Day 14 – UPDATE

Day 14 – being smashed by 35-40knots of weather. Capsized at 2130hrs last night. Para anchor broken, main sat comms unit out, it’s not nice here at present. Axe


How I communicate from waaaaaay out there!!!

Much of the time, the most communication we need is a cellphone and an email address… but out of sight from land, I need a little bit more to keep in touch with the world. So from the extremes like when I’m stuck in a storm and need emergency help to the times when I simply need someone to talk me through figuring out when the winds are going to start to blow in my direction, I’ve got a range of communication devices to talk to everyone from rescue services to people like expedition project Manager Dave Field and expedition weather guru Roger ‘Clouds’ Badham. And of course those communication options includes a satellite phone for the most important calls of all- to check in with Stephanie and the girls as well! Check out this video we made while I was still in Coff’s Harbour for a tour of the Communications systems on board- Communications aboard the Donkey!


Grant wished me to pass on that he may be a little busy for the next 48-hours and may not have time to tap out a few words on the laptop for a blog update. I said that we would probably all understand….

For the next 48-hours a low pressure system will pass over Grant with winds expected to be in excess of 35-knots/65km/hr (top image). The good news is that on the back end of it he should catch a ride on some favourable westerly winds. There is also the East Australian Current to negotiate (bottom image) and make sure he is on the right side of things. A couple of things to juggle.

But, as Colin Quincey passed on, “the boat is built for this test so should ride it out OK, as is the driver!”. Come on Grant!!

Dave Field.


Update - Project HQ

Day 10

I am currently 140nm off the coast of Australia and 1012nm from New Plymouth, New Zealand. Latitude wise, I am in line with Dargaville in New Zealand. I have travelled around 370nm since departing Coff’s Harbour 10 days ago.

I have been on para anchor for over 60 hours now. Yesterday (day nine) was not a nice day. The wind had been over 20 knots all night on the evening of day 8, from the south east, and this had caused the sea state to become agitated and wild. The wind stayed above 20 knots almost all of day 9 so the sea’s continued to grow during the day. I was luckily locked into a favorable current stream with the para anchor and was being dragged in a very rough and bumpy fashion in a south easterly direction. However due to the currents, the para anchor was not able to hold me directly into the wind and I was taking the sea’s beam on (from the side), which is the worst scenario and the most dangerous for a boat as it is the easiest way to capsize. As the sea’s picked up during the morning, I braced myself in the cabin, feet against the opposite wall and waited. The waiting is the hardest part. Inside the cabin I can’t see what is coming. I hear the sound of a breaking wave approaching and brace myself, sometimes it passes under us with only a gentle bump. But every so often we get smashed. BOOM. The entire boat shudders like she’s been punched in the guts, we start to roll, my head hits the cabin wall, I am dazed and start to walk my feet up the opposite wall as the boat rolls past 90 degrees. This is it, our first capsize… But then slowly the Donkey shakes herself off and returns back upright. I rub my head, a bit of blood but mainly a bruise. I peer out at the back deck, it’s a mess, the plastic bucket housing the retrieval lines has been smashed into a number of pieces. The life raft has broken free from her tether, the carbon fibre flagstaff has been snapped off like a match stick. But most worrying is the ¾ inch stainless steel antenna mount at the stern has been bent back by the force of the wave and the sat comms antenna is now leaning back at an unusual angle. If one wave can do that to ¾ inch stainless steel, what would it do to me? I hurriedly put on my harness and clamber but naked onto the back deck. Keeping one eye on the waves as they roll threateningly towards me, I work as quickly as I can on the wet, wildly rolling deck, cutting down the flag, re-stowing and tidying equipment before the next wave hits. Then it’s back into the cabin, feet against the wall, waiting, listening, worrying…

Today (Day 10) I have a brief respite from the strength of the winds, I tried to row this morning but have an 8 knot headwind making rowing very difficult to even keep the boat aligned in the correct direction. So I am back on para anchor, advancing at 1.8 knots with the assistance of the current, hoping for a wind change after lunch to allow me some time on the oars. After being in the cabin for so long I feel weak and lethargic. The sea is wearing me down. I have new respect for it after the last 60 hours. I have even stronger winds forecast in the next few days and not many of them are favorable. The battle continues.

Captain Axe

PS: Thank you for your comments, Monique copies and pastes them into an email and sends them to me. Out here it is easy to feel completely alone at times, so reading them gives me an amazing moral boost.

