The World's Toughest Paddle

Launching in...
Vaquita II and I in December 2024 will embark on an epic journey to circumnavigate the entire African continent. What makes this ocean-going expedition extraordinary is the unique human pedal boat design that sets Vaquita II apart from any other vessel.
Neels Terblanche
Owner - Vaquita II

The Name: Vaquita II

The vaquita is a critically endangered species of porpoise that is found only in the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez, in Mexico. It is the smallest cetacean species in the world, with adults typically measuring less than five feet in length and weighing less than 55kg.

The vaquita is under severe threat due to a combination of factors, including bycatch in fishing nets, illegal fishing activities, and habitat destruction. The primary cause of the vaquita’s decline is accidental entanglement in gillnets used in the illegal fishing of the totoaba fish, whose swim bladder is highly valued in China for its purported medicinal properties.
According to estimates, there were only around 30 vaquita individuals left in the wild as of 2020. The species is now considered to be the most endangered marine mammal in the world, and conservationists have been working hard to try to save the remaining individuals.
Efforts to protect the vaquita have included the creation of a gillnet-free area in the northern Gulf of California, as well as efforts to increase enforcement of fishing regulations and promote sustainable fishing practices. There have also been attempts to capture and relocate some vaquita individuals to a protected sanctuary, but these efforts have been controversial and have met with limited success.

Overall, the vaquita’s plight highlights the importance of protecting endangered species and their habitats, and the need for international cooperation in conservation efforts.

About Vaquita II the boat

Vaquita II is an exceptional pedal boat that was designed by Dudley Dix, a well-known yacht designer & Architect from South Africa now residing in the United States, and built by Tertius Du Plessis, based in Rheenendal, Knysna South Africa.

  • Dry Weight of 450kg
  • Wet Weight and loaded 1500kg
  • Ribbed for stability
  • Only 3 known ocean pedal boats in existence.
  • Slow rotation propeller with soft blades to reduce the risk to harm to marine life.
  • Low drag design – both air and water.
  • Self-righting capabilities.

The use of a shallow barn-door type rudder is also a smart design choice, as it will help the boat to be easily steered in downwind trade wind conditions. This can be particularly important when operating in open water or in conditions where wind and waves can be unpredictable.

I know that I’ll encounter bad weather many times on my voyages, so it’s designed to be resistant to breaking waves and to roll back upright when (rather than if) it capsizes. The shape of the boat is optimized for low resistance to breaking waves, and the design ensures that it can roll back upright even when I’m in rough waters. To help maintain stability, the tankage and stowage compartments was placed low down in the hull to lower the center of gravity.

To further ensure that the boat remains stable, the deck and cabin are shaped to float the boat high if inverted with the hatches and ports closed. I can also use my own weight inside the boat to help it roll back to upright if needed. This is important to me because I know that I’ll encounter a variety of conditions on my voyages, and I want to be prepared for anything.

For construction, the chosen method was a stitch-&-glue plywood method, assembled over permanent bulkheads and partial bulkheads. This construction method is both strong and lightweight, which is important for a boat that will be used for human-powered journeys. The interior is divided into three compartments, separated by full bulkheads with companion hatches. Both ends are berth length, which allows for one or two crew members to comfortably travel with me on my voyages. If need be.

The Challenge

Numerous individuals have undertaken remarkable expeditions across the African continent, utilizing various means of transportation. Land Rover vehicles have facilitated some travelers in traversing the entire length of the continent, while others have circumnavigated Africa on bicycles. Additionally, nearly 300 individuals have successfully rowed across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans in rowing boats. However, to date, no one has ever accomplished the extraordinary feat of paddling approximately 28,000 kilometers around the entire continent of Africa, spanning seven oceans and navigating the treacherous waters infested with pirates in the East African region.

In pursuit of this unprecedented endeavor, I have meticulously planned the following logistical requirements:

Water Consumption: On average, I will consume 10 liters of water per day to maintain hydration throughout the arduous journey.

Caloric Intake: Given the physically demanding nature of the expedition, I anticipate burning between 4,500 and 5,000 calories per day, necessitating a diet consisting of highly calorific dehydrated meals. These meals, similar to astronaut food, will need to be rehydrated with boiling water. If fortunate, I may have the opportunity to supplement my diet with fresh fish.

Pedaling: I will pedal for approximately 8 to 12 hours each day, propelling the human-powered boat forward and making progress toward the next destination.

Sleep: Due to the demanding schedule, I anticipate allocating only 2 hours per day for sleep, enabling me to maintain the required pace and momentum.

