ALTSA partner with Richard Kohler’s Ocean X odyssey

We are proud to announce that ALTSA has been named as the presenting partner for Richard Kohler’s Ocean X odyssey.

Gerhard Moolman, CEO of ALTSA, is no stranger to the demands of the open ocean and is excited to be a main sponsor of Richard’s mammoth expedition of paddling unsupported from Cape Town in an eight-metre paddling torpedo across the Southern Atlantic Ocean to Salvador in Brazil.

“ALTSA will cross oceans for their customers,” says Moolman, who holds the Guinness World Record for the longest distance paddled on a Surfski. Almost 20 years ago, Moolman paddled 6,152km from Hout Bay in South Africa to Lamu in Kenya.

“From one adventurer to another I could identify with Richard’s dream and we at ALTSA are proud to be a presenting partner and help in any way to support Richard’s dream.” he added.

“When I set off on my six-month journey, I knew there were many challenges ahead of me, but I always knew that all the support I had, would allow me to achieve my ultimate goal, which is why I jumped at the opportunity to assist in Richard’s, Ocean X exploits.”

ALTSA is a leading outdoor and indoor LED lighting solutions provider based in sub-Saharan Africa and the largest lighting exchange company in South Africa. ALTSA is where innovation meets the cutting edge of lighting design.

Richard Kohler is scheduled to leave in early-2021 on an unsupported paddle in aid of raising funds for his charity of choice, Operation Smile. Sailing has always been in his blood, and he began his journey at the age of six, and has sailed at international level, including the 2007 Americas Cup for South Africa aboard the Shosholoza.

We look forward to Richard successfully completing the experience, with local corporate partners like ALTSA joining the team and being able to witness first-hand the real effect of their efforts to raise awareness and funding for this great initiative.

WIN a chance to name my Ocean X kayak

Back in 2016, Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council introduced a public contest to name a new ship. That plan backfired with voters overwhelmingly supporting a name that a British radio presenter submitted, Boaty McBoatface. Since then we have had Ferry McFerryface, Trainy McTrainface and even Horsy McHorseface and no one has gone so far to ask the public to name a boat since.

Until now…it’s South African’s turn and I am putting it in your very capable hands so don’t let me down. Now you can help choose a name for the kayak. Here’s the catch though, I will select the top three names which the public will then vote on, so we won’t be naming this vessel Kayak McKayakface 🙂

How to enter: Fill out the form on Cape Town Etc website here

The three names will be posted on Cape Town Etc’s website and social media chan
nels for everyone to vote. The person who submitted the winning name will win an exclusive experience with mwah, including an invite to the launch and the naming of the kayak, as well as an invite to the departure at the end of January – and a paddle on the boat in Cape Town before I leave.
Prize details:
  • An exclusive experience and a paddle on the kayak
  • A personal invitation to the naming of the kayak and the launch
  • A front row seat to see me depart on my journey in January

Competition Ts & Cs apply.

Paddling for Smiles (Operation Smile)

As I count down the weeks left until I set off for my Ocean X adventure to Brazil, I have chosen to support and raise funds for Operation Smile South Africa, a charity that advocates for children born with cleft lift and cleft palates in South Africa.

It takes a 45 minute life-changing surgery to provide a beautiful new smile to a waiting child. Each surgery costs just R5500 to change a child’s life forever. Please help me raise money for a cause that’s very close to my heart through my GivenGain fundraiser. To donate click here:

Lauren Bright Operation Smile’s Country Manager said “it is an honour to have someone like Richard Kohler choose Operation Smile as his beneficiary and take up such an enormous challenge, to help raise funds for kids and adults born with a cleft lip and palate – to help change lives; one smile at a time.’

9 year old Clara, female, BCL and CP, after. Clara poses for photos holding her before picture. Clara received surgery for her BCL during Operation Smile’s 2016 mission and will return to the 2017 mission for surgery on her cleft palate. Patient village. Madagascar. May 2017. (Operation Smile Photo – Zute Lightfoot)


Kayak build – half way there

We’ve reached the end of the third week of my Ocean X kayak build.

Last week we invited some special guests who have helped my dream come true to have a private viewing of the boat build.
Thank you to my build team Dylan from Further Composites, Phil Southwell and Richard Bertie for your time and input.
Thanks to Bruce Robinson from Power Sol, Andrew Parsons and Craig from Aerontec, Vincent and Ashraf from SMD Africa Marine and Matthew from Getaway Magazine, Highbury Safika Media.
Check these awesome renderings of the design by Southwell Yacht Designs.

