Trans-Tasman 2021

Everyone needs goals and dreams. This is the story of a dream to paddle a kayak solo and unassisted from Australia to New Zealand. The goal is to inspire more people to be more active and adventurous and to follow their own dreams.

Useful Links

Blue Moon - Infographic

Infographic below shows key features of Blue Moon's design and tracks of previous Trans-Tasman crossings by kayak. Shows Blue Moon progress at 20 Dec 2021. Courtesy of Mario Lendvai Illustrations.

Epilogue - Return to Sydney (from Port Stephens)

Day 10 Sat 29 Jan - Finished!

Above: A stream of visitors at Little Manly. Richard indicates preferred T-bone size.. (Photo: David L)

Above: Roseville arrival and finish... (Photo: Ian W)

Day 9 Fri 28 Jan - Current has the last hurrah

Two generous gestures stand out from my day today.

The first was my nephew driving up to Terrigal to meet me there with his girlfriend and share banana bread for breakfast. The Haven was abustle with swimmers, many who remembered Blue Moon’s visit in November.

The second was a clan of Wheens, Peter and Di, Liam and Rob, sailing out to meet me off Barrenjoey. As they described it, they were menulog on the water, delivering one can of icy cold Coke. Liam achieved the miracle of transferring the coke to the kayak. Rob and I took a canoe to Sweden in 1982 to race in the World Concrete Canoe Championships.

And now to the final fling of the current. My plan had been to enjoy one last night in Blue Moon sleeping on the ocean. My route this afternoon headed offshore to provide searoom for drifting. Just enough to avoid crashing into land, and not so much that I’d start tomorrow too far from Manly to arrive in time.

I dropped the sea anchor, changed into my cabin clothes, and started reading and rereading messages friends had written and sent with me at the start of the trip. A quick check of the electronic nav devices turned up the alarming outcome that I’d be whisked to Wollongong by tomorrow morning. Something had to be done, to avoid overshooting, as I’d done at Port Macquarie the first pass. I was already almost parallel with Longreef, so turning back for Pittwater refuge was not an option. Heading in it would have to be, with a stealth arrival in the Heads just before 10pm.

I am now on a mooring at Little Manly and will be there all Saturday morning.

Above: Terrigal in the morning - all hands on deck (Photo: Peter Peter)

Above: Off Newport in the arvo (Photo: Peter Wheen)

Above: 24hrs progress to 2359 Fri 28 Jan 2022

Day 9 Fri 28 Jan Sydney Arrival Plans

Over 76 days, Richard and Blue Moon will have completed a voyage of approx. 2,650km – including a 1,925km loop from Port Macquarie almost to Lord Howe Island. Google suggests shortest distance to NZ is ~1,700km so one could argue he’s done the hard yards in a roundabout way.

Richard has provided tentative arrival plans: Friday will be cruising down from Terrigal, to stop midocean about parallel with Newport.

Saturday to paddle down the last bit of coast to get to Sydney Heads mid-afternoon. Will have to rely on tracker for more accurate timing. This will be a no-landing affair, aiming to tie up at one of the mooring buoys near the Quarantine Station.

Sunday morning I’ll plan one last sleep-in, a lazy morning, wait for tide, and set out from Manly at about 2.30pm, to get to Roseville Bridge boat ramp and finally land at around 5.30pm.

Richard is always up for a chat, and will be delighted to see friends and fellow paddlers along the way and/or at the finish. If you have plans to disturb his Sunday AM sleep-in, maybe keep an eye out for the Do not Disturb sign, or make plaintive shearwater noises?

Day 8 Thu 27 Jan Breaking Down Boundaries

Today was another easy run with glassy calms then a great tailwind.

In that relaxed mode, there was time to ponder the overall adventure.

In particular, I contemplated the aspects of the trip which had most stretched my limits.

Number one on the list has to be testing my reaction to 40 days alone. Check yourself, but it seems we rarely go more than 24 hours without at least seeing another human, even if we don’t take the opportunity to talk with them. Previously my longest was two days. Extending to 40 could have had bad psychological effects, and yet I suspect it has simply confirmed my sociable nature and preference for company.

Number two was whether my body would stand the strain of paddling day after day for 70 days. Remarkably the answer seems to be yes. Average paddling time was about 9 hours per day, and at a very relaxed pace. The outcome is zero blisters, minor rubs, soft fingernails, no issues with the seating, and paddling muscles that feel like they can still keep going, with no injurious strains.

Coping with wild weather is likely number three, and the jury is still out on that one. To the extent that I ran into big winds and seas, bigger than I had ever encountered before, then Blue Moon came through with great calm and style, and I could ride on that calmness. Yet I have experienced rougher storms on a cruise boat heading to Antarctica, and still am left to wonder the outcome if for example I had got closer to Cyclone Seth.

Adventuring necessarily means extending boundaries, and taking on new risks. Sometimes those boundaries are ready to be broken down...

Above: Terrigal Arrival, with an attentive audience! (Photo: Jason Cooper)

Above: 24hrs progress to 2359 Thu 27 Jan 2022

Day 7 Wed 26 Jan Spectator Sport

My hosts for the previous evening, Ken and Anne were right when they said I’d have a peaceful night. The only noise was the birds in the morning calling from the mangroves.

Then a fun gathering of friends to escort me with the current to Swansea Heads. Fortunately all this group are so involved in kayaking that we will meet up again soon.

Norah Head welcome was Jason Slade and daughter. Dinner was a fresh hot lasagne wrapped in a towel delivered by Charlene on her surfboard!

The final destination is looming larger. With weather staying in my favour, it is likely I will get to Sydney sometime this weekend. Plans are still hatching. More immediately, Terrigal is the target for tomorrow’s paddle.

Today being Australia Day, was a day for observing crowd behaviour. Why for example do we all squeeze onto favoured patches of sand, rather than spreading out along the miles of empty quieter beach? Other human habits seen from Blue Moon today and to ponder:

  • why young kids always walk as close as they can to the edge of a cliff?
  • why teenagers congregate on cliff edges too, but mostly where there is a big pool to jump into?
  • who orchestrates the 4wd vehicles scurrying through the sand dunes like ants?
  • what catch rate is adequate to keep a fisherman happy?
  • why do some fishermen need a boat ten times the size of others in their tinnies?
  • what reason there may be to lug down to the beach and set up umbrellas and sunshades, only to lie outside them in the sun?
  • when do kids playing on the beach ever feel cold?

We are definitely an odd bunch, kayakers included.

Above: escort leaving Swansea (Photo: Trudy Carter)

Above: escort leaving Swansea (Photo: Trudy Carter)

Above: 24hrs progress to 2359 Wed 26 Jan 2022

Day 6 Tue 25 Jan - Walk in the Park

How can two days separated by only a lay day be so different?

Could it simply be a bakery-rejuvenated outlook?

Tide was flowing my way out of Newcastle Harbour.

The ocean water started glassy smooth, and then a gentle breeze grew on my tail. Ocean currents were flowing my way. Imagined or reality, my speed was up over 3kmh.

Supporters at the finish didn’t have to wait till after dark like at Newcastle. Paul Carter and Rob Cook were on skis in the largish waves at Swansea Heads. Paul had said he would meet me in New Zealand, so Swansea was pseudo New Plymouth. Rob whisked me off to his place in Caves Beach for my first home meal, plus a bit of exercise playing table tennis with Marg.

For Australia Day tomorrow, I need to catch outgoing tide by leaving before about 9am. Plan then will be to try to knock off the 22km down to Norah Head, and perhaps grab another night sleeping under the beam of a lighthouse.

Above: Passing Merewether (Photo: Marni Kay)

Above: No tugboats required - Into Swansea (Photo: Trudy Carter)

Above: 24hrs progress to 2359 Tue 25 Jan 2022

Day 5 Mon 24 Jan - Being a Sloth

How glorious to be a sloth.

Newcastle night pub life wasn’t going to disturb me last night, and I slept like a log till 8am.

Since then it has been a round of delightful, and lazy, social engagements. Photographer extraordinaire Colin filled the morning. Then lunch with Ian, Cheryl and Mark at the Honeysuckle Hotel trying to make me believe Newcastle is the best city in Australia. Followed by a lesson in breeding spaniels from Russell Brown.

Dinner was an invite from a complete stranger, Clarke Pearson. He had a roast lamb roasting, and only himself to eat it if I didn’t join him. His abode is directly above Blue Moon’s mooring, and he had seen me in November on the journey north. He was keen to support my ongoing paddling endeavours on the way back home.

Back in the cockpit tomorrow, the weather is forecast to be light NE tailwinds. With luck, that might give me an easy ride toward Swansea, but I'm learning not to count chickens.

Above: Blue Moon patiently awaiting Richard's return from lunch (Photo: Colin Sheringham)

Above: 24hrs progress to 2359 Mon 24 Jan 2022

Day 4 Sun 23 Jan - Character Building

Yes today was character-building. Tough, challenging and hard work would be other descriptors.

GPS said 22km to Newcastle, not much more than a marathon series race. And yet it took over 13 hours of paddling.

The leadup night’s sleep had been segmented into hourly grabs, in order to check we were not drifting too close to shore. Turns out Gareth and Vicki from Newy have their home right there on the bit of beach toward which we drifted.

Overnight I could see the lights of Anna Bay behind, and the lighthouse and highrise glow of Newcastle ahead. I was up at 5 and on the water at 7, with a vague goal to use incoming tide at the breakwaters up till 1pm. How wrong was that estimate?

All morning, I struggled to get even close to 2kmh across the ground. It seems I was in the grip of a random current. Ironically only days earlier, southerly current was the enemy, now when a little southerly set would be a gift, all on offer was determinedly heading north.

Looking for inspiration and relief, I decided to head close to shore, where surely the current would be less. In fact, no, and we struggled on at snail speed. I started to worry that Newcastle by nightfall might be optimistic. Close in to shore added the bonus that I could watch landmarks in the sand dunes passing, to at least give some sense of progress. It also gave vivid feedback that any stop, for a snack or adjustment, had us rocketing backward on the current.

This close in also put me more at risk from the surf. To an extent, that helped waken and liven me up. Minor wavebreaks were part of the tussle, taking my mind off sand dunes that refused to pass by.

That was until the big outlier decided to surf me. The main surf extended perhaps 100m from shore. I was paddling parallel to shore about 300m out. First I saw was a rising wall of water behind my left shoulder. Time to put in a few hard strokes and momentarily think I’d escaped the break. But no, the stern was swallowed by the curl of the breaker and had enough energy to overcome 500kg of inertia. Then the curl engulfed the bow, and over we went, surfing side on down the face of the wave. I was way underwater, and Blue Moon far beyond 90 degrees rotation off vertical. Fortunately Blue Moon’s self righting came to the fore, and we popped upright, still surfing sideways. The wave finally unbroke, leaving us side-on in the middle of the main surf zone. Some frantic paddle strokes started us heading back out to sea. We crested numerous smaller broken and breaking waves, but with a little momentum now in our favour. Very relieved to get out and beyond the surf zone finally.

The adrenalin from that encounter kept me slogging on for a few more slow kilometres.

I dreamt of being one of the many 4WD vehicles able to scoot along the beach. Where they were stopped, they became landmarks to crawl past.

About midway down Stockton Beach, still with 11km to Newcastle, a miracle occurred. The wind died, and the current abated. Seems no good reason, but I was one very relieved paddler, happy to take advantage of this gift from heaven.

It still took till just before sunset. A bright spot was a magnificent double rainbow, without any rain. An equally bright spot were the dazzling orange shirts of the Newy army, waving from the northern breakwater.

One more challenge snuck in around the welcoming breakwater arm. Just too early for the tide to have turned, once more I was battling adverse current up the harbour. With great relief, I pulled into Little Beach, to be greeted by Mark and Cheryl, Vicki and Gareth, and Richard. They even had an apple danish, or two, for a final burst of energy to cross the harbour and tie up at a safe wharf.

Report from welcoming paddlers that night: Welcome back to Newcastle Richard & Blue Moon!

Newy Paddlers (aka the Orange Army) had frolicking dolphins at the ready as Richard B escorted in by Richard H in his sea kayak rounded Stockton Breakwater on his return visit to Newy. Cheryl & Mark had pastries at the ready as we welcomed him to land & Vicki & Gareth assisted with some quick rudder maintenance, after official congratulations & photo sessions of course.

Richard then continued into Newy Harbour escorted by Richard as the harbour lights guided them into a berth Richard knows well.

Richard is ready to explore the gorgeous city of Newcastle & intends to blend in with the locals as he chills out tomorrow....once he finds his land legs again

[more photos in the Flickr album - see link at the top of this page]

Above: A Newy Paddlers escort into Newcastle (Photo: Mark Bretag)

Above: First priority - some Newcastle pastries courtesy of Newy Paddlers (Photo: VickiLB)

Above: 24hrs progress to 2359 Sun 23 Jan 2022

Day 3 Sat 22 Jan - Bag of Treats

Lots of little things made up today’s bag of treats.

Before leaving Port Stephens heads, a dolphin cruise catamaran came across and gave me an encouraging cheer.

My course took me round three sides of the lighthouse, and it looks great from any angle. A unique feature of the tower is a set of external stairs leading to an entry at first floor. Do the spiral stairs inside not go down to ground?