Day 8 – the game of chess continues

The last three days have seen good progress as I managed to break free from the eddy I was stuck in off Seal Rocks, with the assistance of some Northerly breeze which started at 0100hrs on the morning of day 6. It was another night in the shipping lanes with vessels around me all night long. I was on the oars at 0630 and rowed for 8.5 hours that day, making around 2 knots/hour. During the morning an enormous fish swam past, it was almost as long as the boat and looked like a marlin, It was going so fast it made me feel as if I was standing still. I could just make out the site of land in the morning but lost it by lunchtime and don’t expect to see it again until NZ. I also had my last limited cellphone coverage drop out during the day and one of the final messages was from Dave Field telling me there were 5 large vessels coming straight towards me. By 1700 hrs I was thrilled to notice an increase in speed as we found the EAC again. That night we had a tailwind from the north and with the EAC made excellent progress but it was bumpy as hell and I could not sleep.

Day 7 – I hit the oars at 0615 and was in a position just below Sydney in latitude and 60nm offshore. I rowed 9 ¾ hours, averaging 3- 4 knots until I was knackered, the sun disappeared and the wind changed against me. All day I was bothered by flies. What they were doing 60nm offshore I can only put down to the fact I was starting to stink. I dropped the para anchor in the darkness and made dinner in the cabin at 2000 hrs. The wind was forecast for 15-20 knots overnight from the south, the opposite of what I need, but fortunately the para anchor in the strong current dominated the wind and we still made 2 knots progress south all night. During the night only one vessel passed me around 5nm away.

Now on day 8 I was pretty chuffed to pass within 1.5nm of the waypoint I had been aiming for since Coff’s. To have travelled 280nm in these winds and currents in a rowing boat, solo and come within 1.5nm of the target is pretty good going. It is critical I position myself correctly in the EAC to combat the adverse winds and get slung out into the Tasman at the right spot during the next 72 hours. If I get it wrong I will be caught in a whirlpool and possibly be sent back towards Coff’s Harbour with no way to get off. I am currently around 75nm south of Sydney and 65nm off the coast on sea anchor. The wind is from the South still and forecast to rise to 25 knots SE overnight. Once again this is the wrong direction and I am praying the strength of the EAC will override this, so I do not lose ground and may even continue to advance albeit slowly. It will be a rough night. This morning when I awoke the retrieval line for the sea anchor had been tangled in the rudder so I took my first swim, not before a very good look for sea monsters. It was cold but refreshing. I have done some laundry today and cleaned the boat as I cannot row due to the wind.

So the game of strategy continues. Together with the wonderful guidance from meteorologist Roger Badham whom I speak with twice per day, we are advancing as fast as possible when I can row, desperately hunting for favorable currents, dropping the sea anchor and waiting out patiently the adverse winds till they turn and I can make progress again. I really have no idea if I will make it to NZ, this is a massive adventure with no guarantee of success, but I will and am giving it 100% of my effort. The picture shows one of my friends, a cargo vessel disappearing into the dusk a few evenings ago.

Love Axe


Wind’s have turned and i’m off, whipppeeeeeeeee!

Day 6!!

What I do in rough weather

Day 5

After 36 hours on para anchor on the morning of day 4, I peered carefully from the cabin door at 0500 hrs to see a wild sea beginning to calm. Even though the wind was still southerly I decided to try rowing and hauled in the para anchor. From 0530 – 0700 I made just under a mile in a SW direction, working like hell to try and keep the boat lined up. I also noted that when I stopped rowing she wanted to drift NE at 1.5 knots. That’s strange, what happened to this massive EAC – East Australian current) which is meant to give me a free ride south? I called Clouds (weather man) at 0800 and his conclusion is that I had slipped off it – maybe into a hole where it split?

I kept rowing and noticed the best direction I could make was 1 knot WNW. This would take me closer to coastline and the shipping lanes, but hopefully back into stronger southerly current. I was currently in 4000m water depth but the edge of continental shelf at 200m depth is meant to have strong EAC currents. This point was 14nm away to my west.

I rowed for 9 hours that day until darkness, in search of the EAC. I made it back onto the shelf with blistered hands and a sore back at 1900hrs, but there was no current pushing me south, Instead I was being pushed now north west.

That night I deployed the para anchor and watched our position get pulled closer into the shipping lanes and the coastline. I was exhausted but could not sleep as I kept watch on the vessel traffic passing close by. At 0330hrs I was less than 2nm from the busy shipping lanes and was seriously concerned. The wind and current combined to push me further into danger and were too strong to row against. In a twist of fate in the space of five minutes the wind swung to the north west – I shot onto deck in the darkness and pulled in the para anchor to see if I could make progress back out to sea and safety. Sure enough the little donkey turned and ran with the wind and over the next three hours we moved back out the exact way I had rowed so hard the day before to get into. When daylight broke this morning I was at least feeling safer from the shipping traffic but frustrated I am stuck in an invisible current system with adverse winds holding me and now pushing me back to the position I was in on day two.

Today is bad wind all day and then tomorrow it will improve with a swing to the north for 48 hours. So I am trying to get some rest today in anticipation for a big push to break through this spot and make it to just below Sydney where I can hopefully turn east and head home.