Gadget review – Solar Kettle

If my cooker packed up or I ran out of fuel would this solar kettle be a viable option to heat water to re-constitute a freeze dried meal? Let me know what you think?

Phil, Richard, Dylan discussing craft design

My Ocean X kayak build has begun

Things are getting real…

Got my first look at my Ocean X kayak being built by Further Composites. Timber frames form the shape of the 8m long hull. The core material will be stripped and formed to the hull shape before laminating the first of the outer skins.

I chatted to Dylan, the boat builder who is building my kayak…check it out here.

Craft Design 2.3 or is it 10.2? (But this is THE ONE!)


It literally feels like yesterday when Smile FM Radio announced live on 13 May 2019 that I was going to kayak solo and unassisted across the Atlantic Ocean. Much has happened since then, but this story is to pick up on the latest update around the actual design of the OCEAN X KAYAK.

Fast forward to post-Covid and the 13 August 2020 …

Almost to the day, eight weeks ago, I was having coffee at my local shopping centre with a well-known yachtsman, Nick Leggett, and while I was trying to convince him to join the team and offer his weather routing skills, a friend, Shaun Ferry, popped over to say hello.

Shaun asked for the latest news on the kayak design and build. I told him that I was still looking for the best boat builder to fit my needs and that I had been in contact with several possible options but had nothing concrete. He casually asked if I had chatted to Richard “Thirsty” Bertie?

Keep in mind that I am a terrible procrastinator, of the worst kind!

“No, not yet. But I was going to,” I replied.

Shaun is not a procrastinator. He just took out his phone and called Thirsty then and there. After a quick chat. he passed the phone over to me and said: “Here you go, speak to him.”

That was the start of what I needed to get Ocean X back on track.

Later that day was the first time since July, when my friend, kayak builder and designer Uwe passed away, that I was able to get access to his laptop to see if I could find a copy of the design drawings. Unfortunately, all that I could find was a single CAD file. Most of the latest design discussions and modifications never made it to this file. Check out my blog post from June here.

A week later I met with Richard in Noordhoek to seek his assistance in the construction of my kayak. I think it took him a few long minutes to digest what I was planning and whether I was a complete nut job, or if there was something more to it.

I am very pleased to say he became quite intrigued by the whole idea and by the time we had said our farewells he had contacted someone to do the build. He also contacted a good friend of his, a yacht designer by the name of Phil Southwell, and convinced him to spare a few hours to complete the design that Uwe had started.

I remember driving home over Ou Kaapse Weg and thinking how amazing that short meeting was. The kindness, honesty, enthusiasm, and knowledge that Thirsty was going to bring to the team gave me the huge boost that I so badly needed.

The Designer

Phil Southwell sailed into Cape Town in 1981 and has been in South Africa on and off ever since. He designed with Lavranos & Associates for almost seven years, gaining the required experience after completing his degree for membership of the Royal Institute of Naval Architects. Phil Southwell established Southwell Yacht Design in 1989 and he designs exclusively in 3D.

I finally met Phil the following week. I had sent him a few screen shots of the CAD drawings beforehand and must admit that I felt a little out of my comfort zone. Uwe was a good friend and we talked openly and debated each concept of the design until we were both happy with each item.

I had never met Phil before. I knew of his reputation as a top-class designer. What I did not know was to what extent he was willing to assist. I should not have been concerned. Phil has put in countless hours into the design and is a remarkable talented designer.

In the past five weeks we have taken the original drawings and have gone through another 10 versions/design changes! We have a design/build team meeting weekly and when I listen to Phil, Thirsty and Dylan discuss how each aspect of the design fits into the reality of the construction, I sit back and smile quietly to myself knowing I have the best of the best on my side here. Well, it’s actually because I have no idea what they are talking about! ?

Phil, Richard, Dylan discussing craft design

ABOVE: Phil, Richard, Dylan discussing stuff I don’t understand.

The design

The basic dimensions of the Ocean X kayak are 8m long and 94cm at my paddle entry. The rudder is transom hung and will knock up if it collides with anything. I prefer the transom rudder to having a rudder shaft running through the hull from a safety aspect and accessibility should anything need attention.

