outboard motors coughing reluctantly to life in heavy plumes of blue smoke and chugging away into the darkness in the direction of the town, leaving us to be once again swallowed by the silence of the starlit night. After an uneventful night keeping roughly aligned with the two red leading lights for the harbour, we each wolfed a bowl of porridge and a cup of tea before starting our final run into the harbour at around 8.30am.

Very soon we were joined by a group of boys in small dugouts launched from some of the many grass houses on stilts lining the shore. They made as good a welcoming party as we could ever had hoped for, darting around Moksha with the annoying agility of a cloud of gnats, inquisitiveness painted like a picture on each of their faces.

"OK, lets see who has the fastest boat" I yelled out of the open hatchway and opened up the throttle a little.

The boys caught onto the idea immediately and had no problem racing ahead and wiping the floor with us. One of the older boys - whose name we learned later to be Alphones - acted as our guide to the only wharf and gradually we poked around before finding a spare slot in front of ‘Ramus 2’, a 100 ft steel plated passenger ferry employed to make the 70 mile round trip to Honiara every other day. As we gently pulled up against the heavy wooden piles of the wharf that looked rather worse for wear from the long years of service keeping the Malaitan people connected to the capital, we looked up to find a long row of grinning faces of every expression, hair style and skin tone you could ever imagine looking down at us. I for one have never encountered such diversity in a people. But our attention - at least initially - was drawn elsewhere to a sight that held us both transfixed with horror for at least a full five seconds: each face was equipped with a fearsome array of teeth - all stained with fresh blood. It was as if they'd wandered out in the middle of a raw-flesh breakfast in order to inspect the next course (cannibalism being a common occurrence in the Solomon’s until just 50 years ago). All our worst fears came rushing to the fore before rationale took over and we managed to squeeze out a tentative "hello" that sounded more like a bleat for mercy than a convincing salutation.

"Beatle juice" Chris hissed out of the corner of his smile clips, "They're chewing Beatle nuts".

I almost roared out loud with a mixture of relief and amusement at our stupidity. Of course, people all around the world have been chewing the Beatle nut for centuries, including the south Pacific.

After a pause of several seconds in which no one spoke, a couple of the more confident among them and with better command of the English language found themselves being pushed to the front by a gawking crowd than had now swelled to perhaps a hundred wide-eyed, ketchup-munching islanders.

"Where you from?" asked the huge guy above me with short bleached hair who looked quite capable of employing either of us as a toothpick if needed to.
"Kiribati - three weeks. Originally England."
"By Motor right?"
"No. Pedal power."

The expressions on the wharf seemed to hesitate for a second before furrowing and nodding slowly. Realizing they hadn't the faintest clue what we were talking about, Chris beckoned me to lift out the pedal mechanism from the well in the boat.

"Look” he offered, “Just like a bicycle" rotating the cranks of the pedals so they could see the propeller turning.
"Ahhh” murmured our interpreter knowingly. “A bicycle in boat." And with these words he turned to the crowd, held the mechanism high above his head and bellowed something very loud and unintelligible in Pidgin. The whole crowd swayed and collectively let out a low moan as if in awe or fear, or both. "Blimey" I thought to myself. "They're going to fall to their knees and start worshipping the bloody pedal unit!"

"The Dog's Bollocks" interrupted a booming voice, now reading in broken English the immortal inscription that Scott Morrison - the maker of the unit's propellers and top bracket - had hammered into the metal housing.
"They're using The Dog's Bollocks to get here from England." And again the crowd swayed and responded as one voice.

It was I decided too much to try and explain that one. For a people that initiated a cult centred around American cargo goods after the second world war and who feed their ancestors in the form of sharks hunks of pork to placate them while fishing, a devilish looking boat powered by something the white owners call 'The Dogs Bollocks' should be an easy pill to swallow. And so with cultural formalities completed on both sides we stepped from Moksha onto terra firma and made our first few very wobbly steps into the domain of the so-called Happy Isles.


In our next update - posted either tomorrow or the next day - we'll be sharing some of the strange and wonderful experiences we've already had on Malaita: the ordeal at the police station, our caving trip yesterday and a brush with one of the Malaita Eagles Force militiamen in our motel.

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 11:48 AM

June 19, 2000

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #18

Click on image to play video

Date: Mon, 19 Jun 2000 21:39:54 -0700
Day 20
Wind SE 5 knots
Heading 250 Magnetic
Latitude: 08 degs 33.55' South
Longitude: 160 degs 35.40' East

Our destination Auki is now very visible on the skyline as an obtrusion of trees overhanging a bulge of headland 14 nautical miles dead ahead. Three miles to our left is the volcanic island of Malaita, much higher than either of us expected and covered in what looks from this distance to be thick, lush vegetation - a far cry from the barren sand atoll of Tarawa from where our journey began nearly three weeks ago. The higher elevations are elegantly topped with cloud and way down below on the hill slopes the tell tale signs of slash and burn agriculture can be seen: single columns of smoke rising the jungle. A peaceful looking island - at least from out here.

