On his second attempt and paddling a kayak he built by himself, Australian kayaker Richard Barnes successfully paddled 2,000km across the Tasman Sea, between Australia and New Zealand, completing the arduous expedition on Saturday, Feb. 18, 67 days after leaving Hobart, Australia.
In the process, he became only the second solo kayaker to ever make the crossing (after Scott Donaldson in 2018), and the first person to have kayaked the Tasman Sea solo, non-stop and unassisted. (Donaldson’s crossing included a stop at Lord Howe Island and aresupply.)
The treacherous Tasman Sea was first crossed non-stop and unassisted in a double kayak by James Castrission and Justin Jones in 2008. In 2007, sea kayaker Andrew McAuley died during his second attempt to kayak the crossing, with his kayak found less than 30 miles off the New Zealand coast.
A mechanical engineer, Barnes made the journey in his self-built, self-righting, 32.5-foot-long kayak the ‘Blue Moon,’ which contained three compartments: one for sleeping and drying clothes; one for eating and changing; and the cockpit for paddling. The craft weighed 1,350- lbs. when he set off on the journey.
A member of Australia’s Lane Cove River Kayakers paddling club, which tracked his progress on the expedition, this was Barnes’s second attempt at the crossing. In 2021, he had to give up after 75 days due to weather. While he battled constant headwinds, this time he set off on a different, more southern route, from Hobart, Tasmania, to a town called Riverton, on New Zealand’s South Island.
After battling strong winds and waves, some of which forced him to strap himself to his bed, the 62-year-old landed in New Zealand after 67 days at sea, and celebrating his birthday in route.
Read his blog posts here: https://www.lcrk.org.au/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Main.2022BlueMoon
Photos courtesy D.Barlow/Lane Cove River Kayakers
Special PL Q&A with Barnes
PL: What’s your paddling background?
I started kayaking with the Scouts here in 1978, then joined Sydney Uni canoe club.
I have played canoe polo, whitewater around the world, including New Zealand, Chile, Ecuador, Nepal and more. I’ve also paddled slalom, and flatwater marathons, including over 40 Hawkesbury Classics (111km) and 20 Massive Murrays (404km)
PL: Is this your longest trip?
I did the the Yukon 1000 (1600km), a similar distance but it was only ten days. On my earlier attempt on the Tasman I was at a similar distance and 75 days, but half of it was coastal. No ocean trip longer than 40 days offshore previously.
PL: Was it harder than you expected?
No. I had hoped to experience more intense storms than I did on Tasman I, but I really only encountered storms of similar size. The hard parts came from some of the challenges I faced en route. Losing the sea anchor and damaging the rudder definitely created some difficulty, but I found ways to overcome those setbacks.
PL: Any close calls or capsizes?
I only had one capsize while paddling, when I was thrown out of the cockpit by a breaking wave. I also had one capsize while sleeping; I was thrown around the cabin, clanging my head on the electrical box.
PL: Can you walk us through a typical day?
Arise soon after sunrise. Pack away sleeping bag, rearrange gear into bedroom space. Breakfast of Weetbix cereal and flatbread in the vestibule. Wet preparation: change into wet paddling gear, put centreboard in place, retrieve sea anchor. Paddle the day away, usually from around 10am to 7pm. Breaks generally on the hour, either to change clothing layers, or eat a snack, or take a photo. Transfer back to cabin, while still light and able to safely pack-up cockpit. Spend two hours desalinating every second night. Enjoy the evening, sitting in the vestibule, eating dinner and tapping out diary and website story. To sleeping bag around midnight .
PL: What was your best meal?
Weetbix for breakfast as a staple. On my birthday I had tinned Frankfurts, as close as I could get to hotdogs, and Pringles.
PL: Any cool wildlife sightings?
I still have to determine whether a pair of very large mammals were maxi dolphins or mini whales, but they were keen to put on a show very close to the Blue Moon, leaping multiple times right out of the water. Not dissimilar in size to my 32-foot kayak.
PL: How’d it feel paddling into the finish?
It was very emotional first seeing land, a piece of Stewart Island, still some days away from landing. That was when it felt like success might be achievable. I was also very conscious of Andrew MaCauley at that time, and delivering to the expectations of all my supporters. At the finish, it was all fun and wonderful to be reunited with family and friends; the only real dilemma was juggling who to talk with first.