For increased stability and weight reduction I have opted for a short lifting keel with a lead bulb (30-50kg) versus using water ballast in the hull. There is a compromise between using the weight of water ballast versus the drag of the keel. I feel confident that my design is on the correct side of this equation.

The keel box has been designed to absorb a collision with an object or beast. It has compression/absorption zones fore and aft as well as shear pins. If the keel was to fall off, then I have the backup of using water ballast bladders for extra stability.

In the front of the hull there is a lifting canard (skeg). This will be pulled down only when there is wind from the side. The windage on the cabin, which is in the front, will cause the bow of the kayak to blow away from the wind. The canard will help counter this action.

The kayak is of a carbon core construction and should weigh in at around 85kg without the lead bulb of the keel. The maximum overall weight of the kayak, gear, food and I can be no more than 400kg. Obviously less is better but to take enough equipment and supplies to keep me alive for up to 80 days does not come without its weight challenges.

See below for a snapshot of the design progression starting with my own crude drawings to Uwe’s and finally with Phil’s perfection that goes into manufacturing today.

Original Craft designOriginal Craft design

ABOVE LEFT: These are my first drawings.
ABOVE RIGHT: Uwe’s CAD drawing

Uwe design 3D render
ABOVE: Uwe design 3D render

 Phil Southwell design. Solar panel placements and sizes to change.

LEFT: Phil Southwell design. Solar panel placements and sizes to change.

New craft design

ABOVE: Here you can peek inside and make out my bunk. The bulkhead forward showing the sealed compartment containing the lifting canard. In front of this will be a crash bulkhead and a sacrificial foam filled “nose cone”. The aft hatch is for the food and spares storage.


ABOVE: Overlaying my paddling stroke to perfect the cut-away on the side of the deck and the cabin.

Craft build starts next week so should be complete by December, allowing me a few weeks of testing and training before I hit the open seas.

Keep watching this space for the exciting build progress as we get closer to departure date.



Jet Boil Review: Cooking at sea

All my cooking will be done with boiling water. I will have no need to fry, bake or the likes.

Jetboil stoves are brilliant. The Jetboil is far and away the best system I’ve used. Fast, compact and efficient. I will take a number of spare lighters, because the ignition unit is a major weak point in a salty environment.

The Jetboil only uses 5g of gas to boil 500ml of water. Allowing for some waste I should only need to take as little as 2.5kg of gas. As with every system on board I will have a backup plan. My alternative cooker is due to arrive on Tuesday so I will do a review of it after I have thoroughly tested it.

I will make my freeze-dried meal in a thermos mug and not in the bag that it comes in. If I make it in the bag, I have smelly rubbish to keep someplace (all plastics will be audited before and after).  The thermos mug is washable, and also means I can allow the meal longer to rehydrate fully without it going cold.

I will need to make a gimbal system for the cooker so if there are any engineers who have some time on their hand and would like to do this for me it would be much appreciated.

Jetboil Review at Sea:



hands of an ocean paddler

Grampa hands, gunwale bum and slow roasting

My body and mind are going to be pushed to the extreme during crossing my from Cape Town to Salvador in Brazil, and one aspect that people don’t realise is the constant exposure that my skin has to deal with.

Skin problems like buttock irritation, hand scaling and sunburn are the most common issues that ocean-faring adventurers suffer from. You can see from the graph below after a 24-day transatlantic yacht race what skin ailments the competitors developed. Keep in mind these sailors can stand and walk around.

I can’t!

skin lesions


Grampa hands

Scaling is peeling or flaking skin and it’s an unavoidable issue when your hands and feet are wet for extended periods. Paddlers’ hands tend to lose their natural oils from being soaking wet and with the constant squeezing action of gripping the paddle shaft on each stroke. After a while, the skin can form friction blisters as the oils in the skin no longer act as a lubricant between the layers.

The trick to try to limit the loss of natural oils is to pre-oil my hands. Typically, I apply the likes of petroleum jelly or “Dubbin” – a leather oil that was the only way to waterproof those old leather rugby balls – before a paddling race that gets absorbed into the skin. You must allow time for it to soak into the skin or the paddle will behave like a slippery eel in your hands.


hands of an ocean paddler

(Pic above) The hands of an ocean rower.

