Crossing the Bay of Bengal


During February and March 2023, I embarked on a 23-day expedition to cross the Bay of Bengal, which is known as the world’s largest bay.  Stretching around 2200km across and bounded by Sri Lanka, India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Thailand and Indonesia, our plan was to cross from Phuket, Thailand on the eastern side, to a destination unknown on the western side. Due to the uncertain nature of human powered crossings of great bodies of water, it is impossible to say exactly where one will land.  My first choice of destination was India, second choice was Sri Lanka and a possible third choice if we missed these options was the Maldives, however my main interest was landing in India.

This article is an overview of the expedition and serves as a way to share the story with interested people, and serve as a reference for those trying their own human powered crossings of the Bay of Bengal in the future, to learn from and push the wonderful pursuit of human powered adventure further forward. We all stand on the backs of those who have gone before us.

History of human powered crossings of the Bay of Bengal

When I first started planning this expedition in 2018. I found no evidence of anyone crossing the Bay of Bengal by human power. A couple of people had paddled coastal routes but no one had made a non-stop push, directly across the Bay.  However mainly due to COVID and issues with the design and build, my plans got delayed with the boat build (long story, partly shared below) and Latvian adventurer Karlis Bardelis made a crossing in January 2022 departing from Langkawi, Malaysia and arriving in Galle, Sri Lanka in a rowing boat.

Overview of project

I am originally from NZ but had been living in Singapore for 25 years before relocating to Thailand with my family in December 2022.  Human powered journeys are my life purpose and I am always dreaming up interesting projects which generally take an outrageous amount of effort physically, logistically, financially, emotionally and would not be taken on by well balanced people making rational decisions about how to spend their time and resources.

Having previously rowed an ocean rowing boat around 8,000km, I had a vision in 2019 of building a human powered boat that was pedal powered, smaller, lighter, and faster than an ocean rowing boat, and could carry one person for up to 80 – 90 days at sea.  Over the course of three years, working with the renowned naval architect Phil Morison from the UK and boat builders Rannoch Marine (with support from various other contractors including Jon and Hernan) we built the ‘Little Donkey’. 

Weighing in at 350kg with all equipment (except food and people), she was really an experimental boat and the design and build turned into an adventure in itself. Designing a rugged, simple, small and fast pedal peddle powered boat was much more challenging than building a rowing boat.  The salt water environment destroys almost anything it comes into contact with and especially enjoys eating moving mechanical parts. 

Needless to say the team were fantastic and after three years trials and tribulations with COVID thrown in (meaning I could not visit the boat in the UK for almost 2 years), ‘Little Donkey arrived in Phuket, Thailand in January 2023 ready to get wet.

Drawing of the Little Donkey – one-person (or two very good friends) ocean going peddle powered boat.

The team

I also had a secondary objective on this expedition, to collect water samples across strategic locations of the Bay of Bengal to contribute to a research project run by Professor Federico Lauro and his team. As we got closer to the departure date, Professor Lauro shared the details of the water sampling with me and it was much more challenging than I imagined. He wanted samples taken both inside the very dense shipping lane crossing the Bay of Bengal as well as outside the shipping lanes.  This would mean significant deviation from the fastest straight line distance between Phuket and Sri Lanka, and secondly added significant risk as entering busy shipping lanes in a human powered boat which has very limited manoeuvrability and moves at 2 knots is a hazardous exercise, especially with only one person onboard.  For this reason I immediately realised to have any chance of pulling this off I would need a second person to help manage the risk and danger.  Hence I called up one of the few people I knew who I thought would be open to the challenge – Australia adventurer Luke Richmond.  

When I called Luke he was on his way to go ‘paragliding and purchase a rifle’, however he immediately said yes to the project, cancelled his other plans and was ‘onboard’, before I got to the part of how awful the living conditions were going to be.

So as well as Luke onboard and Federico on land, we had our wives Stephanie and Elise supporting from the land, the kids from UWC school with their wonderful teachers Kru Jeff and Kru Emma following the expedition daily, and Kaushiq my kayaking buddy based in Singapore who was instrumental in the Sri Lankan portion of our journey.


The Bay of Bengal is known as cyclone alley. At various times of the year it’s no place to be in a small boat.  There are two main seasons, the north east monsoon and the south west monsoon.

In these seasons the winds blow in opposite directions.

We needed the north east monsoon, when the winds were in our favour and the possibility of cyclones was minimal. January to March are the best times to maximise the North East monsoon on our passage from East to West across the Bay of Bengal.


First we would need to cross around 500km of the Andaman Sea and pass through an island chain before entering the Bay of Bengal proper.  The island chain was interesting in itself as it houses the remotest tribe on earth (The North Sentinelese) and many of the islands are sparsely populated and visitors are prohibited from landing. They are mainly under Indian govt control and with the regulations and remoteness, we felt them better to be avoided and thus hoped to give the islands a wide berth. 

Approximate route across the Bay of Bengal – the world’s largest bay

Phuket trials and preparations

Luke arrived in Phuket two weeks before departure in January 2023.  He got straight into preparation, managing all the food, first aid and various other tasks.  He stayed with us and was a pleasure to have as he integrated into our family life immediately.  One of our goals before departure was to make a sea trial to test all our systems onboard including the boat herself.  So we chose to make a circumnavigation of Phuket Island, which is around 130km in total. 

The circumnavigation took 36 hours and was of great benefit for three reasons:

/ The heat inside the cabin was a huge issue. We used a 5V USB fan in the cabin to provide some form of airflow when resting between shifts however the power of the fan was still too weak and we realised we needed stronger 12V fans to have any chance of surviving especially through the hottest parts of the day.

/ The gearbox had an issue with a bearing and we gained confidence repairing it on the water.

/  We got a slap in the face as to how tough the living conditions on this tiny boat were going to be, This was to be no ‘picnic’ and much tougher just to live, eat, rest and peddle than the ocean rowing boats we were both used to. Even changing shifts took a coordinated and planned exercise without capsizing the tiny craft.

/  We managed to test out a sunshade arrangement that covered the peddler from the worst of the sun during the day and it worked very nicely.

After 2.5 weeks preparation we were ready as we thought we ever would be to depart. 

Our 130km route around Phuket (we went anti-clockwise)
Testing the self righting of the Little Donkey in Phuket. Note how small the cockpit area is where sit and peddle. Only enough room for one person. The boat was also quite stable lying on its side like this.
Preparing the boat in the welcome shade of some trees at the Playyard in Phuket
Drone shot during our 36 hour circumnavigation of Phuket

 Day One – departure

We departed on the 9th February, 2023 from a beautiful location in Phuket called the ‘Playyard’ in the north eastern tip of the island.  This was a perfect launching point with a sheltered boat ramp and only 5km to open water.  We timed our departure for around 1100 hrs when there was enough tide to launch, and the current and wind would push us out to sea.