Near the lighthouse a turtle popped its head up to say hello very briefly, before timidly duckdiving away.

I just might have seen a small shark, mostly a dorsal fin doing like what is portrayed in the Jaws movie. Weather has been very kind, with little wind or waves.

There was a bonus tin of pineapple for dinner dessert, as rust had made it all the way through and the tin was leaking.

Tomorrow’s mission is to reach Newcastle, and see what treats await there and along the way.

Above: Initial progress to 2359 Sat 22 Jan

Above: Passing Boat Harbour Photo: Colin Sheringham

Day 2 Fri 21 Jan - Sea Trials

What adventures await on the return trip to Sydney?

There have been two full luxury days at Nelson Bay Marina. Time to get back on the ocean.

How quickly I was already starting to forget the daily paddling startup routines. Everything has to be done from back to front of the cabin:

  • pack away sleeping sheet
  • tie down equipment stored in bedroom
  • turn off satellite receiver, make sure shiptracker and Spot tracker are both on and working
  • out of dry cabin clothes so they can be left airing in bedroom
  • seal shut bedroom hatch
  • shuffle paddling gear forward to within reach of cockpit, things like watch, camera, glasses, GPS, lunch and snack boxes
  • get into wet paddling clothes
  • reach out of vestibule to open up cockpit
  • lifejacket and harness on
  • install centreboard in its slot
  • simultaneously slip out of vestibule into cockpit whilst sliding into spraydeck and closing vestibule hatch

This morning there were a few false starts and having to crawl backward to retrieve the forgotten items. There was still quite a bit of headwind, so I had planned to stick Blue Moon’s nose out of Port Stephens as far as the weather would allow, and then loop back to Shoal Bay for a quiet night.

Paddling anew close to headlands and coastline reminded me of some of the now luxury memories of the true open ocean. Headlands always create backwash. There is constant potential for rogue waves to break and wash a kayaker onto the shore. Out on the ocean, steering concentration can be relaxed.

I headed over toward Port Stephens lighthouse, and revelled in the steep rocky coastline between entrance and lighthouse. Energetic walking types could be seen on the headland lookout.

Tomorrow the forecast is still for SE headwinds but lighter, so the plan is to make a start for Newcastle. Its a long haul, so likely will split it over two days with tomorrow night camped on the ocean.

Above: Initial progress to 0830 Sat 22 Jan

Day 1 Thu 20 Jan Return voyage

The adventure continues...

One Blue Moon kayak and one paddler in Nelson Bay, what is the best way to get them home to Sydney?

Perhaps it would have been quicker to get family to bring the trailer when they came to see me again after over 60 days apart.

However one more leg before Blue Moons `retirement from ocean paddling called, and we aim to take a leisurely cruise down the coast and back to Sydney. My dream of kayaking to New Zealand will remain forever that.

Retrieval assistance to get across the East Australian Current is a reminder of the power of nature. My 3kmh in Blue Moon was no match for currents flowing at up to 10kmh.

I have had the luxury of three days on terra firma to get back my land legs. Even now, the land is still rocking. Family have been up to visit, with big plans to feed me up to refill a few lost kilos. There has been a bit of washing, of paddler, clothes and kayak, which has perhaps succeeded in removing the top layers of salt. The minor skin dings are healing quickly, and even my fingernails are starting to harden up again.

There just might have been a few visits to cafes and bakeries. The number one food treat was as suspected, a strawberry milkshake. Oddly, the urge for fresh bread has not been so overwhelming.

The rear hatch has been restocked with coke.

The Main Event - Port Macquarie to New Zealand

Trip Report - Contents

Richard will be providing periodic short reports via his internet connection (satellite). These are provided below with newest posts at the top. Hotlink below to specific days..

Day 0Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7Day 8Day 9
Day 10Day 11Day 12Day 13Day 14Day 15Day 16Day 17Day 18Day 19
Day 20Day 21Day 22Day 23Day 24Day 25Day 26Day 27Day 28Day 29
Day 30Day 31Day 32Day 33Day 34Day 35Day 36Day 37Day 38Day 39

Above: With thanks to Mario Lendvai Illustration!

Day 41 Nelson Bay

Above: At rest (Photo: Colin Sherringham)

Day 40 18 Jan 2022 - Landcrew Update

What a journey, what an adventurer. A message from Richard's land crew to all the Blue Moon followers : You have all been closely following Richard's amazing adventure and observed over the past week his progress, effort and resilience despite the extreme challenges.

His land crew have been in daily contact with him and drawing on the expertise of many in modelling, forecasting and considering conditions, wholly focussed on ensuring Richard’s safety. Singular priority has always been to get Richard safely back to the shore.

It became increasingly clear to Richard's land crew that despite herculean efforts these past few days, closing that distance between Blue Moon and the retracting shoreline, as it was being pulled south in the EAC towards and past Newcastle, was not going to be achievable. With Blue Moon in the clutches of the fast-flowing EAC, very adverse weather conditions coming up from the south and busy shipping lanes ahead the level of risk to safety was assessed to have become unacceptable.

For that reason, his land crew made a call to initiate a managed private vessel retrieval of Richard and Blue Moon in the early hours this morning. He is safe and now making his way back to the shore where he will need some time and space to rest and recover before he can reach out to thank everyone

Above: Total trip progress 1400 15 Nov 2021 to 2359 17 Jan 2021

Day 39 17 Jan 2022 (NZ Dream - 53km E of Seal Rocks)

Sometime in the past day or two, my path south crossed my original route heading SE toward Lord Howe Island. That has to be the biggest of my loops, about 35 days to be back in the same place.

39 days ago, I was optimistically on my way to New Zealand. Today I know that was a dream, and the end of this adventure will not be Kiwiland. Simple practicalities, such as having used up a large chunk of food supplies, mean heading east is no longer an option.

There are multiple factors I can share with you on why Blue Moon and my adventure have done a U-turn:

  1. Covid is still a constraint to international travel, even isolated all the way for me but also for friends and family
  2. the past couple of weeks have highlighted how our maximum cruising speed, at only 3km/h, is too close to being stopped by current, or pushed backward by wind. Options on destination become compromised.
  3. the rudder steering system is too fragile, and remains a potential failure point.
  4. the overall steering balance is flawed. With help from the front centreboard, it works well in moderate conditions, but is outmanoeuvred in rougher conditions.
  5. I have now sampled 'solitary', and whilst there are benefits of having only shearwater for companions, the reality is sharing adventures with friends, similar to the coastal hopping trial up to Port Macquarie, is way more fun

Just where this adventure ends will become a plan over coming days.

I hope in its modified form, my Blue Moon trip has still helped inspire adventuring by everyone.

Above: 24hrs progress to 2359 Mon 17 Jan 2022

Day 38 16 Jan 2022 (Sunset Moonrise - 77km ESE of Port Macquarie)

I got in a 13 hour paddling day today, and land support are recommending another tomorrow, so not much time for idle chitchat.

One special moment to share was sunset on my western ocean horizon, whilst almost simultaneously near-full moon rise on my eastern ocean horizon. Not too many places we find ourselves with enough ocean all around to see that.

Getting dinner tonight was very calm. Made me appreciate it even more when the previous night was robustly boisterous. When I do get back to land, I will certainly enjoy plates and cups not sliding back and forth across the bench. My gimballed jetboil swings its way happily through any chaos so far, bringing the delight of hot water for soup, dehyd meal, and custard. Last night lots of water slopped its way in the hatch, only open a tiny fraction, to add wet mess all around the vestibule floor. Tonight with hatch fully open, I get cooling air and no drop of salt water.

Drinking from a rolling cup is a skill yet to be mastered. Slips and slops get past my mouth every rough evening. I still bang into things too, but are now better able to wedge myself against Blue Moon’s regular pendulum movements.

To bed, where I should be able to sleep without wedging into a corner.

Above: 24hrs progress to 2359 Sun 16 Jan 2022

Landcrew Report - Progress since 31 Dec 2021

What has your year looked like to date? Did you make New Years resolutions to iron the wrinkles out of your life? Maybe things have gone smoothly and to plan or maybe like Richard the path travelled has been a tangle of managing unseen obstacles that have got in your way. The map below shows Blue Moons track since midnight on New Years Eve...far from plain sailing ......but he has coped with it....that is the super resilient person our friend Richard is 💪💪

Do you remember me asking you to "STAND BY TO STAND BY"? Well that time has come...Richard has extracted Blue Moon from the clutches of Fast Eddy and has started his race against time across the East Australian Current (EAC). As you can see from the map, when Richard is resting Blue Moon is purely in the grip of the EAC and heading virtually south, parallel to the coast. When he is paddling Richard points Blue Moon in a Westerly direction and the resulting outcome is a direct relationship between current speed and boat speed. If Blue Moon and the EAC have the same speed the path will be 45 degrees which is what Richard achieved yesterday. As Blue Moon progresses into the EAC the currents speed will get faster... Blue Moon, like all craft, has a maximum hull speed, so Richard's challenge is not to paddle harder, that would just waste energy, but to paddle longer, so that Blue Moon maintains a consistent movement west .....because as you can see the east coast of Australia is angled SSW at this point so Blue Moon needs to make progress west not just remain parallel to the coast.

Richard has a Herculean task now, more so than any other point in his adventure Richard needs your positive vibes...the time has come....the waiting is over, no more standing by's time to send all those positive vibes to our friend in deed, our friend in need...GO RICHARD...

Above: Progress since 31 Dec 2021

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Day 37 15 Jan 2022 (Goldfish 99km E of Port Macquarie)

If it is golden colour and looks like a fish, must it be a goldfish?

A bit of background to the connection to goldfish.

Australia has an expedition race called XPD, organised by Craig and Louise.

Almost 20 years ago we entered XPD to see what ten days nonstop cycling hiking and canoeing might be like. We called our team 'goldfish'. The race was held in and around Broken Hill. Team Goldfish were mighty glad to finish. Recalling the canoe legs, they were so different to this ocean paddle and yet encompass similar thrills of going long distances and seeing amazing things. Back then, the canoes were two-man inflatables. One paddle leg was at night on Menindee Lakes, hoping to dodge barbed wire fences. Night temperatures froze the water in the canoes. Another leg was on the Darling, threading our way on a brown creek-size stream round and over logs.

To todays Goldfish, about 130mm long and 30 mm round. It seemed very nervous so rarely ventured more than a metre from Blue Moon. Whilst swimming, it appears only to use its tail, but in slow manoeuvres it has a range of frilly fins that pop out and assist its dashes and darts. Tonight it seems to have disappeared.

A great paddling day with the return of a bit of bounce and breeze and swell. Made good progress back toward mainland coast, the current goal.

Above: 24hrs progress to 2359 Sat 15 Jan 2022

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Day 36 14 Jan 2022 (Coke to Celebrate 124km ENE of Port Macquarie)

My paddling today was guided by a previous transtasmanner. As a Coffs local, he had been watching my lack of progress over the last few days, then got in touch with my land support.

Much of the advice centred on upping the effort, cutting out the holidaying, but also some useful tips on negotiating the current maze guarding even getting to the EAC.

After a diligent days paddling, well at least over ten hours, it looks like the maze is behind, and the EAC still ahead.

If I had any spare coke left, an interim celebration with my extended land support team might be in order.

Above: 24hrs progress to 2359 Fri14 Jan 2022

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Day 35 13 Jan 2022 (Life on the Ocean 152km ENE of Port Macquarie)

Who remembers Blue Hills on ABC radio, where cups of tea were the main excitement of the radio voices? Yesterday felt a little like that, settling into the flow of the ocean.

Except perhaps when my land support substituted dinner time for a few more hours paddling. Do my friends reason that I need more exercise generally? To the cups of tea of sea life...

  • Two of my yellowtails returned and are happily swimming along under me
  • one of my shearwaters hopped onto the front deck, and spent the afternoon preening, between sliding around on the slippery solar surface, and within the arc of my paddle strokes
  • A small pod of dolphins put on a display all round the bow. These are the first seen for weeks, and only flirted for 30sec before disappearing again.
  • something big swam by. I didn’t see it, but its rounded black fin was at least 300 x 300.
  • paddling into the night, got to use a big moon, and southern cross, both glittering on the water as my navigation aids.

What will tomorrow’s episode bring?

Above: 24hrs progress to 2359 Thu 13 Jan 2022

Above: Courtesy of Hagen Cartoons

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Day 34 12 Jan 2022 (Discoveries 182km NE of Port Macquarie)

I recall from reading James and Justin’s book about the excitement seeing an old buoy created.

Today, after seeing next to nothing floating on the Tasman, I had two discoveries.

The first was a tree stump. It was about 500mm across, almost the size a turtle might be. This one stayed resolutely dead. It was covered in barnacles. More interesting was the colony of fish living in its shadow. At least 20 of a whole variety of smallish fish. My family of five have left me to join more of their mates living under a log.

The second was a small yellow plastic cube, a bit like a Lego creation, about 100mm across. Barnacles covered just about every square inch of it. Its surprise was a small crab living on the upper deck. Made me wonder if crabs must have land homes, or if they can survive swimming indefinitely? He’d want to hold on tight to his tiny kingdom if swimming is not his forte.

