Here we go again, the plan is to cross the Mozambique channel on kayak to Madagascar. This will take place any time from late October to early November of this year, 2011.
Whats in the name? Well Bukkit was our little Amazon boat that carried us 1500km down to Macapa, Bukkittoo was the kayak that had the honour of flying a kite down the deserted coast from Benguerra island to Pomene lodge, the third Bukkit left me with a little predicament and I eventually decided to have three "t's" at the end, depicting the the third vessel.
My recent kayak and kite excursion down the Mozambique coastline brought me to a deserted spot about 5km's north of Pomene lodge. The beach was devoid of any civilization when suddenly appears a huge white Landcruiser. I flagged the vehicle down, Dicky Maritz was the driver and promptly loaded my kayak onto the back and took me for a hearty breakfast, hot shower and a welcome chat to his beach-house overlooking the sea. Dicky is the owner of ACT or Airospace Composite Technologies based in Tzaneen. This company manufactures aircraft, aircraft parts and a host of other aerospace products, including a new venture into kayak construction. Well, well, well, who would have thought meeting this guy, who has in time now became a friend, on that deserted beach! ACT builds what is known in the market as the Rolls Royce of kayaks using high end airospace technologies and products. The "Gator" as it is known is a well proven very durable, strong and lightweight kayak. Discussing this kayak we immediately decided to purpose-built BUKKITTT for the channel crossing.
Well as you can see BUKITTT is almost complete, all that remains is for the seating/sleeping design, the mainsail and mast and the signwriting to be done.
The electronic power supply is once again done and configured by my friend Ephraim Vermaak who owns BIGS systems in Centurion. The power supply will provide current for the GPS, Sharkshield, Satphone, MP4 music player etc etc. The last power pack designed by BIGS was ample and after 5 days still had enough power left for two weeks or so. Thank you Ephraim for your commitment to my adventures.
I have just decided from where to leave in Mozambique; the best spot seems to be the coast-line around Nacala. This will leave me with about 20 degrees of drift to reach my destination in Madagascar, which could be anywhere on the North or West coast.
Just read that a fellow by the name of David Grier has done this crossing in a kayak, just as I was about to start looking for another trip to do I decided to read his diairies. It was not a solo trip and he was assisted by a motorized vessel on which he slept every night. Thank goodness for little mercies, my trip will be solo and I will not be assisted by anybody at all.
The entries in my diary today, summarized it means the following; I will head and maintain a course North-East (075 degrees) whilst paddling, the real course over ground will be a bit less than 117degrees, leaving me some driftspace for when I rest., the current will sweep me South-wards. I have a distance of 662 km's to cover on a straight line course. I have made provision for drift of up to 23km's per 24 hour period. In total this means a total drift distance of around 300km's.
The above Google image shows the route-line from Pemba in Mozambique to Mahajanga in Madagascar, this will also be the "go to" line on my GPS, I should never go below this line as I will then risk missing my destination and or the island as a whole. I'll then post from Australia somewhere. ;-)
THE SHIPWRECK MENTALITY
That’s it! To do this trip I have just decided to adapt this mentality; if one is shipwrecked you have no idea where you are or where you are going, not even any information on currents etc. If I say to myself, I am shipwrecked, I will at least be afloat, know where I want to go to, know where I am, have food and water and communications via my satellite phone. What a very privileged position to be in!!
ONE NIGHT IN FRANSCHOEK
What an amazing evening with my school friends of many years ago! They are all following us here and their support means a lot to me, thanks guys!
BUKKITTT GETS WINGS
Those of you who followed my last kayak adventure down the Mozambique coast woul remember the hourly satelite updates on the website, well Globaltrack has once again indicated that they will supply the tracking equipment to me free of charge. Thank you guys! I hope your exposure on this trip would be worth your while! I will know exactly where I will be at any moment in time, now you will know too!
On Johns Catamaran,s foredeck packing and planning.
Bukitt waiting whils I greet my old friend John.
Greeting Russel the Aussie that owns the Backpackers in Pemba. Thanks for your support buddy.
Me and John having a serious one before I set off.
On the water.
