The morning I took the kids to the pool

An extract from Life on Osiyeza, by Richard Kohler

These blogs are snippets of my life, living onboard Osiyeza while trying to paddle across an ocean.

All too often social conversation stoops down to the gutter with toilet talk especially after a few drinks. 🍻 Well in certain circles its known to go all the way down to Lucifers basement but I won’t do that to you.

A true story, a black bucket story titled “The morning I took the kids to the pool.”

Reader beware 💩 feel free to skip this one! Really you can and probably should.

It was a typical morning like many before. Perhaps the swell was a little more restless than most mornings but there comes that time when you find yourself with no other thoughts other than I must drop the kids off at the pool.

For many that moment arrives just as you finish that first cup of coffee. This morning was no different.

Timing is critical. Over many years we have somehow developed a 7th sense. That sense of knowing exactly how much time you have from that moment until drop off time. Some days you have a bit more urgency than others, but your 7th sense gets it right 99.9% of the time.

No one ever talks about the 0.1% EVER!

Preparation and timing on my little Surfski are key to a successful outing. Do I leave the pants below the knees or go without pants? I discovered quickly without is best. Oh and don’t forget to wear the harness because that would be a crappy way to end up overboard (too much? OK.)

I have a strip of plywood the fits across one corner of the cockpit. Making a sort of “D” shape seat with the cockpit rim.

The pool, for those not following is the black bucket, is filled halfway with sea water and placed strategically below the “D”. How simple. Well not quite. Remember the “restless sea”. This means I need to hold on with both hands and things tend to slide about on their own.

I am sure it’s the same for most of us. When there’s a no 2 there’s a no 1 lurking as well. Now the problem with the plank and the human anatomy is only one end is over the pool. The other is hanging over the plank facing the rest of the cockpit. I’ll just say that I had to flush a few buckets of water into the cockpit at the end of the outing to rinse the no 1 and my feet. 🥴

Back to the kids who have been patiently waiting to go for that dip. Who am I to hold back any longer? Into the pool they go.

As a parent you are pretty confident how many kids you brought to the party and in this case I thought so too. Once dads’ taxi was given a quick but thorough valet it was time to toss the kids over the side with the pool water. On doing so I felt cheated. As if I had brought more kids to this pool party than I was sending over the side?

Plank goes back into its storage spot. The black bucket into its home and only then do I spot the naughty kids. The ones who missed the pool casually lying in the cockpit up against the left foot peddle.

Remember that restless sea?  Restless enough that the pool shifted leaving me with a really bad start to the day!

Day 14: Taking a dip

Day 14

The forecast was for 20 to 25knt SE wind. Back at home we would be jumping for joy and arranging the car shuffle for a downwind paddle on our Surf skis.

Out here it is a little different. I need to keep crossing the wind and sea as much as humanly possible to get more East and that human limit understandably and regrettably is getting less and less as the days of executing my “Self-Rescue” or Plan B take its toll.

I’ve had a good innings but at midnight I opted to toss the sea anchor over the side and then get some rest. The sea anchor deployment was an utter shamble. How could I have messed this up so spectacularly? Half the drogues were hooked up and facing the wrong way. Offering no help to the cause.

I decided not to muck about in the dark and left it as it was. There seemed to be enough drag to keep Osiyeza facing into the breaking waves. “Well done chap” I thought. Now it’s time to sleep. Oh, how wrong was I. It was like Osiyeza was being stung by a swarm of wasps. She was lurching from side to side, up and down seemingly in panic, without a moment of calm feels like being on a bucking bronco.

I must have managed some sleep because I felt a lot better by the time day broke. Conditions have not changed, and I stayed on sea anchor till about 10h00 when I decided it was time to make another push for Walvis Bay.

But first I needed to bring the sea anchor back on board. It was not as tricky as I first thought it was going to be. Yes, there were lots of lines and drogues in the cockpit but all in all a smooth operation.

Now to secure the bridle line and get going again. Oh no, it’s underneath Osiyeza! I thought I had planned by making the bridle float, but it turned out to be as useful as one of Baldrick’s cunning plans in The Blackadder series.