As with each voyage our first impression of this new 'dot on the map' came in the form of smell. Last night as we rounded the tiny island of Mbathakana on the northwestern tip of the main island our finely tuned nasal membranes caught the first whiff of land: that base smell of earth that stirs something very primal deep inside, cooking fires from the necklace of villages strung along the shoreline and another, very different and unfamiliar smell - of herbs and spices or some plant local to this part of the world. The smell of a place is I think one of the most unacknowledged wonders of traveling: breathing in aromas one previously had no idea existed. After you leave that particular place you may never smell that smell again. But one day, while doing something completely unrelated in a far away land, something or someone will remind you of that smell, and the associated memories come flooding back as sharp as if they'd only just happened. Smell is so under-rated yet so powerful.

These same aromas wafting to us across the water last night would have met sailors down the centuries who came to visit the islands in the name of conquest or trade. Last night was a day short of full moon on the wane, and as Moksha - with Chris as the pedals - silently slipped along parallel to the shore only a half mile away, I had a rare occasion to sit out on deck in the milky white light taking in a scene straight out of Robinson Crusoe: the faint outline of dark palms nodding in silent approval over a thin ribbon of bleach-white sand being hammered by the surf. Behind, the grey outline of Malaita island and further still the Southern Cross - our guide to take us ever southward - thrown up as a dramatic backdrop to this man-eater island. A hundred years ago - or maybe less or even still in remote places - cannibals would have been lurking in those trees, preying on passing ships with the aid of their fast paced war canoes or the odd shipwrecked sailor for an added nutritional boost to what would have otherwise been a predominantly vegetarian diet. It's an image that captures every schoolboy's imagination. And here Chris and I were where it all happened - just like in the penguin books!

Our immediate plans are to stay in Auki for a few days and glean some local knowledge on where best to wait out until April can fly in for the next leg and Chris can fly out back to the UK. We'll still endeavor to send back daily reports, so click back now and then to find out what antics we get up to on land. This island is after all home to some pretty interesting types: like the followers of the mysterious Marching Rule cargo cult that emerged at the end of WW2 in the hope of trading American rule for British. Villages were surrounded by stockades with watchtowers and huts prepared to store the cargo soon to arrive from the US. They're still waiting.

Also, Malaita is home to the last of the shark callers. Many people still worship their ancestors; whose spirits are embodied in sharks that the high priest summons. A boy stands on a submerged rock and feeds the sharks pieces of cooked pig (once human) one by one as the priest calls each by the name of its human spirit. The largest piece is given last, to the oldest shark. Should a fisherman be capsized in the deep sea, he can summon a shark, using a special language the shark understands.

Then there is the peculiar currency exchange here: 1,000 dolphin's teeth for a bride. Dolphin drives to obtain teeth are conducted at Mbita'ama harbour (north west Malaita) A sorcerer in a canoe taps magical stones underneath the water to attract the dolphins, which are then led ashore by other villagers in canoes, butchered, and the teeth and meat divided. Flying fox teeth are also in circulation.

All in all, it sounds a place rich in mystery and magic - hope you'll join us and explore the island with us over the next few weeks.

Something happened the day before yesterday that led me to believe that our voyages have been blessed in more ways than one. I was sitting out on deck at around 6.45 am, greeting the dawn with a cup of tea - as is customary - when a black dot appeared in the golden embers of the sun's first rays. I noticed the dot was tacking from side to side into the wind and gradually, as it closer and grew in size, I realised from the bent wings and characteristic forked tail that it was a Frigate bird, doggedly beating its way south to land, as such birds are said to do. Now before we left Tarawa, I decided to change the Raven that Jason Lacy painted on Moksha's bow to successfully guide Steve and I from San Francisco to Hawaii with another spirit guide more local to Tarawa. After consulting with some of the older men of the island, Karawa, whom I'd asked to paint the replacement design, informed me that the overwhelming consensus would be to have a Frigate bird, bathed in the orange glow of the early morning light, guide Moksha to the Solomon's. So, as I watched the same two birds plugging their way south, one above me and one on Moksha's bow, I realised that the old men of Tarawa had chosen well.

This leaves me to thank everyone who has made this last voyage a successful one, most notably John Oman of GOALS for posting the daily updates, my father for forwarding daily weather information and dreadful jokes, April in Colorado for forwarding us your messages from the website and Mat Kraft on Tarawa for posting us updates on the situation in the Solomon's from the BBC website. Not forgetting of course our mothers for enduring sleepless nights - sorry for putting you through it.

* Forgive me for indulging in casting stereotype - there's something about cannibals I just can't resist.

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 3:21 AM

June 18, 2000

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #18

Click on image to play video

Sun, 18 Jun 2000 00:15:06 -0700
Day 19
Wind ESE 5-10 knots
Heading 250 Magnetic
Latitude: 08 degs 15.18' South
Longitude: 160 degs 56.20' East

Sorry folks - low on power again today. So this will have to be a shorty. As you can see by our chart here, we managed to hit our target of 8 degrees and 15 minutes south in the early hours of this morning, taking it in turns behind the wheel in two hourly shifts to keep the boat moving. And not a moment too soon either. Hardly had we hit the clearing line when a strong ESEasterly came up and we changed course to 260 (True) to begin our track across the northern edge of Malaita, by now a very obvious shape to our port beam thanks to the light of the full moon.