I will also use gloves to reduce the build-up of blisters but the drawback of gloves is that my hands remain wet when the gloves get wet, so it’s a careful management of the tools to limit hand-scaling and blistering.

Gunwale Bum

The dreaded “gunwale bum” is the one I am most concerned about – for obvious reasons! There are many names for this skin ailment, but the medical term is Folliculitis, which affects the hair follicles of the skin.


gunwale bum

(Pic above) Mild folliculitis (TMI??)

Folliculitis occurs when hair follicles become clogged and infected with bacteria, leading to red bumps and pus-filled follicles. These bacteria usually live on the skin without incident but under the strain of constantly sitting (friction) in salty damp (sweaty) conditions, the bacteria get clogged and irritate the hair follicles – causing bumps that look like pimples. It can range from mildly irritating to completely debilitating, but if left unchecked they can turn into abscess or boils. Should this occur it would be very difficult to sit, let alone paddle!

So how do I combat or limit this painful issue? My first defence is regular washing to keep the follicles clean by removing dirt, oil, and sweat. The problem here is that water is a very scarce resource. I have considered using baby wipes, but they are not ideal as they can be a little harsh on the skin and keeping used baby wipes around for 80 days is not very appealing!

Another method is a barrier cream with an anti-fungal component. As a keen cyclist I use this type of cream on the chamois of my shorts. So, could these creams work for paddling? I won’t have chamois in my paddling shorts and I won’t be wearing shorts (eek!) most of the time, so I would apply directly to my skin.

I have been doing some testing for some time now and these are the products on my test sheet.

barrier creams

(Pic above) Sudocrem, Ass Magic, Madaji Milking cream, Squirt Barrier Balm, Dubbin

The testing ensures I don’t have any negative reaction to the cream, and I can evaluate how they hold up to the wetter conditions of kayaking and how easy they are to wash off.

Sudocrem, Ass Magic, Madaji Milking cream, Squirt Barrier Balm, Dubbin

(Pic above) Sudocrem, Ass Magic, Madaji Milking cream, Squirt Barrier Balm, Dubbin

I have placed them in order of their viscosity. The thickest on the right being Dubbin, which will be only used on my hands.

  • Sudocrem : Nappy rash cream.  Antibacterial/fungal = Zinc Oxide
  • Ass Magic : Chamois cream. Antibacterial/fungal = Zinc Oxide and Tea Tree Oil
  • Madaji Milking cream: Udder cream for cows (also marketed for humans),
  • Antiseptic = Chlorhexidine
  • Squirt Barrier Balm: Chamois cream, Antibacterial = Tea Tree Oil

A big “thank you” to the team from Squirt Cycling Products who arranged a bunch of goodies from their product range for me to test. It’s inspiring and really lekker to have support from local Proudly South African companies. Testing will continue over the next few months before I settle on my favourite.

Sun Protection

My final skincare thought process goes to sun protection. The kayak stroke does not lend itself to an awning for sun protection. While paddling during the day I will be under the powerful rays of the sun. There is literally no place to hide from its relentless force, and not only from directly above but also from its harmful reflection off the water.

The first bit of the crossing, while it’s cooler, I will wear a long sleeve top – like a rash vest. But as I get more into the tropics, where the water is 28 degrees Celsius and the outside temperature – sitting in the sun – gets well into the 30s, a rash vest too will get unbearably hot.

Sunscreen will be my final defence. I favour a spray-on light cream with an SP factor 50 that is also waterproof. I will have to apply the sunscreen multiple times a day, as sweat and water eventually reduces its effectiveness.

For face protection I always wear a wide-brimmed hat, and better yet, I hope to get something like this hat (see pic below) that will shield the relentless and uncompromising glare of the sun from the water off my face.

wide brimmed hat

If you have had any similar experiences or ideas that you would like to share, please feel free to do exactly that.

Hit me up on Social Media Facebook and Instagram @RichardKohlerAdventures or email [email protected]

Keep paddling!


Safety at sea

Navigating my way across the Atlantic Ocean from Cape Town to Salvador in Brazil is no mean feat, and in order to achieve my heady task I will need a few gadgets and safety essentials to ensure my Ocean X journey goes according to plan.