There I go before returning 4 hours later :-(
20h00 The trip starts
Having loaded the kayak we had to use the mais-haul and harness to winch it off the deck into the water,the boat was too heavy to lift manually. To great cheer and lots of shouts I set of into the strong Easterl wind with the yacht following me in the dark for about an hour. It soon became evident that I was making very little spead over ground, at this spead it would take me more than a month to get to Madagascar.Three hours of paddling passed when I decided to inpect the hull only to find it filled with water due to the massive breakers that came over the boat. By now Bukittt went through rather than over the waves because of all the weight and water taken on. It became very evident to me that I will not make it to Madagascar and need to have a good re-think of my plans. I turned Bukittt around, hoist the sail and cruised back to where the yacht was anchored in front of Pemba Casino.
I am sure I was in a complete state of depression and had a total sense of humour failiar.
|09:00–12:00||26°||0 mm||Light air, 2 m/s from west|
|12:00–18:00||27°||0,9 mm||Light breeze, 2 m/s from northwest|
|18:00–00:00||26°||2,7 mm||Light breeze, 3 m/s from west|
|00:00–06:00||25°||1,2 mm||Light breeze, 3 m/s from west-northwest|
|06:00–12:00||24°||1,4 mm||Light breeze, 3 m/s from west-northwest|
|12:00–18:00||29°||0 mm||Gentle breeze, 5 m/s from west-northwest|
|18:00–00:00||27°||0 mm||Gentle breeze, 5 m/s from west-northwest|
|00:00–06:00||25°||0 mm||Light breeze, 3 m/s from west-southwest|
|06:00–12:00||24°||0,4 mm||Light air, 2 m/s from south|
|09:00–15:00||27°||0,4 mm||Light air, 1 m/s from west|
|15:00–21:00||28°||0 mm||Gentle breeze, 4 m/s from west-northwest|
The forecast shows local time for Mahajanga.
It is 04h00 and I couldnt sleep, so I started packing all my dry rations and equipment for the trip. I am flying out in a little over seven hours from OR Tambo. Just a last word from me to all of you guys out there supporting me, thank you! The emotions one experience, knowing that this is finally it, is very hard to describe, is it natural to feel like this or not? Well that is how I feel now but this feeling will surely subside once I hit the ocean. Then it will be me and my dream and one goal; to reach Madagascar. This is when I will know whether my huge respect for the sea and what it can throw at you, as well as my determination to claim this joy will be enough to be victorious. Lets see. Essie, David, Aime, Kobie, Monique and little AB: Thanks for supporting your crazy husband and dad or stepdad!! (Shew with all these kids one would think I never had a TV when I was younger) lol
Merry Xmass and a very happy New Year, go big or go home!! Love you all dearly.
21/12/2011 Word from AB.
UPDATED DIAIRIES 4 JAN 2012
Writing this update took me a while longer than I thought it would, I was in a relatively “bad” place, mentally, as you would understand, after reading this, I hope.
PRIOR TO DEPARTURE FOR PEMBA
Since my failed attempt in November 2011, I changed the way I was going to do this adventure. As you would all remember weight was the main issue with the first attempt and I came back to SA to replace my foodstuff with freeze dried food and bought a desalinator from the U.S.A. The desalinator eventually arrived on 19th of December and I booked my flight to Pemba on the 21st of December.
21 December 2011
The flight to Pemba went without any hitches and I found myself excited like a little boy at this second attempt to cross to Madagascar. Alex (the caretaker of Bukkittt whilst I was down South) met me at the airport and soon we were at their lodge under construction sipping on a cold 2M whilst making chit chats. Gianni, Alex’s wife, soon made me feel welcome with a hearty meal of Calamari etc!
I soon started working on my baby. There were various changes I made to Bukkittt to improve the integrity of keeping water out and not to keep it in like a bucket, as well as the fitting of what I call a “hammerhead” to keep the nose above the waves, on approach. As you will remember the last time she went straight into the waves mainly due to the weight.
I also replaced the aft storage section’s swivel hatches with one solid cover epoxied to the boat with a screw in lid on top. This would keep all the not to be used equipment such as the tracker and clothes dry during the trip. In the pic below you can see the two lids that I removed.
The purpose built seat was attached to two poles firmly lodged in the rod holders to the side of the seat, as can be seen in this picture. I would be able to lie back and “sleep” with some good support for my back and neck, well that was the theory.
My hosts Alex, Gianni and some friends one a German guy (quite a kite-surfer), and a Namibian dude (ex policeman and now off road adventures fascillitator) Sorry but I forgot their names.
Below is a picture of the freeze dried food-packs that was a massive weight saving compared to my first attempt. Open the pack, add boiling water and whala you have a home cooked dinner! Not quite moms cuisine but bloody close!