We've sent the day gazing at land not more than a couple of miles away. Tantalizing indeed! This I think is the longest part of any voyage, when land just doesn't seem to get near quickly enough. OK, the batteries are beeping, gotta go...

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 3:19 AM

June 16, 2000

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #17

Click on image to play video

Fri, 16 Jun 2000 23:58:54 -0700
Day 18
Wind ESE-SE 5-10 knots
Heading 180-200 Magnetic
Latitude: 07 degs 52.55' South
Longitude: 161 degs 36.97' East

The bullish southerly gracefully backed around to an ESEasterly by the call of business yesterday, allowing us to recompose and dig a few miles south. The real test of whether we make it around the northern tip of Malaita into the safe-haven of Auki or get swept north west by the current and wind that is slowly veering again to SE as I write will be decided in the next 24 hrs. From our most recent GPS fix we have to achieve 22 miles south and 58 west to avoid the latter scenario which would severely weaken April's and my chances of making it into Cairns, Australia in August: that's a ratio of 3 to 1. At the moment we seem to be on target, hard on the legs though it is proving to be, and dependent to some degree on the wind not veering to the south much more. If we get another southerly I think we're in trouble. The only other recourse for action available to us to tip the balance in our favour are the oars. With one pedaling and one rowing, we'd make quite a sight hoving into view of Auki. The locals wouldn't know what to make of us I'm sure, assume we're some kind of covert war canoe sent by their enemies and send out their best men to make light work of us. David Stanley writing in the Lonely Planet guide book for the Solomon's describes the Malaitans as 'cantankerous', 'wary of outsiders' and having until the beginning of this century 'regularly cooked and eaten shipwrecked sailors'. Sounds a charming place. He also adds (tongue in cheek) that it's the 'world's best location to study malaria' (And yes - to both our mothers - we have remembered to start our Malaria courses you'll be pleased to hear.)

1800hrs(local) 0600GMT: land sighted. Thought for a minute 'twas another low-lying off-white cloud hugging the horizon, but there's something about 'feeling' land. You just know from your gut when you see the real thing. However, to avoid looking like a complete berk to the rest of the crew I invested a couple of minutes squinting at it from a few different angles before letting rip with the obligatory "Land Ahoy!!" to share the good news.

A nip of the Glenlivet might be in order tonight to fortify the legs for the final push.

Heard a strange scratching sound from the back of the compartment this afternoon. Thinking it might be the 'Ship's rat' snaffling the M+M's, we opened the watertight bulkhead to investigate... and guess what we found?

Click here to find out: (MPG-120K video clip)

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 3:16 AM

June 15, 2000

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #16

Click on image to play video

Thu, 15 Jun 2000 23:19:16 -0700
Day 17
Wind SW 5 knots
Heading 210-240 Magnetic
Latitude: 07 degs 47.28' South
Longitude: 162 degs 17.26' East

Grey drizzly day reminiscent of England. It doesn't take long to get sick of overcast skies and mild but persistent rain. Chris has already retracted all he said a few days ago about seeing rain in a different light. The wind has been dead on the nose for the past 12 hrs also, only just now letting up and starting to back to the SW. Strange ocean this. Everything seems to be in a continual change of flux, especially the wind, making it hard to predict the right heading. And there's a strange oppressive vibe in the air like I imagine the Bermuda Triangle to have. Makes for a very eerie atmosphere. Give me the Trade's any day.

Little sun and wind means little power from the solar panels and the wind generator. So this is it for today.

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 3:14 AM

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #15

Click on image to play video

Thu, 15 Jun 2000 01:18:54 -0700
Day 16
Wind ENE 5 knots
Heading 210 Magnetic
Latitude: 07 degs 22.10' South
Longitude: 162 degs 41.69' East

Fatigue is starting to rear its ugly head between us. For the first couple of weeks of the voyage we had a fairly humane routine whereby both of us - one in the front and one in the rear compartment - could be asleep at any one time. In reality this is the only way two people can get enough Zzzz's in a given 24 hr period unless 1. They're they feel like getting to know each other (much) better or 2. Have a penchant for slowly broiling themselves alive in the front compartment during the day which, according to the thermometer in there, has been reaching temperatures of 96+ the last week. But with only a few more days to landfall and wanting to keep on track for making it around the northern point Malaita in one piece, we've opted to slog it out in 4 hourly shifts throughout the nights until we reach Auki.

Consequently we're both a little tetchy in the day right now. Hour after hour of head lolling drunkenly from side to side, occasionally connecting with the hard interior of the cockpit while trying to focus on three red compass lights that spin slowly around each other in maddening circles and refuse to combine into one coherent version does little for one's humour. Like that awful feeling of falling asleep while night driving, there are only so many ways to try and stay awake: slapping oneself in the face, listening to loud music (that becomes an annoying buzzing in the ears after a while) or thinking dirty thoughts. And yet if you allow yourself just 10 minutes of genuine shut-eye (not the head - rolling - around - the - neck - and - occasionally - snapping - upright - in - the - fear - that - you've - driven - off - the - road - and - are - about - to - die sort), its amazing how the brain can fool itself into thinking its had a full quota and ready to go another 12 rounds.