I am focussing hard on making the best decisions I can hour by hour, day after day. Being alone out here is a massive test of my character and ability and I pray I will have the strength and fortune to break trough this difficult patch in the next three days. The stress of being close to the shipping channels and the shore in a highly unmaneurable craft all alone is considerable.

Day 3

Hello from the Tasman Sea!

What a ride it has been, mainly rough and windy so far. I departed Coff’s at 0700 on day one with a stiff Northerly breeze and it took all my concentration to get safely out of the marina, then a hard left hand turn with the next challenge to get out the harbor entrance between two rock breakwaters. With a 2m swell pumping in through the breakwater walls it was an exciting row out, and I worked hard for one hour to make my way far enough out to clear a small island just south of the entrance. I then waved goodbye to the boat with Alistair and Rob Hamill who had come out to film, and turned the Donkey south. The northerly breeze helped push us along nicely and the plan was to find the EAC (East Australian current) which is a strong south setting current. As the day wore on the wind picked up from the north and after lunch was 20 knots. This combined with the current saw us pumping along at 3 knots. All up I rowed for 5 hours through the day before it got too windy. I knew that on Friday night a strong southerly stormy front with lots of rain was coming so had planned to pull into a protected bay called Trial bay 35nm south from Coff’s BUT we moved so fast that 8pm that evening I was pushed past Trial Bay and started looking for options further down the coast. I was only 4nm offshore passing Trial Bay and was nervous being this close to shore as darkness hit in the strong winds.

That night was a bumpy and wild ride. I caught a few 50 minute blocks of sleep but kept a close eye on our position, proximity to shore and vessel traffic. The wind turned to NW in the night – and increased to 25 knots so we were really flying along without even rowing. With the change in wind we started moving away from shore, and before I knew it at 0300hrs day two were 20nm offshore. I carefully climbed onto the back deck in the darkness and wind and re-trimmed the rudder to try and run due south as didn’t want to be too far offshore to stay in the current streams.

On Day 2 – the wind started to drop through to lunchtime. The sea flattened out and I rowed for 5 hours until my back was sore. The boat feels heavy and I will take a few days to get into the swing of rowing for long periods. In the afternoon the wind swung lightly to the South and it started to rain. I was too far offshore now to find a safe bay to hide from the storm so no choice but to weather it at sea. I rowed until 1500hrs then started to prepare the boat for the southerly front coming at 1700. I made water for 24 hours, prepared food in the cabin, ate a last hot meal and lashed everything down on deck securely before deploying the para anchor. It was bumpy night with wind hitting 30 knots and a large amount of rain. I slept in a few 30 min blocks and kept a close eye on the shipping traffic. At 0300 I noticed on the AIS a huge 220m long vessel 12nm heading strait for me. 8nm away I managed to raise them on the radio and they had me on their AIS and gave me a 2nm clearance. It scared me and I could not sleep for the remainder of the night. The biggest threat over this next few days is shipping traffic and I will be much happier once I am out of this shipping channel.

Emotionally I have been in a roller coaster. From excitement at leaving to dread and apprehension at what waits before me. A few tears have been shed, and I have not yet experienced the glory of being out here so eagerly waiting for that to come!

Love Captain Axe.

VIDEO POST: Goodbye Australia!! Hello Tasman!!

Simpson’s Donkey has left the building!

At 7am this morning, Axe rowed out of Coff’s Harbour in lumpy seas to begin the final stage of this epic expedition! 

Stay tuned for more……

Goodbye Australia – Departing Thursday 0700hrs

At 0700 hrs Thursday 19 October I will depart Australia in Simpson’s Donkey, bound for New Zealand.  The SPOT tracker will be updating every ten minutes and you may follows the progress live at this link:

My departure plan is definitely a non-standard ocean rowing start.  You may expect some interesting maneuvers in the first few days as I do my best to dodge weather systems and remain safe as I make my way south initially before turning east towards New Zealand.  One of the largest dangers in the first week is the coastline and getting through the busiest shipping channels of the crossing.


With Sarah Donaldson, my host in Coff’s Harbour

A massive thank you to Sarah Donaldson who has been such a warm, down to earth, kind and gracious host for the last ten days. Welcoming me as a complete stranger into her house and making me feel part of her lovely family.  Sarah you have good karma coming your way.


My last words and thoughts from shore are to my lovely ladies back home in Singapore.  Leaving behind Stephanie and the girls has always been the hardest part of this entire expedition.  Much harder than the rowing or cycling.  And to Stephanie who remains at home, running the house as a single mother in my absence, what words can I say but thank you.  When I return it is my turn to support you in your dreams.





Decisions, decisions… but we still have to eat!

Big decisions need to be made in the next 24 hours with regard to departure…..

But in the meantime, I still have to eat. Alistair Harding and I had fun making this short video showing the what and how I eat on-board Simpson’s Donkey.



