Crossing the Ditch
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Two mates, a kayak, and the conquest of the Tasman. 'this is the gripping and inspirational account of two ordinary blokes ... double-handedly proving that the Age of Adventure is not over!' PEtER FItZSIMONS With more than two thousand kilometres of treacherous seas and dangerously unpredictable weather and currents, it was little wonder no-one had ever successfully crossed the tasman by kayak. Australian adventurer Andrew McAuley had come close just months earlier - tragically, though, not near enough to save his life. But two young Sydneysiders, James Castrission and Justin Jones, reached the sand at New Plymouth - and a place in history - on 13 January 2008, 62 days after they'd set off from Forster on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. In the process, they had to face dwindling food supplies, a string of technical problems, 14 days trapped in a whirlpool, and two terrifying close encounters with sharks. When they arrived in New Zealand, their friendship stronger than ever, they were sunburnt, bearded, physically and mentally wasted ... and, most of all, happy to be alive. "... nothing prepared them for the 62 days of rapture, despair and euphoria ... ultimately this is a story of the triumph of the human spirit." Lincoln Hall
Your feet can’t get stung; and pissing on a sting helps ease the pain. Throughout my diaries at the time I constantly made comments about wanting to be up in the mountains, but by the end of the Tasman crossing, our bodies had come to accept the discomfort at sea and we enjoyed paddling more than ever before. Being cold and wet became life and our bodies adjusted to that. Having said that, mountaineering had a few advantages over kayaking endlessly across an ocean. In some ways, sea kayaking is.
Found ourselves in a situation where our lives seemed pre-defined and pre-established. There was a formula set out and we could see where our lives were heading – which freaked me out a bit. In my early years at primary school, I found the stuff in the classroom extraordinarily difficult to grasp, but sport came very easily to me. I wasn’t too bad at swimming, diving and rugby. The problem I had at school was the constant negative reinforcement my teachers gave me – none of them believed in me.
(trying to understand his priorities), in the middle of Bass Strait waiting for Ben’s weather forecast to come through must have been comical. The call to Ben that day on the Tasman at the 500-kilometre mark was the first time we’d ever heard excitement in his voice. (He was a pretty deadpan guy when he wasn’t harassing people about waking him up.) It played a huge role in picking up our spirits on board. Progress on day 19 was abysmal – at one stage, we paddled 6 kilometres in 4 hours.
Impressed with the power of its big flipper feet that would effortlessly propel it through the water faster than we could paddle. The personality of the albatrosses on the eastern Tasman was vastly different from those closer to the Australian coast. We found the “western albatrosses” weren’t interested in us at all – they’d fly past us without even a glance. Initially quite put off by their arrogance, we found it difficult to build any rapport with these graceful giants. But as we neared NZ,.
As were RCC NZ and Terry Wise, who’d escorted us out of the heads in his yacht Brindabella at the beginning of our first sea trial and who was going to supervise our passage the last few days. Our family, friends and the wider public stayed somewhat oblivious to these hazards, which made balancing the expectations of the media, our sponsors and our supporters quite difficult. Often the media would get frustrated when we made it clear we only had x amount of time for an interview. But we had to.