Ironically it's the use of sometimes forced humour that has prevented Chris and I from deteriorating into more genuine arguments. By adopting say a 'broad' Yorkshire or a 'posh' accent - accompanied by stereotyped characters of course- it's possible to air one's grievances in a comical way that makes provision for the other to save face. So for example, by putting on my best Wallace and Grommet Yorkshire accent I can give Chris an ear bashing for being a 'fat, greedy pig' with the M&M's and Chris, retorting either in the same accent or perhaps his seamless version of Michael Caine can respond by giving me a hard time about 'making the sleeping compartment smell like a ruddy farmyard' - and so on and so forth...

Thinking back to the early days of the Atlantic crossing and the stresses that Steve and I dealt with, a couple of characters like this would have faired us well. You have to laugh else it gets to you.

Jason & Chris,

Posted at 3:11 AM

June 14, 2000

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #14

Click on image to play video

Wed, 14 Jun 2000 01:38:26 -0700
Day 15
Wind E 10 knots
Heading 200 Magnetic

Our prayers were answered early yesterday evening when the southerly we'd been battling against for the previous 18hrs backed to the SE and eventually ESE where it's settled in since this morning. The onus now is to grab this opportunity before the wind veers back to the SE (where typically it should be coming from at this time of year and in this ocean region) to drive Moksha south. In order to round the northern edge of the island of Malaita safely we have approximately 80 nautical miles south and 160 miles west to go, a ratio of 2-miles west to 1-mile south. Not a bad margin at this stage, but as I found with the final approach into Tarawa last year, it pays to remain on the side of caution until the very last. Rogue anomalies in the local wind and current pattern around islands have been the cause of many vessels - human powered or otherwise - ending up on a reef at the last minute. With only lowly muscle power at our disposal we need to be in exactly the right place at the right time - the margin for error with our restricted ability to maneuver being far more limited than yachts and other craft with motors to get themselves out of trouble. With another 169 degrees until we finally get back to Greenwich, we can well do without that sort of thing happening now.

The veggies that we're pedaling laboriously back to Australia from whence they originated are finally saying they've had enough. The only exception is the garlic which is still looking as fit as the day we brought it on board. Strangely however the cabbages haven't faired too well this time, regularly adopting grey fuzzy beards overnight in the warm, moist storage bins. And the carrots are beginning to look like they're suffering from the vegetable equivalent of the Bubonic Plague. Last Carrots (MPG-120K).

The only other casualty of the day was our beautiful yellow and black umbrella that finally had to be retired after being rudely turned inside out a second time by a squall this morning. But as with everything on this boat - including the humans - we have a spare. The replacement also has yellow stripes (to go in line with the colour of the boat), but this time has blue segments in between instead of black. Scintillating stuff I know, but this is what happens. With nothing else to fill your head out here its easy to fall foul of chronic domesticity. Scary.

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 3:08 AM

June 13, 2000

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #13

Click on image to play video

Tue, 13 Jun 2000 00:25:44 -0700
Day 14
Wind South 5-10 knots
Heading 240 Magnetic

We've been too spoilt by the weather conditions for the first half of this voyage for something not to break. It always does. I remember during the first half of the last voyage in which I'd had such luck with the NE trades thinking I would be in Tarawa within 50 odd days. And then we hit the Doldrums. 73 days later we finally hit Tarawa. Like some irritating board game, you think you've got the whole thing in the bag and then some wretched upstart like Mother Nature comes along and throws a googler into the equation. Tiresome behaviour indeed.

Since yesterday afternoon we've been punished by a fresh faced southerly that crept up on us unawares out of the sluggish conditions of the past few days. All through the night and today we've been keeping Moksha's nose as close to the wind as we can while still keeping the hull moving - a heading of about 240M. It's bad news for the knees that are beginning to complain to both of us. But our options are limited. If we put out the sea anchor and just drift, we go backwards. If we turn into the wind, we at least keep at a standstill but kill our legs and knees in the process. It seems the best out of a poor bunch is to creep west and hope to goodness the wind backs to the eastern side of the compass, which as I write this, it is at last showing signs of doing.

There has been one casualty in all this: an hour ago the propeller shaft on the first of our three pedal units sheared, leaving us dead in the water for the hour and a half that it took to prepare and install a replacement. All things considered, these units that are really designed for use in recreational craft, have served us pretty well. The combined weight of the boat, the tremendous forces imposed by the ocean and on top of all this being asked to propel the boat into the wind - as in the past 24 hrs - is a tall order for any mechanism subject to such low and hard grinding revolutions. Even the industrial grade bevel box we used for the Atlantic crossing eventually gave up the ghost near the end.

Sometimes I wonder whether thrashing around with a couple of planks like Mick does isn't such a bad idea after all: less things to go wrong.

Luckily the damage is repairable. When we get to the Solomon's we can throw in another lower shaft unit into the unit and it'll be good to go again. And we'll need it too. I've a suspicion after taking another look at the projected wind and current conditions from the Solomon's to Cairns that we're going to need every spare method of propulsion we can lay our hands on.