Departure delayed 

Simpson’s Donkey has arrived safely into Coffs Harbour Marina and a huge thanks to the team from TOLL for getting her here. Unfortunately due to adverse winds I will delay departure until early next week.  I am making the most of the time here preparing, testing,  rechecking, packing and  repacking the boat. I am being generously hosted by Sarah and Scott Donaldson – fellow kiwis and Scott almost kayaked the Tasman last year (he made it to within 40nm of NZ). He plans to make another attempt early next year. 

The little Donkey experiencing the colder waters of the Tasman in Coff’s Harbour marina. Photo: Alistair Harding

Today I had a nice time talking to the students from Kororo primary school who were most fascinated with the Simpson’s Donkeys toilet bucket.

Photo: Alistair Harding

I will update soon on a more precise departure date.  I am extremely pumped to get going, feel completely ready to go and slightly frustrated at the delay.

Love Captain Axe

Less than a week till departure

Hello from Australia,

I have arrived back in Australia and am now getting into position to depart from Coff’s Harbour.  Hoping for a suitable weather window towards the end of this week.

Please send some nice messages to the weather gods on my behalf.

Captain Axe.


Simpson’s Donkey – the worlds most beautiful rowing boat

I would like to introduce you to my trusty steed ‘Simpon’s Donkey’. (To read the background of the name click here.)

The little donkey is 6.8m in length and 1.6m in beam (width). She is a specially designed ocean rowing boat, built to make ocean crossings, for months at a time. She is NOT designed to row around shallow waters and close to shore where she is in mortal DANGER of running aground due to tides/winds and currents. Unladen (i.e. without food/water and myself) she weighs about 250/300kg. Fully loaded with 70 days of food, 60 litres of emergency water, equipment and myself, she will be around 600/700kg in weight. Which is a lot for one person to push along with a pair of oars, but in terms of ocean rowing boats she is considered on the lighter end of the scale.

Manufactured by Rannoch Ocean Adventures in the UK, and designed by Phil Morrison a naval architect, she is made from a blend of fibreglass and carbon fibre. Her hull is VERY strong (I have hit the material as hard as I can with a hammer and made only a small dent). She has a number of design enhancements over traditional ocean rowing boats, the biggest ones being:

– she does not need to be ballasted to self-right. Meaning in the event of a capsize, due to the design of the boat she should turn back up again without the need to have the boat packed with weight in a certain way which older ocean rowing boats required.

– she has a keel mounted rudder as opposed to a transom mounted rudder. The keel mounted rudder is stronger and means 100% of the rudder is in the water aiding the control of the boat. The old rowing boats had heavy transom mounted rudders with most of the rudder being out of the water. These were heavy and prone to brakeage when waves hit their exposed surfaces.

– the cabin in the bow end. Older boats had the cabin in the stern end. Due to the shape of the cabin door offering the most windage on the boat, having the door at the bow end means following breezes push along nicely and head winds slip over the profiled nose section.

On board I carry all the safety equipment an ocean going yacht would carry. Here is a list of some of the main equipment I have (this list is NOT complete and is for general interest only):

– 1 x Eperb beacon
– 2 x PLB emergency distress beacons
– 1 x survival suit
– 1 x life raft
– 1 x handheld Isatphone 2 satellite telephone (Supplied by Network Innovations Singapore)
– 1 x permanently installed Wideye™ iFleetONE™ satellite terminal with email/phone (supplied by ADDVALUE technologies Ltd in Singapore)
– 1 x GETAC B300 ruggedised notebook computer (supplied by GETAC from Taiwan)
– GTMailPlus email software supplied by GTMaritime Singapore
– 2 x SPOT GPS trackers (supplied by Marcom Watson, Australia)
– 1 x deLORME inreach explorer supplied by Maprogress, New Zealand)
– Electric watermaker
– Handheld watermaker
– 2 x fire extinguishers
– 1 x set of emergency flares
– 2 x SIMRAD GPS chartplotters with NAVIONICS backgrouns maps installed (All SIMRAD equipment supplied by SIMRAD and supported through CAN Traders Pte Ltd Singapore)
– 1 x SIMRAD 25W fixed installation marine VHF radio
– SIMRAD class B AIS
– Echomax electronic radar reflector
– 2 x handheld portable ICOM marine VHF radio’s
– 2 x waterproof emergency signalling torches
– Sea anchor and series drogues
– 70 days food
– 2 x jetboil gas cookers
– Clothing for all conditions
– Category A first aid kit
– 60 litres of drinking water

“Look after the boat and the boat will look after you” is the adage drummed into me by Rannoch’s technical wizard Mike Wood. And look after that little Donkey I plan to do.

Time to departure less than two weeks. Tick, tock, tick, tock…..

Supporting the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust

Two weeks till departure!