The grade one children from United World College came down to see us off (my two daughters , Kate and Rachel were also in the class) and it felt great to show the kids through the boat before we departed.  Both Rachel and Kate got very upset when it came time to leave. I also found it upsetting and felt guilty seeing how my departure affected them.

We had a perfect 15 knot NE wind blowing us out, which combined with the tidal streams meant we got our fastest speeds of the entire trip, 5 knots for the first 5 km. I took the first peddling shift. We had agreed to peddle in 2 hour shifts, 24 hours per day and never stop the boat moving until we reached Sri Lanka.

We quickly passed under Sarasin bridge (that joins Phuket island to the mainland) and very soon were in open water with Phuket’s coastline disappearing behind us. I made the most of the cellular reception while it lasted making a few final calls.  From my diary: 

“Nervous about stability of boat at sea and how the gearbox will hold out, but also optimistic.  Life now becomes more simple, after a crazy 6 months, moving house and country, merging businesses, planning and preparing for expedition, life becomes simple, its time to adapt to life at sea. Cabin heat is bearable with the new 12V fan.”

Around 2000hrs that evening we lost sight of Phuket.

At 2100 hrs in the darkness on my shift, the propellor got fouled by some rope in the water. Fortunately the boat has a moon pool in the back hatch which allows us to access the propellor from inside the boat, and I could easily cut the rope free from the propellor without having to dive into the water in the darkness. 

I normally don’t expect to sleep much on the first new nights at sea but I managed to hit deep sleep on one of my shifts for around 90 minutes.  Two ships passed us in the night but both were along way off and easily visible on the AIS.  There were also a few fishing buoys to dodge. 

Departing from the Playyard in Phuket with the kids from Grade One UWC sending us off.

Day Two

The first 24 hours at sea went smoothly as could be expected.  However the wind turned to the north in the night which did not aid our progress as we were heading west, and we also hit an unhelpful current which was heading north.  Nevertheless, we still made 95km progress in our first 24 hours at sea (our target was 100km/24 hours) so we were happy with progress.

We both had coffee and granola for breakfast. The igniter on the gas cooker failed, so we used a cigarette lighter to ignite it.  However this was the last time we used the gas cooker on the entire trip as it was so hot in the cabin that burning the gas cooker only made it hotter and with the boat rocking around so much it was just easier, safer and faster to eat cold rehydrated meals and drink cold coffee.

The afternoon shifts proved to be brutally hot, the small sunshade helped with the heat, but being on the back deck peddling turned out to be cooler than resting in the cabin.  My technique while resting was to lie in the foetal position without moving, drenched in sweat for two hours, feeling like I was being baked in an oven till I could escape for my pedalling shift on the back deck again. 

Around 2100 hrs we hit a south easterly setting current, which was too strong to fight. We were trying to go west and instead were being pulled south and east.  It was a surprise to me so early into the trip having such issues with strong currents.  We also started hitting very strange patches of water that I nicknamed ‘current bombs’. We could see them coming in the day time or hear them at night time.  At day time they appeared as a line of whitecaps (broken water). The water was very agitated and as we entered these the boat was thrown all over the place, pulled backwards, sideways and in all different directions.  There was very little we could do except keep try to peddle through them.  We also noticed these patches of agitated water were moving themselves. It normally took around 15 minutes to get through a current bomb, during which time we would go any direction except where we wanted to go.  Little did we know at this stage, but the Andaman Sea turned out to be full of them. From my research (post-expedition), I believe these current bombs maybe caused by areas of warmer water upwelling up from the active tectonic region in the west of the Andaman Sea. (Do let me know if you know otherwise). Sometimes we could go through up to 3 current bombs in a 2 hour shift which really killed our progress.

Day Three

It was a tough night with adverse currents and current bombs pushing us around all over the place. We made only 56km in the last 24 hours, which was better than nothing, but too slow to reach the other side of the Bay of Bengal without running out of food.  We needed to be making 70km/day to get the 2100km across the Bay, within the 30 days food we had onboard.

Our knees were now starting to feel a little sore from the peddling. The wind was light – around 5 knots from the North. So peddling was slow and hard and progress was frustrating all day.

It was too hot to talk much during the day. We were both starting to suffer from the heat and we longed for the cool of the evening. Night was my favourite time, the sky was beautiful, very clear with the stars out in force.  When not looking at the GPS screen I would tilt my head and look at the stars, often choosing one to aim at to navigate by. Around 2300 I was treated to an amazing gift when I saw a meteorite whizzing through the sky above my head and burning up in a bright flash. It was incredible to see and I felt privileged.

Day Four

Progress dropped overnight to only 0.5 knots.  I could crawl faster than this. By 1100 hrs we were 212km from Phuket and had made 57km in the past 24 hours.   We were being hit by waves of ‘current bombs’ all night which had killed our progress.It also made it very hard for the person trying to sleep as the boat rocked all over the place. Our knees were now getting very sore.  Every shift at this pace feels like peddling up a steep hill without respite for two hours.   Luke had now started on pain killers, and I was thinking about starting them. The first seeds of self doubt start also started to appear on the boat. The beginning was proving much tougher than I anticipated.  

From my diary “What a failure this will feel like if this trip does not work out and ends in the first week.  Luke suggests calling into an island to rest and reevaluate the project. There is no island close to us though and at this pace we are 7 – 10 days from reaching any island.”

All day our progress slowed, until mid-afternoon when not peddling we were being blown back to shore at 1.5 knots, the opposite to where we wanted to be going!  On my 1700hrs shift I begin to experiment with pointing the boat in different directions.  I turned south and to my surprise found we could make progress at 1.8 knots on a bearing of 180 – 220 degrees heading.  Even though this was not the direction we wanted to be going, it was at least better than going backwards. And maybe if we dropped further south we could find better current to head west again?  Immediately the mood on the boat picked up, we had gone from losing hope to having hope again – all from a simple change in heading.  The last 24 hours had also made me aware of the necessity to keep ourselves positive and focussed and not let the seeds of self doubt manifest.

I ate a horrible, cold dehydrated meal for dinner.   It was practically inedible it tasted so bad. 

Unfortunately our choice of dehydrated meals was not good at all (this was due to my propensity to ‘try new things’).   That night on my 2100 – 2300 hrs shift my legs felt too weak and sore to peddle.  In a huff, I gave up and decided to have a rest for two hours instead of peddling.

However the only place to rest on the back deck is the peddling seat, which is not very comfortable and impossible to sleep.  So after 3 minutes of sitting `resting`, I realised there would be no way to sleep so I may as well suck it up and keep peddling.  I continued peddling and realised that as sore as my legs felt, if I started the shift slowly, they soon warmed up and the pain and tiredness would disappear. This technique helped me immensely many times over the rest of the trip.  I found that even when in pain, getting started was the hardest part.