When it Osiyezas bow rode up and out of the water the bridle would drop down and under the hull. It would indeed float but hard up against the hull and no matter what I tried to do I could not get it to float forwards so I could yank it onto the deck and out if the water.

I eventually accepted that I would need to take a dip and push it up onto the deck by hand. Moments later wearing only my harness around my waist I slipped over the side and into the deep blue ocean. I thought the water was surprisingly warm.

The harness tether was attached to the side grab line and slid forward as I pulled myself along it. At the bow I flipped the bridle into the correct position and pulled myself back to the cockpit. At this moment a breaking wave barged into Osiyeza and over my head. I was not prepared for the force and push that wave had. I ended up holding onto the grab line with an outstretched arm giving my best superman pose. I had sincerely hoped that the adrenaline rushes were over for the day.

Clearly not!

With that big messy sea, I managed to perfect the use of the black bucket inside the cabin. Who said you can’t teach old dogs’ new tricks?

Quite a few fishing boats in the area which always reduces the chance of good sleep with the AIS alarm chirping with a variety of details from DANGEROUS TARGET FOUND to LOST TARGET SIGNAL etc.

Bird of the day: Wandering Albatross. Such a huge, majestic creature working the pressure waves created by the moving swell

Distance covered: 91km
Averaging 4km/hourPosition:
S25° 14’ 33”
E13° 52’ 47”

Day 13: Stargazing

Day 13

After sunset I used to watch out for Saturn (Capricornus) right in front of me in the “Go West” version of this adventure. Now it’s “Go East” towards Sirius (Canis Major).

The evening sky was cloudless and with the moon visiting the other side of the earth the stars had little to compete against and were spectacular. I spent much of the time star gazing and looking for satellites but perhaps due to the motion of Osiyeza or my ’95 specs not cutting it anymore I was not able to spot any. I did however get to see a few shooting stars which cheered me up.

Unfortunately, it has not been possible to make enough distance East over the past few days. My route to Walvis Bay is NE and the strong SE winds forecast will be on the beam which does not fit into Osiyeza’s design portfolio. My feeling is it is going to be incredibly challenging to paddle across 20 – 30knts of wind.

Robin and Albert have been very good keeping me positive and motivated, but I think things are about to get real!

Options? I don’t have any at this stage. It’s about making the best of a bad situation. 🥺

On the bright side if the wind forecast is a little off and it’s a South wind all the way, that would be fabulous. It would then be a 500km downwind to Walvis Bay. 🤞🤞🤞

ETA during the night on Sunday currently but, that changes radically by the hour based on conditions.

Walvis team in full swing. The Community is getting involved, from arranging everything from tow boats, accommodation, workshop, repairs etc. Ciske Howard is the hero in Walvis for us, thank you Ciske and your team for your monumental effort in helping with this detour.

PS: whatever happens don’t miss Walvis Bay!🙃

S 26.135500°
E 13.191530°

Day 12: Prepped for what lies ahead

Day 12

What a pleasing sun rise. Great start to the day. Black bucket duty successful completed. Full sun on the forward solar panels. Charging the best, they can.

The only electronics I am using at the moment is the AIS, at night the compass light and a USB charger for my phone. The big user is the Thales Satellite system which is used for a short period three time a day.

It’s been a very frustrating day. Mentally and physically. It started off with a light head wind changing to zero wind and hot. I just can’t seem to get any speed up. Mentally it’s been tough. Trying to get East as fast as possible. Before the winds start to dominate our plan to get to Walvis Bay.

Ever since things turned from “We are flying towards Brazil” to oh crap, “Self-rescue Walvis Bay” there has been an odd vibe on-board. It’s taken me a while to figure it out and this is how I see it.


Osiyeza is sulking and refusing to speed up. I think she blames me for the solar problem since I was the one who installed it. I, on the other hand, I feel that she could have done a better job of keeping the salt water out of the “sealed compartment ” or indicated earlier that there was a problem.

This is a not a healthy game for us to be playing especially when neither of us know if we are going to make it to Walvis Bay to find the answer. ❌

We need to focus on what’s ahead and not on something that has passed and especially something we have no control to change. ✅


Over the next six days we are going to be tested to the max. If we can keep moving downwind with just enough right rudder we are in for a chance. It will be very wet and Osiyeza will be rocking and rolling like never before. If the sea gets too big and the wind too strong running across the swell becomes unadvisable. We run the risk of a capsize and neither of us want that.

I spent some time today adding another section of drogues to my sea anchor to give a little more holding power should the condition become too extreme. I also added a quick release clip to the right side of my harness. This should stop me getting tossed out of my seat every time Osiyeza heals over more than 45°.

It was super calm earlier when I came across some floating Kelp that must have been ripped off the rocks by big swell a while back. Crystal clear water. 💧 The Kelp has not been at sea long enough to get its own ecosystem going but I did see a few big splashes which may suggest Dorado are hanging about. 🐟

When the SW tail wind started to tease me a whale pass by in the distance. I kept on hearing this noise and thought it was the paddle leash brushing against pants. It took a while to figure out it was a whale blowing out. 🐳

I started sprouting my beans the other day. I sprout them for 4 days before eating them. With fresh water being limited I drink the bean infused water after their daily rinse. Wonder if it could be the next big hit in the heath shops “Mung bean infused spring water?”

The most useful items to date?

No 1 would be my Forever Fresh silicone bag with sealer. Almost every meal is eaten out of this and a simple dip in the ocean to clean. Shake it dry and it’s ready and salted for the next meal. 🤩

No 2 is a silicone coated spoon. When eating out of any dish a skilled silicone spooner may never need to wash a dish. It gets ever last bit of tucker off the dish and into the mouth. 🥄

Not a single bird today.🕊 Wonder what sort of omen that is? 🥺

Very proud of my nautical htfu t-shirt so I thought I would share it with you. Please not the model used in this shoot is one of a kind. 🥰

Everything is prepped and ready for what lies ahead.

S 26.786700°
E 12.656920°
No of smiles changed: 16 🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰. Please continue to help support Operation Smile, changing lives one smile at a time.
Donate here 

Day 11: Houston we have a problem

Day 11

By now you would have heard that not all is well aboard the good vessel Osiyeza and I am now trying to make landfall in Walvis Bay, Namibia to take stock of the situation.

But I don’t see any reason not to keep the good folk like yourself up to date with life out in the Atlantic on a tiny Surfski. I say tiny because the moment I was out of sight of land Osiyeza seemed to shrink. Bizarre, I know right?

Thank you for the Christmas wishes. It’s very uplifting to see so many of them. Please do keep the comments coming and I try and respond to everyone even if it’s just a 👍. How do I do this from the ocean?

Via satellite but not the traditional Sat Phone. I do have one, but it is for emergencies, and I keep in the grab bag with all the other safety gear. The non-traditional call to me is the WhatsApp call. Believe it or not out here I have satellite Wi-Fi.

My Communications partners SMD Africa Marine and AST arranged the Thales Vessel Link which works on the Iridium Certus network with super-fast transfer speeds. It feels like I am on my home Wi-Fi. The antennae dome sits on the aft locker hatch behind the seat and the brain box is well protected from water far inside the cabin. All l to do is flick a switch and a few minutes later my messages come flooding in. This is how the images and video etc find their way to your social media feeds.

Back to Christmas day.

I mentioned in the previous blog that Maverick and Goose had been grounded. With both autopilots out of action I needed to do some repairs. Together with my shore team we got the diagrams of the internal workings and guidance from yachting forums I felt equipping to start surgery. Maverick’s insides were covered with black dust. The drive belt had been slipping. I replaced the belt with a spare but there still seemed to be too little tension. There was a gap between the motor and its housing. I made a shim from a cable tie and glued it in place.

Goose had suffered a similar fate but only having one spare belt I made do with what was there. The gap on Goose’s motor housing was a little bigger so I used a bigger cable tie. In testing Goose work fine until he developed a squeak which I put down to the motor bearing. Belt may be too tight.

Maverick ran like a dream, and I left him all night. Unfortunately, he started acting up by the morning. My confidence in my wing men is low right now.

Every day after the morning sun routine I check the state of the batteries and the panel charge rates. The battery was the lowest it’s been but nothing to be concerned about, but the aft solar panels had not yet started charging. That’s odd! A while later when they had good direct sunlight I checked again.
Houston, we have a problem was the first thought.
The second was WTF?
The third thing that happened was my heart sank low very low.

“Got to be a simple reason” I muttered to myself. I flicked the sat com switch and in five min I was in WhatsApp communications with my shore team. I felt terrible. Bugging them on Christmas day and now again on Boxing Day. So, I started to push and pull and test and prod as instructed. They also have direct coms with my onboard Victron controllers so they can see exactly what’s happening and can even adjust settings.

This went on for almost 5 hrs. My head in the locker below my bunk contorted in every which way. Nausea coming and going.  At one stage I was asked to feel all the solar cells for heat indicating a possible faulty cell. As a good boy I duly clipped on and did what was asked.

Oh boy it’s slippery when those things are wet. I made up two stops that attach to the side of my harness and then to the aft grab lines that run down the side of the hull. Thus, should I need to do any rudder repairs I could not slide off sideways. I did not use these to check the solar panel. One moment I was trying to climb over and back into the cockpit, the next I am in the water.


It happened so quickly. Getting back on was not that simple. The leash would not let me move to the side of the cockpit where it is easy to pull yourself on-board. I was not about to undo the leash so I had no option but to try pull myself up onto the solar panels again but there is nothing to grab hold of.🏊‍♂️

Eventually I managed it but by then I was a little frazzled. I had to ask my team for a short break. Never a dull moment out here. 😎

To cut to the chase, everything except the voltage from the PV Panels is working. Why?

Still unknown. Perhaps saltwater corrosion somehow. Unlikely with such high-quality panels. Time will tell.

It was agreed that trying to continue with Osiyeza in her current state would be foolish. My option now is to try and get to Walvis Bay, Namibia. It’s the only option I have of a self-rescue.

So East is the new direction 😔 It will take about a week to get there and it’s not going to be easy.

Bird of the day: European Storm Petrel
After making the Walvis Bay call, I was sitting back contemplating life when this Storm Petrel flew and dance around Osiyeza for about 10min. The water touching that I though was them feeding is actually water touching their feet. This fella was putting on quite a ballet show around me. Privileged to have seen this. Who knows the reason for this foot touching, but it made my day? Thanks, little guy.

Position: Don’t know right now. All electronics are switched off during the day to conserve battery charge. Which means no AIS during the day.

PS: Started using the emergency water rations. Should be enough for the rest of the week 🤞

Day 10: Detour to Walvis Bay

Day 9: Christmas Treats

Day 9


Christmas Day. A time to be jolly.

Well, I certainly hope you all had a wonderful day with friends, family and loved ones and you ate sufficiently enough to fit the next size jean pant. Don’t worry about it. You will make up enough New Year resolutions and be back to your new old self again in no time.

Me! What did I do? I am guessing other than paddling because you know that takes up most of the day light. In the early hours I was keeping eye out for a yacht called ROXY that had just left Cape Town and was now right on my tail. I was half hoping that we would pass in the daylight and perhaps they would offer a Christmas treat or at least a cheer.

Unfortunately, it was 03h00 local time and they came only as close as 2.5miles. All I saw of them was their red port light get closer, it eventually changed to white as they sailed away. I thought about calling them on the radio and decided that if they wanted to chat, they would call me up.  So, we never spoke.

Later I watched the sun struggle to make an appearance through the clouds. Waiting for the first glimpse to welcome it to my Christmas day with my “morning sun” routine.

Sleep was a not easy that night. Maverick had been getting more and more noisy till I could no longer take it. Maverick was grounded! Handed in his wings. I switched over to Goose. Goose has only a single hop under his belt. Basically, brand new.

Whether it was the workload, which was not much as Osiyeza was just drifting in the breeze, or he knew his wingman was grounded. Goose too gave up the ghost!

Merry Christmas to me😩

More on Maverick, Goose and the voices later.

What would the day be without a Santa video? Had a chuckle to myself went an hour after taking the video I realised I still had the hat on. 🎅 I suspect that’s the reason my👃is a bit redder than normal cause it isn’t from any tipple.

