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November 30, 2005

Moksha Settled

So the old girl is now settled in the SAF Yacht Club who have given us a very warm welcome and been incredibly helpful with arranging media opportunities and providing a safe, comfortable environment to host media interviews with local TV, radio and newpapers, a number of whom have been down the past few days to do stories.

She's looking rather weather beaten and tatty around the edges, but structurally sound after her latest journey on a barge from Dili. Big thanks to the folks who arranged this by the way (you know who you are!) who wish to remain anonymous.




Posted at 10:55 AM | Comments (2)

November 26, 2005

Home for Moksha confirmed

A home for Moksha is confirmed with the SAF Yacht Club . I met with Tracey, in charge of boat storage, and we have a place for her under a roof at least out of the rain for a nominal fee of $10 a month, which for Singapore is a fantastic rate. Plus they have 24hr security, so I very much doubt I'll be coming back early next year to $10,000 worth of gear stolen like I did in Darwin.

Moksha arrives tomorrow Sunday on the Perkins barge from Dili. I meet her at the dock on Monday morning with a truck to then transport her to Changi Naval base where they SAF Yacht Club have their storage facility.

Other than housing Moksha efforts are mainly being concentrated on sourcing potential funding sources for the SE Asia leg. So any folks reading this in Singapore who might have a lead for sponsorhip please leave a comment or contact me via the website!

Bought some maps in Borders bookstore of Malaysia and Nepal with the intention of starting to get my head around the distances and draft itinerary for the next leg. Apart from the permits for China and Tibet I think this next one will be a breeze compared to Indonesia...

Posted at 11:06 AM

November 24, 2005

Finding a home for Moksha

Well, things didn't work out with the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club. An email came through yesterday informing me they wouldn't be able to assist with storing Moksha during the wet season. Hmmm, pity.

I'm not that surprised in a way. During the lunch meeting the day before yesterday I was asked some pretty stiff questions by the club secretary in particular, such as where our funding came from, how much each leg of the trip cost, why the trip had taken 11-years to date. I think they were rather put off by the grass-roots nature of Expedition 360. And it didn't help having one of Ellen Macarthur's management team interrupt our meeting at one point to broach the prospect of a much higher profile opportunity in the form of Ellen finishing her latest around the world voyage at the club.

Shortly after this disappointing email one came through from Hugh Young, a old friend of the family recently surfaced after 25-years here in Singapore, who had kindly put the word out amongst his sailing mates about storage for Moksha. We could put Moksha at the Singapore Armed Forces Yacht Club over at the Changi naval base on the east side of the island for a nominal $10 a month. Too easy! I'm meeting with Tracey, one of the club members in charge of boat storage, this afternoon, to nail down details. But just from speaking to her on the phone I get the feel this is a club a little more friendly and perhaps receptive to the expedition's needs. Again, fingers crossed.


In the meantime we've been meeting some very helpful people who are organising talks at local schools and sports clubs. There's a presentation at the United World College this Saturday. Moksha comes in Sunday, and according to my hugely efficient shipping agent Angie Ong with Megastar Shipping, should clear customs within one hour. ONE HOUR! That's Singapore for you. Things get done here, and quickly. By comparison it took 2-weeks of constant battling in offices to get the kayaks cleared in Dili, East Timor back in May.


Posted at 10:33 PM | Comments (1)

November 22, 2005

An important day

Today is a really important one. A NewsAsia TV interview (their footprint reaches all the way to Dubai) followed by a meeting with the committee of the prestigious Singapore Royal Yacht Club to talk about the possibility of storing Moksha there until the next leg kicks off in May.


There aren't too many loose pieces of land knocking around Singapore that we can just plonk her, and certainly no grass roots boat clubs like the Bayview Yacht club (San Francisco) or Dinah Beach Yacht club (Darwin, Australia) that will take us in with a smile and a beer for handshake as welcome. Everything here is hard-nosed, efficient, and the bottom line is money. No room for scroungers, which I guess rules out Expedition 360!

