Tom Robinson Rescued on Final Stage of Pacific Row

Tom Robinson’s Pacific row has come to a dramatic end. The 24-year-old Australian was rescued by a cruise ship that found him standing naked on top of his overturned boat.

Until recently, Robinson had been on the island of Vanuatu, his last stop of the row from Peru to Australia. On Oct. 1, he began the final stage of his journey home. He was only at sea for three days and 22 hours when disaster struck on Oct. 5.

He left Vanuatu and was making his way across the Bougainville Strait, which has notoriously strong currents and wind. A huge wave came crashing through the main hatch, flooded the cabin, and flipped his boat.

“I was just sitting there inside the boat contemplating dinner, and a millisecond later it was upside down,” he told the New Zealand Herald.

Robinson swam out of the swiftly flooding cabin and hauled himself onto the boat’s hull.

“With the state I was in, the best option for me was to sit on top of the overturned hull and hold that EPIRB.” He tied a rope around his waist, attaching himself to the boat, and clung on for dear life. Waves continued to crash over the hull as he waited for 14 hours.

Tom Robinson clings to his overturned boat.

Tom Robinson clings to his overturned boat. Photo: Facebook


Capsized 185km offshore

The EPIRB notified the Australian Maritime Safety Authorities. They contacted New Caledonia’s Marine Rescue Coordination Centre who subsequently ran the rescue. A plane discovered Robinson 185km from Vanuatu, atop the hull of his handmade boat.

Once they verified his location, a cruise ship took a 200km detour to pick up the stranded man. They got to him at 7 am. He received medical care and treatment for dehydration and sunburn.

The ship will arrive in Auckland in two days. From there, Robinson will fly home to Brisbane.

It is a sad end to Robinson’s journey. He began in Lima on July 2, 2022, and was vying to be the youngest person to solo row the Pacific Ocean. He designed and built his 7.3m boat Maiwar.

Tom Robinson on the Pacific Explorer cruise ship

Tom Robinson on the cruise ship. Photo: Facebook


For him, it was not about being the quickest. It was about the full experience. He first rowed 8,800km to Penryhn, in the Cook Islands. Here he waited out the cyclone season before rowing 1,500km to American Samoa. There, illness forced him to stop and recover before continuing.

After a month, he started his next leg, a two-month, 2,500km row to Vanuatu. Three weeks later, he left for the final part of his journey. He had just 2,000km left to Cairns, Australia.

He has not yet commented on whether he plans to reattempt the route.

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.