Paddling to NZ: Richard Barnes, Blue Moon

Before exiting into the Tasman Sea. Credit Phil Newman

The journey of the first solo, unassisted, non-stop kayak crossing of the Tasman Sea. Submtted by Ian Wrenford

On Saturday 18 February 2023, Richard Barnes paddled his kayak ‘Blue Moon’ into Riverton/Aparima New Zealand, having paddled some 2000km for the preceding 67 days from Hobart. This adventure marks the first solo, unassisted, non-stop  crossing of the Tasman Sea in a kayak. 

A crossing by kayak has been achieved before, firstly by James Castrission/Justin Jones in a double in 2008 (non-stop and unassisted) and then solo by Scott Donaldson in 2018 (with a Lord Howe stop and a resupply). Andrew MacAuley sadly went missing within sight of the NZ coast in his 2007 attempt for what would have been the first solo, unassisted, non-stop crossing.

Blue Moon’s original target landing was Milford Sound – but the intense weather system that had flooded Auckland (a couple of weeks before Cyclone Gabrielle in February 2022), forced Richard over 100km south of his intended course and Riverton (near Invercargill) became the new destination.  Many of Richards supporters thought he may be heading towards Antarctica given how far off course he travelled!

Richard’s stated goal was to inspire more people to be more active and adventurous and to follow their own dreams – at whatever level suits them. The adventure has been quite some years in the planning and was first attempted at the end of 2021 only to be thwarted by Cyclone Seth not far short of Lord Howe Island which pushed him back Australia’s shores.

Richard has a lifetime of paddling experience across most genres including whitewater, canoe polo, marathon, ultra-marathon. He loves the overnight 111km Hawkesbury Canoe Classic (paddled 43 times), and indeed any long-distance race – Massive Murray, Yukon you name it. When he’s not paddling Richard can be spotted smiling at extreme adventure races such as XPD, Geoquest, a true adventurer at heart.

About Blue Moon:

  • Blue Moon was designed, engineered and built by Richard (and friends) over the past few years, helped along by Richard’s background as an Engineer and applying a naturally structured approach to risk management and the build.
  • She is 10m long, weighs ~200kg empty, and about ~600kg trip ready including ~200kg of food (100 days rations).
  • Safety and risk management was a key consideration with multiple EPIRB’s, AIS Tracker, trip trackers, life raft etc.
  • The boat is designed with a dry ‘citadel’ for bedroom and all electronics and a wet room ‘vestibule’ for cooking and changing into/out of wet kayaking clothes.
  • There is a foot operated desalinator (named Sally) for making ~2.5l per day of fresh water and also leg exercise.

Richard left Hobart on 14 December accompanied by farewell escort from Members of the Tasmanian Sea Canoe Club. A stiff southerly for a few days dictated an exit to the Tasman Sea via Dunalley Canal on 17 December and then it was ~1600 albatross flies km to Milford Sound.

Eat, Sleep, Paddle Repeat

Each day consisted of basically eating, sleeping, paddling. Not quite as easy as that though. On top of ~9 hours of paddling there was about an hour to prep beforehand and an hour to set Blue Moon up for overnight. Then weather reports/analysis, emails, cooking dinner etc. Getting to bed before midnight was rare. 

The heading for each day was usually determined the evening before in consultation with Roger B. the weatherman. Based on expected wind, wave height/direction, current – which in combination with Richard’s paddling inputs yielded a paddling outcome that ideally progressed towards New Zealand.

The predominant heading was typically East or North-East and despite best efforts the overall track had a distinct southwards bias (being a combination of winds/current at the time Richard was out there).

Wildlife was certainly in attendance, although not quite to the extent of his more northern 2021 attempt from Port Macquarie. Birdlife included shearwaters, and further from land the Albatross was a frequent companion. Fishlife included maxi-dolphins/mini-whales (yet to receive formal identification), friendly sharks and seal sightings (some 700km from land). Barnacles also joined Richard for the ride and became somewhat attached to Blue Moon – requiring a swim with a paint-scraper on two occasions, and some time to warm up afterwards.

The support Richard received from friends, family, work colleagues, fellow kayakers and adventurers was fantastic and certainly kept Richard’s spirits high. This included the relaying of Facebook messages and often the joy of a cartoon tailored to events of the day.

Day 51. The cartoon is in response to Richard’s sighting seals some 700km offshore and his wonderings what their range was. Credit. Hagen Cartoons

Richard’s trip reports covers the full range of moods of from mirror-like windless days – through to full on gales. The weather forced two separate ‘lay-days’ which saw Richard safely strapped in indoors while Blue Moon rode out the storm under sea anchor/drogue.  

Land, Ho!

Richard’s first land sighting was on Day 60 when he spotted at some 90km distant the 980m Mt Anglem/Hananui on Stewart Island and 115km distant Tower Peak 1406m.

Day 60 – 24 Hourly Progress map shows land sightings. Source. Lane Cove River Kayakers

Richard’s first sighting of a person came on Day 66 when he was some 24km distant from Riverton NZ. Coastguard Riverton had very much had Richard under their care for the preceding days and took the opportunity for a visit.

NZ Coast Guard visiting Richard who is smiling big for his offshore visitors. Looking South towards Stewart Island. Credit A. Dawson

Details of Richards full trip including daily trip blog, maps & photos are available via Lane Cove River Kayakers

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