In fact every single square inch of space seems taken on this tiny island. So just finding 8 cubic metres to plant her tiny frame I can see being a challenge. Fingers crossed for the meeting today. The email I had back from the committee just a few hours (not weeks like anywhere else) from sending in my initial proposal sounded like they're were open to the idea 'in principle'. So we'll see.

Moksha is currently being shipped from Dili, East Timor courtesy of Perkins Shipping out of Darwin, and should be here this Sunday 27th. It'll be good to see the old girl again after yet another extended period of isolation in a storage shed in some far-flung corner of the earth. I feel the expedition will also be complete again with her bring up the rear and being part of the family again.

Posted at 8:37 AM

November 20, 2005

X360 Published on Apple site

Just starting to get grounded here in Singapore after being in a spin the first couple of days after arrival. The feeling of concrete under foot is certainly different from sand and vegetation and not altogether unwelcome - not having to bother with getting bitten/scratched/covered in sand with every waking move.

Had a nice article come out on the Apple website under their HOT PICKS listing you might be interesting in reading ...


Posted at 12:02 AM | Comments (1)

November 18, 2005

A Tricky Last Day...

So after kayaking for 5-months through Indonesia, crossing some pretty dangerous passages of water between the islands along the way, you'd think we'd at least get the last and most important one right, right? Well, we didn't. In fact our first attempt at crossing the Singapore Straits on the 16th, a mere 12 miles, went anything other than smooth and indeed it was lucky that all the participants walked away from the debacle unscathed.

Disasters often seem to start with a seed, then compounding factors - that on their own merit and without this initial impetus wouldn't be a problem - kick in and before you know it events are spiralling out of your hands and out of control.

The seed of our failure the morning of the 16th was an hour and a half delay getting stamped out Indonesia by the immigration authorities at Batam. Stuart Smith and Esther from the Singapore Paddle Club had kindly come over earlier that morning to paddle 'Queenie', the double kayak, over to Singapore. Being full moon and expecting a 6 knot tide in the strait we had a narrow window of just 1.5 hours at relative slack water over high tide at 10.33 am to do the tricky part of the crossing. The tricky part being a 2-mile stetch of water slap bang in the middle of the strait that comprises the busiest shipping lane in the world with 4-500 vessels passing by each day, some as close as just 12 minutes apart from each other.

So by the time we received our passports back and paddled out to the 'line' where we had to wait for clearance by the ASIC (port authority) before crossing the shipping lane, it was already 1pm, and the current was starting to rip eastwards. We might have stood a chance if we could have gone right there and then, but there was a further 30-minute delay waiting for the green light from the ASIC, during which time we were paddling for all our worth westwards just to retain our position but still being swept eastwards by the current. By 1.30pm we were taken into some really treacherous water around Batu Berhanti with overfalls, whirlpools and large breaking waves. At this point we decided to take a tow from the support craft to take us back to our original location. And this is when the real fun began.


All seemed to be going fine and we were making slow progress back westwards when the line dragging my single got caught under the double....causing Queenie to flip over and depositing Stuart and Esther in the drink. The water was so rough that pumping out the compartments proved impossible, and Esther and Stuart found themselves having to take refuge in the safety boat to avoid getting konked on the head by one of the kayaks that were now rearing dangerously up and down in the swell.


Before too long the double was completely swamped and wallowing in the water like a submarine. The decision was then made to tow her across the shipping lanes to the Singapore side and to calmer water where she could be pumped out. This proved tortuously slow going, with the support boat only being able to pull at 1-2 knots, and there was one point in particular, as a vast oil tanker was bearing down on us just a few hundred metres away, that I was on the verge of ordering Stuart to abandon Queenie so we could save our own skins.


Eventually we made it to calmer water and pumped enough water out of Queenie so Stuart and Esther could jump back in the saddle and start heading back towards the Paddle Club, some 6 miles away.

My day was just beginning however. As we'd been towed across the shipping lane I needed to get back to the otherside to keep the human powered element pure. And as it was already 5pm and the support boat had to be back at base by dark I made the call to paddle out to one of the many islands on the Indonesian side and stay the night on one of the beaches there, and have another crack at the crossing in the morning, this time getting the timing right for high tide at 11.15 am.