During the early morning hours on Luke’s shift he managed to break free from the counter currents and found a SW current again. We were back on track, travelling at 2.5 knots in the direction we wanted to go.  It was a wonderful feeling while it lasted, which was unfortunately only until day broke.

Day Five

As the sun rose on day 5 we were 250km from Phuket and hade only another 50km in the last 24 hours.  But our progress slowed again.  We wanted to be doing 100km per day not 50km.

The tough peddling was taking its toll and my knees were now very sore and and my leg muscles painful to even lie on.  The continuous two hour shifts, poor sleep, bad food and the hot cabin was hard work.  We were also having issues with the satellite phone not working reliably.

I finally managed to make a call to Stephanie, Rachel and Kate during the day.  The girls both asked when I would be finished and coming back home.  I wanted to tell them not for a very very long time at this slow pace, but held my tongue.

At 1000hrs we stopped for 30 minutes to replace one of the bearings in the gearbox.

At lunchtime Luke turned on the water maker and we made 20 litres of water in about one hour.

Being so close to the equator, the good thing was we had lots of sun which kept our batteries charged through the solar panels. This battery power is critical to make our water every day and run our navigation electronics. We each drink 10l every 24 hours.  So between the two of us we needed 20 litres of drinking water every 24 hours. The afternoon again felt brutally hot but we started making good progress south west at 2.5 knots for a few hours until 1600hrs the favourable currents ran out and we again hit counter currents. 

There was little wind so I made a drone flight at 1830hrs.  Launching a drone at sea is easy, retrieving it from a tiny moving boat is not. When you fly the drone back to yourself the automatic sensors in the drone think its going to crash and it try’s to fly away from you.  We managed to collect some nice footage though and I even caught the drone just before the battery ran out and the blades cut my fingers off.   I felt more exhausted from the stress of the drone flight then I did from a two hour peddling shift. 

Around 2100hrs that evening I hit a huge current bomb in the dark. This one took me over 30 minutes of being thrown around in the dark to finally get through and I lost so much distance in that time that I eventually made just a paltry few hundred metres of progress in the entire 2 hour shift.  I ate mashed potato for dinner that evening with some very spicy chicken curry which did not sit well and I vomited it up during my shift.

Peddling during the cool of night – my favorite time of day.

Day Six

My legs were now aching so much I couldn’t sleep so I began taking painkillers. 

We had made better progress overnight, 90km in the last 24 hours and were now 385km from Phuket.  We had also managed to find a nice westerly setting current and made 2 knots progress all day.   The wind was light and at 1800hrs we were only 150km from the Nicobar islands.

These islands were the gateway into the Bay Of Bengal.  We needed to be careful of navigating around them as they are remote, controlled by India, and prohibited from visiting.  They also had unfriendly shorelines to small boats and we wanted to stay away from them.

During the day we were visited by three Indonesian fishing boats.  Each boat was made of similar wooden construction and had around 10 – 15 men onboard. They all came close for a look and asked us the same question – do we have alcohol and cigarettes?  We informed them politely that we don’t. They were curious yet harmless and left us alone.

By now I was starting to get concerned about the Nicobar Islands.  Federico was sending us snippets of current data and I was struggling to understand the situation as it came through in 160 character text messages on our Garmin Inreach Satellite messaging system. Luke’s wife Elise also was sending us current data using different current models, so between the two sets of short messages, we tried to build a mental image of what the current was doing. We wanted to pass south of the Nicobar Islands to enter the Bay of Bengal but it seemed as we got closer to them there was some form of eddy system which may or may not try and push us north.

The gearbox was also starting to make lots of noises and we knew we would need to replace more bearings soon.  This was also the first point of the trip I began to wonder if we bought enough spare parts.  From my diary “Will the gearbox hold out? Will our knees hold out? Sri Lanka or India seem a long way away”.

It was a cloudy night so I could not see the stars or use them to navigate by. I was now feeling so tired during my night shifts it was a huge battle to stay awake and I started having my first hallucinations.  Luke sounded drunk when I woke him up for his shift change in the night.  He would slur his words and was wobbly and uncoordinated as we changed shifts. Even though the suffering we were getting on well, laughing and having hilarious, deeply sarcastic conversations about how much `fun` we were having on thus luxury cruise.  As we became more tired we didn’t talk that much.  It would be terribly difficult doing this with someone whose personalities didn’t match.

Underwater shot of the propellor and rudder of the Little Donkey

Day 7

Luke woke me at 0600 to tell me there was a problem with the gearbox and another bearing needed replacing.   We replaced it in 30 minutes and were getting more confident in our ability to service it at sea. However the more worrying issue was that we only had a few bearings left.

We had made 90km progress in the last 24 hours which was great. But it looked like we would hit our first ‘interesting’ weather later that evening, with wind speeds around 50km/hr and sea state rising to 2.0m over night. This was not perfect timing as we were approaching the Nicobar Islands and the wind would be trying to blow us directly onto the island.  During the afternoon we started preparing the boat for heavier weather.  

We also changed our communications protocol with Fedrico. Up until now we had daily checkins by satellite SMS with Federico at 7AM and 7PM for safety purposes. If we missed three checkins in a row, the protocol was that Federico would call emergency services.  We now informed Federico that if we missed 2 consecutive checkins, then he should alert emergency services.  We didn’t want to be bobbing around in the water for 36 hours before the alarm was raised!  We readied our PFD’s (life jackets) and ensured we were both clipped in too safely lines when on the back deck and we both carried a PLB (personal locator beacon) on our PFD’s at all time.

By 1800hrs the wind picked up just as it went dark. The sea seemed to go crazy. It was intimidating heading into the first night of rough water in our completely untested vessel. We were now about 80km from Nicobar island and the current seemed to be pushing us directly towards it, even though we were trying to work our way south of it and into safety of the Bay of Bengal beyond.  In the darkness we had no idea when or where the waves were coming from so on the back deck peddling started to feel intimidating.

I messaged Fede at the 7pm evening schedule and he told me we needed to make a decision now.  Either we continue to try and head south of Nicobar island, or we turn and head north of Nicobar island.  If we left it to late to make the decision, we could get blown onto the island itself by the strong currents and winds tomorrow.  Being blown onto Nicobar island was expedition ending with even more dire consequences to our personal safety. It was not a nice thought.

In the darkness, in the strong wind with the boat being blown all over the place we did our best to have a quick discussion about what to do. Going south was the fastest option by far, it and would put us in a great position to make the water sampling as it kept us closer to the shipping lanes. However it had risk as if we couldn’t get south we could get blown onto the island.  