I got to phone Judy (my first wife) and her family. I spoke to mine the evening before. So wonderful to hear them all having a fab time. I admit it made me feel jealous and had a brief ponder on what the fok I was thinking and doing here. Emphasis on “brief.”

So, to spoil myself I had a fresh water full body wipe down. Double dipped the bum cream. Changed into clean clothes for the first time since getting dressed the morning of departure. I feel like a million bucks.

Next, I fetched the next 7 days’ worth of food from the aft hatch to the cabin. It was just like opening Christmas presents.

2 bags of biltong (Chilli and regular wet fatty beef)
A big bag of pork scratching.
A 0.5kg mixed nuts
7 x little sugar free chocolate.
Macadamia Butter Nutt

Who can guess which one of these I opened first?

Thank you to everyone who commented and wished me a Merry Christmas. I try to read them all, reply or give a 👍

Bird of the day:
Southern Giant Petrel
I have seen them almost every day. They do flyby’s when they see Osiyeza. Often doing more than one but occasionally they miss time it and must pull up at the last second. Very funny for such a graceful bird.

Total distance paddled: 1071km (176km today)
Average speed: 7.7km per hour
S 28°34’06”

Total riased for Operation Smile: R87,187 (15 smiles)

Day 8: Night time visitors

Day 8

Night time visitors

A cuppa java, the rising sun and the thought of endless hours of paddling. Wouldn’t that get your juices flowing?

Slap on some sunscreen.
Leggings and armies on.
Hat and gloves on
Safety harness on.
Sunnies on.
Hatch open, safety line clipped on.
Washboards out.
Jump out. Turn around.
Close washboards.

Sit down…..stop, wait! There is something sitting on my seat.

First off was a skinny little fish who thought it could fly or for whatever reason had taken his last breath and was just lying there.

Next it was the smallest crab. This fella was about the size of my baby fingernail. It was the white /pink colour of a prawn. It was sitting in the dead centre of the seat just staring at me through two tiny blue dots that must have been its eyes.  I vaguely remember reading about crabs that drift across oceans and land where they may or get eaten on the way. Maybe that’s what the Storm Petrels are doing when inflight.

Then this morning’s visitor was one of the flat plate blue bottles. I gave the seat a good rinse to make sure nothing was left behind to sting my backside.

We are in the Trade winds now. 12 to 15 knots from the SE. Puffy white clouds and a calmer sea state.

When loading Osiyeza I packed my food into 11 piles. Each pile is meant to be enough calories for a week. So, enough food for 77 days, give or take. Each pile then got tossed into a waterproof bag and these got dumped into the aft locker which is behind my seat. The hatch cover has the big white satellite antennae attached to it.

The idea is at the beginning of a new week I would fetch a bag and unpack it into the cabin and the rubbish from the week before would go into the dry bag and back into the aft hatch so it can be correctly disposed of when I reach Brazil. I have always been conscious about our waste and keeping it out of the ocean. It reminds me of a crossing and a stop off at St Helena Island.

After doing all the formalities it was customary to go to Anne’s place for a meal ashore and a few good English rum and coke, if there is such a thing. We would take our trash ashore and put in one of the bins proud that sometime in the future this would make a young child called Greta very pleased.

We were there for a few more days waiting for the RMS St Helena to arrive from Cape Town to bring us a new glass sliding door that fell victim to a flying beach bat during an intense game of table tennis inside the salon of the Catamaran. True story! Circa ’95.

We took a dingy ride around to the NW side of the island to explore a bit. On this side of the island there was what can only be described as a land slide of garbage and at the top was a bulldozer pushing it over the edge into the sea. Out of sight out of mind. I am sure this practice no longer takes place.

Bird of the day spotted a few days ago but could not ID until today, the Artic Tern. In breeding plumage its bill goes from black to red. There is even record of them migrating from the South pole all the way to the North pole and back. Quite fascinating stuff. (Google makes me this clever)

S 29°32’38”

No of smiles: 13, total raised R73,667. Thank you to everyone for your generous donations to Operation Smile SA.

Day 7: Bucket Over Board aka BOB

Day 7:

⚠️ Man Over Board (MOB) 💀

In this case BOB. Bucket overboard.

The wave swept over the back deck, over my head, flooding the cockpit and splashed up against the washboards. With its dyeing momentum it slipped up and over the top washboard and sloshed into the cabin. Out the corner of my eye I glimpsed something red. Dam salt water in my eyes. I wipe them with the back of the paddling gloves and look to my left.

The red bucket (washing up bucket) had been washed out of the flooded cockpit and was floating in the ocean next to me. I looked at it for a second a little confused as to what had just happened. As I reached out to grab it a little wave tilted it away from me and I missed. Oh no! Try again. Too late.

It was now out of reach and Osiyeza was not going to wait. She had other things to contend with. First to empty the flooded cockpit. This is done with the help of gravity via a large drain hole that goes right through the hull just like a drain plug in a bath.

My next priority was to see how much sea water hopped over the washboards. I peered over the top and into the cabin. It was wet inside but in volume it was not much.

Still having not seen the housekeeper I was forced to mop up down below. I did such a good job that I rewarded myself with a long lie down. Truth be told having my head below my waist is still not ideal.

This was not the only flooding of the day. The second one was my fault entirely but there are those who will blame me for the first one because I had left the main hatch open. Fair call, I guess.

I had just finished making drinking water and had stepped outside to fetch the other daily water bladder.  Watch the video now on my social media accounts! 🎞🎦

I have 10 of these three litre bladders on board. (Thanks to Tripper Sports). 8 are stored below as emergency water rations. One I have in the cockpit under the seat to drink while paddling and the other inside under the cockpit which I use for cooking and coffee.

Back home we use these bladders when we race mostly long distance either on the rivers or on surf ski’s. The one golden rule it to make sure the clip sealing the pipe off is closed when not in use. There has been many a shocked and depressed paddler after putting the pipe in their mouth to find there is no juice left. It’s all run out because the clip came undone! This is exactly what happened. As I stepped out, I must have stood on the clip forcing it open spilling 2L of precious water.

I have been at sea for 7 days.

I have managed 370nm/684km as the crow flies.
Yes, I am tired, stiff, and sore but it becomes insignificant when I look around me and see my dream unfolding.

PS it may have taken a while but I found the second mobile phone without the housekeepers assistance.🧐


No of smiles: 10!

Day 6: On Autopilot

Day 6

Last night while I rested, I needed to use the autopilot due to the wind direction and state of the sea. What’s an autopilot? ✈️

It’s a mechanical ram driven by an electric motor which is controlled by an internal compass. It pushes or pulls the rudder via a cable (thanks to The Cableman) depending on the direction Osiyeza is facing versus the compass point selected on the autopilot. It helps keeps Osiyeza drifting in the desired direction while I am doing things other than paddling.

There are surprisingly many “other things” to do. The autopilot is like having another person on board. Considering the housekeeper has yet to arrive it’s comforting to have someone else here. Surely this someone needs a name. Autopilot is too impersonal, and it doesn’t roll off the tongue very well.

So please say hello to “Maverick”. Yes, I know it’s his call sign and not his real name but when you are the best of the best you can get away with it. He should make a good wing man for this trip 😉

There are two autopilots on board so keeping with the spirit of things meet “Goose”, Mavericks side kick.

A lone whale passed me by today. Unfortunately, it was camera shy. I felt a little foolish talking and encouraging it to pop up close enough to be seen on the video. Things never look very impressive when it’s on film. Unfortunately, it was camera shy, but I did get a great video of an empty ocean.

I spotted a lone feather that’s been floating around long enough for a few barnacles to start growing on it.

It was overcast and grey with drizzle the whole morning. Depressive stuff they say. Oh! That reminds me. How are all my mates doing in the UK today? Unlike the UK, it cleared up around midday.

OK the SE trade winds are starting to make their presence felt. This is good for me. I am still just plodding along. So far, I am a little shy of the daily requirement of 100Km for a 70-day crossing but I hope to make that up when Mother Nature get back to her usual ways.

Here’s a great video that Weather Router Rob has put together to show you how we track and predecit the weather using various weather models.

Bird of the day: Leach’s Storm Petrel
Water temp 23°C Max cabin 25°C
Hours paddling: I guess maybe 11 hours
Distance covered: 593km
S 31°24’17”