The Ditch: Is it about to be conquered by a Kiwi?

By Natsumi Penberthy 9 July 2014
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Within a week, Scott Donaldson may become the first man to have kayaked solo across the Tasman Sea.

THERE’S LITTLE DOUBT THAT Scott Donaldson is cold and wet as he battles storm conditions off the north-western coast of New Zealand, tantalisingly close to becoming the first to kayak solo from Australia across the Tasman Sea.

Having spent the last 81 days in his kayak, he’s now waiting for a break in the weather so that he can paddle in. 

Hunkered down under gale force winds just off Port Taranaki on New Zealand’s North Island, Scott may be faced with bad weather for days.

And, although he’s close to his goal, he’s also drifting off course. He may even drift a few days backwards according to The Otago Daily Times

The Tasman, a fickle mistress

Scott, who departed Coffs Harbour on 14 April, isn’t the first to try his hand at this epic paddle. In 2007 an attempted solo crossing ended in death for Australian kayaker Andrew McAuley, just 54km shy of his New Zealand landing site at Milford Sound.

Andrew, a seasoned adventurer and the winner of multiple Australian Geographic Society awards, spent a month at sea after launching from Tasmania. He was within a 100km of land when he sent out a distress signal and he was presumed drowned when his capsized kayak was later found by rescuers.

In 2008 two young Aussies James Castrission and Justin Jones became the first to kayak across the Tasman, but the pair left the solo accolade up for grabs. 

Encouragement from the Aussies                                                      

Scott first attempted the crossing in 2013, but pulled out within days of setting out, after facing problems with his craft. Scott consulted Justin and James in the lead up to the trip. 

“[Scott’s] 2013 attempt said a lot about him,” says Justin. “It showed great character to resist the temptation to keep going with his safety and equipment compromised, and also to paddle back under his own steam and not get a rescue/pickup.”

Having faced similar backtracking on their trip, Justin feels for Scott as the bad weather sets in. “It’s a pretty frustrating situation to be in,” says Justin. “Close to the coastline is where your vigilance and patience really has to be iron clad.”

But the kayaking father-of-one’s Facebook logs remain cheerful. On the morning of 8 July, Scott’s Facebook update stated: “Scott is “relaxing” 38 [nautical miles] west of the Port of Taranaki… The wind is NE 30knt, forecast to rise to 35knt (gale force) yukky! Scott has drifted SW 5 [nautical miles] overnight… Sea swells are 4 to 5 metres.”

Stay tuned for updates.