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 3:05 AM

June 12, 2000

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #12

Click on image to play video

Mon, 12 Jun 2000 00:38:48 -0700
Day 13
Wind variable 0-5 knots
Heading 230 Magnetic

It's raining now. And thank goodness it is too. The extreme heat and absence of wind creates a very oppressive and almost fetid atmosphere on the boat. Mile after mile of gently undulating ocean, filling our field of vision from horizon to horizon like a desert. If I had to choose between dying of thirst in the Sahara or the Pacific Ocean, I'd choose the former. There's something too cruel about being surrounded by so much water that you can't drink. It's actually twisted now I think about it.

After several days of this we've become rather fazed and dull-minded, our brains crying out for something to happen, to alleviate the drudgery. And rain, regarded as drudgery incarnate back home in England, is the nearest thing to a circus we'll get out here. Chris, sitting out on the fore-deck as I write this, swears he'll never bad mouth the rain again (I'd like to see how long that will last once the next winter sets in). But for now he's right. It has the most wonderful qualities: cooling the body, washing off the sweat, giving the morale a boost.

Now we're in good shape to settle into the evening routine of a cup of hot tea each, a shared packet of M+M's and Van Morrison's Moon Dance played over the Good Ship's speaker system.

The wind has been all over the compass today. This morning it was coming from the east, early this afternoon from the north. Now it's coming directly from the south. Seems like it can't make up its mind what to do and we're caught in the middle of the indecision.

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 3:02 AM

June 10, 2000

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #11

Sat, 10 Jun 2000 23:22:04 -0700
Day 11
Wind ENE 0-5 knots
Heading 180 Magnetic

Another hot, airless day. It would seem that this is now the way of things from now onto the Solomon Islands and perhaps beyond. The further south we get, the less influence from the brisker NE trades and the more we have to grind out each mile the old fashioned way. It's makes for a very sweaty, smelly boat: the gallon we're each drinking a day complemented with replacement electrolyte salts gradually seeps out of our pores onto our pedaling towels over a 24 hr period. These towels (2 x each) are then hung out to dry after each 3hr (day) and 5hr (night) shift, hopefully evaporating as much of the sweat as possible before the owner comes back on the pedals again. The water is certainly removed, but leaving a residue each time of body salts, dead skin and other delightful body by-products. The result after only 12 days of being out here is a foul smelling thing than can stand up by itself. What we really need is a pedal-powered washing machine.

It never fails to amaze me how elastic time is on the ocean. We've been out here for only 12 days but already Tarawa seems a lifetime ago.

Its not like things are constantly changing. Quite the opposite. But somehow our existence is so very different to that on land that it seems we've been doing pretty much the same things at the same time of day, day in day out, for much longer than we actually have.

The way we're getting these updates, photos and video clips back for you to access on this website is via something called a Mini-M satellite telephone that can send and receive voice, email and fax information via one of the Inmarsat geostationary satellites 26 miles above us. In a minute I'll finish writing this report on the laptop here (see video clip), start up some special compression software and send the files via the white domed antenna you see here in the photo (see pic). This antenna has been specially designed for the marine environment. Conventional flat-screened land antennas do not work out on the ocean because they need to be kept still when pointed at the 'bird'. Marine units get around this problem as they are domed shaped, and although I haven't the foggiest as to what actually goes on inside this dome (apart from a lot of very strange noises not unlike those made by the little droid R2D2 in Star Wars), once it is locked onto the satellite, the boat can pretty much be doing the Fandango in a force 12 and you can still transmit and receive. The key to all this however is the compression software that Stratos Communications of Newfoundland has recently developed and released, allowing a 4:1 ration. Effectively this means on a meager 2400 baud line - which is standard for all satellite terminals of this size - we get data transfer rates of up to 9600 which is enough to browse the internet (just) and send larger file sizes of up to 150K - like we are doing with the photo and video clips. Of the four Inmarsat satellites serving the world, the two serving the Indian Ocean and the Pacific here are only able to take a maximum of 150K. The other two, over the East and West Atlantic, are able to relay much larger file sizes.

A bit of tech talk here, and apologies to those non-geeks who don't really care a damn about connection speeds and the shape of our antenna. But just filling in the picture of our wildly exciting existence out here.

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 2:58 AM

June 9, 2000

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #10

Date: Fri, 09 Jun 2000 23:48:00 -0700
Day 11
Wind E 5 knots
Heading 180 Magnetic

This is the first time I've sat on the front of the boat, out of the safety of the central cockpit area, and written the daily update. Normally the boat is lurching too wildly to be able to attempt to risk such a maneuver. The risk of losing our not inexpensive laptop PC - ruggedised for the salt-water environment - over the side would be too great. But today the surface of the ocean is like a mirror. It's definitely the place to be; riding the prow, tapping away at the keys while a mile above the ocean floor and 400 miles from land. Earlier in the day Chris and I jumped over the side for the first time of the voyage and spied a massive shoal of fish far beneath us, stretching out in all directions as far as our masks would allow us to see. Four hours later it is no doubt the same shoal now surrounding the boat in a 360 arc to the horizon, taken to the surface in a boiling morass of silver sides leaping full clear of the water. There must be literally hundreds of thousands of fish out there right now. Whether they're escaping predators from underneath, doing some strange fishy-mating thing or simply jostling for the night's bedding arrangements (as Chris just suggested), we have no idea. But it's truly a most spectacular sight. The sound they make collectively is like a river thundering in full flood.

