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August 24, 2000

Solomons to Australia voyage - Update #30

Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2000 02:37:28 -0700
Port Douglas, Australia

My reintroduction to land after 30 odd days at sea was quite comical. My center of balance had adjusted to a constant rolling environment. Land, however, is not forgiving and my 'sea' equilibrium was in direct opposition. After stepping on to shore, my world continued to rock and roll. I briefly remember my toes sinking gloriously into the cool, white sand, but the stability was fleeting. The horizon tipped violently and I was unceremoniously dumped in a sprawling heap,looking skyward, laughing helplessly. The Coral Sea's last laugh as I bid farewell.

The whistles and bells of The Arrival have throttled back to steady streams of interested people who 'have heard of what you are doing' and now stop by to look at Moksha and visit. Scattered over the lawn of the Port Douglas Yacht Club lay Moksha's salt water laden kit. My work at hand was to get as much fresh water through everything before the salt did any more corrosive damage. The nuts and bolts of the expedition work goes on.

My thoughts turn homeward. In a few days, I'll greet a new crop of fifth grade students. My hope is the curriculum I've developed around my ocean experience will excite and inspire them. Perhaps, as we take a look at the world this year, they will begin to see their place in its community, developing a bit of global consciousness by connecting with kids in our world neighborhood through the expedition's Global Learning Exchange programs. And, equally important, they may see that, ultimately, their own dreams can become realities.

Many thanks to all who sent goodwill messages to us during the Coral Sea crossing. Psychological carrots which meant a lot to know you were out there pulling for us! A HUGE thanks to our support team of Kenny Brown, Sebert Lewis, and John Oman. Your abilities to shift gears to accommodate our ever changing arrival in the last 72 hours of the journey was an amazing thing to watch! I'm indebted (many playground duties this school year) to John and Renee on the Colorado Homefront who kept my business end of the expedition going during my absence. And, thank you, Lacey, for your tolerance with a Mum who marches to a different drummer.

Lastly, special thanks to my dearest friend and expedition partner, Jason. I'm honored to have had the chance to waltz the Coral Sea with you.

April [Dedicated to my sister Leslie-You are my courage and inspiration]

Posted at 1:30 PM

August 22, 2000

Solomons to Australia voyage - Update #29

Date: Tue, 22 Aug 2000 08:07:12 -0700 (PDT)
From: Jason Lewis
Subject: Australia U/D #1
To: joman@goals.com

Sorry for the delay here John. Computers all dead.

Both computers are dead from the last voyage so I'm rubbing shoulders with the backpackers here in the Port Douglas Internet Cafe trying to get this update thrashed out. So much water got into the boat the last few days of the crossing that even the ruggedized Amrel Rocky 2 has died along with much of Moksha's electronic gadgetry that we're now rinsing of salt and testing to see what will need replacing for the next voyage (see photo). But that's a long way off now - at least 6 months. As an expedition were running on fumes financially. The last two voyages have been paid for on plastic, so it was with a feeling of elation and trepidation that I stepped off onto Australian soil last Friday. For while I was at sea I was in a sense protected from the base reality of how to pay for the continuation of this odyssey. But it's now time to face the financial music.

But enough of this serious stuff! Our final approach into Port Douglas the end of last week was pretty intense. We rendezvoused with our support craft 'WeeJock' at mid morning of Wednesday the 16th. Our hunch that we'd hired the local cowboys (the distance these guys had come to assist us through the Great Barrier Reef was not inconsiderable) became a firm conviction when April and I looked up from the cockpit at around 10.25 a.m. to see skipper John White pulling the aquatic version of a donut in the ocean just 50 yards upwind of us accompanied by a cloud of thick, black soot. Looks like we called out the Coral Sea Cavalry alright', giggled April. Joking aside we are indebted to John and Dave for coming out to help us out. Few other boats would have ventured out so far. Having studied the charts since getting off the water I am convinced we would have been hard pushed to get through the reef unassisted. Without more ado we tied the towline through the front eyebolt and WeeJock began the laborious process of pulling Moksha southwards towards One and a Half Mile Opening and into the shelter of Lizard Island. Even at a meagre 7 knots Moksha spent more time under water than above it, so for the duration of the journey April and I hung onto to a hand hold for dear life with one hand while furiously bailing with the other. At Lizard Island Bob from the Research Center met us with a dinghy to take April away to dry land and medical attention. However, the customs and immigration laws of this country prevented me from stepping off onto dry land until clearing all the necessary formalities. So it would be a little more time before I was to indulge in the one thing I longed for more than anything else: a long, hot shower.

Our entry into Port Douglas couldn't have been better. Kenny Brown - who had flown in a few days previously from the UK to document the arrival - worked wonders to arrange local media and a location for us to arrive at the Port Douglas Yacht Club. At around 12 noon WeeJock came belting out to deliver April to pedal the last few miles with me. During our final approach we passed a number of the commercial yachts and dive boats heading out to the Great Barrier Reef filled to the gunwales with punters. It was while passing one of the 'Quicksilver' boats that a volley of full beer cans came whistling over Moksha's bow. Not wanting to react inappropriately to this obscure Australian greeting custom I dived in with Moksha still underway to grab one of the cans of Castlemaine XXXX before having to swim full bore to catch up with our swiftly disappearing vessel. What a turkey I would have looked to get left behind at this stage!