Turning now to head north was a large detour of at least over 100km, of which we would then need to add another 150km south to get back to the shipping lanes for the sampling.  It also had the risk of being blown onto the island the next day by the strong north easterly winds and swell.  The risks involved with both options were almost equally unattractive, but we had to make a decision.  We both agreed that south was the fastest route to safety, so we committed to it. 

So began a night of brutality.  On the back deck we were thrown around by the rough water as we struggled to point the boat south west.  We peddled our gut’s out to try and clear the southern point of the island.  My knees were in agony and Luke hurt his shoulder from hanging on to the side of the boat in the rough conditions as he was trying to peddle.  Just after midnight we agreed to drop from 2 hour shifts to just 90 minute shifts.  Two hours was proving too tiring to keep up the level of effort we were putting in to try and get south.  During our 90 minute breaks it was impossible to sleep inside the cabin, the boat was being thrown around and it was like lying in a washing machine.  By now we were both exhausted and running on adrenalin.   But as hard as we peddled trying to make ground south west, we were still being pushed north west into the island.  I started to feel dread building in my body.  Being in a tiny boat, in rough weather, in the middle of the night, being pushed into an unfriendly shore with even stronger wind and swell forecast for the next day is not a comfortable position to be in.

Our position on day 8.

Day 8 – 9 

Luke woke me half way through his early morning shift in the darkness to tell me he just could make any progress south and it had become clear we were not going to be able to make it around the bottom of the island.

As the sun started to come up on the morning of day nine, we deployed the small parachute anchor.  This does not stop the boat drifting,  but holds the bow into the wind and waves and makes it safer to ride out rougher weather.  We then both attempted to get into the tiny cabin to rest for an hour and think and discuss what to do.  However this idea quickly becomes laughable due to the lack of space inside the cabin.   Luke lasted one minute squeezed inside the cabin with his knees around his ears before getting back out on deck.  There just was no space for two people.

After only 20 minutes of sitting on para anchor, we had to make another decision.  What were we going to do?  Continue our fight to try and get south of the Island?  And run the risk of hitting the island?  Or head the much longer route north where the current was pushing us?  But also run the risk of being blown onto the island that day if the wind proved to strong to fight?

We both agreed there was not much point sitting drifting closer to the island on para anchor.  We couldn’t even both rest properly.  So we might as well fight no matter how exhausted we felt.

So Luke pointed the nose north and started peddling.  Even through the wind and swells were coming in from our starboard side and trying to blow us towards the island, we found we could still make reasonable progress in a north-west-north direction. This was not ideal as it would still push into shore at the northern end of the island but at least was allowing us to head north and really we had no other options.  To get to safe water we actually needed to get around two islands, Great Nicobar and Little Nicobar.  It was at least 70km to get safely around the north side of the islands that would allow our escape to the west.

All morning we worked in two hour shifts in very bumpy conditions. We were heading north at right angles to the incoming seas and swells which were around 2m. This was a great test of the stability and seaworthiness of the Little Donkey as we continually rode over swells and breaking waves which slammed into the side of the boat.  Not once did she ever feel like capsizing.  I felt proud of her.

However well Little Donkey was doing, the two human beings were not.  I was now gravely concerned about being blown into the island in rough weather.    I hadn’t eaten any proper food for over 12 hours, had any proper sleep for days and was flogging myself physically and felt nauseous due to fatigue.  After forcing myself to eat some food I felt a little better.  Luke was also struggling and at midday he told me he was done.  He was finished and has to get off the boat as he just could not continue. The culmination of day after day, night after night of not being able to sleep, the intense heat, the claustrophobia of the tiny cabin and the intensity of the physical effort had driven him to his limits.  We have a good chat about his situation and I felt for his pain and his distress. He was a fantastic team mate, we shared many of the same values, I loved his sense of humour and he had an unbelievable work ethic.  He was also not one to throw the towel in easily.

The problem was, even though he wanted to, there was no easy way to get off the boat.  We were in quite a pickle.   We discussed three possible options:

  1. We try and make it into Great Nicobar island itself, a potentially life threatening scenario in these conditions and if we did make it – what next? It’s such a remote island.
  2. We continue for the next 24 hours to try and work our way around the island get ourselves out of this difficult situation and then we find the nearest merchant vessel for Luke to hitch a ride  to the next port on.
  3. We continue and if he can manage to get some rest, maybe re-evaluate the decision the next day with a clearer mind when he is not so exhausted.

The discussion lead to no conclusion. We swapped shifts and I tried to get some rest in the stinking hot cabin while Luke peddled his two hour shift.  He obviously had a lot to think about and shared with me at the end of his shift that he was ‘back on deck’ and ready to continue.  I was very relieved to hear this and extremely proud of him for making this decision.  It was entirely  his to make and I would never have tried to force him to stay on.  He had worked so hard and endured so much distress and discomfort to reach this point, but to still make the decision to continue was a testament to his character. 

This problem solved we still had another major issue.  Even though we peddled nonstop all day to try and get north of the islands, no matter how hard we peddled, I could tell from extending our track line that we were being pushed into the top of Great Nicobar island.  It looked like our only hope would be to try and make it into a small channel, which separates Great Nicobar from Little Nicobar Island.  We definitely didn’t want to be heading into this small channel, simple calculations told us we would be there around sunset and therefore would be pushed into this in pitch dark.  

I was starting to feel the desperation of our situation.  We could not stop peddling the boat as if we did we would be blown into shore.  If we did keep peddling as hard as we could we maybe could hopefully reach the northern tip of Great Nicobar but then would be sucked into the channel between the islands with only a basic navigational chart, and have to navigate through the channel at night.  If anything went wrong there was nobody to help (that we knew of). 

Around mid afternoon when we were 20km offshore, we started to see Great Nicobar’s shape appear on the horizon. Covered in green vegetation she looked like something from Jurassic park. 

And true to our calculations, just as darkness hit we reached the northern tip of the island, just managing to clear it by a margin less than 1km.  As we entered the channel between the two islands the light disappeared entirely.  There was no moon and with an overcast night it was pitch dark.  I could hear waves on the shoreline and set a course on the GPS chart plotter down the centre of the channel. I was putting all my faith in the GPS and our basic navigation charts. 

I also decided to try and give Luke more rest and pull a double shift.  This had the effect of making me hallucinate like crazy as I peddled slowly down the channel in the darkness.  I saw trees coming towards us, objects whizzing past the side of as if we were driving down the road at 100km/hr.  I was so exhausted and have never experienced my mind playing so many tricks on me.  Fortunately the current was with us and we made good time through the night, about 2.5knots speed through the channel.  As the first rays of light started to appear in the morning it looked like we were heading for freedom.. But as we approached the western end of the channel and we ran into a wall of counter currents. We were now just 1km off the southern coast of Little Nicobar and were approaching a beautiful looking (but dangerous) surf beach with big breaking waves. I peddled as hard as I could trying to exit the channel until progress slowed to the point we could not fight it anymore and were being blown back up the channel we just came through.