10 minutes later: after about 20 minutes of this strange behaviour the whole lot suddenly disappeared as quickly as they arrived. As if on queue they all just vanished, snapping us rudely back into the silence that has characterised this very hot, airless day. It's as if the fish God heard our complaints of lack of life out here uttered earlier in the day and sent his salty squadrons to entertain us before sundown. But how did they all know when to start and to stop at exactly the same time (to the second) across over a mile of open water? Questions for us to chew over dinner tonight for sure.

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 3:13 AM

June 8, 2000

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #11

Date: Thu, 08 Jun 2000 23:34:00 -0700
Day 10
Wind ESE 1/4 E 5-10 knots
Heading 210 Magnetic

Since leaving Tarawa we've been hitting up some record daily mileages - 60, 65 even 70 miles one day - putting us well ahead of schedule for arriving in the Solomon's. At this rate we should be passing the northern tip of the island of Malaita in less than 8 days, assuming of course that the conditions remain kind to us and no sudden changes in wind and current direction occur at the last minute that would compromise the accuracy of our final approach.

I thought that perhaps the underlying ocean conditions had shifted this afternoon when the pedal cranks became noticeably harder to turn. While turning through my head the possible effects of the wind backing round the compass toward north on local current patterns, it was Chris who first clocked the real cause of the problem. Our beautiful golfing umbrella, carefully chosen from the hardware store on Betio, Tarawa for its yellow and black stripes to match xto provide shade to the cockpit area, it was now performing the function of a sail, catching the freshening easterly wind and effectively dragging us just north of due west.

Nothing else really happened of interest today, apart from emptying my morning porridge into Chris' sleeping bag. A little secret something for him to snack on later tonight when he gets peckish.

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 6:13 AM

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #10

Click on image to play video

Date: Thu, 08 Jun 2000 00:01:33 -0700
Day 9
Wind ENE 5 knots
Heading 225 Magnetic
Barely a breath of wind today which is causing some problems. For one, it's like an oven around the pedal seat. Even the little $20 fan we bought from the US is barely keeping our body temperatures in check. And second, with the added factor of a thin layer of hazy cloud overhead, we're having difficulty producing enough power from the solar panels and wind generator to fulfill all of the electrical needs for the day. These include (in priority): water making, communicating our position to base camp via Inmarsat-C, Ocean Sentry (early warning radar detector), DC fan (on the face of the pedaler), all round white light (if we're both asleep at night) and lastly the non essential communications like the Mini-M satellite phone for sending back the daily update to the website and for family and media to call for interviews. The last of these - writing the daily update - also involves charging the battery for the ruggedized PC laptop, so I'll have to be brief here.

A few days ago there was a coup in Honiara, our next port of call. At this time details are scant, but we do know that the international airport has been closed, presenting us with a dilemma. Chris is due to fly back to the UK around the 7th July, replaced by April from Colorado in the US who is scheduled to fly into Honiara the 20th of this month and accompany me for the remaining 1,100 miles to Cairns, Australia. At present however, neither of them are going anywhere due to Honiara being the only international airport allowing access in and out of the Solomon Islands. The current game plan is to make for one of the more peaceful neighbouring islands, anchor up for a while and see how the situation progresses. We've also heard that the island of Tulaghi in the Florida group of islands just 20 miles north of Honiara (see point of pencil in photos) might be a good place to find protection from the trade winds and wait for the situation in Honiara to play itself out. An added advantage of being here is the ability to act quickly to get April in and Chris out if the airport suddenly reopens.

One thing is for sure; this part of the world cannot be accused of being boring. Coups seem really 'in' at the moment.

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 6:11 AM

June 7, 2000

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #9

Click on image to play video

Date: Wed, 06 Jun 2000 00:45:19 -0700
Day 8
Wind ENE 5 knots
Heading 225 Magnetic
I could not have hoped or imagined during the first few days after leaving Betio (that nightmare transition), that I should have become so adjusted to life and all its compromises on board this little boat. To celebrate our first week at sea we knocked off pedaling early yesterday evening at around 8.30 p.m. and both went down to the Mirage Bar for a few drinks. It's the only pub we know of out here. An intimate place, a bit cut off, but with delightful ocean views and within spitting distance of the water. At the bar we both chose the same single malt - a Speyside with sweet grassy notes like summer meadows. A delicious dram. Then, after a few passes with the acoustic guitar - which both Jason and I play - a CD was put on and the conversation about women began in earnest. How the sea drives a man to thinking! After about an hour a small electric storm crept our way to remind us of where we really were. So it was away with the glasses and to bed for our first good night of around 8 hrs of proper sleep as the good ship Moksha, wallowing in the swell, rocked us both to sleep like babes in arms (aided by single malt of course).

I am overwhelmingly pleased to be aboard and enjoying this little boat that was a labour to me for so long. Moksha is at best lively and at worst a bucking bronco ridden at full gallop. To ride in her she has a sea-kindly hull and takes swell and surges very well. She yields to the surface movements of this ocean rather than fighting them and it is these movements that catches the novice unawares, throwing him constantly against the protruding objects lining the cockpit. After a few days at sea the subconscious seems to take care of this balancing act and slowly the body relaxes into its dynamic new environment. And thank goodness it does! I wonder if the old sailor's legendary ability to drink and stay standing is due in part to this inner process of reacting to every movement that tries to knock him off his feet. When I get to Honiara I shall find a bar and let you know.