Above: 24hrs progress to 2359 Wed 12 Jan 2022

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Day 32 and Day 33 10-11 Jan 2022 ( Twirls, Swirls and Eddies 166km NE of Port Macquarie)

The last two days almost merged into one...and that is not from having the memory of a goldfish.

The dilemma I face is how to get back to mainland coastline.

There is a box of repair equipment waiting in Port Macquarie, thanks to those who helped get it together and up there, aimed to make Blue Moon a bit safer and more reliable for the next stage of her journey. Between Blue Moon and her repair kit is the East Australian Current, plus one of Blue Moon’s basic design features, her speed.

Loaded for the trip, Blue Moon cruises at 2-3kmh. No amount of coercion gets her to pick up her skirts and run. Even runner waves pass her rather than skip with her. I’m keen to talk to naval designers as to Blue Moon’s design speed limitations (Jezza?).

EAC has currents running faster than Blue Moon’s maximum speed. Weather routing can allow for the known larger-scale current plan, such as BOM and Windy provide. It struggles to pick up the mini swirls and eddies, which can be just as detrimental on my forward speed.

So it was on day 32, I found myself on a relatively favourable swirl heading toward SW Rocks. Came to the end of my regular paddling day, packed up paddling gear, anchored, came inside to a note from land support to get back out and keep paddling through the night. They were right, and I should have resisted the lure of a comfy bed, and put in a Classic effort right then.

Instead I decided on the option to spend the next few hours preparing, get a few hours sleep, then start early and paddle overnight the next night. I finished dinner whilst gathering extra food rations and night paddling gear in preparation.

After four hours sleep, I rigged up for the long paddle. In that time, drift had taken us back east almost to where we’d started the day before.

Six hours later, heading due west, we had managed 6km north. Clearly our favourable current had evaporated. A new current-routing plan is hatching. That may mean a new loop around, then a strategic line for a new overnight paddle across EAC. Blue Moon speed a little higher than current speed would make the 140km bridge to the coast a little less a roulette wheel spin of luck.

Above: 48hrs progress to 2359 Tue 11 Jan 2022

Day 33 Landcrew Update from Phil N

A military term I learnt as an apprentice in the RN was “Stand by to stand by”…Well I guess I threw you a curved ball and told you Richard was going to do a marathon paddle today.... heading for and into the EAC…… and you were all looking at the Coke trail only to see something else …well stand by…it will happen , just not today…...`the best made plans come unstuck and unfortunately while Richard was sleeping old Fast Eddy took Blue Moon on a tour back into the maze of currents Richard has been travelling around in the last few days…..I think the adaptation of Blue Moons coke trail below sums it all up extremely well😉

Above: 60hrs progress to 1700 Tue 11 Jan 2022

Day 32 10 Jan 2022 ( - 143 km NE of Port Macquarie)

Landcrew Update: Today is one month since Richard set out to follow his dream and I thought it would be a great opportunity to help him as he struggles to overcome the fickle currents that separate him from the mainland. In all likelihood Richard will need to put in a very long day tomorrow (11 Jan), 24 hours or more, to get across the very fast flowing East Australian Current (EAC)....

Above: 24hrs progress to 2359 Mon 10 Jan 2022

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Day 31 9 Jan 2022 (Nightlife - 170 km NE of Port Macquarie)

How did it get so late?

As I pen this at 1am, Sally has to take most of the blame. From paddle down at 6pm till about 9pm to desalinate 8 litres of water. That should see me through an extra four days, and maybe on mainland by then.

There is a diary to be updated, guaranteed necessary to recall what happened when for this old brain. Satphone calls to land support continue to remind me that I’m not from a mobile-wielding era.

Then there is dinner, always a gourmet affair. As a sample, tonight was three course. Started with mushroom soup. Next rehydrated mango curry. Its a little hot for me, so added a bit of kraft cheese to soothe the effect. Dessert was a slip-down-a-dry-throat apple puree. No coke tonight, as I try to make depleted rations last the distance.

I did sit for a while, perched on the edge of the main hatch. Normally its a bit wet to do so, but tonight is a special calm gift from the weather gods. I was literally surrounded by stars. The moon was up there too, glittering on the calm water. Rewards don’t come much better than this.

Above: 24hrs progress to 2359 Sun 9 Jan 2022

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Day 30 8 Jan 2022 (Great Expectations - 170 km NE of Port Macquarie)

Made it.

That was firmly in my mind as I crossed the threshold into the EAC zone.

Now the current would take me to shore, to recharge for whatever the next destination ultimately becomes.

But no, when a plan has expectations, the disappointment is even greater when they are not met. EAC is definitely going south. I drifted 30km overnight without a single paddle stroke. Within this main current, it seems there is a little eddy heading east, and I’m on it.

So today I paddled 9 hours west, and how far did i get for that? Exactly nowhere. I am on exactly the same longitude tonight as I started on this morning. That definitely won’t get me to Coffs, or Port Macquarie. My GPS did hint at the situation, with speed down under 2kmh.

I decided round midday it was worth a de-barnacle swim, to see if removing Blue Moon’s wavy dress might help. Sure found heaps of barnacles. Mostly similar. A small shell-like tip on a softer waving branch. Shells about 3mm, branches about 2mm diameter, and about ten branches to a barnacle. Then hundreds of these on any underwater part. Fortunately they come off with a pot scourer, and Greg Smith had provided multiple scourers for the purpose.

Interestingly, my fish family didn’t want to eat the released fodder. Nothing wanted to eat me either in the 40 minutes that scrubbing took.

The result made the team feel good, but didn’t bring miracle speed changes to the current situation.

Above: 24hrs progress to 2200 Sat 8 Jan 2022

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Day 29 7 Jan 2022 (Salt Exposure - 190 km NE of Port Macquarie)

All you track watchers have potentially already picked it, my wanderings on the current look unlikely now to include Coffs Harbour. I need to put in more effort on the westward front, whilst EAC could bend a bit more west, or slow a little on the south speed.

Today was a day as my earlier dreams pictured the Tasman. Not too bumpy, not too flat, a bit of wind, a bit of chop. Some in my favour, some not. So progress fair.

I spent hours out there today putting together a mental list of all the things being affected by longer term exposure to salt water. Here’s the ones I can remember now. You might like to contemplate which might grate and irritate you the most? Salt exposure casualties:

  • my tins of food are starting to rust, obscuring the labels. Will soon have to guess the contents.
  • foil and plastic bags are getting harder to tear open, even if provided with tear-here notches. My fingernails are going soft.
  • my penknife, with scissors to solve opening plastic pouches, is seizing shut. Needs more WD40.
  • adjustable spanners are rusting. These are not Sidchrome. I’ve tried vaseline on the adjusters with a little success.
  • a chrome fitting on Sallys outside pickup looks very like it came from a shonky Chinese chrome plater. The initial desalinated water comes through looking rusty.
  • Daytime paddling attire is permanently wet
  • my regular night attire tshirt and shorts has got steadily saltier so now it never dries
  • glasses and sunglasses are coated with a slimy salt layer, with nothing dry or clean to get them clear again
  • my skin has regular minor hits and scrapes, but now they won’t heal.
  • rub rashes from spraydeck and lifejacket started a minor skin irritation, but now look lumpier and redder
  • all Blue Moon inside surfaces are damp, and won’t dry
  • opened packets held shut with duct tape are running out of stick. Duct tape wont stick to damp salt...

There are plenty more, simply part of the work conditions package out here on the ocean.

Above: 24hrs progress to 2200 Fri 7 Jan 2022

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Day 28 6 Jan 2022 (On Board the EAC - 235 km NE of Port Macquarie)

A mini success today, paddling far enough west to re-enter the East Australia Current. Now on board for a ride southward.

Considering two potential immediate goals, Coffs Harbour for border control, and Port Macquarie to pickup some new useful spares. Beyond that, destinations still to be decided.

How is this for special on special?

Every day my paddle, the latest tech and a gift from Jill and Brett Greenwood, has been performing faultlessly. Some time I’ll try to calculate the number of strokes. Folded, it lives stuffed in my cockpit at night, hardly the paddle bag cocoon most Jantex would enjoy.

Today, one of my shearwaters returned. Unlike the fishing birds, this one came in close and hovered. I held out my paddle, and he came in and landed on the blade, where he started to preen himself, 300mm from my face, so we could converse. Ultimately I had to explain there was business at hand, and suggest he relocate to the cabin top.

I also watched one of my big fish, perhaps yellowtail, zoom off and join the shearwaters when they had some flying fish leaping about. Everyone seemed to get a feed.

Very very little other ocean life to be seen, apart from a new round of barnacles happily dangling off Blue Moon’s hull. They are even growing on the anchor line, which is onboard every day.

Above: 24hrs progress to 2359 Thu 6 Jan 2022

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Day 27 5 Jan 2022 (The Birds and Fish again - 250 km NE of Port Macquarie)

Today I have been teetering on the eastern edge of Dory’s dream current, the EAC. If I can’t get into it, I could be off to Lord Howe before at least calling into coastal NSW to pick up repair spares. It has been slow going, under 2kmh, with current pushing me northeast almost as fast as I can paddle west.

Plenty of time then to watch the wildlife.

First my shearwaters. I thought they might return as the coast approaches. There have been a few, maybe ten, mostly the whiter version with forked tail, and none have called in for rest or preen on Blue Moon.

Watching them fish, it seems if they do make a catch, the fish is sitting perpendicular to their beaks and throats. To swallow, it has to be realigned. I’m wondering if they try a drop and midair recatch to achieve this? In such a haphazard affair, there are plenty of chances of a missed catch, and then the fish becomes fair game for the other congregating birds?

On the fish front, Blue Moon is now home for at least five fish. The smallest is nondescript brown, and looks about 150mm long.

All four others look similar, though one pair is smaller, about 350mm long, while the big pair look closer to 500mm long. Can anyone recognise this type from the following non-fisherman’s description? Oval body, a bit taller in section than it is wide. Body mostly silver, but with a distinctive horizontal yellow line at about mid side, running from forward side fins into the tail. All fins seem to be bright yellow, with a touch of iridescent blue. Very friendly, within 300mm of cockpit or bow. The shearwaters don’t seem in the least interested in them.

From a sharing test at lunchtime, the fish know good tin ham, and were happy to share samples of mine...

Above: 24hrs progress to 2359 Wed 5 Jan 2022

Above: Courtesy of Hagen Cartoons

Landcrew update from Phil N

Wow! I just checked out the overall layout of Richards paddle and I reckon that if the ocean had let him paddle in a straight line he would just about be there by now...he would have linked New Zealand to Australia with a trail of coke can markers....😉 Go Richard

Above: Progress to date Wed 5 Jan 2022

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Day 26 4 Jan 2022 (An Ocean of Coke - 255km NE of Port Macquarie)

Most would know that my dinner setting includes a glass of wine, or actually a can of coke, every night. Its my indulgence. I select from my vintage cellar either one in a plastic bottle, or the slightly larger version in a can.

Always at room temperature.

I have a selection in the cabin with me, but the main cellar is the stern storage compartment.

Imagine my consternation this morning when I saw that the hatch cover on the stern storage was off and the compartment flooded with sea water! It seems my anchor tether likes not only to tangle with the rudder, but also with hatch covers. You might like to try lassoing a cover and experiment to see if this hypothesis is possible?

Otherwise there may be other coke thieves about. For you guessed it, all the coke was gone. Actually two cans remained, each one opened and the precious content replaced. Now that's an extra clue, quite how two ring pulls were pulled in the big coke robbery.

One suspects there is a breadcrumb trail of coke cans and bottles along the path I drifted last night, truly an ocean of coke...

Above: 24hrs progress to 2359 Mon 4 Jan 2022

Above: Courtesy of Hagen Cartoons

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Day 25 3 Jan 2022 (Thriller - 230km NE of Port Macquarie)

This morning I awoke anticipating a battering shortened paddling day. Instead, it has been one of the most thrilling days ever on the ocean.

Roger B had warned that Tropical Cyclone Seth was heading straight for Lord Howe Island. His prediction was that wind and swell would peak for me last night. Definitely another boisterous night to confirm something was cooking outside my cocoon. Should I even bother to try to paddle?

With rosy glasses leashed to my lifejacket, the swell did look bigger than last night from the cabin, but the open hatch sheltered me from the windspeed. Got to be worth at least a try.

Very quickly I revised wardrobe to include kags. This was going to be a wet paddle. It started to rain, and sea spray was going horizontally.

First hurdle was retrieving the anchor. It comes at the end of 100m of line. With so much wind pressure, it took lots of grunt to haul in the rope. Action-reaction, it's actually pulling Blue Moon up to the anchor into the wind. There is some give and take, especially as the rope has to be stored as it comes on board to avoid an enormous tangle.

By the time the anchor was stowed, I had half a cockpit full of waves, so that had to be bailed out. My fastest bailing method uses a milk container with the bottom cut off.

To the paddling, and by this stage it was heavy rain. As well as damping the chop, the rain hid the overall view, so start into the unknown.

Emerging from the rain, the first clear view was the size of the swell. Definitely at least 5m from crest to trough. Some of those swells had surprisingly steep faces. Blue Moon perched on the tip of a big swell, makes for a decent impression of cliffhanging. My heading was West, a little diagonal to the SSE swell, so dropoffs were cushioned rather than straight down the face. Each one a bit like a rollercoaster.

