Paddling from Australia to New Zealand 2022

Everyone needs goals and dreams. This is the story of a dream to paddle a kayak solo and unassisted from Australia to New Zealand. The goal is to inspire more people to be more active and adventurous and to follow their own dreams.

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The Boat - Infographic

Infographic below shows key features of the boat design and tracks of previous Trans-Tasman crossings by kayak. Shows Richard's during the first 2021-22 attempt - and updates for the 2022-23 attempt. Courtesy of Mario Lendvai of Broken Yellow.

Day 49 - G for Grand

A part of me wants to experience rougher weather - the thrills, to see what it is like, to see how BM and I measure up. Another part of me really enjoys the quieter moments.

It reminds me of a stretch of the Franklin River, called the Great Ravine. It contains four of the biggest rapids on the river, but also has three beautiful, serene and quiet runs between the rapids. Is either better, or do they coexist to highlight the differences. I can remember at the time, being a relative novice to white water and at the height of the No Dams issue, being particularly happy to float and recover on the quiet parts.

I have now had two calm afternoons in a row on the Tasman Sea. This afternoon felt particularly grand. Warm sunshine. No wind. Tiny wavelets not thinking of breaking. It was almost dry paddling. BM was tracking along with little need to steer. No hidden currents so speed was fine. An albatross landed nearby a couple of times for a chat. It made me feel unstoppable, if only a desalination session didn’t beckon. I could paddle along not concentrating, absorbing nature all around, and letting thoughts flit lazily through my mind.

Definitely a grand moment.

Day 48 – Soup Disaster

There have been two occasions on Tasman II when I have been put to the test and found short of the right stuff.

The first was when I lost my main sea anchor and broke the rudder restraining system, the story of which was shared on day 35.

Two nights ago, just after midnight, I spilt my soup.

It was to be dinner’s final course, a hot cup to send me happily to sleep.

Unfortunately at the critical moment, a big wave crashed into BM and sent lots of things flying.

It generally had been fairly flat and calm, and soup was in a lidded cup. Nevertheless, the outcome was a cupful of mess spread all round the vestibule, and liberally over me. Reflecting from this distance, it was disappointing to miss out on the contents, and to have to clear up the mess.

In that moment of shock, I was not sure whether to cry or scream abuse at the wave. Many inanimate bystanding objects got caught in the crossfire, and lamed for what was essentially my own lack of care. Things might well have gone overboard as the punishment for this innocence, if the hatches had not both been shut.

Ultimately a sponge and bucket got the soup overboard and the vestibule back to a semblance of order, and I retreated to my bedroom, lying there contemplating my grievances.

Partly because of being solo, perspective comes more gradually.

What I needed was a large dose of Ian’s literary magic.

He has taken verse 3 of Banjo Patterson’s Mulga Bill and reworded it to cover the great soup disaster. Thought up in a day, it just has to be shared with everyone. Thanks Ian for helping put minor incidents in their rightful place.

‘Twas Barnacle Barnes, from Collaroy, that sought his boiled water
That perched atop the gimballed stove, chicken soup on order
He turned the flame down a tad, drooling for the flavour
But ere he’d done a dozen stirs, BIue M00n hit a wave-ARR!
Cup left the shelf, flew through the knees, outcome was quite certain
Soup drizzled down the walls 'n floor, hunger pangs now hurtin’

(vs original verse 3 below) or see the whole poem here
'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that sought his own abode,
That perched above the Dead Man's Creek, beside the mountain road.
He turned the cycle down the hill and mounted for the fray,
But ere he'd gone a dozen yards it bolted clean away.
It left the track, and through the trees, just like a silver streak,
It whistled down the awful slope, towards the Dead Man's Creek

Day 47 - Weight

First a big hello from afar and Happy Birthday to Miranda, supplier of my magic cache of mouthwatering macadamias.

Fellow seakayaker and marathon paddler Ruby asked about any weight loss on this journey.

I do know BM has been losing weight, around 20kg per week, so she will be coming home trimmer. It is a mini medical experiment for the human.

I have been eating just about as much as I feel I can cram in.

It is fun reading the labels on packaging, especially since on Tasman II they are still dry and intact. My daily calorie intake is about 5000. There is more fish than in my normal diet, less bread, no takeaways, so I am probably taking in more protein and less carbs and fat.

My legs definitely look like they are getting thinner. Clever really, the human machine registers lack of use, so slows down supply. By contrast, I might wish to be building arm muscles like Hercules, but the reality is that my arms look scrawnier than ever. Body visually seems to be about the same as ever.

