Kayaker Richard Barnes plans new quest to cross Tasman Sea after failed 75-day attempt
There are many ways to celebrate his 60th birthday, but kayaker Richard Barnes wanted to do it in style – a solo trip across the Tasman Sea.
Having competed in some of the longest running Australian and international canoe races, Mr Barnes says “the sense of adventure” defines his character.
“Canoeing has been the outlet for that adventure for about 40 years now and I’ve done the Hawkesbury Classic a few times and been to Alaska and done a 1000 mile event there,” said Mr. Barnes.
“I asked myself, ‘Where to go next?’ and I hadn’t tried the ocean yet, so it seemed like a good place to go.”
For his challenge, the man from Narrabeen left on November 15, 2021 to “cross the divide” from Sydney Harbor to New Zealand by kayak.
The trip would end in Sydney after 75 days, with New Zealand still a distant goal after Mr Barnes ran into a serious problem.
“My family and friends certainly thought I was crazy, but when they realized how much it meant to me, they were very supportive,” he says.
A kayak filled with supplies
Because ocean kayaks are rare and not available for retail sale, Mr. Barnes custom-built his own vessel named Blue Moon.
“It’s a larger type of kayak with a cockpit, where you paddle, and a place with enough space for you to live inside the kayak,” he says.
A structural engineer by trade, the boating enthusiast found his skills “came in handy”.
“A call to do that was to go into the unknown and solve those problems,” he says.
“I thought in a technical way to find the solutions to a myriad of problems to prevent my kayak from breaking in two.
“What’s unique about my design is that there’s a vestibule, which allows for a semi-wet transition, where you can change from wet to dry and cook there before going to sleep in the area. dried.”
Mr Barnes packed 200 kilograms of food which did not require refrigeration and had a minimum expiry date of three months.
“My staples were Weet-Bix for breakfast, fish dishes like tuna and sardines, canned ham, beef and chicken for lunch, and dehydrated meals like pasta and couscous for breakfast. dinner, as well as desserts,” he says.
The remaining storage space at both ends of Blue Moon was used for safety equipment such as spare paddles.
“Incredible” support along the way
Many other paddlers were intrigued by his journey as he set out from Sydney towards the central north coast before heading east.
“That was probably the highlight of the trip, the incredible support from the paddling community and others,” he says.
“So many people were interested in the trip, following my progress via Facebook and meeting me at every opportunity.”
The kayaker says the wildlife was there to give him “moral support” and he didn’t feel “lonely”.
“Dolphins and seals were more curious than ever and were passing by for many stares,” he says.
“All the birds came as if I was one of them, unfazed by our difference.
The “most exciting part”
Mr Barnes says one of the biggest challenges of the trip was motivating yourself to get up and paddle day in and day out.
“The winds and currents were much stronger than me, so at some point I felt like wreckage was being swept away where nature wanted me to be,” Mr Barnes said.
On the 50th day, the kayaker faced the greatest challenge of his trip: Cyclone Seth.
“Coming out of the rain, the first clear view was the size of the swell – at least 5 meters from crest to trough,” he said.
“White Tops occasionally slammed into Blue Moon’s side for a punch and roll attack.
“I had half a cockpit full of waves so it had to be bailed out and my quickest bailout method was to use a milk jug with the bottom cut off.”
Following advice from ground support, Mr Barnes decided to change course and return to the mainland to avoid being caught in the eye of the weather event.
Looking back, he described the experience of ‘fighting for his life’ as ‘the most exciting part’ of the trip, although he had to call the weather just off Lord Howe Island.
“I was proud that Blue Moon managed to weather it all and come back to shore after 75 days of paddling.”
Mr Barnes disembarked on February 7, 2022 with “a sense of disappointment” that he had not reached his destination.
He says it only took him two weeks on dry land to plan a second attempt.
“A second try will revive me and Blue Moon will embark on the second part of the quest to cross the Tasman Sea next summer,” he says.
“This new quest will have a new starting point somewhere in Tasmania to make the most of the prevailing westerly winds to help me navigate my way to New Zealand.”