As we rounded the final bend into Port Douglas every other person lining the channel seemed to be waving or yelling messages of support and congratulations - word seems to get around quickly here in this town. We even heard a couple of car horns honking us in. After meeting with the press and posing for photographs we had one more hurdle facing us before officially taking leave of the pacific to become land lubbers once more: customs, immigration and quarantine. However, what I assumed would be a tedious process of jumping through official hoops and having to eradicate every last scrap of food from the boat turned out to be a totally painlesss affair. Even the wooden paddle that April bought from Tulagi in the Solomon's was given a clean bill of health.

And so, a few hours after setting foot onto Australian shores, I found myself at last gasping and spluttering in ecstasy under a torrent of hot water in the yacht club's wash house. There's something very symbolic about taking a shower with fresh water after a long voyage. I think it's the ritual of removing the salt from ones skin for more than just a few minutes, for me even more significant a transition from water to land than the actual stepping onto Terra Firma.

April and Kenny fly out of here tomorrow back to their respective 'other' lives leaving me to get stuck into visiting schools with Moksha and fundraising to cover some of our basic costs of the voyage. To hire WeeJock for the three and a half days cost us a little over $4,000 USD, so if you've enjoyed reading the updates and wish to contribute in some positive way, we'd most grateful if you could send any donations to the one of the following address.

I'd also like to thank the following for making the last crossing possible (sorry if I've missed anyone out!):

* John Oman - GOALS - voyage logistics and webhosting
* Sebert Lewis - voyage logistics
* Kenny Brown - arrival logistics
* Andrew Edwards - arrival logistics
* Bob and Tanya - Lizard Island Research Centre - arrival logistics
* John and Dave - WeeJock - support craft
* Dorelle Downs and Ray - Port Douglas Yacht club www.users.bigpond.com/pdy - arrival support
* Close Haven Marina - free berth and boat storage

As well as the update that April is planning to send in sometime over the next few days I'll be sending back an update every 3-4 days, so stay tuned. Indeed, the next time I get to write something I'll have most likely bumped into that pirate Mick Bird who is reputedly in Cairns. Maybe I'll even get a chance to help kick his chubby little behind out on his next marathon leg to Africa.

Thanks for watching folks. The Pacific has been pedaled!

Jason Lewis

Posted at 3:01 PM

August 16, 2000

Solomons to Australia voyage - Update #28

From: "sebert lewis"
To: "John Oman"
Cc: "Lewis" ,
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 2000 13:06:47 +0100
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 5.00.2615.200

MOKSHA arrived Lizard Island about 161030A. Just had Jason on the satphone. All now well, and April will be attended to, not serious. Updates will follow sometime later. For Chris Court, we've lost your tel no. give us a ring.


Posted at 2:59 PM

August 14, 2000

Solomons to Australia voyage - Update #27

Lat/Long as of 0900 hrs local time (15th August local time)
14 degs 13. 86 S
146 degs 13. 86’E

Day 28. Wind SE 25-30 knots Heading: N/A
0949 hrs (local)

Nothing seems to be going our way right now. Absolutely nothing. Yesterday late afternoon the wind strengthened again to 25-30 knots and shifted further to the south. The long and the short of this was that we could no longer keep Moksha’s bow at a heading of 180M and we started losing ground to the north (as you can tell by our disastrous latitude reading for this morning). Even with the assistance of the sea anchor which we deployed shortly thereafter, we are still losing a nautical mile north as well as one west every hour.

So, our plan to make the tide this afternoon into Cormorant Pass is out of the window. Kenny has a boat coming all the way up from Port Douglas – nearly 120 miles away – to see us through ‘Water witch’ (sp?) passage further to the north.The local resort owned by Quantas have refused either of their dive boats to come and assist us because of the primary concerns of their high dollar paying clientele being able to still go out on recreational activities. Wonderful stuff money – brings out the best in human nature…

Another spanner in the works is a feminine health concern that April has been battling the last 2 weeks and has now reached a stage that she needs to get to a doctor asap. So if we can rendezvous with “Wee Jock” – the vessel coming up from Port Douglas – sometime later today or first thing tomorrow morning, April will change places with Kenny and he and I then continue on up inside the reef to Thursday Island and then round to Weipa (as re: our Plan B).

So there’s a lot going on right now, and the situation is being exacerbated by mountainous seas and our drift north, which already has us 35 nms from the reef and increasing. By the earliest time Wee Jock can make it to us, we could be 5 miles from the reef. The skipper might refuse to go out so far in these conditions. We’ll find out this later on today.

The priorities seem to be:
1.Get April off the boat.
2.Get Moksha inside the reef.

We’ll keep you posted.