During the final phase of the Rowing from Home to Home expedition I will once again be supporting the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust.  The rescue helicopter helped save my sisters life after a car accident and I supported them in 2012 during my second Everest expedition, raising $27,000 through speaking engagements and donations.


My sister Debra meeting the flight crew from the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust who flew her to hospital after her accident. L to R: Jayden Strickland (Chief Crewman), Debra Avery, Roger Blume (Paramedic), Fergus MacLachlan (Pilot)

I personally do not feel comfortable asking for donations.  Instead I prefer a value exchange.  If you enjoy following the expedition updates as I tackle the Tasman crossing, then it would be lovely if you can make a contribution based on what value you thought you had from following.  So far in the past two weeks we have quietly raised $2,900 thanks to some very generous friends contributions. (Eds note: As of 27 September, 2017 we are now up to $3950).

Donations can be sent electronically through this link here ( and please select “Rowing from Home to Home” as the DONATION PROJECT. (Any money donated goes directly to the Trust account and not to me.)

To learn more about what the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust does, click this link here: or you can follow them at facebook here.

Thank you.


A brief history of rowing and kayaking the Tasman Sea

UPDATED: 10 July 2018

The Tasman Sea is considered by most in the ocean rowing community to be one of the most hostile crossings in the world. Being an extension of the southern ocean it is one of the most unpredictable, unforgiving stretches of sea on the planet.

The following information is the attempts, (both successful and unsuccessful) to cross the Tasman Sea by human power.  Information is obtained from various sources which are credited at the bottom of the article. The list is completed to the best of my knowledge however there maybe some other clandestine attempts which have passed underneath my radar. (If you are aware of any I have missed, in the interests of accuracy, then please contact me at and I will update this article!)

For all these brave warriors below who have actually set-off from shore, there are countless people who have ‘talked about it’ and never managed to get to the starting line. From my personal experience this shows just how difficult mounting an expedition such as this is.  There is a tremendous amount of effort required to form a support team, raise the money, prepare your boat and equipment, risk management, train physically/mentally and technically and raise the courage to even get to the starting line.

Technically the crossings below fit into three categories:

  • KAYAKING with sail assistance

I have listed the category of crossing in the header of each attempt.


Another important factor I have tried to record here, is the style of the crossing in terms of support.  Support is generally considered to be in a physical sense, e.g. aircraft or vessel resupply or support vessels following for safety reasons (as opposed to support via information e.g weather forecasting through radio or sat phone).  Whilst all crossings are momentous feats, it should be noted and differentiated that crossings using no support are in a different league to crossings with support. Currently, to-date the first man to cross the Tasman Solo (Colin Quincey) is still the ONLY person to make a human powered solo crossing of the Tasman with no support.  He also was the only one to make the crossing with no GPS, radio or sat comm’s, or water maker onboard!

Anders Svedlund (1969) – ROWING


A Swedish sailor, in his 40s at the time, was the first person recorded trying to row across the wild Tasman Sea. He left Onehunga in a 6-metre fibreglass rowing boat he partly built himself, only to capsize five days later, 65 kilometres from shore. After righting his boat, he was swept ashore at the Waikato Heads.  He had more success two years on, when he became the first person to cross the Indian Ocean alone, rowing from Australia to Madagascar.  He also went on to row a great portion of the Pacific, making it from Chile to Samoa.  Amazingly he carried NO navigational instruments and used only the sun to keep heading in the correct general direction.  A teetotaller and a vegetarian, he cared very little for records, shunned all publicity, and never kept a log or wrote down the story of his accomplishing his feats.  After returning from his Indian Ocean row he went straight back to Auckland, and, without telling a soul where he had been, resumed his old trade as a house painter.  Eight years after that, he died in his Auckland apartment, apparently after falling from a chair while changing a lightbulb.

Colin Quincey (1977) – ROWING

downloadAn English-born New Zealander, Colin became the first person to complete a solo, unassisted trip across the Tasman. He set off from Hokianga in the “Tasman Trespasser”, his 6-metre fibreglass open dory, arriving on Australia’s Sunshine Coast 63 days later. Colin had no working means of radio communication on-board, carried all his own water, navigated by sextant, and landed during the night on a spot unknown to him on the Australian coast during heavy surf.  A truly remarkable and completely ‘unsupported’ crossing.  For 33 years he remained the only person to have accomplished the feat until a 25-year old named Shaun Quincey – his son repeated the challenge this time from Australia to New Zealand.

Amazingly Colin Quincey as of 10 July, 2018 is STILL the only person to ever cross the Tasman solo by human power, completely unsupported.  All other kayak or rowing attempts by solo means have required towing or re-supply by vessel or aircraft.

(Sadly Colin Quincey passed away on 9, July 2018). May this brave legend of the Tasman RIP.