Here is some of the safety items I will need to paddle on this mammoth adventure:

Life Raft

First and foremost, this is a lifesaving essential that I hope to get my hands on soon. It’s a Switlik Inflatable Single Person Life Raft (ISPLR) and they are mostly used in the aviation industry. It’s compact and lightweight (2.8kg) – the only option for a craft as small as mine. But they come with a hefty price tag, so if anyone has one that they are not using for a few months I would be most appreciative.


There will be an EPIRB (emergency position-indicating radio beacon) and a 2 x PLB (personal locating beacon). Both work in similar ways but the EPIRB will transmit for a longer time (48hrs) due to its battery size.

An EPIRB is a safety device to alert search and rescue services, allowing them to quickly locate you in the event of an emergency. When activated it transmits a coded message (GPS position – Boats or Persons details etc) on the 406 MHz distress frequency, which is monitored by the COSPAS-SARSAT satellite system. The alert is then relayed via an earth station to the nearest Rescue Coordination Centre. The satellites are in a polar orbit, so they offer true global coverage.


ABOVE: How an EPIRB works

A PLB is a specific type of EPIRB that is typically smaller, has a shorter battery life, and unlike a proper EPIRB is registered to a person rather than a vessel. With a PLB you can summon help wherever you are on the planet, no matter how remote.

Epirb and PLB

ABOVE: Example of an EPIRB & PLB


Satellite Telecommunications

I will have an Inmarsat Satellite phone that will enable voice calls depending on the need like radio interviews, advice on repairing a piece of equipment or emergency services.

Inmarsat Coverage map

The Iridium Go allows me to make voice calls and text messaging via a smartphone. It also has other capabilities like a basic email service and will be used to receive my weather updates. It is one of the three tracking units on board.

GPS Tracker

There will be another two dedicated GPS trackers on board that will transmit my position, direction and speed to my shore team at defined intervals. These intervals are set depending on the likes of power consumption. My track will be automatically uploaded to my webpage for everyone to follow in real time.


The Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a digital VHF radio-based transponder system that can prevent collisions, and more importantly, protect me from being run down by a huge, fast-moving ship!

Picture a radar-chart plotter display, with overlaid electronic chart data, that includes an icon for every significant ship within VHF radio range, each showing that vessel’s speed and heading. Each ship icon reflects the actual size of the ship, with positions accurate to GPS precision. By “clicking” on a ship mark, I can learn the ship’s name, course and speed, classification, call sign, MMSI, and other information.

The system’s range is like that of your VHF radio, essentially depending on the height of the antenna. AIS information is not degraded by rain-clutter like radar, so it works the same in all weather. AIS is extremely valuable, especially at night or at times when there is restricted visibility.

View a vessel online 

AIS Display

Body Leash

When outside I will always be attached to the kayak by a 10 ft body leash. I will use either a waist or leg leash depending on what I am doing.

leg leashWaist leash

ABOVE:  Leg Leash (left), Waist Leash (right)

Life jacket

I will have an inflatable life jacket seen in the image below. My second PLB will be permanently attached to the jacket.

life jacket


I will carry various signal flares in the form of a hand-held, rocket and smoke flare. Each type of flare is used for a specific purpose. Their purpose is to attract attention when immediate danger exists. They are only useful if someone is close enough to see them, so I need to use my good judgement when using as they are single use.

See the diagram below to understand each types range

flare range

handheld flareflares

Fire Extinguisher

One small unit will be on board. Always a standard precaution!

fire extinguisher

Medical Kit

A comprehensive medical kit will be put together to cover all possible scenarios, which I find are always needed at any time.

VHF Radio

There will be two VHF radios on board, the main and most important one will be a fixed unit inside and the other a handheld unit. The fixed one has a greater transmitting power (25W) and thus a longer range than the handheld (5W).

VHF RadioVHF radio

Radar Reflector

The kayak will give a very poor echo on a ship’s radar, especially in rough seas as it is so small and made of fibreglass. A tube radar reflector is simply an arrangement of metal elements crossed at several 90-degree angles in a plastic casing to reflect energy from the radars and thus enhancing the signal of the vessel.

radar reflector


I am being optimistic, I hopefully won’t need to use half of the above…but always be safe rather than sorry, the ocean can be a dangerous place.

Thank you to Graeme Taylor from Seaport Supply in Cape Town who will be assisting me with supplying all my safety equipment I will need for my journey. If you need any boating or marine equipment pop into their shop in Paarden Eiland and chat to a great bunch of guys.