Initially I thought the tide had turned and messaged Federico to see if he could share any info.

A close-up image showing our route through the channel between Great Nicobar and Little Nicobar Islands. Where the blue arrow ends is the position we got stuck at the end of the channel. Bear in mind we came through this channel in the dead of night.

He replied that maybe it had but it was also possible this was not a tidal current but a more permanent eddy system at the western mouth of the channel.  As Luke and I sat exhausted, wondering what to do, by the grace of the almighty sea gods, the boat drifted slowly towards the centre of the channel and after 20 minutes of drifting the current subsided slightly. Luke jumped back on the pedals and we found we could start making progress again out of the channel albeit very slowly.  Finally we were free of the Islands.  I was completely shattered from the experience. It had been a very tough 8 days.  And as a way of celebration the gearbox seized entirely.

Sunrise looking back at the channel between Great Nicobar (right) and Little Nicobar (left) we had just navigated through in the dark.
Completely exhausted but very happy to be leaving the Nicobar islands behind

This repair took more time to fix.  Maybe because we were more tired but there was also one bearing in particular that was harder to change.  After 2 hours we had it working again but were now critically low on spare parts, with only 4 bearings and one sprag clutch left as replacements.

I set off peddling and in my tired state was struggling to stay focussed. I knew I needed rest and but something felt wrong with the gearbox.  It felt like we were peddling through mud.

Peddling was so tough, my knees were in agony and I started upping my ibuprofen intake between shifts.  During the night Luke had some massive hallucinations, chatting away to imaginary friends on deck.  Our progress was painfully slow at 1.5 knots and the peddling continued to feel like we were in mud.  We checked and rechecked the gearbox but nothing appeared wrong.  We started to learn from experience that it was certain sea currents which made the peddling feel much harder.

Around this time I entered a state of exhausted depression. The first 600km felt so brutal it had almost killed us. We had used almost all our spare parts. We were exhausted.  It was hell living on this tiny boat. How on earth could we make it another 1600km to reach even Sri Lanka let alone India?

At 3am in the morning as we changed shift, we both discussed and decided we could not keep going like this.  We needed to take a break for both of us to recover.  We agreed that once we reached better conditions with more favourable currents we would take that break.  We never did end up taking any break, but psychologically it made us feel a little better just thinking about it.

Day 10

We peddled slowly all morning until we finally hit a westerly setting current and our speed picked up to 2 knots.  At 3PM the sprag clutch gave out with a loud bang.  We replaced it with our very last spare.  Now we were really in the shit.  We were now 800km down, and had 1400km to go with no more spare sprag clutches.  You didn’t need to be a brilliant mathematician to understand that the chances of us making much further without another breakdown were very slim.

Immediately we slipped into problem solving mode.  Luke made a genius move by tightening up the scupper valves (basically small flaps which allow water drain in and out of the cockpit floor area). By doing this it meant very little water came into the floor of the boat and helped keep the gearbox much dryer from the effects of seawater.

We also coated the last sprag clutch with a thick layer of marine grease. And used liberal amounts of WD-40 on each of the bearings (even though they were meant to be non-lubricating). But even with these measures we were sure we would need more spares. How on earth could we get more spare parts our here? We started messaging our contacts back on land to try and find spare bearings and clutches and secondly find a friendly yacht which may be crossing from Phuket to Sri Lanka who could potentially rendezvous with us and pass us the parts.

A rain storm hit us mid afternoon and we took the opportunity to have a salt water bucket shower each on the back deck.  We used one litre of fresh water each to rinse off. It felt amazing to be clean again.  That afternoon we hit  a wall of counter currents, which we battled all night at a painfully slow progress of 1 knot.

Saltwater bucket shower. The blue bucket is also the toilet bucket.

Day 11

After a painfully slow night we made our lowest progress to date. Only 50km in the last 24 hours.  Fortunately later in the morning we finally hit some nice currents again and our speed rose to 2.5 knots and we could head due west.  The temperature picked up during the afternoon until it  felt unbearably hot onboard.  We both now had developed quite severe heat rash over our buttocks and back. This was painful and raw to touch and looked disgusting. Like pizza skin.

We were now 1200km to the closest point of land in Sri Lanka and I calculated if we could make 80km/day then we could get there in 14 or so days. But it seemed like an impossible task with so few spare parts and how tired we felt.

From my diary: “The struggle is now mental. If I was in prison I would be locked in for years, this is only 14 days, two weeks, how can I change my mindset and start to enjoy the challenge’.

That night was beautiful and clear with stars everywhere. I even saw tiny lights of airplanes flying high in the sky.  I couldn’t help but wonder about the comfort of the people sitting in their pressurised shells as compared to the brutality of what we were enduring.  Then again, this was our choice!

Day 12

We made 95km progress through the night, It felt good to be making solid progress again.

We stopped at 0900hrs to service the gearbox with more grease and WD-40.  We now treated it like the precious resource it was.

We were continually on the satellite messenger with contacts back onshore to source spare parts and find a delivery boat.  Stephanie was telling me it was difficult to find these parts in Phuket, she could order the bearings online but not the sprag clutch.

One thing that had become obvious, was that making it to the closest point of land safely was now the primary and most essential goal of the expedition.  The water sampling would require us to detour at least  150 – 200km south, adding more time and distance as we zig zagged through the shipping lanes.  And even if we wanted to, and had enough spare parts, our manoeuvrability was so limited in this boat we couldn’t get down there if we wanted. We were at the mercy of the currents and to a lesser extent the winds.  I informed Federico on the 7PM schedule of this and asked  if we could change plan to take water samples along our route.  He replied that at least this would prove the concept of sampling from such a small boat, but would not be a useful dataset for his study.

Day 13

We made great progress of 109km in the last 24 hours.

It was a lovely clear night but a north west swell rocked the boat so much we didn’t sleep well.

We had more messages from land that it was still proving difficult to find spare parts and that no yacht can be found from Phuket to bring them out.  But there maybe was a possibility of a vessel from Sri Lanka.  Luke and I continually talked through all options we could think of.  After a lot of discussion we both felt the best we can do is to nurse the gearbox along, keep it dry as possible, well lubricated, try not to put too much strain through it, but continue to peddle slowly onwards.  If it failed again we could try rowing using the emergency oars (even though they were meant for a few hundred metres rowing not hundreds of km).

The wind was around 15 knots during the night from the north east which rocked the boat around and made sleep difficult. Luke had more interesting hallucinations.  We both found it impossible to eat our main dehydrated rations, they just tasted revolting.  So instead our daily calorie intake was made up of granola for breakfast, mashed potato with some precooked meat options for dinner and the rest of the calories from spoonfuls of peanut butter, some cold coffee, isotonic drinks and a few bars and sweets. This was not enough for Luke and he lost weight fast, it seemed ok for me and I didn’t feel hungry but I was still losing weight.