John Elcock (1988) – ROWING

New Zealander John Elcock made three attempts in the late 1980’s to row across the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand.  He had a specially built rowing boat and mustered the support of the likes of Australian Adventurer Dick Smith.  Whilst very little information is publicly available about Elcock’s attempts, a documentary was made at the time and it is from this that I gleaned this information.  Elcock’s first two attempts were from Sydney and lasted a few days each before being towed back to shore due to adverse currents and winds.  He then shifted further south to the fishing port of Eden for his final attempt.  His last throw of the dice was marred in controversy as an article appeared in a local newspaper as he left Eden, stating he said something negative about the local fisherman.  This is something that he fervently denied later.  After only 1 – 2 days at sea, he called for help and was towed back into port by one of the local fishing boats.  Much of the town having read the newspaper, were upset with Elcock.  He did not receive a warm welcome and his campaign ended with a hefty salvage bill which possibly ended any hopes of a fourth attempt.

Paul Caffyn (1987/1989) – KAYAKING

Paul Caffyn surfing into Queens Beach, BowenPaul has twice attempted to kayak across the Tasman Sea from Tasmania to New Zealand.  During a 1987 attempt with Ron Allnatt, a combination of severe weather and the Tasmanian authorities curtailed the attempt. During a second secret attempt in 1989, Paul’s co-paddler chickened out when eight miles off the coast of Tasmania. Paul was not willing to paddle the double kayak solo.  Paul is most well known for making the first ever circumnavigation of the Australian mainland by sea kayak.

Nick Barbara and Cathal (Carl) Dickens – ROWING

The two soldiers made two attempts to row across the Tasman in 2002. The first attempt from Muriwai beach in New Zealand ended very close to shore when the boat over turned and would not self right in the strong surf.  They then made a second attempt from Sydney in Australia and were again capsized and ended up clinging to their upturned boat for two days before being rescued by a passing tuna boat after using the last of their flares.  I cannot find any photographs of the pair so please do send me some if you have them.


Andrew McAuleyAn Australian adventurer, McAuley first tried to kayak across the ditch in 2006, but turned around after two days due to difficulties keeping warm. He made his second attempt from Tasmania, bound for the Milford Sound. After 30 days at sea and surviving torrid conditions, he disappeared just 56km from his destination. His final message – a scratchy recording pleading for help – was initially dismissed as a hoax. His body has never been found. McAuley’s effort was truly remarkable for the fact he was paddling a modified two-person sea kayak.  A craft most unsuited to long crossings at sea.  He had also chosen to cross the Tasman from a very southerly route where the winds were more constantly in his favor however the sea conditions are much rougher than further north.  He utilized the assistance of a sail during his crossing.

Steven Gates, Andrew Johnson, Kerry Tozer and Sally Macready (2007) – ROWING

78674154The team of 4 x Australian rowers rowed the Tasman in 31 days. The two men and two women travelled 2200km in their 11-metre, 1.5 tonne custom-built boat, narrowly avoiding collisions with dolphins, sharks, and ships. They left Hokianga Harbour in the Far North and landed in Sydney Harbour, the first Australian team to make the crossing. They currently hold the record for the fastest crossing of the Tasman Sea under human power.  They reportedly had paid $4,500 to have a support boat travel with them at the start of the journey which never showed up! I believe they received a tow to get out of Hokianga Harbour therefore their crossing is deemed supported.

Justin Jones and James Castrission (2007-2008) – KAYAKING

Trans Tasman kayakers near goalThe Australian pair nicknamed ‘Cass and Jonesy’ became the first to cross the Tasman in a kayak, completing the journey in 60 days. They took off in their kayak named “Lot 41” after the legendary racehorse Phar Lap’s auction number, from Forster, New South Wales, and landed on Ngamotu beach in New Plymouth. They struggled with water maker failures, encounters with sharks, sea sickness and strong headwinds, that caused them to spend a number of days paddling in circles and eventually added a much great distance to their journey.  They team needed no support or re-supply on their crossing.

Olly Hicks (2009) – ROWING

493512975_c3404d5e23_oBritish explorer Olly Hicks initially set off from Tasmania to circumnavigate Antarctica (his expedition aim was to row around the world) in his half million dollar rowboat named “the Flying Carrot”.   Sponsored by VIRGIN, and only part-way through the attempt, due to difficulty in making progress he changed his mind and headed in towards Stewart Island instead.  He had encounters with great white sharks and his 95-day quest ended when wild conditions led him to call it a day. He was towed into port by the Shangri la, a Bluff cray-boat, before he headed back to England. He plans to make a subsequent attempt in the future.