Posted at 2:58 PM

August 13, 2000

Solomons to Australia voyage - Update #26

Lat/Long as of 10.17hrs local time (14th August local time)
14 degs 27. 55 S
146 degs 41. 34’E

Day 28. Wind SE 20 knots Heading: N/A

Sorry if this is hurried and unreadable – we have a tide to catch…

It’s the morning of our 28th day. There’s been little change in either wind or current strength and direction: we’re still drifting at a rate of around 1 knot west and now 0.3-0.5 knots north. The Great Barrier Reef is now only 63 miles and closing. The wind is due to slacken to 15 knots today but then strengthen again to 20 knots+ from tomorrow on. It is getting to that ‘crunch’ time (excuse the pun).

What all this means is we are sitting ducks if we stay on the sea anchor. If we continue the way we are we’ll hit the reef in around 63 hours time, and approximately 25 miles too far north of Lizard Island – a resort island on our same latitude that has a couple boats that can come and see us through the reef – for any chance of assistance if we get into a bind. North of Lizard island and ‘One Mile Opening’ – the most northerly cut through the reef in this area – the passes through the reef are few and we’d have to navigate them unsupported.

So, our last ditch plan is this: to haul in our anchor now and start pedaling southwards like its going out of fashion. At an obligatory 2 knot drift westwards (being underway) we’ll be in the vicinity of the reef by around 1600 hours tomorrow, but at least we’ll have managed to at best claw our way 11 nms south to ‘Cormorant Pass” – giving us the best line of entry to make it to the shelter of Lizard Island, and at worst keep at the same latitude with ‘One Mile Opening’ – our last chance.

To make things fun we have a tide to catch coming into the reef. And to make it even more fun the moon will be full tomorrow – doubling the strength of tide either in our favour or against it depending on timing. In addition to the dreadful conditions onboard at present, we have to position this 26ft plank at a specific point in time and space on the earth’s surface within the next 36 hours. Ain’t life fun if you can make it! Having just spoken to Kenny Brown, who is flying up to Lizard Island this afternoon to arrange for a support boat, we’ve agreed to rendezvous outside ‘Cormorant Pass’ at around 1630 hours tomorrow, giving us a 3.5 knot current and 3 hours of daylight to make it through the cut and the 12 nms to Lizard Island. But it’s going to be tight.

The interesting things is about all of this is it all boils down to maths. I failed maths miserably at school – not a good omen for the next 36 hours. But that was because it was all dry theory. Out here where everything correlates to something ‘real’ – it all makes sense. Perhaps a month on Moksha would be good therapy for 14 years olds slow in maths comprehension. Mmmmh – have to think about this one….

OK – gotta go get this tide…


Posted at 2:57 PM

August 12, 2000

Solomons to Australia voyage - Update #25

Lat/Long as of 19.45 hrs local time
14 degs 39. 44 S
147 degs 18. 25’E

Day 26. Wind SE 25-30 knots. Heading: N/A

It was three and half-hours later. Jason had finished his shift with disastrous results. Continuous heavy seas and 25-30 knot winds had gained him 8 miles west with only 0.75 miles made good south. At that rate within 48 we would impale ourselves on the Great Barrier Reef. Jason made the decision to deploy the sea anchor. This devise - essentially a parachute for water, designed to stabilize small boats and to create a lot of drag – would hopefully reduce our westerly drift. He crawled into the rear storage compartment to retrieve the anchor and its huge 100meter coiled rope. Please note here the quirkiness of rope. No matter how carefully it’s put away previously it has the innate ability to twist and knot itself between uses. This rope was no different and lay in a twisted heap on the floor of the boat. After 20 minutes of de-tangling and searching for ends we were finally ready.

Two ropes maintain the sea anchor. One is thick and heavy to help sink the chute beneath the disruptive action of the waves and attached by way of the stern to keep the boat end on to the sea. The other rope – a lightweight polypropylene line attached to the farthest end of the chute – is designed to float on the surface of the water and be used to collapse the chute thereby allowing it to be hauled back in. As we deployed the anchor through the open hatch, my job was to feed the retrieval rope at the same proportion as Jason controlled the stern rope. As a kid I’ve handled livestock with ropes – so what’s a little sea anchor? The farther the anchor got from the boat, it would sometimes lay very quiet, then sometimes take off wildly. My complacency got the best of me. With only a two and a half-foot margin of error left in my hands the anchor took off. The rope sizzled through my fingers, slamming my hands into the oar I was braced against. Stunned, I watched the trailing end disappear over the side into the waves. Jason said however that all was not lost. He still controlled the stern end that kept the anchor attached to the boat, but my lax in concentration would now make the anchor very difficult to pull in.

The last step was to re-attach the main rope to the stern. In the darkness of the night and the wildness of the sea (sound familiar?) Jason made his way to the end of the boat to wrap things up. Finally back inside, soaking wet and exhausted, we could let the sea anchor do its job. No pedaling tonight. Once in place the anchor drastically reduced our drift west and we could look forward to a relatively decent night’s sleep – though still taking it in 3 hourly shifts to sleep in the forward compartment. I would worry about hauling in the anchor from the one that got away. Another day.