In addition to personal challenges, I am also committed to raising R1,000,000 to support malnourished children across Africa, contributing to the mission of the Mission 5 Million foundation.

The planned commencement of this extraordinary journey is scheduled for December 2024, from Mossel Bay, subject to favorable weather conditions and rigorous sea trials to test the pedal gear systems. The initial leg of the expedition, from Mossel Bay to Hermanus, will serve as a test in the face of gusty and unpredictable westerly weather conditions, far from land. Subsequently, the second leg from Hermanus to Cape Town will allow for comprehensive assessments and mitigations of any potential life-threatening challenges that may arise.

Cape Town will serve as the final port of call on the South African coast, where I will reside at Cape Town W&A Waterfront for 2 to 3 days, restocking essential supplies for the subsequent 3,000-kilometer stretch to Jamestown, St Helena Island. This particular segment of the expedition will serve as a grueling test of endurance and resilience, lasting between 45 to 60 days and characterized by complete solitude. During this voyage, I will endure sleep deprivation, salt sores, debilitating fatigue, and the relentless assault of enormous waves. Optimistically, I anticipate the assistance of the strong southeasterly winds and the prevailing Cold Benguela current to propel and guide me forward.

From Jamestown, an additional 1,300 kilometers lie ahead, leading to George Town, Ascension Island. This leg of the journey will still rely on the South Easterly winds and currents for propulsion. Adequate food supplies will be stocked to account for the possibility of missing the small islands of Cat Hill and Georgetown, located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Ascension Island itself is situated approximately halfway between Africa and South America.

Subsequently, the expedition becomes significantly more challenging, as I navigate towards Cape Verde, crossing the Equator and pedaling against the clockwise trade winds that blow towards the Americas. Navigating through this phase necessitates identifying optimal weather conditions and windows of opportunity, considering both wind patterns and currents. Insights gained from the experiences of fellow peddlers and rowers have emphasized the susceptibility of these slow-moving boats to the influence of winds and currents. Moreover, the equatorial region’s scorching heat will undoubtedly play a crucial role in personal performance, despite the presence of a fan within the cabin to alleviate temperatures that can reach up to 40 degrees Celsius.

Pressing forward, I will confront the heat, opposing Canary currents, and prevailing winds for several days as I make my way towards the Canary Islands, encompassing Funchal, Porto Santo, and eventually navigating through the Strait of Gibraltar. Depending on the sea state and weather conditions, an alternative strategy may involve hugging the Moroccan coast to contend with lighter winds and current flows, although this approach presents its own set of challenges associated with proximity to the shoreline.

The Mediterranean Sea poses another set of obstacles, with its bustling shipping lanes, numerous cargo and passenger ships, and narrow passages. Combined with warm winds and currents, these factors render the Mediterranean a less desirable stretch of the journey. Luxuries such as leisurely indulgence in Santorini’s wine will be unattainable, as progress through the Mediterranean will demand vigilance, minimal sleep, and constant monitoring of AIS alarms for approaching vessels until reaching Port Said, Egypt, and entering the Suez Canal.

After extensive communication with port authorities, I have successfully obtained authorization to traverse the Suez Canal without employing a motor or sails. As a formality, a skipper will be assigned to the boat during this section of the journey. I eagerly welcomed this development, as the skipper will assume the responsibility of pedaling the boat for the 80-kilometer stretch, navigating the path and avoiding encounters with large cargo ships, allowing me to rest. Upon the authorities’ refusal to assign a skipper, they granted passage to Vaquita instead, albeit at an additional cost. After covering a further 116 kilometers, I will reach the Great Bitter Lake, where a brief respite will be taken before continuing through the remaining portion of the Suez Canal and arriving at Port Taofik, marking the entrance into the Red Sea. This port will also serve as a rendezvous point for resupplying essential provisions and conducting maintenance tasks.

The Red Sea, spanning approximately 2,250 kilometers, features narrow stretches of ocean, notably the Gulf of Suez and the Bab al-Mandab Strait, where I will closely skirt the coast of Somalia, remaining 125 kilometers from Djibouti. From the Bab al-Mandab Strait to Socotra, the distance spans 1,200 kilometers, and it is advisable to maintain a considerable distance from the Somalian coastline, requesting protection from the SDF (Somalia Defense Forces), who are still engaged in patrolling the Gulf of Aden to counteract piracy.