Shaun Quincey (2010) – ROWING

128500-81160-34Shaun Quincey rowed his way into the history books, joining his father as the second rower to make a solo crossing of the Tasman Sea. He chose to go the other way to his dad – leaving the New South Wales coast, and was pushed north by strong winds and current as he neared the New Zealand coastline.  He feared missing New Zealand altogether and eventually made it to 90 Mile Beach in the Far North. He ran out of water during the crossing and required a resupply by airplane.  He was capsized at one stage and had issues righting his boat.  The gruelling 53-day ordeal, in which he faced capsizes, broken equipment, and even a collision with a sperm whale, required him to row 1700km more than planned.

Team Gallagher (2011-2012) – ROWING

Boat_with_Ricoh_logo_400x400Lead by Nigel Cherrie, a crew of four New Zealand men called Team Gallagher after their title sponsor, decided to row harbour bridge to harbour bridge – Sydney to Auckland. They spent 55 days, twice as long as planned, in the Moana, their 10-metre rowing boat. At one stage they were forced to spend 10 days on sea-anchor due to rough weather and contemplated rowing back to Australia.  The crew, which also included the son of Sir Peter Blake, endured food spoilage, blisters, and a broken rudder, before they safely arrived in Auckland Harbour. having spent a very memorable Christmas at sea. They team needed no support or re-supply on their crossing.

Stuart Cleary (2014) – KAYAKING

13325709_969465073171384_8231522955788535035_nCleary had an ambitious plan to make a complete circumnavigation of the Tasman Sea solo in his kayak.  Crossing to New Zealand via Lord Howe Island then returning to Australia via a more northerly route resulting in a voyage of 15,000km or more.  Leaving from Ballina in Australia he ran into problems within the first few days of his paddle.  Fortunately he was still within 100km of the coastline when boat started taking on water.  He activated emergency flotation and was subsequently rescued.  Amazingly 18 months later the kayak completed the Tasman crossing alone and was washed up on the shores of New Zealand as per the photo on the left (Photo: Nathan Marshall)

Malcolm Skelton (2017) – ROWING

8f627a1b26a147e09613b7cf14375350Skelton departed Coffs Harbour in Australia in 2017, bound for New Zealand. After 11 days at sea he abandoned his attempt after discussions with his wife and expedition meteorologist. Skelton was subsequently rescued by a passing cargo vessel after activating his emergency distress beacon and his boat was later scuttled by a fishing vessel. One of the aim’s of his crossing was to raise awareness and money for a condition his wife suffers called Friedreich’s Ataxia.

Grant ‘Axe’ Rawlinson (2017) – ROWING

8Rawlinson set-out from Singapore in his rowing boat ‘Simpson’s Donkey, on January 3, 2017.  His plan was to travel all the way from Singapore to New Zealand completely by human power.  The first stage was a 4,200km row from Singapore through Indonesia and East Timor to Australia.  Together with Englishman Charlie Smith, the pair became the first to ever row this route and arrived in Darwin 78 days later.  Rawlinson then travelled by bicycle, alone across Australia for 4,000km to Coff’s Harbour where he set out again in his rowing boat, this time solo, to cross the Tasman.  After 24 days at sea, and a massive 2,000km circle, Rawlinson was capsized in storms and blown back into the shores of Australia in Ballina, further away from New Zealand than where he departed. Rawlinson will attempt the crossing again in 2018.

Scott Donaldson (2013-2014-2018) – KAYAKING

NZKayakerDonaldson, a kiwi, set off solo from Coffs Harbour with a plan to kayak to New Zealand then back again to Australia.  He had made a similar attempt in 2013, which was aborted after two days when his kayak filled with water. His second attempt was planned to take between 50 and 70 days, but nearly three months in, and only 83km from New Zealand’s shore, he had to abandon his mission after suffering injuries when his kayak rolled a number of times during heavy weather. He had also required a resupply by airplane with food and equipment to fix breakages.

Donaldson made a third attempt in 2018.  Departing Coff’s Harbour on May 2, 2018, ten days later he reached Lord Howe Island and awaited a weather window before departing again.  He ultimately arrived at the Port of New Plymouth in New Zealand on the 2 July, 2018, becoming the first person to kayak solo across the Tasman.  He was resupplied enroute.


Running on empty? Nutrition for extreme endurance events

My main goal on the Rowing from Home to Home expedition is not to die.

One of my secondary goals is to turn up in NZ at the end of the journey in good physical shape – not having completely wasted myself in the process (which is what happens to a number of endurance athletes but you probably never hear about it publicly).



123 days, 8,100km and 2/3 of the way through the journey I am healthier now than when I departed.


How do I do this? Here is a behind the scenes peek at the approach to nutrition for this journey in this article written by expedition nutritionist Gary Moller.

Hopefully people from all walks of life may find something useful from this – please read the full article here.

gary moller

Gary Moller – top level athlete and expert nutritionist 

Rowing the Tasman Sea Solo – departure date imminent!