What was to be my last night in a proper bed for the foreseeable future saw me waking up at 2 in the morning to go down to the beach and have a look at the tide. I decided that I will leave this afternoon on high-tide and start making my way to Mahajanga, 700km’s away.
Bukkittt ready to go, just waiting for high-tide at 14h00 on the 22nd of December 2011.
Gianni and Alex took some pics of my departure whilst the boys were seeing me off on their kites, whizzing past me at speeds I wished I could attain! Will post pics once Gianni has mailed it to us.
I spend the first three hours paddling out into the ocean when a North-westerly wind picked up and I hoisted the little Gator’s sail. We were doing at least 5 km’s per hour for the next seven hours.
It was darkmoon and my best attempt at taking a picture turned into this
The only light visible was the glow of Pemba on the horizon more than 40km’s away.
Below, John Sergell and I, who wrote the message below.
“yep AB I was somewhat susprised when I heard you were off as I knew about the storm on its way. I thought you would have contacted me, as a few days later it was the perfect time to go with hardly no wind and gentle swells for whole week. When Alex said you left that day I told him that u were going straight into a storm. I got the message from Alex asking when you were arriving then told u were gone, just a great pity as u could have made it.”
I was in an ecstatic mood as my going was pretty fast and if I could continue at this pace seven to ten days would see me make landfall in Madagascar, instead of the planned 14 days.
The night was pitch black and thunder and lightning started to pick up and slowly catching up with me from the North, there was no way I could have even tried to get out of the storms way. The seas started to get more rough and inconsistent in swell direction. Slowly this storm increased its intensity and suddenly there were breaking waves pounding away at me from all directions. I did what I could to stay upright but were soon rolled along in a breaking wave. One thing that I did make sure about, so I thought, was that I will always be attached to my kayak with a leash from my leg. Someone asked me how strong this leash was, and my answer to them, back then was ; “as strong as God wants it to be”. I recovered from this roll and was soon back on Bukkittt when the torrents of water started to pour from the dark lightning invested skies.(sounds a bit dramatic, I know, but it was).
There is absolutely nothing man can do when Mother nature flexes her muscles and not very long after the first roll I was swept along and rolled viciously by the second breaking wave, still my leash were keeping me with the boat ensuring my survival. With all this rolling the boat invariably took on water and was getting heavier by the roll.
The storm started subsiding and suddenly I could see some stars, I was still strong mentally and started getting Bukkittt shipshape in the dark; bailing water and tightening all attachments etc on her. My thoughts were overwhelmingly of achievement and pride in having survived what I thought was it for now anyway. Little did I know that this was just the entre to the main meal to be dished up from Mothers table a little while later.
Lightning bolts started appearing on the Northern horizon and moved in on me, its target (so I thought), with amazing speed. The thunder was overwhelming and the sight of stars became a distant memory, only the glow of Pemba’s lights over the horizon gave me a sense of position and direction. My dream was alive and I was getting ready for the second serving, firmly believing that it can only be enough to fill one plate (I could for the life of me not remember ordering seconds!!) I do know that I did take a “doggy bag” with me from the entre as the rolling was still very fresh in my mind!
The same story started repeating itself, high winds, heavy rain and waves turning into breaking rollers, only this time it was the main meal and as is expected the plate was much bigger and laden! After capsizing a few times I decided it was much wiser to get in the water and hold on to Bukkittt’s nose until the storm has subsided. This helped immensely for small rollers and I felt that, as the previous storm, we will ride this one out, when suddenly an immense breaking wave collapsed on the two of us. What felt like an eternity spent in a tumble dryer, probably a few seconds, my life-jacket ensured I popped out the 350m deep water. The water was nice and warm as I recall, and apon surfacing I shouted to the skies; “Is that the best you have!!” when I realized something is amiss. The leash was dangling on my leg and the attachment to its other end was gone!
Here I am 40 to 50km’s into this channel without my other half without which this journey, and most probably my life can not continue. It was pich dark with rain belting down on me, I couldn’t see or find Bukkittt. I started feeling my eyes warming from the tears as I realized the implications of the current state of affairs. I franctically tried to see my boat somewhere in the vast abyss of darkness. My thoughts started being dominated by regret for things I might have done to others, my arrogance in tempting fate to this extent and my arrogant outlook on life and all its intricacies. I realized that life was just so long, each of our “so’s” are of a different length, was this my “so”, served to me out here in the ocean. I was desperately scanning the darkness to find Bukkitt with no success in the belting rain and breaking waves, I body-surfed a few waves in the hope of catching up with my boat that must be somewhere out there also being swept along by the waves and howling wind. With every lightning bolt, I looked and looked but all I could see was the luminous white wave-tops and black water.
