Well done mates

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Picture: New Zealand Herald

Sometime in August 1991, my kayaking partner and I tried to keep a watch out on the horizon for any sign of landfall as we sought to reach Tioman Island in Pahang State by kayak. It was the twelfth day of our trip, and we’d just endured what we felt was the mother of all mothers of all storms.

Our Klepper Aerius Expedition II’s blue canvas skin was stained with vomit on either side of the passenger compartment cockpit, but far more worrying than that were the low clouds that obscured everything else, and made us worry that we might have been heading in the wrong direction for the previous, dunno, 12 hours overnight. It was the age before portable electronic navigational aids, or more accurately, the age before yours truly could afford any aid apart from several magnetic compasses purchased from discount camping stores.

Three compasses, and the stars in the clear night sky before the storm broke at dawn helped keep our bow pointed at where we thought Tioman was.

I’m trying to remember the elation we felt when we finally sighted Tioman’s extinct volcanic peak. But I’m sure these two other blokes know how it feels, albeit multiplied a thousand times.

So, heartiest congratulations to James Castrisson and Justin Jones, for kayaking from Australia to New Zealand. No more eating and shitting in the small boat.

I know of American tourists who belittle that distance with their ignorance, asking Sydneysiders how they can take a day trip out of Sydney to New Zealand. But bugger me, and all that, James and Justin have paddled over 2000km over the last two months. It takes a plane about 3 hours to get from Sydney to anywhere in NZ. That’s a very long distance, notwithstanding the fact that both Kiwis and Aussies understatedly refer to the Tasman Sea between the two countries as “the Ditch“.

Originally estimated as a 42 day paddle, they went over 60, and have had to ration their meals. It is the fourth longest kayak crossing in recorded history, and the first kayak crossing of the Tasman Sea.

The latest in navigational, communications and survival equipment were used in this expedition, as they were in ours. For water, James and Justin had a desalination unit to supply them their estimated requirements of 5l a day. My kayaking buddy and I had this unit we called the 40l jerrycan, which was stowed between my knees, and which caused me to walk bow-legged for weeks after.

What’s even more impressive about James and Justin’s crossing is that they did it solely on paddling, whereas many open ocean kayak crossings are done with the aid of sails. There’s some kayaking saying that goes “paddle if you must, sail when you can”, or something like that. My buddy and I sailed when we could – with a golf umbrella we rigged in front of the cockpit, and which obscured my view of the horizon, and which was the official excuse for my being seasick the whole expedition.

But what the hell am I doing comparing Singapore-Tioman with Sydney-New Plymouth? Sorry. Congratulations James and Justin. You da gods of kayaking!

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