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March 16, 2007

Final Approach - A Race Against Time

LOCATION: Arabian Sea Crossing
Day: 45
Longitude: N:12°29.480'
Latitude: E: 044°58.370'
Heading: 230°M
Wind: ENE, Force: 3-4
Miles total Mumbai - Djibouti: 1,881
Miles from Mumbai: 1,801
Miles to Djibouti: 120

After nearly three days of tortuously slow progress the current has very much turned in our favour. Yesterday was one of the highest mileages on record for any voyage - 68.5 - thanks mainly to easterly winds blowing between 15-20 nautical miles per hour. But at the time of writing things are starting to slacken, and a change in wind direction from the northwest forecast for 48 hours from now means the success of the voyage is very much in the balance. As things stand we have to pedal like lunatics to get to Djibouti by Sunday morning to avoid potentially getting blown onto a weather shore southeast of Djibouti along the Somali coast. There are no safe harbours in this region, aside from perhaps Berbera, and the shore is renowned for heavy surf. So this is one scenario we want to avoid at all costs, hence the furious pedaling; we need to cover 140 miles in two days, which means an average of 70 miles a day, a pretty tall order considering our daily average on this voyage has been more in the 40 mile range. We will try to keep your posted of our progress.

The reason for all this is a confluence of factors that are fast coming to a head: our conservative current position on the north side of the gulf (to avoid piracy); the need to now cross over to the south side for the final approach; and the wind changing direction in a little over 48 hours to a northwesterly that will put an end to any easterly progress, and the predominantly easterly direction of a 1-knot current that, as we found out a few days ago, occasionally comes from the opposite direction for no apparent reason!. Now throw in the 'cul-de-sac' effect of the eastern end of the gulf, which by its very nature puts finite limits on our options. I'd say at this point we have an even 50/50 chance of walking off the boat on Djibouti on Sunday. And there are several other 'unknowns' at this juncture that especially worry me, mainly concerning currents, that will also play a part in the eventual outcome.

Kenny Brown is already on location in Djibouti ready to film for the documentary series. So if we can get within a sensible distance of Djibouti before the wind changes there's a chance he can come out with a boat to keep us being swept southeast towards Somalia. But this would precipitate a whole load of other problems, such as completing the missing section by human power, plus the added costs involved, so it really would be ideal for us to get there under our own steam.

Yesterday I asked myself again, 'Why didn't I just keep things simple and ride a bike back to London from Mumbai overland through Pakistan and Iran?' This would greatly enhance the chances of successfully completing a human powered circumnavigation. But it wouldn't have served the interests of one of the other key aims of the expedition, that of seeking out adventure and living each day to its fullest. I think Sher and I have definitely managed to achieve this latter objective during the last 45 days: from breaking the rudder on the first day out, to running out of water, to struggling with the currents and facing the prospect of being taken into pirate territory around the island of Suqutra, and now the final last dash across the gulf to safety before the wind changes our fate. Never a dull moment, but I'll be relieved when we step ashore and close the chapter on this last [major] voyage of the Moksha.


Posted on March 16, 2007 11:42 AM


I've only recently found out about this expedition and I must say I find it truly inspiring.
I also cannot believe that there hasn't been more about it in the press.
Well done, I can't even begin to imagine what you have been through.
I recently cycled from John O Groats to Lands End and am very proud of that achievement. It's like walking to the local shop in comparison to what you are doing.
The end is surely in sight now. All the best on the remaining stages of your trip.


Posted by: Renster [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 23, 2007 10:02 AM