What felt like hours later the winds started dying down and the rain stopped, the sea was still very upset but visibility was the proverbial zero! I heard something sounding like something clanging onto something else, I listened, and there it was again, the paddle hitting the side or hull of my boat, I was ecstatic and swam in the darkness in that direction. Suddenly, there she was, in the darkness, offering me the promise of extending my very own “so” in “so long”! I was overcome by gratitude and humbled in the face of the Almighty and cried like a baby. I must have hung onto her for quite a long time pulling myself towards myself when I saw the hole on the top of the boat where my leash was tied. The brute force of the water ripped the bolts and its surrounding fiber out and left me separated from the boat.
Tired, disorientated and shaken by what has transpired, I decided that I needed to get back to shore. I used my Satellite phone to send a sms to base advising them of what happened and also stating that all was back under control and that I was heading for land to affect repairs to the boat. I was not at this stage going to make a call on whether to continue or not.
The land looked so very close on the GPS map until you look at the scale. It took me about 18 hours of paddling and now and then a bit of sailing to make landfall 60 km’s south of Pemba, just south of the Lurio river mouth. It was around 6 in the evening and I was utterly exhausted as we approached the land with the sail up making use of the little wind that there was. I decided to sail in rather than paddle in. In retrospect a very bad call that could only have its origins in my physical and mental condition. We got dumped on entering and broke the mast of the boat, but I was righting the boat whilst standing on rock! Solidified earthly matter!!!! I was ecstatic!!
I immediately pulled the waterlogged kayak away from the water and stretched out on the beach for a while, feeling the energy flowing back into me. I realized that it was almost dark and I needed to organize my camp for the wet and windy night that lay ahead. The mission was to unload the boat and carry the food, water, wet clothes and equipment to above the high-water mark as it was spring tide. I eventually got that done, emptied the boat of water and dragged it into position to afford me the best shelter for the night.
Once that was done I hung my clothes etc on any available bush etc to try and get it dry. I made my first cup of coffee and fell into a very deep sleep despite my very wet clothes.
24 December 2011
I awoke the next morning to the welcome rays of the sun rising over the ocean, a quick inspection of tracks in the sand revealed some human visitors during the night but luckily there was no intend to dispossess me of any of my meager belongings.
First on my list was another cup of coffee a few re-hydrates and a few energy bars. I started organizing my campsite especially making provision for shelter from the sun.
I then laid back after treating my sunburnt legs.
The local chief came to enquire and soon left all smiles with a few batteries in his pockets, then his whole family descended on me and sat there all day staring, not saying a word, whilst I went about repairing my damaged equipment and drying out my clothes.
Low tide revealed the rocks that I crossed on high-tide and I realized I will have to leave at 2 the next morning to ensure I can get off the beach.
My mental condition as well as the state of my boat did not leave any possibility for me to cross the channel to Madagascar, I will continue down the coast until I find some sort of civilization and infrastructure that will allow me and Bukkittt a safe extraction back to South-Africa.
25 December 2011
At two in the morning I was packed and the kayak as shipshape as it could be and we launched through the surf into the dark but calm sea.
There was a light land-breeze and I hoisted the now much smaller sail.
The sun rose beautifully over the horizon and it was, I believed then, a lovely Christmas day.
My GPS showing me making my way south down the coastline.
Whilst the southerly wind started picking up I passed some local fishermen in the sea in their dugouts and enquired about the whereabouts of any lodge or resort in the area, they were not convincing in their answers, so I decided to trust my own recce skills. I thought I saw some structures and beached the boat, only to find there was nothing.
I rested a few minutes and re-launched through the surf. The next two hours was spend fighting the southerly wind and once again I decided to beach and find a place to stay the night.
Once again it was not the sort of spot I intended to spend Christmas night and I again re-launched. Fighting the wind and being held to ransom between the swells and rockface of the island, I worked very hard but as I rounded a corner the rocky cliffs would continue as far as I could see. This would happen quite a few times until finally a smaal beach revealed itself and I beached Bukkittt.
As the sun set, my clothes were all hung out to dry and I was ready for another wet-night on the beach.
Second attempt map: