I would be lying if I said wasn’t bitterly disappointed that I have no choice but to postpone my mammoth Ocean X odyssey to Salvador in Brazil on the South American continent – this has been a dream of mine for 10 years!
My planning began three years ago, but with all the uncertainty around the current pandemic that the world is experiencing, and Brazil’s escalating Covid-19 cases, including their closure of all land and sea borders, plus many countries implementing travel bans from Brazil, I believe the risks are stacked against me.
The enforced hard lockdown last March meant that delays would be inevitable. The setback meant that I could only commence with the kayak build after initially starting my research and design ideas in July 2019. Sadly, my friend, designer and builder, Uwe Jaspersen, passed away a month into the kayak build. The emotional setback was immense, but I needed to find a solution and soldier on.
Enter Phil Southwell, who knew my original concept, understood my vision and was able to design the kayak. Obviously, Uwe was a designer and a builder, so I still needed to source someone who could build on my vision within the parameters of Phil’s design. In early-September I started chatting to Dylan Soares De Melo from Further Composites and the ball started rolling at once.
We were on track with the build – even though the hard lockdown had put me back five months – and we were ready to start the first round of sea trials in mid-December. The day after we launched the kayak in Langebaan lagoon, the beaches were closed by the government under the adjusted Level 3 lockdown restrictions.
Fortunately, that one paddle proved to be the most valuable exercise as it confirmed the need to include my original design of the keel for improved stability. This is something to be positive about and only just this week the government has allowed South Africans to be able to return to the beaches, rivers, and lagoons.
Sea trials require a minimum of a month and a half, which excludes any alterations that need to be done to the vessel. Obviously, I have a real job so 12 full days of training amounts to quite a few weekends! The Covid-19 restrictions have hampered that time frame to test out equipment and make any adjustments and improvements to the craft.
With a very tight deadline to leave within the current weather window, there is only a short time left for me to complete all my tasks. From a safety perspective it would be crazy to undertake my journey to Brazil without ticking every single box on my checklist. This does not include any uncertainty over the virus – especially with the unknown issue of a third wave.
But for me to achieve my Ocean X dream, staying positive is of paramount importance and there are many positives to take from my decision to postpone till later this year. It gives me plenty of time to ensure the kayak is 100% and ready to go. My life depends on it!
Also, it offers my sponsors 10 months of extra coverage as I nip and tuck all my preparations to achieve my successful crossing to Brazil. But, more importantly, for everyone on this planet, the understanding of Covid-19 should be a lot clearer and hopefully the vaccines may have improved the situation considerably.
Thank you to all my partners and everyone involved on making this journey possible. Teamwork makes the dream work and nothing can be achieved without your support.
Please keep following the progress as we build towards the end of the year. Some exciting things happening soon…
Stay safe and keep paddling!