Day 14

We made another 104km in the last 24 hours so were happy with progress.

At 0900hrs we stopped and replaced two more bearings in the gearbox.  Now we had only two bearings left and no sprag clutches.  I tried calling the UWC school grade one class in a pre-arranged sat phone call for a chat that morning.  But the sat phone would not work.  We felt it was something to do with India jamming the signals as they do not allow satellite phones.  I resorted to an SMS conversation with them answering their questions with 160 character messages.

By 1400hrs we were 840km from the closest point of Sri Lanka. The afternoon again was brutally hot and I longed for the cool of the evening. When evening arrived the heat evaporated but so did my energy. I felt so tired physically and wondered how on earth I was going to get through the night of peddling.  Interestingly the pain in both of our knees had now gone.  Our knees seemed to have got used to the stress. The conditions were favourable all night.  It rained very hard on Luke’s early morning shift.

The rain flattened the sea out and our speed picked up to 3 knots.  When we changed shifts the rain stopped for my two hour peddling session.  But as soon as Luke was back on deck a massive thunder storm passed overhead, complete with lightning which he did not  enjoy.  After his two hour shift was over the storm disappeared and I was back on deck in peace and quiet.  It seemed he attracted thunder and lightning!  During the night one of the pedals came loose and we needed the toolkit to tighten it.  We had a spare set of pedals but found they didn’t fit the pedal cranks we were using, so we now didn’t have any spare pedals as well.

Rain, hail, shine, dark, light, wind, no-wind we kept pedaling.

Day 15

The night was overcast but uneventful.  We made the best progress of the entire trip – 119km in the last 24 hours.  We received current data from Fede and Elise and tried to make sense of it.

Fede suggested to drop south by 50km where there was stronger westerly setting current.  Elise suggested to hold our latitude and push west as when we get closer to Sri Lanka there are strong south westerly currents.  She did her best to describe a picture of the current situation in short 160 character text messages.  From my memory of the currents I knew there was strong south westerly setting currents closer to Sri Lanka too, which may push us past Sri Lanka if we got too far south so we decided to hold our latitude and keep moving west.  As we continued peddling it felt as if the gearbox could fail at any minute.  The uncertainty of our future was huge.  We were now 590km from the closest point in Sri Lanka.

Day 16

It was another uneventful night with a few rain showers.  We peddled slowly but steadily all through the day.  Around 1830 hrs the peddle had another issue.  As we didn’t have any spare pedals we changed to our last pedal crank and fortunately that solved the problem.  We knew it was not a matter of ‘if’ the gearbox would fail again, it was a matter of when.  The uncertainty was hard to deal with.  

GoPro shot of the dolphins swimming around the boat.

Luke got visited by dolphins on his evening shift.  I used the GoPro and tried to film them underwater.  It was was a tough night with 15 knot wind which made the boat bump around and sleep difficult.  My quads now were becoming very sore.  This was a problem when resting as I liked to sleep on my stomach to minimise being thrown around inside the cabin, but my quads were too sore to lie on. We were both getting weaker each day and by now our skins were covered in heat rash.

My backside covered in heat rash

Day 17

We greased and serviced the gearbox again in the morning. Maybe there was a chance we could make it? The wind held at 15 knots from the North – North East which made the sea bumpy.  But at least the wind was helping to keep the temperature cooler during the day on the main deck.  I exchanged messages all day with Stephanie about spare parts.  She had managed to find some bearings and one sprag clutch.  She has also made contact with an agent in Sri Lanka who told her he can arrange a vessel from Sri Lanka to come out 400km offshore.   There was a high cost involved but at least this was an option.

We kept on peddling in our shifts.  It felt like this journey may never end. Problem after problem. Luke told me this would be the last human powered crossing of an ocean he would ever make. I had to admit – this trip has definitely been brutal. It felt much tougher than the trips in the ocean rowing boat.   We were trying to head west but the current seemed to be pushing us south west.  We pointed the boat on a heading of 320 degrees all night to make a course over ground of 260 degrees.

I really struggled to stay awake during my night shifts.  I kept going to sleep, whereupon my head would fall back and hit a sharp screw on the back of the canopy and wake me up instantly.

Day 18

We made 94km in the last 24 hours and were now 450km from closest point of Sri Lanka, and 650km from the port of Galle – the destination we were hoping to arrive into.

Unfortunately we now seemed to be in a south westerly current which if it continued would push us past Sri Lanka. The wind was not helping either, it was predominantly from the N, and pushed us further south than we wanted to be.  Elise sent us some positive information that the current will turn and head more westerly in about 150km time which was great news.  

At 1030hrs a fishing boat visited us. It was the first boat we have seen in 12 days or so.  They were long line fishing and were from Sri Lanka.  This was our first real sign we were getting close to Sri Lanka.  They asked us for alcohol and cigarettes, which of course we had none to give.

We had another bumpy night with beam on seas and 15 knots of wind, but still made good progress.

Day 19

We made 114km progress in the last 24 hours.  I could not believe the gearbox was still holding out.  Around 0800 we took a water sample – just to prove it was possible on this boat!  I also did another drone flight – however after launch the memory card had an issue so I could not record anything.  I managed to retrieve the drone but annoyingly with no footage and found the issue was the memory card had a tiny piece of plastic stuck to it.

Around 0930hrs there was a BANG.  It finally happened. The gearbox blew up again.  We knew immediately what the problem was – the sprag clutch.  With no more spare parts we fitted back one of the broken sprag clutches.  We had no idea if the broken one would work well enough to peddle.  Off we peddled, very slowly and it seemed to hold.  But we knew we needed to be very gentle.

Repairing the gearbox in the dark on a tiny boat bumping and rolling around at sea requires patience.

During my afternoon shift we broke the oars out to try rowing.  I had rowed the boat using the emergency oars on a flat river and it was clumsy but possible.  However on the ocean, bumping around with waves and swell it proved hopeless.  It confirmed to us that rowing was not going to be the option to get us to Sri Lanka.  It was peddle power or nothing.

My mind raced all day for possible solutions.  I started getting angry and firing off SMS messages. How could it be so hard to find spare parts and get them to us?  Although the land team were doing an amazing job I was venting my frustrations.  

The night shift was very bumpy.  On the back deck peddling we were thrown around all over the place.  This put a lot of strain on the peddling seat.  Luke informed me as we changed shift in the dark that it had broken.  One of the front seat leg attachments had snapped where the seat attached to the deck.  This was a critical part and we had no way to repair it.  I used some rope to tie it in place during my shift and although the seat kept sliding around it worked well enough to peddle.  As long as the other front seat leg attachment did not break it would it be manageable.