Most current update (as of 2200 hrs local time 12th August)
We’ve had the sea anchor out for 24 hours now, drifting slowly but surely at a rate of 0.85 knots towards the Great Barrier Reef, now only 70 nms away. With the entrance to the Grafton Passage still more than 110 miles away, the situation is beginning to not look good The wind is forecast to continue at its current strength until Monday when a shift to the ESE and a reduction in speed to 15 knots will help to give us a window to drive south again. But by this time we will be too near the reef to still entertain plans of making it to Cairns. Cooktown to the north is the next option, but there’s no easy way to make it through the reef anywhere nearby – the chart indicates “Unsurveyed water” meaning that you just don’t go there, not least in a pedal boat.

We spoke to Kenny this morning by satellite phone. He’d just arrived safely into Cairns from London to prepare for our arrival and film for the documentary. Having spoken to a few folks there in the know, it seems as if the reef has all sorts of problems associated with it: the tides (we’re coming up to a full moon), inter-reef currents, submerged coral heads etc. Basically we don’t want to try and get through on our own.

At least we’re buying time by having the sea anchor out: for Kenny to accumulate local knowledge, contacts and to arrange for a support boat to come out from either Cairns or Cooktown; and for us here on Moksha to see if the wind calms down and we get a last minute reprieve from the Coral Sea to let us pass. As I write this (2200 hrs – pitch black outside) the sea is the most angry I’ve ever experienced it. Every 10 seconds a wave will break over the stern, submerging the entire vessel. There was a Booby sheltering on the deck behind my head just a minute ago, but it seems the last wave washed it away. There was the roar and hiss of the wave, a muffled squawk and then nothing more. Even with all the hatches sealed water is still managing to find its way in. The wind is howling in fury and Moksha yaws and lunges on the anchor line as if trying to escape. God what a ride. It’s actually quite frightening at times. April is huddled in the sleeping compartment as I write this, oblivious – for a few hours at least – of the hellish nightmare going on outside. No other way to put it folks. This is a bloody nightmare.


Posted at 2:56 PM

August 11, 2000

Solomons to Australia voyage - Update #24

Lat/Long as of 14.32 hrs local time
14 degs 40. 49 S
147 degs 49. 90’E

Day 25. Wind SE 25-30 knots. Heading 172M

"Her legs were quite long, but not quite as strong
As some hairy legged guy.
If he wasn't so broke,
He happily pay some poor bloke
To step in and help him get by."

When I decided to do the ocean crossing I approached my friend and co-worker John Castanha to design a training schedule for me. John coaches and competes and I knew if anyone could get me in shape for this it would be him.

"Do you want to train for endurance or intensity" he asked.
"Let's go for the endurance" I replied. "I want to be like the Energizer Bunny - just keeps going and going and going ?."
John also advised me on nutrition and clothing. So I felt as ready as I could possibly hope to be.

This crossing of the Coral Sea has been my toughest physical challenge ever. To date, John's coaching has served me well. I'm not fast on the pedals, rather methodical and enduring. That's why the night shift has suited me well. I could go the odd extra hour or two. Very handy, especially when the other person needs bit of extra time to finish computer work, navigation, or a bit of extra sleep. It has served me well, that is until now.

It is now crunch time with 150 miles to Cairns. No more relaxed pace allowed as our drift west ratio to miles made good south is what will get us to Cairns. I can follow a compass's directional heading of 180 degrees south; the full bore rpms to compensate for that strong continual current west that has played havoc with us from the start. Jason devised a new pedaling regime yesterday. To balance the pedal power needed he's on the cranks for three hours to my two. I've assumed "Special jobs" on board to allow for a shift in duties. No new jobs really. Just a little longer stint in cooking, cleanup etc. Or perhaps I could employ the use of a paddle I got from a fisherman in Tulagi. Pedaling and rowing in tandem, the best human power has to offer. Hey, whatever gets us to Australia.


Posted at 2:53 PM

August 10, 2000

Solomons to Australia voyage - Update #23

Click on image to play video (high speed connection advised).

Lat/Long as of 14.30 hrs local time
14 degs 29. 97 S
148 degs 21. 28’E

Day 24. Wind SE 15-20 knots. Heading 172M

Our southerly purchase seems to be gradually running out of steam. A couple of days ago it looked as if our chance of reaching Cairns was high. But our failure to keep to a 1:1 ratio of miles made south to miles made west over the past 48 hours has rather weakened our advantage. If we don’t get a change in current within the next three days I reckon we’ll be hard pushed to make it to Cairns, having to navigate through the reef somewhere between Cairns and Cooktown and go for Thursday Island instead. It’ll be cruel if this happens. But there’s nothing else we can do our end – all the stops are pulled out and there’s only so long we can maintain this level of pace.

For the past three and a half weeks it seems like we’ve been riding the tail of a giant fish, being swung first one way and then the other by the current. Right now we’re in the northerly trend, meaning we’re essentially pedaling against the current and going nowhere fast. We hope and pray for this situation to change in the next few days to a more southerly trend so we can recoup miles south. It seems as if we’ve had two of these cycles during the voyage: one window for a southerly push starting14 days ago for 3 days when we successfully skirted the Louisiade Archipelago and the other window starting 5 days ago for 3 days. The rest of the days have been dominated by northerly drift.

What’s baffling to us is the lack of mention of this cycle in any of the literature we have on board, including charts, pilot charts and the local cruising guide. The most we have on the charts for example is a small wiggly arrow running across the Cora Sea indicating a westwards current of around 1.5 knots. Whereas in reality, as we are discovering being so closely connected to every twitch of the ocean through Moksha’s relatively thin skin, the current is actually anything but following a straight path. If we were in a motor powered boat or a yacht, we probably wouldn’t even notice.

OK, eyelids are starting to droop – have to go and sleep…


Posted at 2:51 PM

August 9, 2000

Solomons to Australia voyage - Update #22

Lat/Long as of 14.30 hrs local time
14 degs 14. 56’ S
148 degs 54. 74’E

Day 23. Wind SE 5-10 knots. Heading 172M

Hard thumping today. Earlier on the wind shifted further around to the South east so there’s been the added knee strain of driving Moksha diagonally up and over the waves as opposed to just parallel to them. Our lives have been reduced to a dull but necessary schedule of pedaling, eating and sleeping, there being little time in the day (or night for that matter) for other more inspirational activities. Even April’s hair care schedule has been somewhat affected.
“I can’t arrive in Cairns looking like the Coral Sea Cowgirl with the High Seas Hair”, she moaned at me today.
“What not”, I countered. “Better High Seas Hair over Barbie Hair. No one will ever believe you just pedaled 1,000 miles if you step off the boat looking like a Trophy Wife”. The dispute continues unresolved. There’s an easy resolution though. I’ll just confiscate the shampoo and hair curlers a couple of days before arrival.


Needless to say we’re both pretty exhausted. We’ve reduced the daytime pedaling shifts to 2 hours and the night ones to 3 hours to keep us focused on rpms. Food is also playing a key role in keeping the cranks moving. The pressure cooker serves as a communal stockpot for us to dip into at any time of the day or night to refuel. Cooking up enough fodder for a couple of days also to saves time and energy - at the moment we have a soy based chili con carne on the go that should last until tomorrow evening before going sour. The other good thing about eating a square meal at three in the morning is it tricks your mind and body into waking up, eating being a predominantly day time habit. And it makes for a blessed relief from relying on the dreaded sickly sweet sports bar things for energy between mealtimes, which, after you’ve had enough of them like we have on this voyage, start to take on the unenviable qualities of a dehydrated turd.

Click on today’s video update to find out about our new pedaling recruit.

Posted at 2:48 PM

August 8, 2000

Solomons to Australia voyage - Update #21

Click on image to play video (high speed connection advised).

Lat/Long as of 14.00 hrs local time
13 degs 54. 57’ S
149 degs 26. 96’E

Day 22. Wind SE 10 knots. Heading 172M

We had just changed shifts. I had been on the pedals and Jason was taking a GPS fix. It is important in our approach to Cairns that after each shift we compare miles gained south versus drift west - adjustments are always better done sooner rather than later. Unfortunately the GPS – a brand new unit for this leg after the last one developed a power supply fault – was now refusing to power up also. No amount of extra work with the power lead or batteries would restore it. This was doubly unfortunate as this particular unit has with it a set of electronic C-map charts to pinpoint Moksha’s precise position inside the Great Barrier Reef at all times. So now we are back to using the old favorite – an old back up GPS that apparently was cheap as anything but just keeps going and going. You’d think they’d get life and death pieces of equipment like GPS’s to be bombproof. Shoddy gear – there’s no excuse for it.

We sat there glumly contemplating this latest development. All at once Jason heard an unfamiliar sound outside the hatch. We had guests. A pair of dolphins had come to investigate. But these were not your run of the mill cuddly flipper-like dolphins. Snub-nosed and dark in color these guys were aggressively patrolling. The pair would ride the incoming waves toward the boat, veering at the last moment bow and stern to circle around once gain for another pass. We looked on our quick reference chart and figured them to be Risso Dolphins, squid hunters of the south Pacific. After about 10 minutes they were gone and Jason and I were left to a different discussion about giant squids. I had recently seen a PBS program on specimens as long as 80ft, never seen by scientists but “We know they’re out there”. Jason shared a nightmare he’d often had during his solo crossing of waking up to a giant squid attached to the boat. I’d asked him whether he’d ever seen Disney’s ‘20,000 Leagues under the sea’. The fight scene between Kirk Douglas’ Ned and the giant squid is quite memorable. Tonight however we both sleep safe knowing our dolphin gladiators are keeping close watch and for myself knowing that Disney has taken care of any monster squids that are out there.



Posted at 2:46 PM

August 7, 2000

Solomons to Australia voyage - Update #20

Lat/Long as of 12.00 hrs local time
13 degs 17. 18’ S
149 degs 58. 30’E

Day 21. Wind ESE 10 knots. Heading 170M

The Coral Sea isn’t half giving us the run around.