Based on prevailing weather conditions and other relevant factors, a decision will be made regarding the next course of action. Opting for a cautious approach, I may choose to head toward the Maldives, thus increasing the expanse of water between myself and Somalia. However, this route entails contending with various currents, including the formidable North Equatorial Current, which gradually pushes one closer to Somalia. Alternatively, I might decide to head directly to the Seychelles, saving nearly 2,500 kilometers and carefully selecting currents to expedite progress within a reasonable timeframe. The Seychelles will also serve as a rendezvous point for acquiring new supplies, ensuring the continuation of the expedition. Crossing the Equator once again, I hope for calm seas and minimal wind, although these conditions will once again subject me to intense heat within the cabin, necessitating the constant operation of the 12V fans. The assistance of the South Equatorial current will ideally facilitate swift progress towards the warm Mozambican coast and into the Agulhas current, propelling me southward.

Once more, I will cross the Equator, enduring potentially calm seas and minimal wind, while the 12V fans combat the cabin’s sweltering heat. With the cooperation of the South Equatorial current, I aim to advance expeditiously toward the African coast, propelled by the relentless force of the Agulhas current, inching closer to Comoros, situated 1,500 kilometers away. A thorough examination of currents and wind forecasts, supplemented by information provided by the land-based support team, will guide my navigation down the center of the Madagascar channel, leading to an atoll known as Bassas da India. From this juncture, careful planning will dictate the final legs of the expedition towards the South African coast, potentially targeting Durban, or if favorable weather conditions persist, extending the journey to Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), marking the first landfall on South African soil. Subsequently, a favorable opportunity will be awaited to reach Mossel Bay amidst tranquil weather conditions.

The estimated duration of this extraordinary expedition is approximately 24 months, with the primary objective of setting a world record for the longest distance paddled in a human-powered boat. Simultaneously, the overarching mission is to raise funds for the Mission 5 Million foundation, a noble initiative aimed at combating malnutrition among five million children worldwide.

The Captain

A born explorer with extensive travel experience across the world and the African continent, I have constantly sought change and challenge, both physically and mentally. From bungee jumping and skydiving to taking sabbaticals in the Kalahari, participating in endurance cycle tours and races, flying micro-light aircraft, and sailing yachts along the African coast, including competing in yacht races, I have embraced a life of adventure.

Driven by an innate sense of curiosity and a desire to live life to the fullest, I firmly believe that embracing constant change is the key to a fulfilling existence. I approach life as an adventure, constantly seeking new experiences and opportunities to grow and evolve. I firmly believe that we have only one chance to live life, and it should be lived to its fullest potential.

At the age of 16, I joined the Hermanus See & Sand Lifeguarding as a volunteer, and during the following two years, I found immense reward in helping people along the way. As a lifeguard, I had the privilege of saving 14 individuals from the surf, an experience that further solidified my passion for assisting and inspiring others.

In 2004, I obtained both my Private Pilot’s License (PPL) and Yacht License, further fueling my thirst for adventure and exploration. I have derived great joy from leading tour groups to remote and seldom-visited places, sharing the wonders of these hidden gems with fellow adventurers.

 

Although I had to abandon an extreme expedition eight years ago before its launch, I now have the opportunity to undertake a new challenge at the perfect time. Combining my love for cycling and my desire to push the boundaries, I have decided to embark on this journey in a pedal boat, relying solely on human power.

My motivation for undertaking these adventures goes beyond personal fulfillment. I aspire to use the stories and lessons from my experiences to inspire individuals, teams, and organizations to achieve things they never believed possible. It is my deepest wish to encourage individuals to reflect on their own lives, their dreams, and their unique purpose. I firmly believe that each person has a reason for their existence and a vision that is meant to be pursued.

By sharing my own immense and sometimes daunting path, I hope to inspire others to take those initial steps towards their true calling, avoiding a life spent wandering down paths chosen by others or dictated by chance. If everyone were to live out their true purpose, the world would undoubtedly be a better place.

After a career in the corporate environment that left me feeling unsatisfied and uninspired, I have come to realize that time is our most valuable resource. It is time to step out of my comfort zone and pursue a life of adventure. By giving up societal expectations and my previous career, I am fully committed to embracing the unknown and pursuing a life of pure adventure.

Living at sea is a simple yet challenging way of life that should never be taken for granted. Just as Kingsley Holgate traveled the length of the African continent in a Land Rover, and Riaan Manser and Davey Du Plessis circumnavigated Africa on their bicycles, I now aim to paddle the 28,000 kilometers around the continent of Africa, crossing seven oceans and navigating the pirate-infested waters of West and East Africa. While numerous individuals have rowed across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans in rowing boats, fewer people have accomplished the feat of crossing oceans in human-powered vessels than those who have stood atop Mount Everest.