The problem with this plan however was being already stamped out of Indonesia, but not yet into Singapore. So for one night I'd essentially be a 'persona non grata' between two countries and hoping I wouldn't get picked up by the Indonesian navy or police and thrown in jail.

For several hours I paddled around the myriad of islands trying to find a sandy beach I could pull the kayak up onto. But being around low tide by this time, and fullmoon low tide at that (so VERY low), all the islands were completely exposed by reef making access impossible.

It was just starting to get dark when one sandy beach stretching as far as the water came into view. But, on getting closer, I also noticed a powerboat tied up to a wooden jetty painted in the colours of the Indonesian navy. Great, a lookout post. The prospect of sleeping the night in an Indonesian jail now became all the more a possibility!

After slipping past under cover of dusk I continued on, eventually finding myself on a narrow stretch of beach with just enough room for the kayak between the high tide mark and a sheer cliff behind. I'd got rid of all my camping gear, so I had no shelter or means of keeping the bugs at bay, plus the only food I could locate in the back of the kayak comprised a warm can of Heineken. I don't normally like Heineken, let alone warm. But tonight I was it's biggest fan.

At midnight, just as the tide was receding enough to lie down on the sand and try and get some sleep, the rain started. All I could do was stand under a bush with a makeshift rain-jacket made out of an old sack keeping me slightly less damp than if I was out in the open. Six hours later I was in the same position, just much wetter. By first light the visibility north across the straits, in the direction of Singapore, wasn't looking good. The rain was still coming down in sheets and a thick blanket of fog lay over the water obscuring all from view, including the giant ships that presumably were able to still navigate via radar.

I couldn't cross in these conditions. The prospect of missing my 11.15am window of slack water was looking increasingly possible for the second day in a row. A sensation of mild panic quickly spread throughout me as I realized that I really couldn't stay another day illegally in Indonesia. Even if I managed to keep undetected from Indonesian navy and police, the Singapore immigration authorities would want to know where I've been for 2-days since stamping out of Batam. 'Paddling around in the shipping lanes between the 2 x countries? I don't think so.

So what would this mean? I'd have to get stamped back INTO Indonesia (a nightmare scenario) and then wait for the conditions to improve to cross again in a week or so, or try for Malaysia instead. The costs involved with such a plan, not to mention the huge inconvenience for all involved and my GREAT desire to leave Indonesia, made this almost impossible to consider for any length of time. It was just too depressing a thought.

Slowly the rain eased and as I started to ready myself and the kayak to head out and rendezvous with Kenny and Phil at 10.30, the dark grey bank of cloud over Singapore, much to my joy, started to yield to a lighter patch of cloud underneath, rather like oil separating over water. This could still come together I thought.

In essence I had just one shot at this, otherwise the Indonesian leg of the expedition, with all the years of planning, thousands of dollars spent and months actually executing it, would have failed.

Kenny Brown came through on the VHF radio loud and clear. 'We're waiting just off a yellow mooring buoy about a mile southeast of our rendezvous point. Over.'

As I paddled north towards their approximate position I realised the direction I was heading would have them stationed within full view of the Indonesian navy lookout station on the island I'd passed the previous evening. This was all we needed. If they sent out their patrol boat I could see us being detained for a few hours at least and miss out tide-window again.

I was seriously considering, should they come out to hassle us, to call their bluff and just keep on paddling towards international waters. Anything to get of Indonesia. Would they shoot me? Probably. They'd think I was smuggling and Kenny would get the ideal ending to his documentary with me getting mown down in a hail of bullets.

No, not a good scenario either. We meet up, Phil lobs me an apple and a Mars Bar. We're a little ahead of schedule, but I'm able to make headway against the current at around 2.5 knots good, so we head for the shipping lanes. This time we don't even bother with getting permission from the ASIC port authority. The skipper of the support rib, having navigated these waters since a child, picks the optimum time between ships and away we go, easy as pie. I'm impressed at how this guys knows which way the ships will go. 'This one will go behind us'. 'That one ahead of us'. How he knows this I can't fathom as they all look too damn close for me!