For the swell size, the wave chop was relatively restrained. There were patches, rather than every wave having a white cap. Blue waves simply excited with an elevator ride. Green wavetops hinted of excitement to come. White ones, hold on to find out what was in store. Rather like whitewater river kayaking, every rapid provides unpredictable stoppers, eddies and currents.

The whitetops did like sometimes smacking into the side of Blue Moon for a punch-and-roll attack. Blue Moon kept bringing us back to vertical. Other times the whitetops would engulf the front deck, right back around the cockpit and me. Some whitecaps we surfed, though it takes a lot to get 600kg moving that fast.

When I wasn’t in the white water, I could enjoy the scene around. The smoother troughs reminded me of snow valleys waiting for the first skis to leave a trail across them.

To see all this, to be immersed right in it, a thrilling first for me.

Pressing on, the wind ramped right up, and started to turn everything whiter. Spray curled off the bow to be whipped away. I tussled with the wind over ownership of my paddle. Whilst GPS said we were travelling at speed, most was downwind rather than west.

Adrenaline only powers action like this so long. Caution won out, and I now have the afternoon off paddling. Waves continue to buffet outside, but its cosy within and I have had my thrill fix for the day.

Above: 24hrs progress to 1700 Mon 3 Jan 2022

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Day 24 2 Jan 2022 (Alone - 230km ENE of Port Macquarie)

It has now been 24 days since last I set eyes on another human.

Being a relatively sociable person, this time alone smashes all past records for me.

Coping with solitude was always going to be the biggest unknown in this adventure.

So what has it been like?

Surprisingly not particularly lonely, and definitely not creating anxiety. I have had no bleak moment looking out over infinite horizons and thought its scary being so alone.

Perhaps two things help, communications and Blue Moon. Up till a day ago, I have been able to send and receive short emails, send out these updates, and get crackly phone conversations with land support all via satellite. That is a very real crutch to not being truly alone. When the system failed for a while, there was a heightened sense of solitude. Part of that links to decisions being shared over a phone but are solely mine if no one else to talk them through.

Blue Moon and I feel very much a team. In my mind we are out here together, a pair so no longer solo. As confidence improves in Blue Moon’s capabilities, so that sense of team increases. We have been through some roughish water together. My cabin cocoon is a wonderfully quiet, warm and dry sanctuary from the weather. As I paddle along, some of my conversation is at least partially two-way.

Above: 24hrs progress to 2100 Sun 2 Jan 2022!

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Day 22 31 Dec 2021 (Origin of a dream - 350km ENE of Port Macquarie)

Very good friend Phil once said dreams only become plans when you tell someone.

So it was on New Years Eve either six or seven years ago.

I was away with land support Chris on an end of year activity with a group of Venturers from 2nd Gordon Scouts.

As was usual over dinner, everyone would share the highlights and lowlights of the days activities. They included caving and swimming and kayaking.

Added in was the opportunity to share New Year resolutions. Mine was to paddle to New Zealand. I suspect the group was much more interested in another Venturer’s plan to get a new girlfriend, as the current one was well known to the group.

How many of those shared resolutions are still to be converted from plan to reality?

Above: 48hrs progress to 2359 Fri 31 Dec 2021!

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Day 21 30 Dec 2021 (Which way is North? 389km ENE of Port Macquarie)

Could we have already gone right through the alphabet on tweaked plans and new schemes?

Today’s is a bit more significant.

Watchers will have seen my track heading west. But isn’t New Zealand east?

The logic is that Lord Howe has temporarily slipped out of my capacity to reach it. Currents faster than I can paddle are sweeping me away. So from a near hit at 65km, I am going to have to follow the currents on a few hundred kilometre loop.

I’m in good company for loops, with James and Justin, and Scott Donaldson doing their own versions. Another valid reason to go west is an impending tropical low, forecast to track over Lord Howe early next week.

Up to 10m swells are forecast possibles, along with gale force winds. The practicalities of heading west mean its actually hard to tell if I have set out on the correct new course. It was overcast, so no general sun as a reliable navigation beacon. No land, how we’d usually orient ourselves. It mostly comes down to the markings on a compass. For this trip I have been using a boat-mounted compass where the markings are in reverse anyway.

So perhaps Spot tracker still heads east whilst I think I am going west. The reality is that flotsam Blue Moon and I are being taken by the current where it wants us to go

Day 23 1 Jan 2022 (Landcrew update - from Phil N)

[** STOP PRESS ** Satphone comms have resumed normal service - see reports above...]

When Richard and I circumnavigated Tasmania in 2007 we used a tiny fold up Nokia mobile phone to send out our daily update. Every character entered by pressing the appropriate numeral key once, twice or three times to get the correct character. Then one of us would climb to the highest accessible point and hold the phone at arm’s length above our heads hoping that at least one bar of reception would appear to wing our message away.

On this trip Richard has an iPhone and an iPad that connect to his Iridium satellite phone and enable him to connect at sea level with the outside world via voice or email…but only when the satellite phone works and that is not happening at present. Despite restarting and carrying out fault finding the sat phone repeatedly displays an error message, preventing that communication. His support team is working with him to resolve this issue.

The reliable fallback is his Inreach device, but it does mean he is back to typing in messages, albeit using a small keypad on a screen, (yes, a lot like a search on Netflix) and he is limited to 160 characters per message. Hopefully we can get the Iridium Sat phone functional again soon.

In the meantime, Richard is making some solid progress paddling a SW course to achieve a westerly outcome. The low-pressure system that was heading his way has been graded Cyclone Seth and is sitting off Brisbane. This cyclone will be dragging air up from the south and the resulting seas, building up on Sunday, will be with Richard on Monday.

We will keep you posted as we get updates from Richard but of course he is not in a position to send out his daily updates. What Richard is doing is amazing….

Above: Overall progress since Day 1

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Day 22 31 Dec 2021 (Landcrew update - from Phil N)

What’s the biggest decision you had to make yesterday? I know for me it was how long I was going to spend painting at my daughter’s house while she, her husband and kids are away on holidays…for Richard the decision was more far reaching, had a much bigger impact on his physical and mental wellbeing…

Four days ago Richard was approximately 65 km SW of Lord Howe Island (LHI) and excited about his imminent arrival. Two packages of kit were also making their way to LHI from them kit that would make Richards life more comfortable and his journey safer…some fans that would be installed to increase air flow in his living space when the hatches are battened down (currently he has to try and function in temperatures up to around 30 C which means it is impractical to cook and sleep is more of a nightmare) . New floats to keep his sea anchor lines away from his rudder. Spares for his rudder. A locking system to hold his rudder in position when he is not paddling, (thereby taking undesirable forces off other components of the steering system). Foam wedges to enable him to keep his forward hatch partially open in more severe conditions…yes, all things that would have made his life more comfortable and his journey safer.

Yesterday, after having spent 9 hours the previous day paddling east in appalling conditions to end up 10 km further west than when he started, he was 180 km NW of LHI. However Richard was prepared to keep up this attempt to get back to LHI ……but vital information from his very experienced weather man told him two very important factors; the wind would be against his progress to LHI for at least the next two weeks and also that there is a cyclone heading for the area he is in that will potentially bring up to 9 metre waves. So, if he persisted, he would not go east but the combined wind and current would see him travel much further north and he would also spend a few days being trashed by a cyclone.

So Richards hard decision yesterday was to swing Blue Moons bow around and to paddle west…..he will still experience some massive seas but should end up in a position from where he can make positive progress. His next big decision to make over the next few days....when he meets the main North/South current…will be....should he turn south and, with the current challenges he has with his gear, retrace his path to LHI…… or should he head back into Port Macquarie, make the modifications necessary and head out again without the need to hit LHI???

I am confident that some of Richards followers have also had some tough decisions to make over the past few days …..but from my perspective the ones I have had to contend with are no brainers in comparison….Go Richard!

Above: Overall progress since Day 1

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Day 20 29 Dec 2021 (It's the Vibe ~434 km E of Port Macquarie)

If you haven’t seen the movie The Castle, do yourself a favour and watch it.

It has to encompass one of the most optimistic outlooks on life.

How else does “the vibe” triumph?

So today, I felt a little like I was paddling on the vibe alone. No land in sight, current the hidden foe, wind not going my way.

And yet, Blue Moon made a wake in our bit of ocean, our little sign of progress.

At afternoon tea time, I pulled out a snack given to me in Sydney by very good friends Bob and Danielle. It was a home-made muesli slice, now more a crumble. On its container they had written “never give up”. Great advice, perfectly timed.

The black-and-white world of Garmin satellites reminded me at the end of the day and nine hours of paddling that I was 10km further from Lord Howe than when I started paddling.

I will be hoping for a bigger dose of vibe tomorrow.

Above: 24hrs progress to 2300 Wed 29 Dec 2021

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Day 19 Progress check

[from landcrew Phil N]

Life is not always straight forward, sometimes circumstances conspire to cause us to move towards our goals and at other times to drift away from them's how we, as individuals, manage that fluctuation that measures our mettle.

One of the attributes that enables our friend Richard to do what he does is his attitude to life...he knows when he can't change what is happening so he changes how he perceives it and always puts a positive spin on things. Our journey through life is not as clearly defined as the crumb trail left by a Spot tracker... oh that we were able to measure and attempt to correct our course with such accuracy.

Richard is a friend to so many because of his attitude to life, he sees and celebrates the best in people at the same time as understanding and forgiving their foibles. I know I am a much better person for having walked, paddled and cycled along some of life's road with Richard Barnes, up and onward to Lord Howe Island Richard.

Above: Progress from Day 1 to Day 19

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Day 19 28 Dec 2021 (Eating Humble Pie ~465 km E of Port Macquarie)

Today I have managed to paddle backwards very successfully.

When I began the day, my trusty Garmin told me we were within 65km of Lord Howe.

There has been two paddling sessions, and after each, the distance to destination had increased. Now that distance is over 100km.

It may be days, even a week, before the wind and current let this little bit of flotsam get close again.

I have the tracks of both successful previous crews, James and Justin, and Scott Donaldson on my cockpit cover. Both do week-long loops, well further east in the Tasman. Maybe mine has come early, or two are on my way.

For now, its dream what might have been, and keep pegging away at getting east.

My break in the middle of today’s paddle was filled with a desalination session with Sally.

Packing in paddling prior was encouraged by marginal paddling progress. There had been two surfovers too, where breaking waves thumped into the side of Blue Moon and tipped her 90 degrees from vertical, before washing over and away. Each time Blue Moon self-righted without hesitation. They were reminders of the ocean’s energy, like swatting a fly.

Forecast is for calmer winds tomorrow, and they are already a bit calmer tonight.

Above: 24hrs progress to 2300 Tue 28 Dec 2021!

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Land Crew Check In. Tuesday 28 December 2021.

[From John B...] Good clear line with Richard tonight.

He called early at about 9:10pm just prior to planned call with Chris, which Chris and I had intended to have prior. This enabled me to merge calls and have a good three way chat

He had had plenty of time to read and consume multiple emails received including a full read of several from Chris / Roger B / Greg S / Ian including Phil N's detailed list of 30 items being freighted to Lord Howe . Yes he was hungry and thirsty for miraculous strategies that would see him reduce his distance from Lord Howe, but despite both of us and Roger pouring over the tea leaves, there was recognition of Blue Moon being just a piece of flotsam right now, rapidly moving north west, and that this may continue over next week or so.

We both heard an indomitable and positive Richard in good mental and physical health, with the same continuing mechanical issues, but with a clear eyed pragmatism present, and dream still firmly gripped and in view.

He had attempted twice to tilt the universe to his will today which we could all see on spot 3, but God was not yielding.

Chris provided some context by telling him that in similar conditions 30% of the Syd to Hobart fleet had withdrawn, bruised and battered; that Roger had indeed been very surprised he had got this far, and that Roger was not seeing conditions that might reverse his fortunes for the next week...

However his land crew and his 1,000+ followers on FB, see only the engine that could, safely, still get to LHI. Safely was front of mind.

The promise of fish and chips on Lord Howe, and a slice of two of Guinness fruit cake, which I now need to make and send over with a mate of mine, might just still be all the incentive he requires to achieve the impossible...

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Day 18 27 Dec 2021 (A Night to Remember ~530 km E of Port Macquarie)

A bit bumpy tapping out this one.

Last night might have been the best night to remember.

It was flat calm, safe to have all hatches open.

Finishing dinner, I sat outside looking up at a million stars.

Tonight, by contrast, sets new standards for challenge.

All today’s paddle has been in decent wind, a gutsy south-easter.

As evening drew nearer, a storm started brewing on my southern horizon, with plenty of rain heading my way. My first thought was to set up the roof gutter system to catch some fresh rain.

However what came was not so much water as a big ramp up in wind velocity. At canoe level, more water came - salty, wavetop blown and thrown at us. This looked like high time to quit paddling and anchor for the night. Actually ten minutes earlier would have been a whole lot easier.

Battened down now, and very thankful to be cosily inside. In my cabin it's warm and dry.

Contrast this to Andrew Macauley. All he could do in a storm was slide down into the wet bottom of his boat, and draw Casper overtop...