The night was wild with thunder and lightning.  After my shift I slipped into exhausted sleep for 90 minutes before waking again to hear from Luke the news the other seat attachment had now snapped.  Now the seat was loose sliding around the deck.  In the rain and the darkness I played around with ropes and bungee cords trying to tie the seat in place. Nothing worked well and peddling now became a nightmare.

Day 20

After a hugely frustrating night we got the news the next morning that the land team has found more spare bearings and clutches in India and even had someone available to fly them that day to Sri Lanka then bring them out to us on a boat.  Luke and debated onboard what to do.

It would be a huge expense and effort to get spare parts to us.  By 1700hrs we were only 200km from the closest point of land in Sri Lanka.  And even if the boat brought the spare parts, they could not bring anything to fix the seat as it needed specialist work.  In fact the peddling seat had now become our biggest issue. It continually slid around the back deck as we tried and peddle which drove me crazy on my shifts.  As night fall approached I was at my wits ends.   Each shift was now torture.  Trying to hold the chair in place with one hand, steer with other hand as we slid around the deck and keep peddling at the same time.

During the late afternoon inside the cabin on my rest shift, I knew I could not continue trying to peddle like this and had to find a solution.

I lay awake for the entire 120 minutes thinking until I came up with a plan.  Using bungee cords I rigged up some attachments to the floor of the boat.  I had no idea if it would work but it was the best idea I could think of.  After a few minutes of rigging, I gently settled into the chair and started peddling.  To my astonishment and immense relief it seemed to hold.  Finally I could peddle again properly without the chair moving around.  It was a pain in the ass to move the seat position as every-time we changed shifts we need to remove the all cords and reset them as Luke needed a different seat position to me.  But at least it held the seat in place.

At 1900 hrs I received a message from an agent in Sri Lanka on the sat phone.

Stephanie had told me one particular agent was being very aggressive and pushy.  Trying to force her and pressurise her into making decisions to send a boat out with spare parts.  The agent sent me an ultimatum.  Make a decision within one hour on three options:

1. Have a boat sent out with spare parts (very expensive).

2. Enter the closest land point in Sri Lanka (very expensive)

3. Enter the closest port in Sri Lanka called Hambantota (very expensive).

The costs for this agents involvement seemed outrageously high of any option!

He seemed to think he was sitting on a potential gold mine and could pressure us when we were in a difficult situation.  We ignored his messages and Stephanie found another agent who provided wonderful service for only 15% of the cost this character was quoting.

Day 21

We made 110km progress overnight, mainly due to the seat functioning better.

Our target destination had now shifted to the closest port called Hambantota.Hambantota is on the south coat of Sri Lanka and is a commercial port.  It looked to be the closest safe place we could land.  By 1300hrs it was only 180km to Hambantota. Stephanie, Kate and Rachel and Luke’s wife Elise were all flying to Sri Lanka to meet us. We were getting excited now at the thought of reaching Sri Lanka.  Finally it did seem possible we may actually make it.  There was still a cloud of uncertainty whether the seat and gearbox would hold out.  

But another issue started to become more apparent.  I was starting to get concerned about the currents.  As we get closer to Sri Lanka there were very strong south westerly currents which we needed to fight to get into shore.  The weather forecast showed strongish winds 15 – 17 knots from the NE for the next few days which was also not ideal as they would be trying to push us away from shore.

During the night I developed a lot of pain in my left leg.  It was muscular pain and ran down the back of my leg.  The problem with the broken seat had meant I was not peddling in the ideal position and had over extended my leg causing this issue.  It got so bad I could not peddle even one rotation without a lot of pain.  I tried peddling with one leg which did not work well at all.

I told Luke as we changed shifts about my problem.  He suggested using his stretching ball and rolling out my glutes in the cabin.   When I came back for my next shift the pain had improved slightly but after 5 minutes peddling it came back so strongly I simply could not peddle.

In desperation I stood up and tried different stretches in the very limited space on the back deck.

Finally by chance, I found stretching with a straight back leg seemed to help.  It hurt like hell but did release the tension and if I stood up and stretched every 30 minutes even for 60 – 120 seconds, I could keep peddling with manageable pain.

Day 22

We had eaten 3/4 of our food so the boat felt lighter and more unstable.  But we were used to its motion and had confidence in her stability.  By 0900 we were only 120km from the closest point of Sri Lanka.  We were now seeing a number of fishing boats during the day and night (which al asked us the same questions – alcohol and cigarettes?), and also the more intimidating larger 200m long commercial vessels as well.  The land crew had been doing a fantastic job sourcing parts and coordinating with various agencies in Sri Lanka.  Thanks to Stephanie, Elise,  Kaushiq and many more people, they had arranged with the coastguard to bring spare parts to a point 20km offshore where a lighthouse was stationed close to some reefs.  When I looked at the chart I was not confident of getting close to this lighthouse due to the navigation hazards of the reefs but at least it was an option.

We kept getting closer to Sri Lanka though and our speed was good but the wind blew consistently from the north at 15+ knots and was not helping our direction us as we tried to peddle in a westerly direction to reach the coast.  The other problem was the strong south westerly setting current, which combined with the wind meant we were being shunted much more south than we wanted.

We continued our progress throughout the day and into the evening.  We normally peddled with our nav lights off during the night, but due to the presence of ships and fishing boats we left the nav lights on.  This attracted dolphins which I assume were feeding on the fish which were attracted to the lights.  We could hear the dolphins breathing as they swum around us through the night.  For me it felt nice to have their presence, even though I could not see them in the dark.

Day 23

As the sun rose we found ourselves only 40km off the coast of Sri Lanka,  and 110km from the port of Hambantota.  For the first time in the entire trip it looked like there was a real possibility we were going to make it in.

Stephanie, Elise and the girls had now reached Galle and were heading to Hambantota to meet us.  They mentioned the situation has changed with respect to the coastguard, and instead the Navy would bring us the spare parts that evening.  They had also managed to find an agent who could secure our arrival into Hambantota port which was great news.

Around midday I started to pick up Sri Lankan mobile networks on my phone.  We had now reached a point where we were only 22km off the coast of of Sri Lanka.  On a clear day we should have been able to see land, but it was too cloudy and hazy.  We could only see about 5km (as judged by the ships passing us).  Our pace was great, between 2 – 2.5 knots, but the problem was the direction we heading.  As the afternoon wore on we peddled harder and harder but could not get any closer than 22km to the coast. We were now being swept parallel to the coast by the south westerly current, also not helped by the 15 – 17 knot northerly winds.  We peddled as hard as we dared, (taking the broken sprag clutch into consideration) and even though we were pointing the boat directly towards the coast we were being blown sideways through the water.

2150km from Phuket and just 20km off the coast of Sri Lanka we realised we were not going to get any closer.