At 10.00hrs yesterday morning April and I were convinced by all the information sent in from our land based support crew that making it to Cairns was out the question and altered course to 260M accordingly. With the bright lights of Queensland’s official party capital all but extinguished from our mental horizons we turned our imaginations loose instead on the mysteries and intrigues of Thursday Island, the Torres Straits and the untamed wilderness of Cape York. In a way we were both quite looking forward to the prospect of making landfall in such a bizarre place. Strange places like this are guaranteed to provide great journal writing material.

And it may still be so. But at 0800 this morning after realising how many miles south we’d inadvertantly made in the past 48 hours, we looked at each other over our bowls of morning gruel and thought - why not? Maybe there is a snowball’s chance in hell of making it to Cairns, still our first choice of destination all things being equal. Let’s give it one more crack. It’d be quite a coup if we managed to pull it off! The worst that can happen if the current and the wind do turn against us and we revert to Plan B once more is that we would have earned ourselves a few valuable miles south to better our chances of crossing the reef at the optimum area of around 12 degrees 30.

Either option promises a good tussle - and what better way to end this first ever 8,000 mile crossing of the Pacific Ocean by pedal power than with a formidable finish! If over the next 4-5 days we pull out all the stops and manage to claw our way to the entrance of the Grafton Passage leading through the Great Barrier Reef into Cairns, then we’ll have achieved at least one victory over this Coral Sea that has been kicking our rear-ends hard since rounding the western edge of Guadalcanal three weeks ago. If on the other hand we have to give up Cairns, instead navigating our way through a ½ mile cut in the reef further north using photographs of charts that our base crew have taken digital photos of and emailded us via satellite – either this or Kenny manages to locate us in a light airplane and physically drop us the charts before we hit the reef – then we will have also managed something a little out of the ordinary.

So, time to quit talking about it and go give it some welly. Watch this space.


Posted at 2:45 PM

August 6, 2000

Solomons to Australia voyage - Update #19

Click on image to play video (high speed connection advised).

Lat/Long as of 14.42 hrs local time
12 degs 54. 67’ S
150 degs 32. 55’E

Day 20. Wind ESE 15 knots. Heading 260M

Yesterday the game I created of Fish and Ships got more interesting. In the column of ‘fish’ we now have several entries. A Dorado fish and his little band of followers have recently joined us. He’s about 18 inches long, yellow/orange with iridescent blue gills. I’ve named him ‘El’ (no prizes). I first noticed him yesterday while washing my hair on the back deck. He was there again this morning when I cleaned up the breakfast dishes, eagerly awaiting the left over porridge scraps that I dumped off the starboard side. On both occasions El and his band were on the starboard more sheltered side away from the waves. This afternoon however I was watching incoming waves on the port side when I noticed El gliding down the body of a wave two feet above the hatch. I knew the wave was going to hit us spot-on and could have sworn I glimpsed a horrified look on El’s face when he realized collision was imminent. I imagined having a lap full of madly flapping Dorado fish, then attempting to get a grip on his slippery sides enough to eject him back into the sea. But, with a few fast, fishy maneuvers El managed to avoid being catapulted through the open hatch. Not so the wave which drenched me completely. I sat there laughing at the comedy of it all.

This evening disaster struck. I was washing an aluminum pot lid and a wooden spoon over the side. The spoon came clean and I had begun work on the kid. My worst fears realized, the lid slipped from my grasp. The disk began a slow shimmering descent into the deep blue abyss. El must have seen the whole thing happen as he immediately gave chase. Oh that he had a hand to grab it. But they both disappeared. I turned to Jason, “Have you had that pot lid long?” fearing it may have come from his mum’s kitchen. “We’ve had it since San Francisco - why?” After I explained what had happened I began searching the cabin for a revised pot lid. No solution yet.

After supper there was El and his followers patiently waiting for their fish treats. And the pot lid? Maybe a shark took a fancy to it. Wouldn’t that make for an interesting story for my fifth graders to create: the continuing South Pacific adventures of a 50-cent Safeway’s pot lid.


Posted at 2:43 PM

August 5, 2000

Solomons to Australia voyage - Update #18

Lat/Long as of 12.46 hrs local time
12 degs 42. 29’ S
151 degs 01. 07’E

Day 19. Wind SE 10 knots. Heading 210M

As I mentioned in the update of two days ago, with the wind and current driving us to the northwest as strongly and persistently as it has for the past week, we’ve started to formulate an alternative plan to make landfall somewhere other than Cairns. Plan B, the feasibility of which we are still waiting to get feedback on from various parties - not least the local authorities concerned – before deciding whether or not to put into effect, will still see the expedition hit mainland Australia (our long-term target since October 1996), but only just.

I’m now thanking my lucky stars for all the extra stuff Annie hauled from San Francisco to Tarawa this spring. Amongst the 13 excess bags were the hefty cruising guides and Lonely Planet guides of Queensland and Outback Australia that I’ve been using to formulate our alternative plan. After trawling through the cruising guide for the Queensland coast I was surprised to learn of one other place to clear customs and immigration north of Cairns: the lone star Thursday Island stuck out in the middle of the Torres Straits. So the plan involves making it to Thursday Island, which should be easy enough from our current latitude, clearing ourselves and Moksha officially into Australia, then continuing on about 120 nms around the west side of Cape York to finish the voyage at the mining town of Weipa.