Unlike last night there will be no hatches open tonight. Trials have demonstrated the merest crack opening will invite waves onboard.

There are regular waves engulfing the whole of Blue Moon, and cascading down her sides. The 'air-only' vents are doing a great job letting in a little air without water. Its very noisy as broken waves smack into Blue Moon’s sides, or she lands with a thump after bigger swells pass. There are reassuring jerks from the sea anchor, keeping us pointed into the wind.

Have to hope the builder put in enough layers of fibreglass.

Above: 24hrs progress to 2030 Mon 27 Dec 2021!

Above: Specially crafted by Hagen Cartoons!

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Day 17 26 Dec 2021 (Tasman Moods ~530km ESE of Port Macquarie)

The sea has a never-ending sleeve full of tricks.

Today’s was a storm, not of the hazardous type, rather a tremendous downpour.

There had been a heavy downpour as I was slowly reawakening to the day after Christmas. Heaps of water washed clean the top of Blue Moon, from both salt and shearwater calling cards. It was still bucketing down when I got up, so I tried plugging into my rainwater gutters. In less than ten minutes there was 4.5 litres in every last unused container. Sally desalinator will lose her job if it keeps raining.

The main storm occurred just after lunch. Surprising really it didn’t break in on my crackers cheese and pineapple feast.

First sign was the sky going very dark all around. Then tendrils of rain started making darker curtains on the horizon. Suddenly a few droplets dancing on the water became a deluge. Every spare square inch of ocean was competed for as a bomb zone for a thousand more droplets. Under this onslaught, the chop from the breeze before lunch disappeared. The sea surface flattened. It accentuated the waves of heavier rain as they moved about. The downpour lasted about 30 minutes. As it petered out, the wind stayed away, so I was left with glassy water on a mildly undulating swell. Suitable for a K1 did cross my mind. It has stayed ghostly calm like this, glassy calm, no wind, no noise until I anchored tonight.

Blue Moon puts in a token wriggle every 5-10 secs to remind us we are still on the ocean.

Some good kilometres gained through the rain and calms, making the next waypoint, Lord Howe Island, that bit closer.

Above: Distance covered 24hrs to 2200 26 Dec 2021

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Day 16 25 Dec 2021 (Christmas Day ~465km ESE of Port Macquarie)

Yes a unique way to spend Christmas, in splendid isolation.

The sky was clear all around, nowhere to hide, and yet Santa and sleigh were not spotted. No chimney stacks either, for him to crawl down, or hang things upon.

I did get a good day’s paddling conditions, so am now 30 or so km [50km for the 24hr] closer to Lord Howe.

I was reminded that I’m here doing what I love doing, and that is a true privilege.

Eating specials were saved for dinnertime. Out of my regular weekly food bags, I put together this bit of traditional fare:

  • Coke, for the toast to the Queen
  • traditional veggies, deb and dehydrated peas
  • a tin of ham, and a tin of chicken, although the ham turned out to be corned beef
  • Woolworths best rich fruit cake, a giant slab
  • Foster Clark’s finest custard powder custard

Hours of preparation on the trusty jetboil, and the heavens full of stars as my dining backdrop.

Above: Distance covered 24hrs to 2200 25 Dec 2021

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Day 15 24 Dec 2021 (Deserted ~430km ESE of Port Macquarie)

It's hard to guess what hand the weather will play in my travel to Lord Howe Island.

Maybe I’ll be there to celebrate New Years Eve?

Today was another serve of gorgeous weather.

No wind means no waves means no noise. So first thing deserting me was noise.

I stood up at one stage to take a 360 panoramic, and I couldn’t see a single white horse on any horizon. So no white horses either.

Where have my shearwater mates gone? A cluster of five were there all night, but were gone in the morning. There has not been any others landing, or soaring or fishing all day. So another big desert.

Now with Christmas upon us, I am left solo. While everyone else parties, I’ll be deserted by humans. First time for me ever, not to be with family.

Enough of the comments from Facebook filter back to me to know friends out there care...

Above: Distance covered 24hrs to 2200 24 Dec 2021

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Day 14 23 Dec 2021 (Shearwaters ~405km ESE of Port Macquarie)

Inching closer to my interim destination, Lord Howe Island. Only about two Classics to go, one Mighty done.

The more we learn, the more we know there is to know. This very much applies to my shearwater family. A few f’rinstances:

  • the little fellows seem totally fearless near me, though they always watch warily for their predators. They will land and sit within 200mm of my face. Which version are mine? They are generally uniform brown all over with wings folded. Under the wings there are patterns of browns. The wingtips are a closer shade to dark or even black. Their heads are silvery. They have a very distinctive white round their lower eyelid, and a white dot in the middle of their upper eyelid.
  • yesterday, there were literally hundreds skimming the waters round me, all day. Today there were none. Where have they all gone? Do they particularly not like windless days where there are no soaring currents, so go to ground somewhere?
  • why do they go into a frenzy over big fish? They will zoom over to a sighting of say a 500mm fish leaping out of the water, and then dive bomb it. They have no chance of flying off with one this size in their beaks, their more normal mode of consumption.
  • I had a sardine-size fish end up inside my vestibule last night. Five shearwaters were perched outside on the deck. Were they offering this as a gift for their ride on Blue Moon?

I had been coming to the view shearwaters were a little like penguins. So cute, and yet with some irritating habits. Chief amongst these is their squarking, like a penguin. Its harsh, and comes from the selfish desire to repel others from landing and sharing Blue Moon deck space.

I have also taken out mining rights on Blue Moon, similar to Nauru. One on the front deck would step back daintily before releasing its load over the side. All others have been less well trained. I have been clearing the solar panels to keep them functional, but relying on wave action otherwise.

A few have come back to sleep quietly on deck tonight. Will all their mates be back tomorrow? It was vey quiet with no birdlife today.

Above: Distance covered 24hrs to 2200 23 Dec 2021

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Day 13 22 Dec 2021 (Birthday. ~370km ESE of Port Macquarie)

As some have mentioned, being out on a big wide ocean, alone, is a fairly unique way to celebrate a birthday. Alone certainly does not mean forgotten.

As a sample, input has come from:

  • all LCRK with a satellite rendition of happy birthday
  • First two lines from John Bowe 10pm last night
  • “Morning has broken” from Greg Smith, with special significance for Red Cross Murray paddlers
  • Living the dream birthday wishes from my sister Linden at a minute past midnight
  • Sue Conde marmalade for this morning’s flatbread
  • Two real birthday cards, delivered to site, from Phil & Christine Newman and Annette & Scott Dawson.
  • Two anzac biscuits from Marg Cook. Sorry Anne Powell yours vanished too quickly
  • Plumrose, with frankfurts in a tin
  • It seems literally hundreds of comments on facebook. Ian sent me a condensed version, all my satellite connection allows

Very very early in my canoeing trainer wheels days, my first kayak was a KW7, a white water tourer. We were holidaying at our place at Narrabeen, and I so wanted to try paddling on the ocean. So out I went on my birthday, approximately 40 years ago in my KW7, not even a spraydeck, and paddled all the way to Collaroy. It was under 1km, but I felt like King of the ocean. Beware where little steps can lead.

Today’s birthday highlight is about food. As kids we had all our school friends round for birthday parties. Food and party games featured. Amongst fairy bread, jelly orange quarters and chips, my favourite was cocktail frankfurts. We even had a long serving plate with a spot for the tomato sauce. By complete chance, within the last two weeks food supplies, frankfurts in a tin have cropped up, as did pasta tomato sauce concentrate. These ingredients had been squirrelled away for a party dinner tonight. I also pre-planned two jam tarts for dessert. When circumnavigating Tasmania, jam tarts were mode for celebration when Phil and I reached SW Cape and again Maatsuyker Island. Now again, they are part of a mini milestone landmark.

Above: Distance covered 24hrs to 2200 22 Dec 2021

Day 12 21 Dec 2021 (Sardines. ~343km ESE of Port Macquarie)

In preparing for this trip, all food was packed into one week ration bags.

At the start of a new week, I get to raid the new supplies, and pick out my favourites.

One that went down really well last night was a large tin of pie apple. It was juicy and close to the real thing. Today’s lunch treat was sardines.

Those in marathon circles may know the legendary Bill Robinson. He’s paddled more Massive Murray Marathons than anyone, and these days mentors the Blue Mountains schools team. He has kayaked Bass Strait, and the full length of the Murray. Sardines were his staple for his full Murray trip, so following your advice Bill. I’m afraid to say, my new shearwater colleagues as yet have not learnt the dietary benefits of sardines, at least direct from a can.

These shearwaters have not come from the Manly Seagull chip-stealing school. When I woke this morning, there were five shearwaters lined up on my rear deck. I actually gave one a ride as I opened the hatch to let in the morning.

Leading up to lunch, one sat on Blue Moon’s bow for about two hours, preening itself. I have a pretty intimate view of ways a shearwater can twist and turn its neck to get its beak to most feathers. Some of this fastidious workout occurred whilst balancing on top of the centreboard.

Whilst unperturbed for me to reach out to it, offers of the juiciest selection of Scottish John West sardines were declined. Vitaweats, the other main ingredient of my lunch feast, were also ignored...

Above: Distance covered since 12:01am 21 Dec.

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Day 11 20 Dec 2021 (Wildlife again. ~331km ESE of Port Macquarie)

I had two fishing packs near me all day. One of regular brown shearwaters, the other similar in flying habits but each bird a pure white chest, and a forked tail. Each pack hunted on its own.

Hit rates on fish seem very low. Whenever any bird is lucky enough to make a catch, it seems it's a communist enterprise, as all other birds in the pack chase the lucky one. Or maybe its a game, to help fill their work hours.

Raiding occurs between packs in those catch skirmishes.

Way more exciting, my two shearwater mates have been back for more rides. One stayed for over two hours as I paddled along this afternoon.

He has a low growl to try to keep his perch his own, but it's not very successful, and there was often a pair. I have a small square metal frame which protects my nav light at the top of the cabin, called Southern Cross by its creator Phil. Shearwater has taken up Southern Cross as its favoured rest. That is quite a feat, as their webbed feet are much better for assisted water takeoffs than for gripping a human branch.

As an experiment I stuck out my arm, and he/she was quite happy to come in and land there too. Not so good for paddling.

He’s still on deck, looking in the hatch as I cook dinner

Above: Distance covered since 12:01am 19 Dec (ie ~40 hours elapsed).

Day 10 19 Dec 2021 (Rowers ~290km SE of Port Macquarie)

About the same time I set out kayaking, four Aussie mates set out to row across the Atlantic.

They are part of the Talisker Whisky Challenge, with 40 crews entered in this outrageous race in 2021. In a previous edition, Michelle Lee became the first Aussie female to complete the race solo.

I spent quite a bit of my paddle contemplating how Sam, Louis, Rob and James might be going. How did they fare with seasickness acclimatisation?

Can they keep up a schedule of 2hours rowing and 2hours rest throughout the night and day?

Are they winning, or what is their definition of success? Michelle, and Sam/Rob/Louis/ames, I love your striving and adventuring. go to top

Day 9 18 Dec 2021 (Distance Perception ~260km SE of Port Macquarie)

Has anyone played as a kid or with their kids, the road game where you guess how far ahead the road disappears?

Works best on long, straight, flat roads out Bourke way, where answers over 10km occasionally apply.

Out on the ocean, my horizons are limitless. Trying to find that endpoint is infinite.

There needs to be a new game to break down distances into manageable chunks.

One way I do that is to think about the eat treat when I cover say the next 3 hour stretch.

On a Bass Strait crossing, John Duffy introduced the idea of naming distances. Thus 6km became a "Coffee Cup", named after the LCRK 6km course trophy. 12km to a destination became two Coffee Cups to go. Distance for me to Lord Howe Island today approaches 404km, the Mighty Murray Marathon distance. Thus it is one mere "Mighty" to go to my next checkpoint. Or four "Classics" [=HCC]. Port Macquarie is 250km plus back over the western horizon - a couple of Classics, and will shortly signify the first Mighty done!

Still more than a "Yukon" to go after Lord Howe...

Above: Distance covered 12:01am to 9:00pm...

Day 8 17 Dec 2021 (Two by Two ~230km SE of Port Macquarie)

Highlights for the day had to be two interactions with nature.

I awoke in the morning and poked my head out the hatch to see what day awaited.

Surprise, not a metre away, perched a shearwater on Blue Moon’s front deck.

It was clearly unfussed by me emerging, and went on with its cleaning and preening.

It did have a peck or two at the deck, perhaps scavenging some of my meal spills.

I took its photo, and then got on with my own breakfast.

There was a brief ruckus and some squawking when a second shearwater joined the deck party. Seems they had to assign deck location rights, on my deck. They finally left when larger waves over the deck forced them to fly away.

Second big nature moment was just after lunch. There had been no ripples on the ocean, so a commotion signalled something special. About 300m away, a whale and baby were slowly swimming north. Could have been swimming or breathing lessons as they were not diverting toward me, and there was an almost constant haze above the pair from their blowhole outputs. These two are the only whales I’ve seen all trip, and seem left behind for summer in Antarctica.

Two great paddling moments.

Stopping in the evening, two shearwaters landed on the deck before I’d climbed in the hatch. Were they the same pair back again?