As the afternoon wore on, our situation became clearly obvious.  We were not going to get any closer than 20km to Sri Lanka.  After travelling over 2150km in 23 days, this looked to be the closest we would get to the coastline by human power.  In fact if we continued like this overnight, tomorrow morning we would be blown south and further away from Sri Lanka, into the Indian Ocean. With the next possible stop Maldives – around 900km away.   We had a conference on deck and I laid out the facts to Luke.  Even though the naval vessel was coming out later that evening to bring spare bearings, did we want to try and continue for another ten days to the Maldives with a broken seat and 7 days worth of food?  The wisest decision we could see was to request a tow in to shore.

Around 6PM that evening, just before dark, we received a call on channel 16 on the VHF from the Sri Lankan Naval vessel. We relayed our coordinates and 10 minutes later they were close to our position.  We released a flare and they found us without issue.  We humbly requested from them that instead of a parts drop off that they tow us into the safety of Hambantota port which they kindly agreed.  We had prepared the boat for towing, so with the wind picking up and the sea state getting rougher, in the darkness we soon had the boat tied on and we transferred to the larger naval vessel and the tow to shore commenced.

The crew were fantastic, friendly, helpful, feeding us hot cups of tea and steaming chicken curry with rice, my first introduction to Sri Lankan food and albeit delicious, was extremely spicy.  I felt highly embarrassed as we sat inside their boat in our filthy state, smelling terrible and horrible rash ridden skin.  Around midnight we were safely alongside the wharf in Hambantota port, and after 23 days and nights at sea in what was the most brutal living conditions I have endured on any expedition, the Bay of Bengal expedition was over.

Luke holding a flare to signal our position to the Sri Lankan Navy.


Technically to claim a crossing of the Bay of Bengal I believe it should be from the mainland of the east coast (Thailand or Malaysia) to the mainland of the west coast (somewhere in India).

I had tried applying for visa’s and permissions to enter India with no success (the bureaucracy of landing in India in a small boat is very challenging).  Then when the issues with the equipment onboard become an issue we settled on Sri Lanka as the final destination.  Therefore I do not consider our journey a successful crossing of the entirety of the Bay of Bengal.

I do however consider it a successful adventure. For me my ideal adventure has these key ingredients:

/ No guarantee of success

/ Must have real risk

/ Uses as little support as practically possible

/ Pushes me far outside my comfort zone

/ It is unique, innovative or creative

I also have three golden rules to abide by on expeditions:

/ Don’t die

/ Don’t get divorced

/ Don’t go broke.

The trip ticked all these boxes for me.  So overall it was very fulfilling.  Due to COVID I had not managed an expedition for over 3 years.  My soul begins to wither when I cannot go on expeditions.  I do not care so much about the goal as I care about the process, the process of ideating, planning, preparing and executing. The process is what gets me out of bed and makes me excited about the future.

Although I have undertaken much longer human powered expeditions, this trip felt exceptionally brutal due to the cramped living conditions in the boat, mechanical issues, strong currents, coupled with the heat and exhaustion.  We could not rest and recover well enough between shifts which meant we became weaker and weaker day by day. Luke was just the best teammate I could have ever hoped for.  During the entire trip we never had one argument. I was incredibly grateful that he chose to suffer with me through this journey even when it almost broke him.

Luke Richmond, the best teammate I could ever have wished for.

It was fantastic to have the students from UWC involved in the trip and see how much interest it generated and how their teachers leveraged the expedition for weeks even after the trip ended, teaching kids about geography, nature and science in such interesting ways.

A fitting end may have been to peddle into Galle Harbour under our own steam with a full set of scientific water samples.  But life is not perfect and I feel grateful and privileged to have taken on this challenge and come out the other side having felt I lived more in those 23 days at sea than I did for one year being locked in the ‘safety’ of home during covid.  I hope someone in the future will make the complete crossing of the Bay of Bengal, all the way to India by human power and our experience may be useful to them.

On a final note, I would like to say a huge thank you to all those who supported and helped us.  There are too many to thank individually here, but you are wonderful people and forever in our appreciation.

The Little Donkey safely on the dockside in Hambantota port with the naval vessel behind her which towed us in.

Posted on April 5, 2023, in Rowing Home. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. wow – Well that is a tale and a half Axe. Huge congratulations to you and Luke for an amazing endeavour, and of course to your amazing family!




  2. Hi Grant Thanks for the post on your Bay of Bengal crossing. Well done, and don’t be so hard on yourself. It was a very successful crossing and I think you are on to something good with your pedal power. Oars are so difficult to use in unhelpful sea conditions, eh, so I think you are on a really good trajectory with your pedal power/propeller alternative.

    I used to spread fertiliser from the Pohokura airstrip for your folks on the Matau farm starting back in the 1960’s. I had the good fortune to cross paths with your Dad at Urenui Beach Camp a few weeks back and we had a good chat catching up on the last few decades. I then called in to the bach they were holidaying at and met your Mum again also. It was really nice to see them after so long.

    My wife Maureen and I have spent time at sea on a few adventures of our own which followed on from my first one in 1963/64 before I started flying and before I met and married Maureen, who was one of the office girls for Rural Aviation, who I was flying for. Attached is a photo of that first yacht, a 23 footer in which I cruised from New Plymouth to Aus via Lord Howe, then up the coast to Cairns across to Papua New Guinea and up to Rabaul, then down through Bougainville, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and back to NZ. Maureen and I have built and cruised a number of boats since then and we lived in Coffs Harbour NSW for 30 years which is where our 2 sons still live. Among the vessels we built at our property in Karangi, inland from Coffs, was Focus,our favourite as we got older and less agile. It enabled us to keep boating after sailing got a bit difficult.

    Keep that adventurous spirit going Grant, even though I know your Mum has some reservations. In addition to all your boating, we are in awe of anyone who has climbed Everest!

    Cheers from Denis and Maureen Lobb

    Sent from Mail for Windows


    • Hi Denis and Maureen! Thanks for reading the blog and reaching out! What amazing adventures you have had on the ocean also! I just took a look at the MV Focus and what a dream machine she is. Perfect for my family 🙂 Is she for sale??


  3. Axe
    As ever you expeditions are so inspiring. What an amazing adventure. Thank you for sharing your experience with us all.
    Big hugs
    Nicola and Shorty xxx


  4. Great read Grant. I think growing up in Taranaki plants a seed for adventure. Look forward to the next adventure. Good luck!


  5. Colin & Jeannette Kelly

    Wow what an experience for you guys that was. You must have nerves of steel, It made great reading for us here sitting on the couch!! It sure was an action-packed trip. Congratulations to you both on that stella effort and thanks heaps for keeping us in the loop.
    Cheers from Colin & Jeannette Queenstown NZ


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