Chris & Jason,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 6:08 AM

June 5, 2000

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #8

Click on image to play video

Date: Mon, 05 Jun 2000 23:49:29 -0700
Day 7
Wind NE 10-15 knots
Heading 210 Magnetic
Best Day... (MPG-120K)

Porridge Please... (MPG-120K)

Progress Chart and Statistics

It's coming to evening time now. The wind has finally dropped and mid-size rollers (7-10ft) are gently squeezing themselves underneath Moksha and continuing westward in hypnotic undulations toward the dying sun. Our charge is gently rolling back and forth, as she always does when lying ahull. Chris is playing with the short wave radio, trying to get the BBC World Service - or any station for that matter. I've forgotten the frequency so it'll be chance whether he finds it or not. We both have a fresh cup of tea beside us in the special mug holders bought from the US. It's the best time of the day, along with the dawn. The day's toil is over and we have a special evening to look forward to.

We've been pushing it pretty hard the last few days, trying to make the most out of the unusually favourable wind and ocean conditions. All last night and the night before we took turns at the pedal seat, keeping the cranks turning throughout the small hours, grinding out every last mile we could before the wind changed. And our progress has been good: 60 miles in the last 24 hrs, as good as any day I can remember on any of the other voyages. So tonight, seeing as it's a week we've been out here, we're planning to let the cranks lie idle for a few hours, cook a nice meal, get the guitars out of the back and give The Glenlivet a bit of a seeing to. We'll record some of the results on video for you to see tomorrow if its not too incriminating.

The only other notable events of the day were three dolphins coming to play with the boat for a while (and departing in disgust when they discovered what a pathetic bow wave Moksha creates - dolphins like big bow waves), and our primary GPS - a brand new Magellan Nav 6000 - going dead on us. No disaster, as we have two backups: the Galaxy Inmarsat-C and a small handheld in the grab bag. But once again I'm reminded that you can never take enough spares and backups for trips like this. Get backups for the backups, that's the name of the game.

Chris is late getting his homework in again (was he always this tardy Mrs. Tipper?), so he's promised to have an update ready by tomorrow.

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 6:06 AM

June 4, 2000

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #7

Click on image to play video

Date: Sun, 04 Jun 2000 23:12:38 -0700
Day 6
Wind ENE 10 knots
Heading 190 Magnetic

After the overcrowding and associated hardships of the two ocean crossings Stevie and I did together, I vowed to myself in Hawaii to complete the final 4,500 miles to Australia on my own. But the merits of solitude on the last 73 day crossing to Tarawa - the added space and freedom of movement to whatever part of the boat whenever I wanted - proved to have their price also: the loneliness and 'sameness' of just me, myself and I. Basically I found my own company to be not that good. And making friends with the fishes is OK for a while, but a very poor alternative to the real thing: human interaction.

So I had to think long and hard about inviting anyone else on board for these two crossings to Honiara and onto Cairns. Firstly there was the issue of who I could stand to be on a boat with for more than a few days. Next came the issue of physical stamina. And last came the need for a solution to the sleeping compartment dilemma that had jaded the first two crossings with Steve. There had to be a way of both people being able to sleep at any one time to avoid the grueling rota of three hours on and three hours off throughout the night that reduces a human being to mush after a few days. There is only a handful of people that fit the bill for the first of these two criteria. Chris, who is cranking hard on the pedals as I write this, accompanied me on a 1,700-mile bike trip from San Francisco to Colorado a few years ago when I was recovering from my roller-blading accident. Those three sweaty weeks spent toiling together through the Mojave desert and up through the four corners region of Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico convinced me that he was not only up to the physical task in hand, but also good fun to be with. Also, being one of Moksha's original builders, it seemed an appropriate thing for him to have a proper go on the outcome of his love and devotion for 12 months back in 1992-3.

And so far, after 6 days at sea together, this theory seems to be playing out. Apart from having another mind close at hand to sharpen my own edge on, I'm finding myself with time to spend doing things I never had the opportunity for on the last crossing. Things like writing a daily journal, preparing meals properly or just sitting out on the foredeck and taking in the exquisite ocean sunsets. Also, by taking the best part of a week to stow the provisions on board before leaving Tarawa, there's enough room in the stern compartment for one person to stretch out three-quarters in length. So the past few nights one of us has pedaled until around 2 in the morning, crashed in the stern compartment for 3 hours until 5 a.m. at which point the other person comes on shift and frees up the front compartment for the late night pedaler to catch up on a few hours extra sleep. With this system, we both get a minimum quota of 6 hours sleep a night and Moksha is lying idle for only 3 out of any 24-hour period.

On the downside, Moksha still proves to be a dreadful squeeze for 2 people, especially with Chris at over 6"2'. There are still the customary mutters and curses when arms and legs become locked in impossible entanglements each time we change seats - the same as Steve and I used to on our two crossings. And with Moksha being Chris' original 'baby', I sometimes feel the inevitable irritation he feels toward the way Stevie and I laid things out: the food storage system (or the lack of more to the point), the area around the pedal seat etc. But its never going to be easy with 2 x blokes on board who both think they know best how to run ship. We'll have to wait until the next voyage when April takes Chris' place for the final run into Cairns to see what difference it makes having a chick on board...