The crossing goes like clockwork, and by 11.30 we're out of the shipping lanes and nearing a pair of islands called 'The Sisters' where immigration is waiting to stamp us into Singapore. This takes a matter of minutes, and we continue tracking NW towards the island of Sentosa where a re-do of the press arrival on Tanjung Beach from yesterday is kindly being set up by Speedo and Royal Sporting House.

The tide is already starting to change, and the last couple of miles is harder going against an ever increasing easterly-set tide, the same tide that caused so many problems the day before. So I thanked my lucky stars that we'd started the crossing a little earlier than originally planned. The extra time had afforded us the bare minimum window to complete the crossing. Any later and we would have run into the same problems as the previous day, only on the Singapore side of the fence.

At 2pm my kayak finally slid to a stop, except this time on the clean, white sand of an artificially constructed beach on island of Singapore. It was a strange arrival in many ways. The press were there to do their thing, and the only familiar faces were those of Kenny, Phil and Stuart from the previous day. The reception was warm, thanks to the efforts of Speedo, Royal Sporting house and our own Steve Smith working to organise the whole thing remotely from back in Salcombe in the UK. But it seemed a little hollow not having at least a few of the other teammembers there; April, Chris, Lourdes, Jansen and Ina.

On the flip side I was hugely relieved, and quite overwhelmed by completing what has been without doubt the hardest and most challenging leg of the expedition to date. The little light at the end of the tunnel - that is the meridian line of longitude in Greenwich, East London, that has been so faint for so many years - is starting to look a lot brighter now the expedition is, for all intents and purposes, on the SE Asia mainland, and starting to head home at last.

Posted at 11:44 AM | Comments (3)

November 17, 2005

Arrival Singapore!!

Just a quick one to say we arrived in Singapore safe and sound at 2pm this afternoon. Huge debacle trying to get across the Singapore Strait from Batam yesterday; upturned kayak, people floating around in the busiest shipping lane in the world in 6+ knot currents. Got it right today though. Will update more tomorrow!


Posted at 1:38 PM | Comments (1)

November 16, 2005

Time travelling: 3 posts in 1!

My email has been down for a week. A week! I can't guarantee I haven't missed anything, but here's what I have so far.... gl.

November 10:

November 12:
LAT: N00.57.68
LONG: E104.02.43

November 16:

Posted at 5:41 PM

November 7, 2005

Return to the northern hemisphere!

Jason posts via the sat phone again... gl.

LAT: S00.15.96
LONG: E104.27.65

LAT: N00.04.61
LONG: E104.30.01


Posted at 10:02 PM | Comments (4)

Jellyfish attack!

Jason's sending text messages via the sat phone for me to post till they get the computer fixed... gl.

LAT: S00.15.96
LONG: E104.27.65


Posted at 7:20 AM

November 5, 2005

Computer died - updates from here sketchy

DAY: ?
LOCATION: Internet cafe - Dabo, Singkep Island

The computer has died so I'm writing this from an internet cafe in Dabo on the island of Singkep. This maybe the last update for a while unless either the computer makes a miraculous recovery or Gretchin - could I text you a short 'All OK' and location to your email from the satphone which you can then post on this blog?


We're all well, having made it across Selat Berhala safe and survived another monsoon downpour in the early hours of this morning, although this time we were prepared! Everything is soaked though, and the electronics are taking a beating with the constant moisture and humidity in the dry-bags, hence the computer meltdown.

We cross the equator in a couple of days, for the final time before Greenwich!


P.S. A quick apology to Jim Brady's students from the Santa Barbara Middle School for not getting back with answers to the questions you sent through. Time has been really tight recently. Let me know if you still want me to reply when we get to Singapore in 2 x weeks?

Posted at 6:08 AM | Comments (2)

November 3, 2005

Swamps, Selats and Storms - update from Phil

DAY: ?
LOCATION: Berhala Island

After a quite horrible night camping in the swamp, we headed out to take on Selat Berhala. We were up early to make use of the tide. Packing was assisted by inquisitive sea snakes.

We paddled out about a mile or so and waited at a fishing platform for the tide, taking photos and resting.

I'll admit to being quite nervous about taking to sea, as will Kenny I think, but, well, what else were we going to do?

