7-12 August 2009

12th August 2009 - Mike's Log And Video Diary From Marshall Islands

I for one don't like to impose on others...James is the same really. But Chris Haarhoff was insistent – if we made it to Maui then one of his best friends would meet us and take care of us. It's nicer to stay in someone's home than most hotels. Well, that is if you get on with your hosts. Jeff met us at the airport took us to his splendid home overlooking the north shore. Sandi and Jeff have an idyllic life. They live in Hawaii and in their spare time Jeff surfs and kite surfs and Sandi rides her horses. They are happy and interesting and we got on brilliantly with them...and they have been together for 35 years. I mean how great is that – 35 years. Thanks Jeff and Sandi.

As Matt said...Maui reminded him of South Africa a bit – the roads, the pace and way of life, the weather. It certainly does.


Have you read that book by Beryl Markham? It is about my favourite book about flying...anyway, we flew west by night like she did. And for the first time James and I are starting to read books and magazines on the long legs. When it is dark it is not that easy because the torch light reflects off the canopy and makes you a bit night blind. And we are much more tired at night – usually because we have already had a busy and active day.

This night flight was a little different – this time we really wanted to dodge the storms. Seriously...they are scary to fly into. The moon took it's time coming up so for the first few hours we strained our eyes looking ahead to try and see the big clouds. There weren't any that really worried us – the little ones we just bashed right through and the big ones remained off to our left and right - at least in the beginning. At about midnight James put his seat back and went to sleep and that is when we started flying into these little rain clouds. Only one of them gave me a real fright because the rain was heavy and right in the middle of it the engine gave a little burp. I guess it drank a big gulp of water because the air intake is right in front. James didn't even notice. After a while James sat up and I told him about the rain...so what we did then was put a blanket over all the instruments so that the cockpit was completely dark and at last we could see and dodge the suspect clouds in the moonlight.

In case you noticed – we sometimes change altitude to avoid clouds but mostly it is to try and find lesser headwinds or stronger tailwinds.

After the sun came up we found a good headwind which didn't please us much and so we descended and descended but at 1,500 ft above the sea it isn't that nice either – even with a tailwind. We run the tanks almost dry - one by one – and with both of us tired we know that if we forget to change tanks in time and the engine takes a while to restart...well, we can do without the stress so even a slight headwind is better. The higher the better but 2,500 ft seems like a good minimum.


Wow, this is an amazing place. With no tourists. An amazing beautiful, exotic, peaceful place with no tourists...you can visit but it is so remote and expensive to get here that there is no tourist trade. Except us. If I remember correctly there are 34 atolls in the Marshall Islands. On this Island there are about 30,000 inhabitants which is quite amazing considering there is no industry, no tourists and just a little bit of fishing. The US have a big military base on one of the atolls from which they conduct part of their star wars program...so there are close ties with the US and the Marshall Islands and that is where most of the money comes from to keep the economy alive.

There is a lot to tell about these places – from the beetle nuts the men chew, to the proliferation of churches, to the glut of cars, to the drinking water for the town which comes from the runway rainwater runoff...I love travelling – it always brings new discoveries and new adventures and you are never quite sure what tomorrow holds. I like uncertainty – it makes you feel alive and keeps you sharp. Mostly.


All being well we will have an 11 hour flight to Chuuk tomorrow. In daylight...yay! We have been warned by a few people to be careful of locals trying to steal from us in Chuuk. OK, we will do our best to keep our stuff safe. The weather looks good with some cloud, a few scattered CB's and mostly a light tailwind. Today we checked the plane, bought food and water, filed a flight plan, the hotel will give us a lift to the airport at 6 am, arranged for immigration to meet us at 6.30am, had a 2 hour sleep, went for a swim at the very end of the island (check out the video) and had a good supper of grilled fish and a few beers at a local restaurant. We are rested and ready.

It's midnight now and time to sleep … bye.


