The morning of the fifteenth day breaks cold and dreary with relentless rain, the ocean windswept. An eerie blue light penetrates the cabin, revealing a silhouetted form that sways in the half-light. Eyes closed, fist propping up her chin, April dozes as she pedals. A green lava-lava tied across the stern window is ready to catch her head when it falls.
The wind has veered to south-southeast in the night, and freshened to thirty knots with forty-knot gusts. The best we can now manage is 210 degrees magnetic, taking us diagonally over the backs of the sweeping rollers, some of which shape-shift into spitting balls of liquid rage and target the cockpit with laser-like precision. We’re back to being constantly wet and longing for the sun. This voyage is becoming a dodgem ride in the Twilight Zone, I scribble in my journal, with complimentary buckets of water dumped over our heads… Continue reading →
I stare in disbelief at the two-tone screen of the GPS. In the past 24 hours we’ve lost forty-two miles west, and gained only a handful south. Disaster looms once more. To avoid running aground on the reef east of Tagula, we need to make fifteen miles south over the next fifteen hours. The likelihood of this happening is slim given the recent trend.
All we can do different is try to increase our RPMs. April ups hers from forty to forty-five. I aim for fifty-two. We also shorten the daytime shifts from three to two hours, and the night-time ones from four to three to optimize performance. Continue reading →
July 25. Wind: ESE 10 knots. Heading: 180M. Position: 10°39’26”S 156°51’46”E
Hoorah! A lull in the trades has allowed us to claw twenty-five miles south, enough to scrape past Pocklington Reef. If we can next avoid Rossel and Tagula Islands, we’ll have a straight shot to Australia.
I film April as I pedal. She’s sitting wedged across the inside of the cabin, writing her first email.
“Success?” I ask.
“Success.” She sighs heavily, closes the laptop lid, and removes her purple-rimmed glasses. “But now I’m going to have to lie down for just a quick minute.”
She nods as she pries off a sodden white sock. “Looking down seems to be my Achilles heel.” The soles of her feet are beginning to rot, the skin white and flaking like spoiled cheddar cheese. Painful lesions mark the straps of her ill-fitting sandals—the reason for the socks. Continue reading →
July 20. Wind: SE 15-20 knots. Heading: 210M. Position: 09°21’66”S 158°28’28”E
Torrential rain all morning. The inside of the central compartment resembles a Chinese laundry with sodden bras, knickers, and towels swinging from the emergency oars. In the last twenty-four hours we’ve managed eleven miles south to thirty-three west, a ratio of one to three. This isn’t good enough. Our course over ground marked on the chart now has us on a collision course with the easternmost reef of the Louisiades Archipelago, Pocklington Reef. Continue reading →
July 19. Wind: SE 25 knots. Heading: 210M. Position: 09°18’33”S 159°14’50”E
Skirting the westernmost point of Guadalcanal, Coral Sea Corner as we later call it, the wind accelerates to thirty knots and all hell breaks loose. No longer protected by land, we are now exposed to the full force of the southeast trades sweeping unchallenged across the Pacific from South America. The seas around us become steep and confused, upshot of the confluence of winds, tides, and currents ricocheting between the islands. For every mile we pedal south, we’re losing six west.
Then it starts to rain. Heavily.
I awake at first light on the second day to a hollow clanking sound, like a cowbell. Our camp kettle is floating in six inches of water, bouncing between the plywood storage bins. A half-eaten bowl of waterlogged porridge is on the move along with my sandals. Outside, the wind shrieks. I look up. April has been pedalling since 3:00 am, steering in total darkness, wrestling the toggles back and forth to keep Moksha from broaching and capsizing. Sceptics denounced the idea of having a woman aboard without nautical experience as irresponsible and reckless. Yet here she is, powering away. Fortunately, she’s taken the trouble to get fit before coming out, an expedition first! Continue reading →
July 18, 2000. Wind: ESE 5 knots. Heading: 265M. Position: 09°11’78”S 159°40’14”E
We steer a course for the northern tip of Savo Island, its trademark splodge of cloud hovering overhead. “Don’t go south of it,” the police chief on Tulagi had warned. “Militias use Savo to run weapons and food to Guadalcanal.” Making a detour this early on in the voyage is somewhat inconvenient, especially with the trades gathering strength, but with Cairns over eleven hundred miles away, an extra ten won’t make much of a difference.
The wind is light. A gentle swell rolls in astern. The conditions are near perfect for April to start acclimatizing to life on the briny. For now, she looks happy and relaxed—perhaps a little too relaxed.
“It’s a lot easier than I thought it would be,” she laughs, pedalling with her hands behind her head. “If I had a pillow back here I could just drift off!”
2012 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA BOOK FESTIVAL NAMES WINNERS
HOLLYWOOD, CA (October 17, 2012) The story of a man’s amazing journey trying to circle the world using just the power of the human body has been selected as the grand prize winner of the 2012 Southern California Book Festival, which honors the best books of the fall.
“The Expedition: The True Story of the First Human-Powered Circumnavigation of the Earth” is the first of an anticipated trilogy by Jason Lewis, the intrepid globe trotter. Lewis used his expedition to reach out to thousands of school children, calling attention to their shared responsibility for the earth.
But the book is also a tale of human triumph and foibles, and is laugh-out-loud funny at times, gripping adventure in others. The page-turning work is thoroughly entertaining. Continue reading →
“Goodbye everybody,” I said, shoving Moksha away from the dock with my foot.
A handful of early shift workers from the fish depot had gathered to gawp. “Goot-bigh,” muttered one in disbelief, his eyes popping out at what he was seeing. No motor? No sail? All the way to Australia? “Dispela boi bagarapim het,” he whispered to his friends. This bloke must be buggered in the head.
April and I had spent the week since her arrival readying for the final push to Australia, scrubbing corrosion from metal fittings, and lubricating moving parts. A few modifications to the boat were needed, like using a spatula to position a magnifying lens in front of the compass, allowing April to read the degree markers. And in the event I disappeared overboard, she received a crash course in navigation, and proper use of a lifejacket, flares, and one of the RAF rescue mirrors to signal aircraft. Continue reading →
“So, what dae ye think life aboard Moksha’ll be like?” said Kenny, perched behind his camera.
April considered this for a moment, letting her gaze drop to the heavy torpor of the harbour water. It was a stock question for a documentary filmmaker to ask, one that allowed the editor to juxtapose preconceived notions with the actual reality of an undertaking. And for April, a middle-aged mother and schoolteacher from Colorado, it was particularly poignant. She’d never been in a boat before, let alone to sea. She couldn’t swim too well, either. Continue reading →