Driven by my deep passion for the ocean and its inhabitants, I have followed the journeys of many ocean rowers and sailors. I have always dreamt of sailing, rowing, or paddling the vastness of the ocean, experiencing its solitude and testing my resilience and ability to adapt to isolation.

I firmly believe that ordinary individuals possess the extraordinary capacity to achieve great things. It is my hope that through my own endeavors, I can inspire others to push their limits, break free from their comfort zones, and embark on their own remarkable journeys of self-discovery and accomplishment. Together, we can make a positive impact on the world by embracing our true purpose and living life to its fullest potential.

Vusi Marenene Biography

To adequately pre-pare for this challenging expedition, over the course of the next 18 months, my partner Vusi and I have planned to undertake a rigorous cycling regimen covering 20,000 kilometers on the road. Our chosen mode of transportation will be bicycles, with me utilizing a mountain bike and Vusi employing a handcycle, showcasing his indomitable spirit despite his physical limitations.

Where am I?

Track my progress

I’m set to start my 2 year journey in December of 2024. 

Brand Ambassador

We are actively seeking brand partners who can offer mutual support by providing me with kit, food, products, or services for this project. While we welcome all types of equipment or products, it is important that they align with the ethics of the expedition and complement the other sponsors.

As a brand partner, we will ensure that your support is widely publicized on our social media channels and website, with the volume of coverage being proportional to the scale of your product or service offering. We are willing to negotiate this in advance with you to ensure a mutually beneficial partnership.

If you have any products or services that you can supply, please feel free to contact me directly to discuss this opportunity further.

Boat Branding

A Human Powered boat is quite a sight! Not only will Vaquita II be crossing several oceans, as part of a world first and world record attempt monitoring by the Ocean Rowing Society in the UK with the big media coverage of any ocean event, but for 18 months prior, will be wheeled out to charity fundraisers and boat shows regularly. 

Partnering with the Sea-Battical voyage will cement your logo on one of the world’s more unique billboards; with access via all media platforms to over 3 billion people across the globe!

Funding and support

The central objective of the Campaign is to overcome the most crucial obstacle that lies ahead of me: arriving at the starting line in Mosselbay fully prepared to face the challenge ahead. This demands a comprehensive array of medical, safety equipment, food, training gear, and a strong dose of determination.

However, achieving this goal is only possible with the support of sponsors like you. By joining forces with us throughout the Campaign, our partners will gain significant exposure to a vast audience, along with tailor-made sponsorship packages and brand activations.

The boat will be adorned with highly visible logos upon reaching Mossel Bay, potentially reaching over 10 million individuals during the voyage, including 1 million+ media impressions, 5 million global viewers via television coverage, and 50 million in online readership, providing an exceptional return on your investment.

Sponsorship Packages

Available from R25,000 – R500,000

The benefits that can be offered are subject to negotiation but may include the following:

  • A customized marketing strategy tailored to your business, using my campaign to enhance your brand further.
  • Opportunities for cross-collaboration between sponsors to generate mutually beneficial sales.
  • Your logo displayed on the boat, with the size proportional to your percentage of engagement.
  • Your logo prominently displayed on the front or back of expedition-branded clothing (available only for contributions of R50,000 or more).
  • Exposure on our website, social media, and mentions in all radio and television interviews.
  • Regular posts across all our social media platforms, with the volume of posts relative to the level of support provided.
  • Meet-and-greet events with your company prior to the expedition.
  • The option to spread the cost of your donation over multiple payments.
  • The ability to donate any amount from R25,000 to R500,000.
  • Access to all expedition photography and videography.
  • The boat will be displayed at the Johannesburg and Cape Town Boat show with your brand logo on it.

Donate to my
expedition

Embarking on a 2 year long journey, I’ve explored the far corners of the world and the sprawling landscapes of Africa, driven by an unyielding thirst for change and challenge. My adventurous spirit has led me to bungee jumping, skydiving, sabbaticals in the Kalahari, and the rigors of endurance cycle tours and races. I’ve soared through the skies in micro-light aircraft and sailed the enchanting African coast. Life, to me, is a grand adventure—a canvas awaiting the brushstrokes of constant change and creative living. With an innate willingness to embrace the evolving tapestry of life, I believe that seizing every moment is the key to truly living.