There are a few problems associated with this idea, the biggest being that we don’t have any charts of the Torres Straits. At this time of year the trade winds can reach up to 30-35 knots in the straits and the current a staggering 7-8 knots from east to west due to the constricting effect of the Pacific Ocean being funneled between the two great land masses of Papua New Guinea to the north and Australia to the south. Added to which there are literally thousands of reefs, cays and islands littering the way for hundreds of miles in either direction. We would have to make it in through a narrow cut in the Great Barrier Reef – possibly the Olinda Passage – before picking our way carefully through 120 nms of these waters before making it to Thursday Island. And it that’s not enough to get us busy there is always the tidal range – often north/south – that is notorious for taking boats (much bigger than ours) wildly off course. So, it looks like fun. And all dependent (at least at this stage) on ‘Our Man Kenny’ – the expedition’s illustrious cameraman cum all round fixer – making it out to us in some sort of winged machine to drop the vital charts before we hit the Great Barrier Reef.

Plan C is to make it into Port Moresby. However, if even a fifth of what I’ve heard about Port Moresby were true, I’d fancy our chances with the Torres Straits.

Thanks to all those ‘mothers’ out there who have written to April urging her to eat more. You’ll be pleased to hear we managed to thrash out a deal today in which she gets enough fresh water from the desalinator – about 3 litres every other day in the purple camp shower bag - to wash her hair with in return for downing three square meals a day.


Posted at 2:40 PM

August 4, 2000

Solomons to Australia voyage - Update #17

Click on image to play video (high speed connection advised).

Lat/Long as of 13.36 hrs local time
12 degs 43. 20’ S
151 degs 32. 82’E

Day 18.Wind ESE 15-20 knots. Heading 180M

Demanding pedal shifts have encouraged me to extend my quest for psychological carrots:

1. Fresh water rinse. Hair washing is now down to a fine science. Wet hair with seawater, lather with saltwater shampoo, rinse (in seawater), add conditioner, rinse, add straight vinegar and then the best: the last couple of times we’ve made water on the Pur desalinator pump Jason has saved a little back in a camp shower bag. This he attaches to the wind generator mast and, as the final indulgence of hair washing, I sit astride the boat rinsing myself completely with salt-less water. Total indulgence.

2. Guitars. The harsh conditions of the voyage to date have not allowed for any time off for R+R. I had read in updates from previous voyages of supper out on the deck, evenings off and the playing of guitars and singing around the camp stove. We’ve not had a chance to experience any of that. During one of my recent evening pedal shifts however Jason had just finished preparing supper and dived into sleeping compartment to retrieve the ship’s guitar. A few minutes later his smooth tenor voice accompanied by the rhythmic guitar became a pleasant break in the usual evening routine.

3. Cabbage. I’ve loved cabbage since I was a kid. Kenny (Brown) had been able to acquire fresh produce the day before we left the Solomon’s. Among various vegetables and fresh fruits was the most magnificent cabbage I’d ever seen - apparently costing over $100 Solomon Dollars ($15 US). It would taste wonderful on the voyage. It was so enormous there was no room for it in the storage bins, so we hastily lashed it down to the roof of the cockpit with bungee cords. There it sat in prime position as Moksha’s makeshift adorning crown as we slipped away from Tulagi bound for Australia. About two miles into the trip we were approached by a speed boat. On the bow stood a beefy looking man, ammunition bands crossing his chest cradling an M-16. I eyed him curiously from the pedal seat while Jason stepped up to the hatch to wave. All was well until I noticed his gaze fixed on THE CABBAGE. Normally I would have loved to share, but not today. “Don’t even think about it buddy” I muttered under my breath, increasing my pedaling speed. The man finally nodded and the boat sped away.

This evening I sit in the pedal seat crunching cabbage, staring at the Southern Cross. It tastes even better now after nearly three weeks at sea than the day Kenny brought it to us. And lucky was the man on the boat. Hell hath no fury than a woman….robbed of her cabbage.


Posted at 2:38 PM

August 3, 2000

Solomons to Australia voyage - Update #16

Lat/Long as of 15.10 hrs local time
12 degs 55. 92’ S
151 degs 58. 96’E

Day 17. Wind ESE 20 knots. Heading 200

After a few hours of calmer seas yesterday in which we managed to claw back around 10 of our hard earned southerly miles, the wind kicked back up and it was back to business as usual again: big seas and zero headway being made towards Cairns. It’s cruel. From the surface it looks as if we’re making good progress – Moksha slicing through the water at a fair clip like she normally would. But what lies hidden from the eye is the whole ocean moving northwest (at approximately 1-2 knots would be my guess for us to remain at a standstill).

How long we can go on like this is a question April and I asked ourselves earlier on today. With various key factors involved such as April making it back to school in time, the wear and tear on the pedal units (of which two have popped their clogs already) and on ourselves from pedaling against the grain for so long, and not least our mental fortitude to keep going with no end in sight, we started discussing alternative plans of how to get our feet to dry land. If nothing else it’s given our minds something definitive to chew over today during our respective shifts to replace the nebulous space we’ve been in these past days. We decided to give it another 24-48 hours to see if the conditions changed at all in our favour and potentially adopt a different strategy if they hadn’t. This would make it a week of pedaling with no progress made: a record for all Moksha voyages.

One event perked up the day for a bit – the Birds (Mick and Stacia) popping by for their daily visit. Click today’s video update and check out how Mick gets on attempting to land on Moksha’s bow…


Posted at 2:37 PM

August 2, 2000

Solomons to Australia voyage - Update #15

Click on image to play video (high speed connection advised).

Lat/Long as of 12.46 hrs local time
12 degs 55. 45’ S
152 degs 21. 27’E

Day 16. Wind ESE 10 knots. Heading 180

The video camera is an integral part of life aboard Moksha, recording daily events and activities. More importantly, it captures the human element – the emotions, the physical and mental challenges. This helps to personalize the experience for a viewer and allow them to imagine what it would be like to be on the boat themselves.

And so….

…. It was a dark and stormy night. The seas were heavy and constantly pouring water through the hatch. I had only been in the sleeping compartment a short while to grab a quick nap before my graveyard pedal shift when I heard Jason removing the pedal unit from it’s well in the middle of the boat. This was the second time in only a few short days. The unit was shot. This time the sprocket on the bottom of the main drive shaft seemed to have sheared. As he popped the propeller shaft casing to take a closer look, lithium grease emulsified by seawater exploded everywhere. Jason just sat for a few minutes contemplating with disbelief the large puddle of grease now sitting in his lap and covering the rest of the inside of the boat. An oil slick the size of Prince unit through William Sound began to spread from bow to stern across the floor. I reached for the video camera. It’s crucial to record things like this as they happen even though its hard to discipline oneself to do so at the time, especially when wrapped in the heat of the moment. We were in heavy seas. It was midnight. Then the camera suddenly quit - I was out of film and the battery was dead. Jason meanwhile, balancing the pedal unit across his legs, displaying infinite patience, has to teach me to right all that’s gone wrong. He patiently describes where the batteries are located, where to install them and once more we begin the process of filming the exchange of pedal units. The cabin is dimly lit, head torches flicker on low battery. We are awash in grease and cold salt water. I’m soaked to the skin, shivering, and perhaps it was just one minute too long looking into the camera’s viewfinder. I toss the camera to Jason, step up to the open hatch and empty the contents of my stomach – Chili Con Carne from the evening meal – into the ocean. He deftly moves in beside me and captures it all on film. I sit down thinking what a nightmare this is, my head in my hands. I hear his voice:
“April, the microphone was switched off. There’s no audio. The whole sequence will be useless without sound We have to re-film some parts for audio.”
My stomach now empty and somewhat settled, I pick the camera back up to begin filming again. At long last he slides the new pedal unit through the floor of the boat and we are back in business once again.
“One more minor request A We need to recreate the audio of you getting sick. It’s a key piece. Do you think you could just go through the motions and make the appropriate noises? Thanks, you’re a real sport”
I smile at him thinly. I know there won’t need to be much acting – I can feel a fresh wave of nausea coming on already. OK, take 2, roll tape! I step up to the hatch, lean over the oar and once again barf into the ocean, fully recorded this time with sound effects. I lay over the oar thinking wryly to myself ‘There can’t be that many people who can barf on command. I must have a special talent!’ The consummate actress: “That’s a wrap” I mutter as I crawl back to the safety of the sleeping compartment. Honestly, the things I do for this expedition….


Posted at 2:36 PM

August 1, 2000

Solomons to Australia voyage - Update #14

Lat/Long as of 14.10 hrs local time
12 degs 48. 68’ S
152 degs 35. 42’E

Day 15. Wind SE 20 knots. Heading 210

Another minus day for miles made south – around 8 to be precise since our last 24 hourly GPS fix. I’m assuming this situation we’re in – not unlike being stuck in the counter-current of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone on the Hawaii to Tarawa leg – is an anomaly related to the bad weather we’re currently having and not something more long term that has finally caught up with us after having it ‘easy’ for the first 2 weeks. However, after 72 hours of no progress we’re both beginning to wonder…

It’s at times like these that I fully appreciate what an immense deal it is to try and cross an ocean by human power. Sometimes you can get a little cocky, especially after a relatively easy crossing like the last one with Chris. But the ocean is always the one that ultimately gives the thumbs up or the thumbs down regardless of what the pilot charts predict for this time of year. And humility is a good thing. I know being reminded of my limits as a human being will remain even after this expedition has finished as one of the most precious gifts the ocean has given me. But, there is a point when we all need some olive branch, some glimmer of hope. And I think April and I are at that point now.


I’m a little concerned for April. It beats me where she finds the energy to pedal considering how little she eats. This morning for example she took just a smattering of dried oatmeal in the bottom of a bowl, a pack of ‘Gu’ (athletes food - “100 calories, no fat” - that has the consistency of a week’s nasal outpourings of someone with a bad cold) and a Clif bar. Will her mother please have a word – she won’t listen to me regardless of how much I guilt trip her on liability. Stubborn girl.


Posted at 2:33 PM