11th August 2009 - Mike & James' Log from Marshall Islands

It's 22h40 here in Majuro and we woke up about 2 hours ago for supper. The plan was to leave at 06h00 tomorrow morning, fly 12 hours to Micronesia, try clear customs, fill up, check the plane, find a hotel, eat, sleep, fly another 11 hours to Biak the next day, same, then 12 to Balikpapan the next, then another 12 to KL, then 10 to Colombo, before one day's rest, then two overnight flights and so on. It just seems a bit crazy. We haven't got food or drink for tomorrow, haven't filed a flight plan and so on. More importantly, we haven't had any opportunity to check over the plane, which raises safety questions.

After a long discussion we've therefore decided to take a day's rest here and also before each of the other legs, so that we get back home one week later. We've got such mixed feelings and it seems like such a disappointment, but to push on and place our lives at risk for the benefit of one week doesn't seem worth it at any level. So the sad news is that we'll only be seeing you guys on Sat 29 August, but we can't wait and it'll mean even more excitement when we do.

We love you (and that includes you Michael!)
James and Mike

11th August 2009 - Mike & James' Log Just After Arrival In Marshall Islands

We're safe in Majuro, Marshall Islands. This place is about as exotic as it gets - just too incredibly different to try to explain in a few lines. The internet's appalling though, so we'll just try get off a couple of shots. Flight was awesome, though we flew through a few storms, the sunrise was immaculate and the ocean this morning was like a millpond. Off to Micronesia early tomorrow morning and more news from there.

11th August 2009 - Arrival in Marshall Islands

After leaving Maui, Hawaii, on the 9th of August, Mike & James flew over the international date line to Majuro in the Marshall Islands to arrive there on Tuesday the 11th of August, in effect skipping a whole day. With the help of some nice tailwinds at stages, our two adventurers took 19 hours to complete this approximately 3,810 kilometer leg. They will stay overnight before continuing their adventure to Chuuk.

For those of you who are interested in viewing a 9 minute video on Marshall Islands, please click the YouTube video below:


10th August 2009 - Video Clips From Chris Haarhoff

Thank you to Chris Haarhoff for sending us video clips of the day Mike & James departed from Los Angeles to Hawaii on the 6th of August.




9th August 2009 - Some thoughts from James

It's about 6 hours until we take-off for the Marshall Islands, which incidentally lie on the west side of the international date line. Maui, which is where we are now, is UTC minus 10 hours (ie– Greenwich mean time minus 10 hours). The Marshall Islands are UTC plus 12 hours. Assuming that the flight takes us 22 hours then, and that we take off 16h00 hours local time today (Sunday 9 August 2009), we'll land at Marshall Islands International two days later at 14h00, on Tuesday 11 August 2009, local time.

(Another thing - although our aircraft range is just less than 26,5 hours, if we were really to nurse her we could maybe just get that in the air. So into a slight headwind to the Marshall Islands, if we were to take off at 23h45 tonight, local time (Sunday 09 August 2009), we could conceivably land there at 00h15 local time, on Wednesday 12 August 09, three days later!


Then the other thing is, if you go around the world to the west you lose a day, so in my 41st year I'm only going to see the sun rise and set 364, not 365 times. As Jeff, our host here in Hawaii pointed out, the only way to fix that would be go around the world again this year, in the other direction. Hhhmm.


Right here at Maui we're at N20 52 W156 25. So we're almost directly on the opposite side of the earth from home. In fact I had a look at it, on Google Earth. It turns out that if you look at it exactly we're precisely opposite what is probably my favourite place in the world – Kubu Island, Botswana, on the Sowa Salt Pan. That makes me feel really good! (And all you people in Johannesburg, if you look down through your feet, that's where we are).


This is an incredibly law abiding nation. Yesterday we popped in at the airfield to do a quick check over the plane. Unfortunately we took no photo id, which is required to get through the gate, onto the tarmac and to our plane. Of course there was absolutely no question who we were - in fact, our photograph, next to our aircraft, was prominent of the cover and page 3 of the daily newspaper for that very day. I offered that as photo id, but it was declined. Then even having gotten hold of the State head of security on the telephone we couldn’t persuade her to make an exception. So the inspection will have to happen just as we leave. Anyhow, I can't imagine that there's another nation in the world where we wouldn't have been able to persuade the person in charge to help us in that position. I suppose whether one thinks that's a good or bad thing would be very much dependent upon your particular view of things. (See if you can guess mine).


