Pedal Sub Sunk! – the expedition #adventure #travel book excerpt 8

Moksha capsize drill in Exeter canal basin

By mid-April, Moksha was ready for a proper sea-trial. First, however, we needed to make sure she would automatically self-right in the event she capsized. Before taking her down to Salcombe, we took advantage of the hand-operated crane at the museum to flip her over in the River Exe. After an initial unmanned test roll, Kenny­ and I clambered inside the cabin and buckled up using seat belts reclaimed from the Ballistic Cleaning van. Kenny had borrowed a camera to film. Steve and Chris operated the crane.

As she tilted to ninety degrees, water began spewing in around the sliding hatch. My head was resting on the plywood roof, hair swimming in a rising pool of water. Continue reading

Enter the Guildford Street Gang – the expedition #adventure #travel book excerpt 7

The expedition’s UK patron, HRH The Duke of Gloucester, christens Moksha prior to the River Thames launch. 1994.

As well as fallings-out, another feature of being continually broke planning an expedition was the need to learn a staggering array of new skills we couldn’t afford to pay anyone else to do. This meant learning how to use a computer, no mean feat back in the days of MS DOS, writing proposals, press releases, public speaking, public relations, drawing up budgets (ever-hopefully), pitching to potential sponsors, applying for visas, researching route options, first aid training…
One thing beyond us, however, was how to film it. After two early camera operators fell by the wayside, a magical solution transpired from north of the border in the form of Kenny Brown, a native Glaswegian and budding documentary filmmaker. We met for a show-and-tell one March evening at the Chandos pub, north of Trafalgar Square. Steve and I couldn’t understand a word Kenny said. The thick Scottish brogue firing off at a thousand words a minute proved utterly unfathomable:
Soonds loch an amazin’ adventure yetois haegot gonnae thur.” [1]
“Uh, I’m sorry?”
So when daeyetois think yoo’ll beheadin’ aff ‘en?[2]
“Eh? What was that again?” Continue reading

Sponsorship Struggles Begin – The #expedition #travel book excerpt 6

Hugo Burnham

It was the spectacular indifference of the UK business community, patronage we’d naïvely assumed would be a shoe-in considering the Unique Selling Point on offer, which sowed the early seeds of demise with the boat builders. Steve was sending them as much money as he could. Even so, by Christmas, proper compensation for their efforts was looking no more likely than it had a year previously. Hugo and Chris were becoming understandably disgruntled, and relations were stretched to breaking point. Continue reading

Presenting “The Banana Boys” – The #Expedition #Book excerpt 5

Chris Tipper (L) and Hugo Burnham (R) stapling hardwood veneers

With Chris and Hugo working in Exeter, surviving on the dole and the proceeds of loose change thrown into a donations box outside their workshop, Steve and I based ourselves in London, also surviving on the dole, a target of endless abuse down the pub.
“What the bloody hell are you two thinking?“ roared Lofty, our six-feet, six-inch Yorkshireman friend over a beer at The Dove in Hammersmith. Tears were streaming down his cheeks from laughing so hard. “I mean, thirty-five quid a week on the Rock ‘n Roll isn’t going to get you around the world now is it? Word of advice lads, forget the whole pea-brained idea.” Continue reading

Raising the Dream – The Expedition Book excerpt 4

By ten o’clock, there was still no sign of Chris and Hugo. The two photographers were trading anxious glances, perhaps wondering if they were the unwitting victims of a prank by their picture desk editors: “I need you to drive to the Arse End of Nowhere and shoot a story about a couple of nutters planning to use a pedalo to go around the world. You know, one of those things they rent out for five quid an hour on the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park. Come in number ten, your time is up!
It certainly sounded like a hoax. Continue reading

Raising the Dream – The Expedition Book excerpt 3

One year later… Ardleigh reservoir, Suffolk
The morning air was clear. A stiff northeasterly blew unchallenged across the Broads from the North Sea, slicing to the bone through our meagre wool jerseys. We’d been at the reservoir since dawn, waiting for the boat builders to arrive with the recently completed hull. Today was a big day. By the end of it, we would know two things: whether the strange-looking contraption floated, and whether a customized propeller could move it though the water. Continue reading

The Big Idea – The Expedition Book excerpt 2

Thirteen years earlier. Paris, August 1992
“It’s incredible isn’t it,” Steve exclaimed, “how no one’s thought of it yet?” As he’d already pointed out, the Earth had been circumnavigated using everything from sailboats, to airplanes, to hot air balloons. Yet the purest, most ecologically sound method of all and doable for centuries, without using fossil fuels, was still up for grabs. “It may even be an original first!” he continued excitedly.
My old college pal Steve Smith and I were slumped on the kitchen floor of his flat in Paris, drinking Kronenbourg 1664 at two in the morning. A map of the world lay between us, paddled by the slowly revolving shadow of an ornate ceiling fan that gave the apartment an air of French colonial panache. Continue reading

Croc Attack – The Expedition Book excerpt 1

Cape York Peninsula, Australia. May 13, 2005
5:17 pm: Rounding the southern edge of Lookout Point, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, like whenyou know you’re being watched.
I glanced behind.
Two lidless eyes and a snub nose, gliding behind my kayak.
Fear gripped me instantly. Not the jittery type like when you come across a large spider in the bath. But the primal, fundamentally hard-wired horror of being hunted, considered prey. And the last fifty yards to shore, which should have been a winding down and quiet reflection on the entire Pacific crossing, instead became an adrenaline charged eruption of pumping arms and hammering heartbeat.
If it takes me in the water, I thought, I’m finished…
I tore frantically at the surface, snatching occasional glimpses behind. The predator was gaining easily. Continue reading