They are still here, between waves, looking in the hatch slot as I type my notes....

Above: Specially crafted by Hagen Cartoons!

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Day 7 16 Dec 2021 (The Wide Blue Yonder ~210km SE of Port Macquarie)

It seems the current gods may be granting a pass to Blue Moon to close in on Lord Howe Island.

As a wise person noted, we are now over a [Hawkesbury Canoe] Classic distance from Port Macquarie. If you take a look at a BOM map of currents, that means we are pretty much crossed over the East Australia Current, Nemo’s expressway southward.

Its why we have been drifting at night so fast south.

Tonight we’ve started to drift much more favourably.

Whitewater paddlers know all about eddies, and we’re on the edge of one heading north and east. Out on the ocean, there is zero hints of eddies and currents.

I really felt like I was paddling the wide blue yonder today. Realistically, who of you or your paddling friends has been more than say 100km from any land? In a stroke of luck, the weather toned down the breeze to less than a zephyr, and any ripples died away with the breeze. The water turned glassy smooth, and a deeper more emerald blue.

Even more remarkable, with no wave noise, there was no noise at all, save my own paddle strokes. I actually stopped for lunch, a can of Heinz spaghetti, to savour the silence. 360 degrees, all around, not a sound. Now that's remarkable.

The wind is blowing again tonight so there are plenty of noises for company.

The moon is up, sharing the vast ocean with Blue Moon and me.

Above: Distance covered 12:01am to 11:59pm...

Day 6 15 Dec 2021 (Dining at Sea ~190km SE of Port Macquarie)

Big thanks to all at LCRK for including me in party celebrations tonight.

My broad plans over the next few weeks are to head toward Lord Howe Island.

In an ideal world, I would skim past and not stop, but like for Scott Donaldson, LHI makes a very useful repair opportunity if needed. A close pass on Balls Pyramid would be a treat.

LHI dipped under 500km away today. If I can average 35km per day, then that's a minimum 15 good paddling days. Add in some weather, plus canoe or engine breakdowns, and the island goal could easily not hove into view for 3 weeks.

You might be surprised at how tricky it can be to eat at sea.

To begin, no taps, all water has to be desalinated. 5 litres tonight took just over an hour. Food for a meal has to be retrieved from a dry bag, where it stores safely with other options for a week. Lots of choices to be made.

Don’t need to worry about colour combinations or presentation - mostly dehyd is eaten straight out of its foil packaging.

Pouring liquids is downright tricky. How does one hold the receiving cup, bowl or plate directly under the delivering spout? As both shake around, the key seems to be to use a common rest for both, so movement is more in unison.

Becomes even more important when the liquid is boiling water. Thanks Rodrigo, hot Jetboil product make a huge difference. Keeping limbs clear of pour zones is logical, but there aren’t too many spots for arms or legs to hide.

Finally getting lips close to a cup’s contents can be nothing like a kiss. In the tilt of a cup, the roll of a kayak has completely upset your aim. Best to use a spoon for more reliable delivery.

Once mastered, food is heaven on an ocean kayak.

I was reminded tonight by the contrast to last night. Tonight I’m floating on a millpond lake, in moonlight, without a ripple or roll.

Above: Distance covered 12:01am to 11:59pm...

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Day 5 14 Dec 2021 (Eat sleep and paddle ~111km ESE of Port Macquarie)

A holiday can be as simple as... keeping things simple. I have suggested my holiday could be simple, with only three things to do - eat, sleep and paddle.

Today was the first real day out in the ocean, fully away from any land, any people, almost anything but ocean. But was it simple?

First the eating. My stopover in Port Mac was apparently enough to get land legs, so for penance, I have to reacclimatise to the sea. Up till today, food was not very appealing, especially if it had gone down and come back up. But today, the desire to eat returned and I'm feeling ravenous. How good can be a cup-a-soup just like LCRK Wednesday Time Trial cafe pre covid? My main course was dehydrated beef and black bean sauce, with extra pasta and peas, Then to finish, some custard, straight from powder to plate.

Sleeping. The concept is easy, with enough exercise to ensure tiredness. Only trick is the bedroom decor still has Weetbix lining the wall, and two weeks of rations now sharing sleeping mat space. Options to lie down are limited to two specific orientations only.

Finally to paddling. All the engine mechanicals are holding up fine. Zero hand blisters for example thanks to gloves. No muscle strains likely because of the relaxed pace. Just a few kayak dilemmas to contemplate, and hours over which to worry. The sea anchor has an affinity for the rudder, which is not reciprocated. The anchor line had been set up with pool noodles to keep the line floating away from the rudder. Mysteriously, both noodles have disappeared over the last two nights. Now the line loops round the rudder at any opportunity, and a tug on the anchor transmits to the rudder. That is overloading the steering wheel, and needs a fix. My land support are diligently looking into solutions.

By the end of the trip, perhaps everything will be smooth sailing?

Above: Distance covered 12:01am to 10:30pm...

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Day 4 13 Dec 2021 (Day 4 - Nature Lesson ~75km ENE of Port Macquarie)

Excitement today, when a bird came in to land on Blue Moon.

During the morning, the habits and antics of shearwaters had been my paddling preoccupation.

Gliding and soaring so effortlessly as always. So sure in height control to skim over the wave surfaces. Add to all that the ability to land on the water and yet stay almost completely dry. Dry enough to preen and fluff their feathers.

To take off again, they can unfold their wings to full wingspan, above the water. Mimicked by human paraponters, they simply wait for a gust to lift them off and away. Or if in more of a hurry, they can take a few running steps on water after wings are already getting lift, to soar away quicker.

My visitor seemed quite small and young and uniform grey. Blue Moon’s bow looked cosier than the sea. Landed for about a minute to preen, having to jump up and down a few times when water splashed over the bow, finally lifting off and away when the bow buried in water.

Hopefully they will return.

Above: Distance covered 12:01am to 11:59pm...

Day 3 12 Dec 2021 (Day 3 Tossing and Turning - ~60km NE of Port Macquarie)

Plenty of tossing and turning on Day 3, but not from paddling.

After Day 2’s boisterous conditions, I awoke a slight shade of seasick green. Took a while to find the energy to get going.

Settled into the engine room, only to find the anchor cable tangled round the rudder. Time for a swim to investigate. That was easy enough to untangle. More disturbing was that a bit like a broken foot, the rudder was sticking out at an angle vs where the control wheel should be pointing it. No tools with me on that swim, so further investigation on a separate trip to the stern.

The combination of seasickness and boatsickness plus rough weather enough to make me postpone paddling for the day, and toss around options.

On a third trip to the stern, I fiddled with the clamping bolts on the rudder shaft, and will see if that holds satisfactorily overnight [Day 4 km would suggest yes...]

Above: Distance covered 12:01am to 11:59pm...

Day 2 11 Dec 2021 (Port Macquarie - Real Day 2 - ~40km crow flies from Port Macquarie)

My hope had been to paddle the first 24hours continuously, as part of the BGCC 24 hour marathon.

A strong forecast southerly kicked in round 10.30pm and caution overtook the urge to keep paddling. So my 24hours converted to 16, with a gentlemans sleep in the middle dark zone. Total distance covered, my GPS tells me was 44km.

Day 2’s paddling was in challenging conditions: 20-30knot winds and 4m swells all from the south, across my preferred E course. The sea was littered with white horses. Occasionally these developed into full-on breaking wavetops. Three times waves and we coincided, with Blue Moon laid on her side and surfed. With commendable promptness she self-righted. A few things inside the cabin will need to be more securely stowed to stay in place in these conditions.

Night two was like night one, thankful to be cosily tucked inside, sea anchor keeping us pointed into the waves, with occasional water breaking over the hatches.

Not much going down, about as much as is coming up, as I acclimatise to seasickness again unfortunately. I’m wearing a crash hat round the cabin in the boisterous conditions.

Lots of sunshine to keep things cheery.

Above: Distance covered 12:01am to 11:59pm...

Above: Richard's 24hr distance for the BGCC Marathon....

Day 1 10 Dec 2021 (Port Macquarie - Real Day 1 farewell)

A bit of a slow start to sending you tales as I face some seasickness.

Last minute things always pop up.

And so it was on departure morning.

First, thanks go to Port Marine Rodney. Through a bit of electrical sleuthing, and with suppliers of the solar system Ecoboats and Solbian in Italy, plus a last-morning bit of rewiring, I now have almost 50% more amps pushing up to 3A into my batteries.

Second, thanks go to Greg Smith. In a final check of stuff, I’d found the sheathing on one rudder control line had frayed through, exposing the spectra core. It had to be replaced. Rethreading line up the tubing is tricky, with minimal clearance. Greg worked magic using the old line as a puller, and some superglue to attach the new for its journey up the tube.

Third, Cameron and Bryce from Border Force Coffs Harbour arrived punctually to finalise my clearance papers. With Blue Moon's interior cleared of workers, final gear and rations could be reloaded. Seven boxes of Weetbix remain my bedroom lining. There are two weeks of food bags beside my legs in bed.

With all in readiness, a calm bubble descended to wait for the outgoing tide. This was filled with a final Seasalt meal shared with Greg and Trudi, and Warren Huxley travelling past from Bellingen. My fare was a steak sandwich and vanilla milkshake, possibly the two things I’ll most crave when next I make landfall.

Tide turned around 3pm, and with not a ripple at the bar, I set out onto the ocean. Greg accompanied me one more time in his trusty green sea kayak, with a final laminated message from my land support to take with me. Trudi, Warren and Christine Lalor were the party waving farewell from the breakwater, and the last humans I’ll see for a while.

  • 2 min video from Port Macquarie Webcam of departure. David Gibbins

Above: Cast off! Photo: Christine Lalor

Above: And across the coastal bar Photo: RMS Webcam

Above: Distance covered 12:01am to 11:59pm...

Day 0 9 Dec 2021 (A New Start - Port Macquarie)

Above: replenishing Sydney to Port consumption Photo: Christine Lalor

The moment has almost arrived.

Both batteries have been charging beautifully today in Port Macquarie sunshine.

Border force have gone above and beyond, particularly Luke from Newcastle, to process all that needed to be done to leave the country. Kent Heazlett stepped in to assist with customs and exporting Blue Moon.

The Hastings River has a favourable outgoing tide Friday afternoon. Weather at least for Friday is favourable, though a southerly is brewing later Saturday.

Gear will need to be finally reloaded, and then I will be off, starting the real adventure.

Burley Griffin Canoe Club is running its annual 24 hour marathon this weekend, 10am Saturday to 10am Sunday. I had always hoped to compete, remotely, to support this wonderful event. To fit in with the weather, and as a way to cross the East Aust Current as quickly as possible, my 24 hours will start when I leave Port Marina. You can follow the tracker to see how far Blue Moon takes me in the 24hours, or if sleep overtakes good intentions. I will be calling out my number, 1, each hour to the crew in Canberra.

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Shakedown Cruise - Sydney to Port Macquarie

Shakedown Trip Report - Contents

Day 0Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7Day 8Day 9
Day 10Day 11Day 12Day 13Day 14Day 15Day 16Day 17Day 18Day 19
Day 20Day 21Day 22Day 23Day 24

Day 24 8 Dec 2021 (Port Macquarie - Success and Failure)

On the first two passes, it seemed Port Macquarie didn’t want me.

First the current and wind raced me past heading northward.

On second acquaintance, the amazing tidal flow out the breakwaters almost beat my horsepower to enter.

All was set right today, with a very relaxing day spent in town, particularly at Port Marina and its cafe Sea Salt. Two of my key land support, Chris and John, had driven up from Sydney for last contact and finalising details. Along with local Greg, we discussed many things with a risk slant. A primary goal is to avoid needing rescue. In the true scouting tradition, Be Prepared.

Up for contemplation was what might constitute a successful journey?

Land support suggest that since promoting adventure is part of my goal, then simply the publicity in getting from Sydney to Port Macquarie has achieved success. Is it enough?

Success was definitely something achieved by Rodney, my Port Marine electrician. I now have charge from solar panels going into both my batteries. 100 plus kg of Rodney had to overcome shoehorning himself into my tailored space to achieve this breakthrough.

There remains one stumbling block to leaving Australia. To satisfy Border Force regulations, it seems I must export Blue Moon, even if I am going to bring her back with me. That means a little paperwork to cover both the export and import of one ocean kayak.

Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy a little more Port Macquarie hospitality.

Greg and I are also aiming to give Blue Moon a barnacle-removing hull scrub.

Above: Civilisation Photo: Hazel Patricia

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Day 23 7 Dec 2021 (Crescent Head to Port Macquarie - a Matter of Tides)

The goal today was to finally reach Port Macquarie. That meant backpaddling from Crescent Head to Port Mac.

Both towns have harbours with movement for paddlers strictly controlled by tidal flow. I needed to leave Crescent Head at high tide, and arrive at Port on an incoming tide, tricky to prearrange as the paddling time would depend on winds and chop, and could be between 6 and 12 hours.

Coinciding with tides did not start well.

Crescent Heads mooring consists of some shallow dune lakes connected to the sea by a shallow creek. To ensure Blue Moon’s rudder did not rest on the ground at low tide, she was tied so the hull would settle on some branches to stop any weight resting on the rudder. At low tide she was beached like a whale and immovable. Waking at 2am, Blue Moon was still resting well above the water and thoroughly beached. So much for good intentions and an early start to the day. I went back to bed to wait for the next high.

