Sydney kayakers James Castrission and Justin Jones will attempt to be the first kayakers to cross the Tasman Sea,unassisted, from Foster, NSW to Auckland, New Zealand. They are setting off less than a year after Australian adventurer Andrew McAuley, died trying a similar solo crossing.
The pair set off from Forster Marina Boat Ramp on Tuesday 13 November.
Castrission (25, from Gordon) and Jones (24, from Kensington) have been preparing their custom-built kayak and expedition plans for the past two years to ensure the safest possible journey. The ‘Crossing the Ditch’ expedition is expected to take between 40 and 50 days. The two young men will use the prevailing currents and winds to take them southeast from Newcastle to Auckland, New Zealand.
The young adventurers are confident they have researched, prepared and tested as much as possible, but are under no illusions about the potential for things to go wrong. However, they believe they can balance the spirit of human adventure with a sensible approach to safety.
If they succeed in crossing the Tasman, the pair will complete the longest trans-oceanic expedition ever made in a double kayak by two expeditioners.
“We’re looking to fulfill a childhood dream by completing one of the last great Australian adventures, but we’re also highly conscious of taking every conceivable precaution to ensure we complete the journey,” said Castrission.
“This trip has been delayed twice over the past year to ensure we have the right equipment, the right conditions and the right safety practices in place.
“We’ve consulted weather, sailing, rescue and safety experts in preparing for this trip to be sure we have considered and minimised the risks wherever possible. “From a safety point of view, we’ve done the same preparation and survival training as a round-the-world yachtsman would undertake.”
The kayak that they are using in this expedition is not a commercial production kayak as Andrew McAuley used in his attempt. Their specially built kayak, ‘Lot 41’, was designed specifically for the crossing by UK marine designer Rob Feloy. Construction was undertaken by Graham Chapman and the team at Adventure Marine on the NSW Central Coast. The vessel features self-rightability, sleeping quarters, provision storage plus a drogue to help stabilise in big seas and solar power cells to power communications. The kayak features full radio and satellite phone communications, GPS navigation systems, an inflatable two man raft, survival suits and emergency beacons, including EPIRB devices, for emergency use.
Castrission and Jones have tested the kayak on numerous test runs over the past year including a jaunt from Port Stevens to Sydney. This 170km journey took 3 days. They were 30km off the coast. After each test journey, they have refined the design to ensure the vessel will cope with various seas conditions and weather.
The pair have undertaken extensive risk management research for all facets of the expedition. James and Justin have consulted various specialists including marine meteorologists, emergency and Navy doctors and leading sailors. They have even created a 40 page risk management manual which details all potential problems, precautions taken to minimise risk and actions to be taken to handle scenarios.
Dr Roger ‘Clouds’ Badham, Director of the Marine Weather Service, has consulted on the expedition and believes Castrission and Jones have taken every possible weather situation into account.
The team will keep in touch by satellite phone twice a day and a tracking beacon on board will transmit a signal to base every six minutes. You can follow the trip at www.crossingtheditch.com.au/
“I’ve spoken at length with both James and Justin and they are approaching this crossing in a very professional manner,” said Badham. “I’m impressed with their preparation, their risk management plan and I’ve made myself available to assist them as much as I can in their endeavours.”
- Trip Details
- Crossing the Ditch will be the first kayak across the Tasman Sea
- Crossing the Ditch will be the longest trans-oceanic expedition ever attempted in a double
- kayak with two expeditioners
- Crossing the Ditch will be the second longest trans-oceanic expedition relying solely on
- paddle power for propulsion
- Crossing the Ditch will be the fourth longest open water paddle attempted in a kayak
- 6/10 of the “Greatest Sea kayak expeditions of all time” relied on the assistance of wind power via sails. Lot 41 has no sails.
Among James Castrission’s & Justin Jone’s outdoor accomplishments:
- In April 2006, the pair returned from a successful 9 day kayak crossing of the notorious Bass Strait.
- In 2001, both part of the first successful expedition to kayak the entire length of the Murray River (2560km). This expedition began at the source of the Murray River, near Thredbo in the high country, and was completed at its mouth at Goolwa near Adelaide. In the process they raised more than $9000 for the Starlight’s Children’s Foundation.
- James has led many expeditions internationally to climb mountains in New Zealand (Mount Cook, Mount Aspiring and various other technical peaks) and big walls in Yosemite, America, including a successful three-day ascent of the Nose on El Capitan.
- Between them, Castrission and Jones have completed a number of adventure races (Oxfam, Arrow) and both remain avid bushwalkers and sea kayakers.