In my quest for a life well-lived, I’ve undertaken a voyage with a purpose. This journey serves as a vessel for various noble causes close to my heart. Firstly, it is dedicated to Operation Smile, aiming to bring smiles back to the faces of children born with deformities. Additionally, it seeks to address the issue of malnourished children worldwide, advocating for good nutrition for those in need. In honor of my dear friend Vussi Marenene, a former top fitness sportsman turned quadriplegic after a tragic cycling accident, the journey aims to raise awareness about the challenges faced by those with disabilities.

Pedal for smiles Fundraiser

I intend using this expedition to raise funds for good causes and therefore would love to be considered for raising funds for a worthy cause such as Operation Smile. In fact, along with the personal achievement of completing this challenge, nothing would give me greater pleasure than knowing that children will benefit in the way those who are being assisted by Operation Smile do.

Ordinary people have the ability to do great things…….. so, join me as my virtual crew as I traverse the seas that surround Africa raising funds to help a child smile with confidence. For every R5,500 raised another child can receive a 45 min operation and a new smile!

By donating R35 per kilometer we will help a child smile every 160 km’s paddled of the 28000 total km’s. A total of 175 new smiles around Africa

Raffle Ticket Rules:

1. Eligibility: Participation is open to individuals of all ages. However persons below the age of 18 must be under adult supervision during their stay at Louvain Guest Farm.

2. Ticket Sales: Tickets will be available for purchase online starting April 1, 2024. There is no limit to the number of tickets a single person may buy. Each ticket is priced at R150 and can only be purchased online.

3. Prize Description: The prize includes accommodation for 8 people at “Fiela se Huis”, Louvain Guest Farm, subject to availability after the ticket draw. Additionally, the prize comprises micro-lite flights for 4 individuals (weather permitting) and an Ostrich steak Braai demonstration. The total prize value is estimated at R12000. It should be noted that the prize is non-transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash. Booking should be direct wit Louvain guest farm. guestfarm@louvain.co.za or 067 475 8547

4. Drawing Date and Location: The raffle draw is scheduled for November 30, 2024.

5. Winner Notification: Winners will be announced on various social media platforms. A grace period of one week will be allotted for winners to contact the organizers. Failure to do so within this timeframe will result in the next name drawn being awarded the prize. To qualify for the prize, participants must like the Sea-Battical Facebook page, use their name as a reference in the electronic funds transfer (EFT), and send proof of payment and name via WhatsApp to 0837272908.

6. Publicity: Winners will be notified across all social media platforms, and images of the prize presentation will be shared publicly.

7. Legal Compliance: The raffle bank account is managed by Lumenrock Accountants located at Baron van Reede Street, Oudtshoorn, specifically in the Jan Lotz Huis building. The raffle draw will be overseen by Lumenrock to ensure legal compliance.

8. Proceeds: Proceeds from the raffle will benefit Operation Smile, the M5M Foundation, Vussi Marenene Para-Cyclist, the Sea-Battical around Africa project, and administrative costs. The objectives include supporting Operation Smile in providing cleft lip surgeries for children, raising awareness for para-cyclists, feeding malnourished children worldwide through the M5M Foundation, the Sea-Battical Around Africa Project and aiding in the conservation efforts to save the critically endangered Vaquita Porpoise from extinction.

Disclaimers: The prize cannot be exchanged for cash. The organizers cannot be held liable for any incidents or accidents occurring during the visit to Louvain Guest Farm or during any related activities. The decision of the organizers is final, and no disputes will be entertained.

Modification or Cancellation: The organizers reserve the right to modify or cancel the raffle if deemed necessary due to unforeseen circumstances, acts of God, or insufficient participation.
Should you have any further inquiries or require additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us. info@sea-battical.co.za

My Blog

If War prevails. Navigating Challenges: Finding New Horizons – Plan B

Greetings, fellow adventurers! Today, I want to share with you a unique chapter in my maritime journey—a tale of resilience and adaptation amidst the ever-changing ...
Read More →

An Epic Day with Balancell Intelligent Batteries

Greetings, fellow adventurers! Today was nothing short of extraordinary as I had the privilege of attending a training day at Balancell Energy in Cape Town, ...
Read More →

Exciting Raffle Ticket

Join the Adventure: Raffle Tickets Now Available for an Unforgettable Getaway Looking for the ultimate getaway experience? Look no further! We’re thrilled to announce that ...
Read More →

Our Sponsors

Send Me a message