By 10am the tide was high enough to refloat Blue Moon, but the incoming flow in the creek was too fast to paddle against. I could walk and tow, though in the quicksandy edge, it was hard to keep a footing and keep the long rudder from jostling with the bottom.

Where the creek met the sea, waves were added into the complexity equation. It’s tricky juggling a 600kg boat in waves and current, protecting the rudder, plus jumping on board and putting on a spray deck. We did negotiate a few breaking waves on the way out to open ocean.

The paddle back down the coast was all too easy, with trailing wind pushing us along. We were going to be too early at Port Mac. Should I put out the sea anchor and sit and wait? I decided to do a few delaying zig-zags instead, staying in a low speed paddling mode.

We still arrived early at Port’s breakwaters. I decided it was worth a look, if only for familiarisation before it got dark. A big brown stain defined the flood of water pouring out of the river mouth. Only half a nose into this flow and we were very rapidly pirouetted back out to sea again. Meanwhile, Local Marine Rescue had been advised of a boatie in trouble, and had come out to check. They were very discreet, but keen to stay and see me safely across the bar. We waited a while till they gave the ok to try, a mix of reducing flow, increasing turbulence and approaching darkness. My land support, Chris and John had arrived by this time to watch from the breakwater. Despite giving it a full-on tilt, the flow was simply too much for the horsepower. Back to a little more waiting. On try three, the flow had abated, the waves were manageable, and we inched inside the breakwaters to serenity.

Met there by Greg, ready to guide me to the marina. At the marina, Bev arrived with hot sustainment, rightly concluding I’d not had time to cook as yet.

A great day, and Port Macquarie marks the end to the coastal sea trials.

Hope you have all enjoyed the ride.

Above: Washing machine day at Port Macq Bar Photo: Bev Winters

Above: A watchful eye from Marine Rescue vollies - thank you!! Photo: Marine Rescue Port Macq

Above: Richard's GPS Art from his Port Mac entry as described above

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Day 22 6 Dec 2021 (Crescent Head layover - Socialising)

Repair awaits in Port Mac for the batteries, as well as border clearance. How to get there? Paddle back. More southerlies were predicted, to be followed next day by north-easterlies, so decided to have a paddling day off and wait for the tailwinds.

What can one do in Crescent Head on a holiday? Most of the populace float like poohsticks under the creek bridge on the fast-flowing tide. There are little and big Nobby hills to climb, for cliff-edge views of the coastline.

I had a surprise visit from my Urunga cousins Alison and Sarah, sharing cafe time and lots of family news. Then I got a geography lesson over a cup of tea from Colin and Christine. Looking out from their balcony, I’ll remember the setting and the teacher, if not all the places and geographical context

Above: Washing day at Cresso Photo: Sarah Condran

Above: I spy NZ (over left shoulder) Photo: Alison Condran

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Day 21 5 Dec 2021 (Lake Cathie(ish) to Crescent Head)

Day 21 started early, 2am, and yet still not early enough. Even then, Port Macquarie was receding upwind, and I had missed the eddy line to sweep into town. Instead, I’m now parked at Crescent Head.

Whilst it was not to script, the chain of events began with the previous day’s rainstorm. Leading into the rain had been a NE breeze, so the paddling goal had been to get as far NE as time allowed to shorten today’s paddle distance. After the rainstorm, the southerly kicked in strongly. The tracker then showed my drift, even with full sea anchor deployed, to be over 1 km/h northward. Now the worry was not enough northing but too much, and if there was enough easting to glide past Tacking Point. At about midnight, drift took me closest to the Port breakwaters, and I should have been ready to paddle then. Instead I slept on, fitfully, aware the upwind distance was increasing. Confidence lay in having set the alarm for 2 so it must be ok. Plus it was cold, dark and windy outside.

Those condition had to be met at 2, complete with donning yesterday’s wet clothes. Fortunately by torchlight and in lumpy conditions, the sea anchor came in cleanly and the 100m line stowed away without tangles. GPS said 5.3km to the entrance. After about two hours paddling, even without access to the electronics, it was clear to my eye that the Port lights were receding. Paddling forward, but going backwards. An unsustainable situation. It did cross my mind that a tow from a big powerful motorboat would ably solve this geographical dilemma.

More pressing, I had to be closer to surf shore north of Port Mac, but too dark to get a more quantitative measure. So new decision with action, u-turn and head east. Now I had the southerly whipping the right side of my face. After a while, there started to be a glimmer of dawn. Perhaps I was clear enough to re-anchor and go back to cosy bed? But then lightening sky revealed the bump of Plimmer Point, very close by. If I turned west again, at least I could rest quietly in its lee and contemplate a new solution. The speed of drifting and blowing north was a surprise. Looking at my NRMA map, at speed, Crescent Head wasn’t so far away, and with some form of anchorage. So therein germinated the new plan. Ditch Port Macquarie for now, and run downwind for Crescent Head.

Records were set for speed, even with minimal paddling effort [Ed: circa 7km/h].

I arrived in time to be met by Bass Strait paddler, genius architect and friend Luke Johnson, with whom I shared Crescent Head SLSC bacon and egg burgers. Also in the welcome team were local slalomists Colin and Christine with all necessary advice on tying up in the creek, and a surprise with loud and lovely Bev of Womdomnom organising fame...

Above: Somewhere out there - big downwinder to Crescent Head Photo: Bev Winter

Above: Safe at Crescent Head Photo: Greg Smith

Bev Winter provided a great description of her view from ashore:
What a thrill to be sheltering from the wind and rain under Tacking Point Lighthouse yesterday afternoon as darkness chased the storm out to sea and suddenly spy the glow of Blue Moon’s light near the horizon.

The tracker confirmed it was indeed Richard and his magic Mirage, about 4km offshore. There’s something very humbling about standing under a sturdy umbrella, safe, dry and relatively warm, and sheltering behind a nice solid lighthouse from the southerly gusts that tug at your knees and blow your hair horizontal whenever you step into the open.

Meanwhile, you’re watching a brave little light slowly pushing north through the rain squalls, helped on its way by two unseen arms and as the night progresses, by those overly enthusiastic wind gusts. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable (and scary) it must have been to be paddling in those conditions. I’d have been petrified. But apparently it’s the stuff that one mans dreams are made of. What a man. And what a boat.

The dynamic duo have safely reached the mouth of the Hastings - that little nav light was glowing off Town Beach 2 hours ago and looked almost close enough to touch. And beyond it, the lightning that danced all around Richard and Blue Moon yesterday afternoon was still sparking out to sea.

The southerly has long since obscured Blue Moon in a new cloud bank and propelled her well beyond the river mouth on her way to Point Plomer - looks like Richard will face more a 10 km backtrack into a headwind in the morning. I somehow doubt it will dent his dream too much.

And more from Bev from Crescent Head:
What a difference a breeze makes! Dashed from Port Macquarie to Crescent Head just in time to catch Blue Moon ducking under Big Nobby Headland at well over 6khr.

Richard cruised into Killick Creek like it was a Sunday stroll - which for him, it clearly is. A very slick surf into Killick Creek earned him a well-deserved hero’s welcome from four bikini clad beauties and he cruised past the surf club and under the footbridge to calmer waters with sanguine grin firmly in place.

Legs a little shaky, toes a little orange, but he is bright and cheery and looking as relaxed as if he’d spent the night tucked up in his own bed, not rattling around inside Blue Moon in a crash helmet. It was fantastic to spend time chatting with Richard and some of his Sydney and local friends who greeted him at Cresso this morning

I expect the afternoon involves a much needed sleep in the calm of Back Creek, and the rearrangement of a few plans to resolve the lingering solar issue. Then Blue Moon will be pointed to the horizon, next stop NZ. Keep living that brilliant dream, Richard, and thanks so much for sharing it with us

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Day 20 4 Dec 2021 (Dunbogan to Lake Cathie[-ish])

In Sydney we don’t usually need to worry about tide flows too much. Up here I was caught out. This morning’s incoming tide was not going to let Blue Moon and I leave Camden Haven. So we waited till the tide turned our way a little before midday.

Late start means it’s one more night on the ocean before reaching Port Macquarie. Could be a rougher one with a southerly change having just hit.

The southerly was heralded in by a spectacular thunderstorm. At 4pm the sky went completely dark, and the coastline disappeared. Even Tacking Point lighthouse beam disappeared into the gloom.

There was a rumble as a wall of rain moved across the water and then engulfed Blue Moon. Thunder and lightning all around. My horizon became the closest wave, frenzied into a million little volcanoes by the raindrop impacts. Not enough horizon to discern which way was up any more, so lucky Blue Moon has stability all sorted.

It was difficult to even read my compass not a metre from my eyes, and try to keep paddling in vaguely the right direction. My rain collection gutters were in flood mode. Every bit of me was thoroughly saturated. Then the rain was all gone, as fast as it came, and slowly the coastline and lighthouse came back into view...

Above: "Bon voyage my friend" by Phil Newman

Above: Off Tacking Point Lighthouse by Bev Winter

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Day 19 3 Dec 2021 (Crowdy Head to Dunbogan)

What a glorious day. This is the first where there has been no clouds all sun all day! Very little wind, and what there was light and not a headwind.

Two big bays to cross, one 14km direct, the other a little shorter. That’s a whole City-to-Surf in one beach, one way. And yet, compared to what is ahead, trifling. With conditions so good, I’m baffled why my speed was fine on the first bay, and significantly slower on the second. It felt like the same paddling effort input, but maybe laziness crept into the afternoon. I tried to convince myself it must be a rope tangled round the rudder slowing progress.

Tomorrow is a longer distance, and maybe a bit more headwind. If all goes smoothly, my trial journey may end in Port Macquarie tomorrow night. If we run out of day, there might be a bonus night out on the ocean before getting to Port.

Above: Arriving at Camden Haven (photo: Andrew Love's Mum!)

Above: Phil Newman attending to Sally the desal (photo: Greg Smith)

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Day 18 2 Dec 2021 (Harrington to Crowdy Head)

A shorter day today, as the final hop in a three stage journey from Forster to Crowdy Head.

There has been a little practice at going in backward loops, just in case there are bigger ones later. Fortunately low coastal current both nights offshore, so didn’t drift too far in the wrong direction while asleep.

Headwinds and headchop really slow down Blue Moon. Yesterday’s speed was consistently only 2kmh. Makes long sand dune beaches go by very slowly. Not today, when there was only 12km to paddle, and a tailwind to waft us along.

On leaving Forster, I paddled past a special rock with a plaque on it commemorating the start of James and Justin’s first-ever completed kayak crossing to NZ. At Forster Marina, a local had proudly told me he was the skipper of the boat which had carried James and Justin’s parents to escort them out to sea. Travelling in their footsteps came to mind. Both have given me so much support and guidance for my adventure.

Crowdy has the most amazing sheltered harbour, with break walls encircling the boat ramps and jetties except for the smallest of gaps. Blue Moon is sitting at rest just as if she was up on dry land. Lots more well wishers and visitors this afternoon. There was a little gap in which to run (actually unsteadily waddle, lucky no drink driving police checkers around) up to have a look at Crowdy lighthouse, having watched it flashing last night and paddled right round it this morning.

Tomorrow’s plan is to get north to Dunbogan, in order to meet up with Phil for running improvements on Sally the desalinator. How wonderful it is to have land support willing to drive all the way up here to create a perfect solution.

Above: Arriving at Crowdy Head (photo: Paul Mackie)

Above: the forward control paddling position (photo: Allan Newhouse)

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Day 17 1 Dec 2021 (Blackhead to Harrington)

Above: the days paddle courtesy of RB's Spot tracker (slept offshore on sea anchor)

Day 16 30 Nov 2021 (Forster to Blackhead)

Above: the days paddle courtesy of RB's Spot tracker (slept offshore on sea anchor)

Day 15 29 Nov 2021 (Seal Rocks to Forster)

People have been asking how much wildlife I’ve seen? Sadly the answer is less than I had hoped. Maybe I need to look in the right direction?

It seems it is too late for the whale migration, with not even stragglers popping up for a look. Fortunately dolphins and seals are as inquisitive as ever, and have been cruising by for many looks. I’ve not seen any sharks, but others report they are around.

One big old turtle popped up off Seal Rocks, looking more like an old buoy coated in barnacles until it showed off its speedy ability to dive. On the microscopic scale, there was one of the best ever displays last night of luminescent creatures around my anchor line.

Birds too have been relatively few. No chips on board, so no seagulls. Not yet far enough into the wilds to get albatross. Yellow-billed gannets have been flying by in groups. Their interest is always clear, as their beaks point where they are looking. Very unlike an albatross, which regally never hints at having a stickybeak. Shearwaters have been circling for multiple viewings before heading off again in search of real food. One almost had a head-on with Blue Moon, it came so close.

The most prolific wildlife is of the human kind. Much of this afternoon was spent chatting with a band of happy wellwishers.

Today served up idyllic paddling conditions, with Blue Moon speed averaging over a dizzying 4kmh. More light winds tomorrow should help with progress northward.