Since we have only a VHF radio on board our aircraft and are flying at low altitude, we only have communication of any kind with the outside world for the first 40 minutes of each flight and the last, unless we get an airliner overhead on the airline chat frequency. We had a couple of chats over the Pacific, one with an Hawaiian Airlines captain called Vic Spears. I just got an email from him which reads – "Hi guys, I spoke to you guys about 6 hours before you landed. Glad you made it OK. Best of luck the rest of your journey. God speed. Regards, Vic Spears, Hawaiian Airlines flight 10 Captain". Pretty cool to make an acquaintance like that somewhere over the Pacific, then stay in touch. Usually we get the airliners to relay a message to ATC, and often they want to know what we're up to. One guy over the Pacific left us with this – "Hey, you guys are definitely the best men among us up here right now. Good luck." That left us feeling pretty good.

Oh well, Mike and I are off for a bit of a run now, so must sign off. More from Marshall Isles.


8th August 2009 - Video Diary, and LA to Hawaii Videos




8th August 2009 - The Maui News cover the arrival of Mike & James in Maui

The Maui News did a nice article on Mike & James' arrival in Maui. Click here to view the full article...

7th August 2009 - Mike's Log from Hawaii

We wanted to leave at 4. That was the plan but you know how everything takes longer than you thought it would. The idea was that we would spend a few hours servicing the engine and checking over everything and then we would have time to do stuff like hike up to the Hollywood sign, experience the LA nightlife, skate down the boardwalk on Venice Beach but ….

Hurricane Felicia came into the picture and it looked like we would be killed on the spot by her if we left too late. So we thought about it for a second or two and decided to forego the naughty pleasures of LA and work to get ready to leave at 4 pm Thursday.

4 pm would mean that we would have 4 hours of daylight to settle into the flight before darkness set in … but as the day wore on everything took longer and so the departure was delayed until 8. Gene helped with servicing the engine, Ray brought water, Matt helped with absolutely everything including advise and a flight for both James and I in his Christen Eagle. Chris and Kerry brought us lots of food and drinks and support.

On every flight we swop seats – this time I was the pilot. It was my first night take off in the Sling which didn’t bother me but still I was hyped up and nervous. I was nervous about getting airborne and climbing clear of the buildings at the end of the runway in the darkness, I was nervous of not making it to Hawaii. I was uncertain about our fuel endurance and range. Luckily the evening was cool so the Sling lept into the air and climbed well. We skirted around some Class B airspace and then immediately headed out to sea. In the pale moonlight we could see the cloud banks in front of us which we skimmed over .. and then as the minutes ticked by and we set the engines and prop up for the most economical cruise. James and I were shocked to find the headwind at double what we were expecting.

At first we thought that it was jut local winds but after 7 hours of headwinds of between 10 and 30 knots we started to worry and talked about turning back. And then the winds started to swing and slowly but surely they became tailwinds and their strength increased. For at least half the flight the calculations showed we would not make it. At one point it looked like we would run out of fuel 500 km short of Hawaii. So we gambled a little on the strength of the tailwind increasing like Tim told us it would – you were right Tim … thanks, we were sweating for a while.

The flight went well although exhausting. Still, we are loving the flying, the rush of the difficult flying and endurance, the testing of our skills. James and I are getting on extremely well and we are having a lot of fun even though his luggage is heavier than mine! I have just read all the chat zone messages again – thanks … and especially thanks to all the old friends some of whom I haven’t seen for years.

I haven’t slept yet and am struggling to make sense … more later! Yahoo we are in Hawaii.


7th August 2009 - Arrival in Hawaii

Mike and James arrived safely in Halului, Maui (Hawaii) after flying a distance of approximately 3,987 kilometres in 21½ hours from Los Angeles.

We received a sms from Mike & James just before landing:

We decided in flight to change our destination to Maui instead of Hilo once we knew we could make it because we will have friends meet us.

The first part of the flight was stressful because we took off in the dark for the first time and then fought 20 knot headwinds for the first 7 hours and only found the tailwinds after halfway accross. Total time 21.4 hrs and still have 3 hrs fuel left because we flew carefully being worried about going for a swim. Tired but smiling. Going in for a landing.

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