There was only one day very early on with the slightest hint of seasickness, so no major weight change by that mode.

My summary would be that 3-5kg might have gone, so scales at the finish might show me sitting on 70kg.'

It is not going to stop me sharing a feast with the welcome party.

Ocean paddling doesn’t look like it will take off as a means to dieting.

On destination, Invercargill still a possibility. I paddled NE today, but made due E because of the wind. Milford still calmer, safer, preferred.

Above: With thanks to Hagen Cartoons!

Day 46 - Paddle Strokes

After a recent report, David L commented “A journey of 600km is completed one stroke at a time. No rush.” It dovetails with one of my journey guides from Jill G that “there is always one more stroke”.

Just how many strokes will there be on Tasman II?

To make the number bigger, we’ll count each blade hitting the water as one paddle strike.

I do very approximately one paddle strike per second in BM.

That means 3600 strikes per hour, or for an 8 hour paddling day, about 30,000 paddle strikes per day. With 46 days now done, I am up to almost 1.5 million strikes.

If it takes say 70 days, the tally will be about 2.3 million paddle strikes.

Add to that Tasman I, and this reliable paddle will have hit the water about 4,000,000 times.

I hope Jantex test their carbon fibre for fatigue loading.

Day 45 - Inside 600

A new seamark passed today, in the slow,sometimes erratic slide from halfway to home.

BM is now under 600km from destination New Zealand.

If the albatross distance for the adventure is about 1700km, that puts us about 35% yet to complete, or in Hawkesbury Classic terms, close to Low Tide Pitstop. Unfortunately no scones out here, but nor is there any mud. There are so many ways to view 600km.

If driving from Melbourne to Sydney up the Hume, then you would not yet have left Victoria. Destination would be only a day’s motoring away. If on a bicycle, then a few days.

I think it might have been long distance touring canoeist Frank K that suggested 600km was simply one Murray 200 plus one Massive Murray 400, albeit in a boat three times as slow.

For Lane Cove paddlers familiar with the weekly 12km course, once a week for a year will get you to 600km too.

Out in space, our rockets and satellites and space stations whiz through 600km in the blink of an eye. To an ant or a tortoise, 600km is an unimaginable travel dream.

I like to think it gives hope, that all of us on this adventure will arrive together.

But I also know that it is plenty of distance for a storm or ten, for breakages, and all those other unknowns to rear their heads.

A mini celebration then, before plodding on to the next sea mark.

Above: With thanks to Hagen Cartoons!

Day 44 - S for Smorgasbord

Who doesn’t love a good smorgasbord?

Two to recommend are breakfast at the Grand Chancellor in Hobart, or dinner at the Intercontinental Sydney. Or who is old enough to remember Cahills restaurants in Sydney, or even when Pizza Hut served eat-in smorgasbord?

However that is all about food, which is always on my mind, but my pleasurable thoughts today were about the smorgasbord of moods served up by the ocean.

Over the last two days, I have been paddling on a glass ocean, and on a very bumpy ocean. Both have their joys. They need different levels of attention and concentration. On the flat water, paddling can be handled almost on autopilot, leaving mind free to search for rare wildlife. On the rough, it deserves more attention. I tend to use my flap-cap to hide my face from flying spray, so duck when hearing a steamroller breaker approaching. Similarly, I tend to brace for those big ones, a leftover from whitewater days. Fortunately self-righting BM looks after balance.

Just this afternoon, I watched the sea change mood. We began in strong NW winds and waves, and transitioned to mild W wind. It only took about 15 minutes for the transformation, like an actor during a change in outfit. The wind abated. So did the waves. They lost all their whitecaps, starting with the ripples, then the bigger breakers, leaving a quiet ocean. Amazing to experience it. Bring on more of the ocean smorgasbord courses.

And is there a good place to eat that someone can suggest in Milford Sound?

Day 43 - Rough Day

“Its going to be hard. But hard is not impossible.”

The quote comes from the ever-imaginative Lyn Battle.

Two days ago, the ocean was like a lake. Where was the hard in paddling water that tippy K1s could scoot around?

Today is more like the answer. The temperature has been a cool 15C. The wind was forecast at 25knots from the north, which my hand anemometer measured as 35kmh at face level. Waves forecast at 3m were every bit of that, and came on top of the swell. My heading east put BIue M00n side-on to the waves.

This is challenging but fun paddling. There were many broken and breaking waves. These wash over the foredeck, or splash around me, or thunk into the cabin. It is a wet ride. Cabin hits tend to create sudden lateral movement plus substantial rotation, just like on any good amusement park ride. Here there is no guessing when or how big. BIue M00n has great seagoing attributes to safely handle this.

Parked tonight, there is a lot of noise and commotion. The small sea drogue is doing its best to keep us stern-on to the waves. Those parallel waves roll past with relatively little impact. When waves hit at an angle, the boat shakes, rolls and judders, and the contents including me with it. I plan to strap into my bed tonight. I have both hatches tightly shut. Any attempts to have them cracked open for ventilation have let in water. Waves in fact are regularly sluicing across both.

I stopped paddling earlier than sun-time today, as the transition from cockpit to cabin is my high-risk move. I expose the vestibule to flooding for as long as I need to have the hatch open, and the cockpit too to inundation as soon as spraydeck is peeled open to set the sea anchor. Hard but not impossible, and now I am cosily inside, wondering if the weather will calm down enough to safely permit transitioning and paddling tomorrow.

Day 42 - T for Trivia

Trivia and gossip - it is what men are supposed to be good at.

By nature trivia is not vital or important. Whether we wear red or yellow today will not impact climate change.

On regular days at work we make decisions which have consequences. As engineers, if we get it wrong, buildings fall down. As architects, errors can lead to stair levels not matching floors, or wheelchairs not fitting through doorways.

So we escape to trivia on holidays, and share it over a croissant and coffee.

Let me share some of my day’s trivia:

  • contemplating how late I could sleep in
  • choosing what to have for dinner, steak and kidney pie or regular dehydrated meal. Dehyd won, which is fine because they are delicious
  • opting for camera or Gopro to record the antics of my shark mate
  • deciding on my heading, ENE, E or ESE; E won, its easier to read on the compass.
  • and this one is big, and I am very excited to reveal. It relates to The Man From Snowy River. After 42 days of literary industry, I have stuffed the lines and rhymes into my mind for all 12 verses. The world premiere recital was this afternoon. The theatre was large, the whole Tasman Sea horizon to horizon. Most of the seats were empty, bar a few shearwaters, like the pair of old codgers from the Muppets. But it felt grand to shout out all 96 lines to the world. Thanks John D for providing these endless hours of entertainment.

So go with trivia for a feel-good positive day.

Above: With thanks to Hagen Cartoons!

Overall Progress to 24 Jan (from Phil N)

Above: The crumb trail left by Richard since he left on December 14th 2022

Above: The same crumb trail with New Zealand in the image to give context.

Day 41 - Chores

Almost by definition, a chore is something that has to be done, but we would much prefer to be doing something else.

Things like washing up, cleaning the bathroom, and tax.

There are ways to attack the chores dilemma. Avoid, delegate, share, defer, redefine.

My brother Peter has spent his whole life being a tax accountant, so with the right mindset, chore becomes pleasure. Similarly with washing up, chat with a friend over the dirty dishes, and they will disappear. Or get a dishwasher.

On board BM, desalinating is a task every second evening. It takes about 2 hours to make 3.5L for the next two days. I had seen this as a chore, absolutely necessary, but paddling or sleeping might have been more directly getting toward the goal. However treats have been added to make sally sessions something I now look forward to after paddling is done. Enticements include snacks and sounds. Tonights lineup included sun-dried tomato, biltong, mixed nuts, and a lemon crisp. It is also the one time I allow myself to listen to an iphone, which nephew David loaded with my favourite music and a stack of Conversation Hour podcasts. So chore no more.

I faced another chore today, one which has been put off for many days, but more insistently since passing half way. That was to remove barnacles. New Zealand immigration are insistent they do not want international hitch-hikers. So after half way, if the Aussie originals are gone, then any new ones are technically locals, with some home country rights, perhaps. To remove the barnacles requires swimming around the hull, armed with a paint scraper, and physically scraping the critters off the gelcoat. They particularly like the protection along the skeg, so maximum reach under the boat. Surprising the number, still small, all over the immersed parts of the hull. Hot and flat are two desirables for the task. Roger forecast flat, and today was glassy. One tick. Hot seems a dream, with temperatures hovering round 15C, but there was at least sunshine. So today at midday, I took the plunge. I had been hoping to see my shark friends, but they had disappeared. The water temp at a guess is 17C. The chore took 35 minutes. By the time it was done, I was covered in goosebumps, and something never experienced before, my teeth were actually chattering.

This is one chore I sincerely hope not to have to repeat unless on a flat and hot day. The positive is that I should go faster.

Above: With thanks to Hagen Cartoons!