In early October I will  set-off from Coff’s Harbour in my 6.8m ocean rowing boat ‘Simpson’s Donkey’, bound for New Plymouth in New Zealand on the final stage of the Rowing from Home to Home expedition.  I have traveled for 8,100 km this year by human power, all the way from Singapore to Coff’s Harbour in Australia.  Stage One was a 78 day, 4,200km row from Singapore to Darwin together with Charlie Smith. Stage Two was a 45 day, 3,900km solo bicycle ride across Australia.  This third and final stage of rowing the Tasman Sea will be around 2,500 – 3,000 km in length and will also be the most challenging stage due to the extreme weather and sea conditions I will face.

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-08 at 11.09.11 AM

‘Simpson’s Donkey’ is chomping at the bit to get onto the Tasman.  I am confident she is the most well prepared and fastest boat to ever attempt this crossing.  No dis-respect to the other teams who have tried – I have just done more preparation.

My initial plan was to row with a partner (Rob Hamill) on the Tasman crossing, however I had a great deal of time to think on my solo cycle leg across the Australian continent.  I revelled in being by myself, and found the intensity of the experience and challenge to be richer and more fulfilling when alone.  This coupled with my previous 4,500km of experience rowing Simpson’s Donkey, made me come to the conclusion that I would prefer to tackle the final and most challenging section of the entire expedition solo.

In what shows the true quality of the man, Rob although disappointed at the decision, ultimately has been a tower of support and very understanding.  He has remained an active member of the team working hard in the background.  Seeing the mature way Rob responded to my decision confirmed that had I rowed with a partner – he would have been an ideal choice.

Roger Badham

Dr Roger Badham, an Australian but also Team NZ’s meteorologist.

Departure is set for early October, and the exact date will be subject to weather systems closer to the time.  I am proud to announce Dr Roger Badham will be the official meteorologist for the Tasman Crossing, providing daily weather information.  For those who may not be familiar with Dr Roger, he has spent 10 years at university studying meteorology and the last 40 years as a meteorologist most of that time specialising in forecasting for the marine industry.  He has forecast for 9 America s Cups, 7 Olympic games, 30 around the world yacht races and countless yacht races and regattas all around the world, with over 35 Sydney to Hobart race forecasts and more than 500 passages across the Tasman and Coral Seas.

I will be posting more information closer to departure time, however for now I am keeping myself extremely busy by working with various parties on the risk management and emergency response procedures, modifying and servicing Simpson’s Donkey, and preparing myself physically and mentally to take on a very challenging stretch of water in an ocean rowing boat.

A massive thank you to the people who have helped the expedition to get to this third and final stage.  Very soon it will once again be time to leave the safety of shore and test myself in mother nature’s ultimate arena.

Love Axe

What sea conditions are dangerous to an ocean rowing boat?

Huge ocean swells, (think 10m i.e 30 feet or more) are not necessarily dangerous to small vessels like rowing boats. What is much more of an issue is when the face of the waves steepen into a wall. These walls eventually become so unstable they collapse, forming white water and hence termed ‘breaking waves’.

NB:  The critical slope angle required for waves to break according to NOAA is anything greater than 1:7.  This is the ratio of the wave height to the wave length.  Thus a 1m high wave with a wave length (distance from peak to peak) of 7m would start to break.

Axe in rougher Bali Sea

50nm offshore and rowing with 25 knots of wind through the Bali Sea during the north-west monsoon – January 2017

Studies have shown that the size of a breaking wave and its ability to capsize a vessel are directly related to the length of the hull of the vessel.  If a breaking wave catches a vessel side on, then the wave only needs to be 30% the length of the hull to have the capability to capsize the vessel – some of the time. If the breaking wave height reaches 60% of the hull length and hits the vessel side on then almost all vessels will capsize.

Based on these figures, we see that Simpson’s Donkey is 6.8m long.  So a breaking wave of just over 2m in height, if caught beam on (from the side) will have the ability to capsize us. If a breaking wave of over 4m in height hits us side on, then we will almost definitely capsize.  The Tasman Sea gets some very large waves, take this example from a stormy period in September 2010 “resulting in waves over 8m over almost the full width of the Tasman Sea”.


Simpson’s Donkey is designed to be self righting in the event of capsize.  However I will be doing my utmost in the upcoming row across the Tasman to avoid a capsize which is an extreme event and can cause injury/damage or more.  Ways to avoid capsize include running with the weather (i.e. in the same direction as the waves in order not to become caught side on), or by deploying parachute anchors or drogues which are towed in the water behind or in front of the vessel.  These have the effect of slowing the vessel down and/or holding the bow directly into the face of the waves, instead of letting the boat turn side-on which is the safest way for a vessel to handle rough weather.  A good deal of my time currently is spent planning and putting protocols into place on how to handle these situations when they arise on the water.

An excellent book to read for more information on the subject is:  Heavy Weather Sailing, by K. Adlard ColesPeter Bruce  


%d bloggers like this: