Sixty-seven days, but who’s counting? Richard Barnes certainly was, because that’s how many Earth rotations it took him tokayakthe treacherous Tasman Sea solo from Hobart, AustraliaFor New Zealand. The stubborn Australian paddler completed his arduous 2,000 kilometer journey on February 18, 2023.
It was Barnes’ second attempt at the crossing. The first came in 2021 when he had to retire after 75 days due to bad weather in the form of Cyclone Seth. His most recent crossing makes him the second solo kayaker to ever row the gauntlet (after Scott Donaldson in 2018), and the first person to do so solo, nonstop and unassisted. (Donaldson’s crossing included a stop at Lord Howe Island and resupply.)
The notorious stretch was first traversed non-stop and unassisted in a double kayak by James Castrission and Justin Jones in 2008, just a year after solo sea kayaker Andrew McAuley died during his attempt, with his kayak found within 30 miles of New Zealand. coast.
A mechanical engineer, Barnes made the trip in a custom-built, self-righting 32.5-foot kayak lovingly named Blue Moon. It includes three compartments: one for sleeping and drying clothes; one for eating and changing; and the cockpit for paddling. The craft weighed 1,350 pounds when it embarked on the journey.
The weather, he admits, played a big part in his success this time around.
“I expected to experience more intense and bigger storms than during my first attempt,” he says. men’s diary. “But in reality, they were only about the same size. The hardest parts came from dealing with some of the many challenges of the voyage, such as losing the sea anchor and damaging the rudder. But I found ways to overcome these setbacks.
He admits that a massive, breaking wave also hit him once, causing one of two capsizes. “It happened while I was paddling and I was ejected from the cockpit,” he says. “Another capsize happened while I was sleeping. I was thrown around the cabin a bit, banging my head against the electrical box.
Fortunately, he had a self-righting kayak, and the skills and stamina to persevere. A member of Australia’s Lane Cove River Kayakers paddling club, which tracked his progress on the expedition, Barnes, 62, started kayaking aged 12 with his local scout troop in the 70s .
He then joined the University of Sydney Canoe Club, honing his skills playing canoe polo. Barnes is also an accomplished whitewater and slalom kayaker, paddling rivers across Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Ecuador and Nepal. As for the time spent in the flat water trenches, which crossing the Tasman Sea had in spades, he participated in more than 40 Hawkesbury Classics, a 111 kilometer flat water marathon Down Under, as well as 20 Massive Murrays, a five-day 415 kilometer race in Australia.
Yet it was the longest journey he had ever undertaken. “I did the Yukon 1000 race once, which was 1,000 miles, but it was only ten days, not 67,” he says. “I’ve never done a sea voyage longer than 40 days offshore before.”
As he battled constant headwinds and waves (some of which forced him to strap himself to his bed), this time he set off on a different route, further south than his first attempt – paddling from Hobart , in Tasmania, to a town called Riverton, on the South Island of New Zealand.
A typical day, he said, consisted of waking up shortly after sunrise to put away his sleeping bag and reorganize the equipment in his “bedroom” space. Then he would have a quick breakfast of Weet-Bix and flatbread in his hallway. Then he would begin his “wet” preparation, consisting of squirming around in his paddle gear before setting his daggerboard in place and retrieving his sea anchor.
“Then I would paddle all day, usually from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., taking breaks usually every hour, either to change diapers, eat a snack or take a picture,” he says.
When the day of paddling was over, he would slip into his cabin while there was still light to pack the cockpit. Spending two hours every other night desalinating seawater, he tried to enjoy the evening, having dinner and writing in his diary. He would hit his sleeping bag around midnight every night, then wake up and do it again. Breaks in the routine came from calamities (like that broken rudder), sightings of sea life (like some whales that gave him a show) and even his 62nd birthday, which he celebrated with sausages from Canned Frankfurt—“as close to hot dogs as it gets”—and Pringles.
After 67 days of this, he spotted land for the first time: New Zealand.
“It was quite emotional when I first saw land – a piece of Stewart Island – but I was still days away from landing,” he says. “That was when I felt like success might be achievable. But I was also very aware of Andrew McAuley, who had died on the crossing after coming so close. .
Upon arrival, “it was wonderful to be reunited with family and friends,” he said, adding that “the only dilemma at this point was juggling who to talk to first.”
Read Barnes’ blog posts here.