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 6:04 AM

June 3, 2000

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #6

Click on image to play video

Date: Sat, 03 Jun 2000 23:41:02 -0700
Day 5
Wind ENExE 10 knots
Heading 190 Magnetic

If ever there was a day that went pear-shaped it was yesterday. What with Chris battling with an air leak in the water-maker and myself ailing around in the rear compartment in search of those wretched phials of grease, it's a wonder we didn't come to blows out on deck. I forget how much of a wind-up being on this boat can be: the constant motion, the smacks in the side of the head moving from one location to another, the scalded toes from pouring a cup of tea, the chunks taken out of legs by the pedals when changing shift. It's like someone's constantly jabbing you in the ribs and laughing until you snap and lash out. Such was yesterday.

After only 5 days at sea, Chris has taken on an uncanny likeness to the rancid ginger...

Today has been a joy by comparison. Aided in part by the wonderful pedaling conditions, we've also sorted out our respective issues: Chris has fixed the water-pump by reconfiguring the valves and input/output pipes (a sure cause for tension on board - anything to do with water) and I've solved another problem that was bugging me yesterday; not being able to send video clips back with the daily reports*. So there's been much laughter and high jinx on the good ship the last few hours. Chris has been practicing his Michael Cain accent while sorting through rotten veggies "My name is... .Michael Caine" (x 50). And I've been polishing up on a number of dodgy accents drawn from a wealth of multi-personalities fashioned in response to prolonged bouts of loneliness on the last 73-day voyage. It makes the whole ordeal of being out here so much more bearable. The constant ribbing of the ocean becomes merely a tickle. Yesterday when Chris emptied his cup of tea onto the floor of the boat (as he has done every day so far) there were yells of fury and words too short to share here. But today when he did it, we both looked at the swishing mess, then at each other, and just started hooting with delight.

Chris is currently cooking up his debut update due for release tomorrow (drum roll please...). So click back in 24-hrs time and hear his side of the story for a change.

*We had plans to send back short 15-30 second video clips every other day to the website, but following a call from our service providers this morning on our Mini-M satellite phone, it appears the satellite responsible for all our communications traffic in this ocean region (Pacific) is temporarily unable to handle file sizes larger than 100K. So for now, until things change, we'll attempt to keep you immersed into the experience of pedaling along with us using just words and still photos.

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 6:01 AM

June 2, 2000

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #5

Click on image to play video

Date: Fri, 02 Jun 2000 22:37:21 -0700
Day 4
Wind ENE 5 knots
Heading 190 Magnetic

It's been one of those days. After a near perfect day yesterday with Moksha slipping along at a blistering pace in excellent conditions (cloudy with a 15 knot wind from the ENE) rounded off with an evening of Van Morrison tunes and taking the first couple of pulls from The Glenlivet in celebration of crossing the equator, today turned out to be a very different story. Its been dreadfully hot with very little cloud cover. Our yellow and black golfing umbrella bought along for make-shift shade turned inside out when we did a 180 to pick up a Tupperware container than fell overboard. And to top it all, I've just spent the last two hours doing the job I hate most: floundering around in the 100 degree heat of the rear compartment in search of some carefully stashed phials of silicone grease needed for the water-maker that started squeaking for lubrication early this afternoon. While packing the boat last week I distinctly remember stowing the bag containing the grease in an extra special place where they wouldn't get lost. Typical. Like a squirrel hiding its nuts I've manage to hide the damn things so well that even I can't find them. I've found everything else in the process of turning the boat upside down, but not the special grease. So we ended up using canola oil instead. The water maker is still squeaking. Mmmh - I'd forgotten what a blast life on the this boat can be.

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 5:59 AM

June 1, 2000

Tarawa to Solomon Islands voyage, Update #4

Click on image to play video

Date: Thu, 01 Jun 2000 22:09:13 -0700
Day 3
Wind ENE 10 knots
Heading 195 Magnetic

We crossed the equator at around 3am this morning. Hooray! I tried to rouse Chris - suffering for the last 12hrs from chronic diarrhea - from the rat-hole to perform official duties as King Poseidon (something to do with a trident and shaving foam I think), but he wasn't having any of it. So the day dawned on a new hemisphere much like the last one: dark blues on the lower half of the screen, light blues on the top half. The only noticeable difference so far being the constellations of the stars which, save for the Southern Cross, mean nothing to either of us.

1600hrs local time: the clearing up of Chris' illness of the past 24hrs has made room for a renewed interest in the ship's stores. "But I'm not eating anything else stale, like that pancake breakfast you dished up yesterday morning." I look at him with as vacant an expression as I can muster. I don't have the heart to tell him that 90% of the food on this boat is well past its sell-by date. It'll be OK. A couple more days and he'll eat anything.

NB Chris will be writing some updates as soon as he feels up to staring at the computer screen for more than a few minutes. And we're having difficulties sending back the short video updates we plan to post on the site every few days. So in the meantime, until we get the necessary technical advice from our service providers, here's a still picture of our fluffy dice...

Jason & Chris,
The Moksha motors

Posted at 5:57 AM