Another Attempt to Kayak the Deadly Tasman Sea

Another attempt is underway to kayak across the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand.

According to an Instagram post from Justin Jones — the first person, along with partner James Castrission, to paddle the 2,000km — Richard Barnes is 700km and 30 days into his attempt.

This is the second such attempt for Barnes, who halted 75 days into his previous effort in 2021 after crossing paths with Cyclone Seth.

 

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As with his first crossing effort, Barnes is traveling in a custom-built, self-righting craft complete with a sleeping area, a vestibule for cooking and changing out of wet clothes, solar panels, and a sea anchor. Barnes, a mechanical engineer by trade, built the Blue Moon himself.

“It was definitely exciting to design the boat that would keep me alive on this journey,” Barnes told the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) before his second attempt.

“I was thinking in an engineering sort of way to find the solutions to a myriad of problems to prevent my kayak from breaking in half,” he continued.

A profile view of the Blue Moon, along with a map of the Tasman Sea and records of previous crossing attempts.

A profile view of the Blue Moon, along with a map of the Tasman Sea and records of previous crossing attempts. Graphic: Lane Cove River Kayakers/Mario Lendvai

 

The 2021 attempt saw Barnes embark from Sydney and turn around just shy of Lord Howe Island after encountering the cyclone. In March 2022, Barnes told the ABC his second attempt would leave from Tasmania to “make the most of prevailing westerlies to help blow me toward New Zealand.”

As of this writing, it’s unclear if Barnes stuck to that plan. While his 2021 attempt featured a tracking page and regular updates, it appears that the kayaker is being a little more private this time around.

Previous attempts

In 2008, adventurers Justin Jones and James Castrission were the first on record to successfully cross “the ditch” in a sea kayak (Colin Quincey rowed across in a dory in 1977). The duo made the journey in 60 days, and 20 hours. Their boat, the Rob Feloy, was similar to Barnes’ Blue Moon: it featured a sleeping compartment, solar panels, and other modern nautical conveniences.

In 2018 Scott Donaldson became the first solo kayaker to complete the journey after two previous attempts. His craft also included modern ocean-going technology, including a place to shelter from the elements and get some sleep.

In late 2006/early 2007, mountaineer and sea kayaker Andrew McAuley made two attempts to cross the Tasman Sea in a traditional sea kayak. McAuley bailed on the first attempt after one night but made significant progress in the second attempt before his kayak was found partially flooded just 56km from the New Zealand coast.

His body was never recovered.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew's essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals. You can find more of his work at www.andrewmarshallimages.com, @andrewmarshallimages on Instagram and Facebook, and @pawn_andrew on Twitter (for as long as that lasts).