All in all the crossing was uneventful, no attack sharks or whales looking to use the kayak for a back scratcher and no rogue waves ala The Perfect Storm. Just a few hard yards of paddling and we arrived at Berhala Island. We put in at a beautiful beach for a swim and a cup of tea. Fantastic tropical water; warm and clear. At one stage Kenny popped over the ridge to see the other side and surprised the locals, who were quite confused when Kenny told them we had come from Jambi. The kayaks being beached around the corner, they could see no boat and Kenny was chuffed to leave them guessing.

We paddled off to find a camp site and found ourselves an absolutely, picture from the brochure, fantasy island. A small atoll with two matching coves. Stoked with our good fortune we voted for a day off and set about wasting the rest of the day swimming and sleeping. After a fine meal washed down with mugs of berroca spiked with Jim Beam, we put up our respective shelters in a haphazard manner, Kenny electing for the hammock.

The Monsoon hit about 3am, with gale force winds, storm surging sea and driving rain.

Kennys tent promptly collapsed and he sought shelter in Jason's which lacked a rain fly at the time. I myself was stretched out, a limb in each corner of my tent desperately trying to hold it down, hoping the waves that were washing under my tent would get no higher. I stepped out at one stage to review my options, huddling naked on the leeside of the tent I watched helplessly as Jason and Kenny struggled to get Jason's tent back onto the ground and cover it with a fly sheet. Kenny eventually got inside and pinned one end of the rain cover under him while poor Jason spent a few hours kneeling outside exposed to the elements, holding onto the other end. As the storm abated Kenny joined me at my tent, huddling under the rain fly and we sipped some Jim Beam and smoked a couple of ciggies, watching the light come up over the horizon. We had gone to bed worried about the monkeys stealing our food, not giving much thought at all to the fact that we were:
On an atoll
In the tropics
During Monsoon season
Camped on the windward side of the island.

I got up about 8 or 9, looking for a cuppa. Walking along the shore I spotted smoke and found Kenny huddled under a tarp, trying to get a fire started. Between the two of us we got a good fire going and made hot tea for the crew. I wokeup Jason who, while exhausted from the nights activities, was rejuvenated quickly by the powers of a cuppa.

Today was spent either sleeping, exploring, making better camp, eating and swimming. Jason made some repairs to the double kayak which had taken a hit from driftwood during the storm. Kenny took some anti-histamines for his bug bites and promptly fell asleep for a couple of hours.

The monkeys made several attempts at contact with us but, finding our poor language skills frustrating they gave up and instead sat in the trees screaming at us to get of their turf (or some thing like that).

All in all it was a great day off. I for one finally felt that the swamp has been washed away from both equipment and soul.

Were off to the next island tomorrow, crossing a 9 mile selat.

Cheers all. And Angel, I got you a special present buddy.


Posted at 2:33 PM | Comments (1)

November 1, 2005


DAY: ?
LOCATION: East coast Sumatra

Tonight we find ourselves camped in a swamp. After exiting the river Hari late this morning we paddled around the coast in search of a suitable launching point to cross Selat Berhala tomorrow morning. The best we could find was a tiny inlet amongst an otherwise impenetrable mangrove coastline, affording us access to just enough solid(ish) ground to pitch our mozzie domes and cook a meal (mashed spuds and fried veggies). As well as the hordes of insects, both of the biting and non-biting variety, the inlet is home to a variety of creatures, from mudskippers to monkeys, the less intelligent of which have decided to make this bug-infested primordial swamp their campsite for the night.

Oh, and mud. Did I mention mud? Kenny tried to make it across the inlet to take photos and got stuck half way across. As he said himself, this is the gooey soup we once came from, so it's like a homecoming for us. He certainly did look at home in the stuff wallowing around like a beached hippo.

Tomorrow we rise early - very early - at 2.30am to exit the inlet before low tide. At first light we'll attempt the crossing of Selat Berhala to Pulau Berhala where there are reputedly coral reefs and and a sandy beach to camp on. After this mud I promise I'll never moan about the trials of camping in sand ever again.

Phil says hi to Angel!


Posted at 2:07 PM