Above: Forster - classy lodgings... (photo: Garry Byrne)

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Day 14 28 Nov 2021 (Providence Beach to Seal Rocks)

I’m a firm believer in giving a task that needs doing to the busiest person as the best way to be sure it will be done. The opposite is the procrastinator.

In this situation the procrastinator was me. Generally on this trip I only have three things to do: eat sleep and paddle. This morning there was one new task, to put on a jacket. I started paddling in my long sleeve Lane Cove top (thanks President John), but as I got more into the wind and rain I was starting to shiver. The conversation in my mind started with the argument that any minute now the sun would pop out and I’d be hot again. That was very optimistic. Another bit of my mind said if I didn’t put the jacket on now, it would be too rough. I would have to get my life jacket off to get jacket on underneath. That would mean cap and glasses and leashes would all need to come off, be put somewhere, then put back on after the jacket. Oh for a simpler life. Take a guess at how long this conversation waged in my mind?

Ultimately the jacket went on, and stayed on to the end of my paddling day. When waves later engulfed Blue Moon and I to chest deep, it was a good decision.

I saw another beautiful lighthouse today. Actually it’s light was visible last night as I lay in Blue Moon. Today it has been the target all day, sentinel on the skyline. I did have to take a wide pass of it to avoid some big surf on Seal Rocks. There were a group of people waving very enthusiastically to me from below the lighthouse., Have yet to find out who they were. Tonight I’m parked close by, but just out of sight beyond a protective rock island.

If you were wondering, Seal Rocks has zero permanent moorings. Locals Doug and Keith have loaned me their tinnies anchor and line for the night.

Above: Seal Rocks - calm waters (photo: Rob Marlow)

Above: Seal Rocks - settled in.. (photo: Greg Smith)

Day 13 27 Nov 2021 (Esmeralda Cove to Providence Beach [Broughton Island])

Today I went to Luna Park. To the most exciting roller coaster Big Mouse.

At least that is what it felt like out in the rebound off the eastern tip of Little Broughton Island. When I rigged up in the morning, there were two possible plans. The more ambitious was to make Seal Rocks. The more conservative was to relocate to the northern beach of Broughton Island ready to set sail on Sunday.

Paddling started sketchily when I managed to tangle the mooring line round Blue Moon’s rudder. Normally peaceful Esmerelda Cove had a carpet of white caps, plus bullets of wind. We slogged on past Looking Glass Island keeping a respectful distance from bombies and surging reef breaks. No chance of entering the Tunnel today.

Little Broughton was on my lee side, with plenty of crashing waves reminders to keep clear. Out at the tip, rather than breaking, the waves simply rebounded. Inbound and outbound meeting doubled their standard height. If it was 3m swell coming in, my roller coaster gave me 6m instant elevator rides. Even at 600kg, Blue Moon tossed round like a cork in this powerful ocean display. Yet again I was reminded of how stable she is. Like at Luna Park, if we trust the engineers, then we can thrill at the ride. This set a new benchmark for 'rough' experienced in Blue Moon.

After rounding the backwash tip, I floated into calm behind Broughton. Decision made on not heading further today, if only on the prospect of facing similar conditions after 35km rounding Seal Rocks guarding headland. That is for tomorrow.

Rainstorm after rainstorm have been my companions this afternoon. No one else has ventured out to normally-beautiful Broughton.

Above: Broughton Island from Hawks Nest (photo Gaye Hatfield)

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Day 12 26 Nov 2021 (Shoal Bay to Broughton Island )

Rain shouldn’t really matter to a kayaker, since our sport is intrinsically wet. However at both ends of my paddling day there were torrential downpours with dancing waterspouts all around. Lots more rain in between too.

My weatherman Roger B was up even earlier than me, making a last check and report on the impending southerly change. I left with a small dose of trepidation with his warning ringing in my consciousness. There would be no turning back into the teeth of this southerly with gusts of 30-35knots. I was committing to Broughton Island tonight.

I did get blasted out of Port Stephens. 3km in the first 40 mins. Out from the shelter of Cabbage Tree Island, the wave conveyor was going my way. Blue Moon jumped aboard and we cruised effortlessly up to Broughton. In the same starting point as yesterday, 100m of progress had taken 15mins slogging. Today was a southerly to enjoy.

Those who know Broughton will also know Looking Glass Island, and a tunnel slot which can be paddled through on a calm day. I was sorely tempted to take Blue Moon through. Instead we burnt some spare energy bouncing up and down in very colourful backwash on the end of the Island.

Within Esmerelda Bay it’s all peace and quiet, with only one other moored boat. I swam to shore and had a walk in the rain along a couple of the sandy beaches. Undecided as I head to bed whether to wait out tomorrow’s southerlies or try to ride them to Seal Rocks.

Above: Just so you have some bearings - a photo of Esmeralda Cove in quieter times - an April 2021 LCRK overnight trip led by Adrian Clayton with Lee Wright, Mark Hempel, Don Johnstone Trevor Nichols and Bruce Moller (SIP).

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Day 11 25 Nov 2021 (Nelson Bay to Cabbage Tree Island to Shoal Bay)

Winnie the Pooh had a particular fondness for elevenses, particularly where honey was involved. I was given a big jar of honey today by old SUCC members Juliet and Mick, straight from the beehives they tend in their backyard in Nelson Bay. The thought of the sticky catastrophe that might occur within Blue Moon however, mean this honey treat will have to wait till post NZ.

I did wonder if there is an eleventh day equivalent to elevenses? Without Eeyore or Piglet on board to consult, a celebration of reaching Day 11 was unanimously approved. Out came a can of Coke to celebrate over dinner. It has joined some pasta, dehydrated beef and beans, and a huge chunk of Woolworths fruit cake as a feast fit for kings. Or paddlers, or bears.

What is there to celebrate on the canoeing front? Passing 11 days since setting out from Roseville Bridge. Meeting literally hundreds of well wishers along the way. Paddling for nine of the eleven days. Covering a total of 273km in 77hours. Port Macquarie is still a way off, and turning east for NZ only starts after Port.

Today was another loopy paddle. For those watching the tracker, stop 1 was in the lee of Cabbage Tree Island, a calm oasis in which to pull out lunch. Stop 2 was very shortly after pulling into the main NE chop and bluster out from Cabbage Tree’s calm. At the pace of those first few hundred metres, there was no chance Blue Moon and crew would make Broughton Island before dark. So we retreated, and hopefully with moderate tailwinds will make lovely Esmerelda Bay on Broughton tomorrow.

Above: Nestled in Nelson Bay - fixing stuff (photo Guy Holloway)

Above: leaving Nelson Bay - temporarily (photo Jay Beam)

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Day 10 24 Nov 2021 (Shoal Bay to Nelson Bay)

...tapped as I enjoy dinner in Nelson Bay Marina inside Blue Moon.

Nelson Bay has been a day of temptation, surrounded and urged on by friends. The key plan was to find a marine electrician who could solve the electron riddle of why power from my bank of solar panels was not energising my batteries. Tom is now on the case, and d’Albora Marinas are helping out with a berth alongside.

My brother and his wife Peter and Louise planned a holiday to Nelson Bay pre Covid and it just happens to coincide with my arrival. They were waiting on the shore to greet me after I’d slept in yesterday. Many passers-by note the boat and stare awhile longer. It’s surprising the number who correctly guess New Zealand as the goal. Is it the legacy of James and Justin, or Andrew, or Scott?

The end of the day saw a happy reunion of old Syd Uni canoe club friends. Both Steve and Juliet had joined SUCC back in 1986/7. Neither had seen the other, or their now partners, in over 30 years. There were many tall tales to relive of the daring canoe trips pre the new millennium we had all shared. The strongest temptation was to also share an ice cream, just as we did as uni kids 40 years ago on wild whitewater adventures.

Above: Kayakarazzi await Richard's awakening (photo Louise Barnes)

Above: Are you the boat ordered a skinny latte and egg & bacon roll? (photo Col Sheringham)

Day 9 23 Nov 2021 (Newcastle to Shoal Bay)

Today set a new Blue Moon record for distanced travelled in one sitting. 55.7km on my little faithful GPS. Not such a big number if going at Brett, James and James K1 speed, but this is chugging along at max 3.5kmh, and took as long as a novice in the Classic, or 15 hours. I really should have checked the distance on a map more carefully before heading out.

The shearwaters gracefully skimming the waves, and the RAAF jets screaming overhead all taunted my humble progress. There was a thick fog as I cleared Newcastle’s breakwaters. Even as I passed the last lead in buoy, all sight of land was gone. It was a dress rehearsal for Port Macquarie when I can turn toward New Zealand. There was a bit of rain, but the important weather parameters were all in my favour. Zero wind rising to next-to-nothing wind all day.

Long lazy swell to rise and fall, sometimes taking and sometimes giving glimpses of the sand dune shoreline. No nasty chop to pound a path through. My land navigation needs to step up, or my wishful thinking tone down - approaching Boat Harbour I was feeling confident I was approaching Fingal Head. Alas still a hidden extra seven kilometres, and then the spectre of sunset intervening. I could see well wishers cheering from the shoreline, so that did provide a paddling boost. My land crew had packed an extra bag of dried fruit that went down a treat about now.

As darkness took hold, it seemed time to turn on my white Nav light. Not that there were any other boats around. I’d seen three sailing boats all day, plus the big cargo ships way out on the horizon. Unfortunately not one photon emitted from my light. Battery 1 was clearly taking a holiday. I crawled inside to the inner reaches of my cabin to switch to spare battery 2. Presto we are alight for the world to see.

Port Stephens lighthouse was starting to blink happily ahead. In the impending dark, should I round the light for Shoal Bay, or cut into Fingal? About this time guardian Guy motored into view in his 40’ yacht. He knew for certain there were no safe moorings in Fingal, the only choice was Shoal Bay. He did offer a tow as well, or advice on navigating round the lighthouse and its hazard reefs and bombies in the dark. Those who have tried to navigate white water rapids when dark overtook progress will know the feeling. There is plenty of noise to indicate wave action, but little to show how close or how paddling skill should be applied to avoid the danger. Big thanks to Guy for hanging around at snail pace to guide me into Port Stephens proper. There was great relief and a few tired muscles when I latched onto a mooring at Shoal Bay.

Above: Passing Boat Harbour - not very harbourish! (photo Russell Brown)

Above: A welcome Shepherd from Fingal to Shoal Bays (photo Guy Holloway)

Day 8 22 Nov 2021 (Newcastle layover)

The No-paddle day in Newcastle.

Like doing an exam at school, relief comes from doing something totally different. So Day 8 on land was the complete contrast to Day 7 paddling into Newcastle. Paddling was tiring but exhilarating. Day 8 was the day-after calm.

The main reason for a day off was to approach Border Force, and arrange officially leaving Australia. Helpful people in the Newcastle office pointed out I can’t actually be signed out till I 'leave Australia', at Port Macquarie. So they are arranging to send staff to meet me at Port Macquarie to complete the formalities.

I walked back over to Newcastle Beach to see whether it looked as rough as I had imagined it was. Walked may really have been waddled - it had been seven days at sea, and my early attempts at standing on firm land assured me the whole world was shaking.

Above: Newcastling... (photo Ross Ferguson)

Day 7 21 Nov 2021 (Swansea to Newcastle)

A wise adventurer once said never anticipate: too often it can lead to disappointment.

Weather forecasting can be like that. If the forecast is for a sunny day yet it rains, we all feel let down. So today, I had anticipated an easy tailwind ride from Swansea to Newcastle. Contrary to my imagination, today I got the choppiest ride in the strongest winds yet encountered, and they seemed awfully close to in my face. Yet at least to some extent experiencing nature in all its moods is part of why I’m on this journey. The downside was the impact on my friend Phil who had driven up from Sydney to help sort out a desalinator problem. Planned meetup was an extremely optimistic 12.30, which turned more into 4pm.

Today's highlight was seeing a sea of orange waving from the tip of the Newcastle breakwater, who else but the ever-enthusiastic Newey club members. They braved rain and wind and a lot of crashing wave spray to cheer me into Newcastle. They also organised my safe mooring near Honeysuckle Wharf, in a quiet calm spot. You might be wondering how rough was today’s benchmark? Rough enough to forgo lunch on the water because opening hatches would have let rogue waves spill inside. Still calm enough to be able to stand up in my cockpit to reach forward to adjust the centreboard when needed. At times tough to make headway into the wind. Regularly having Blue Moon’s bow buried under a wave. Occasionally having side waves wash over my head. The ‘o-my-goodness’ moment for the day was on my approach to the Newcastle Breakwater. I’d straightlined 15km from Redhead, but in that distance been pushed well downwind, closer to the surf on Newcastle Beach. Hidden till close approach in the surf waves next to the breakwater are nasty jagged rocks. It took some anxious, nervous-fuelled paddling directly into the wind, to claw back just enough searoom.

Tomorrow I hope to sort out border clearance with the border force stationed in Newcastle, in case NZ borders open to wandering kayakers. Hope they don’t want me to unpack everything to check for stowaways.

Above: 'Interesting' swell coming into Newcastle (photo Vicki LB)

Above: Cosmopolitan location for the night (photo Vicki LB)

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Day 6 20 Nov 2021 (Norah Head to Swansea)

Who ever thought ocean paddling was solitary? Maybe the ocean concept needs clarifying, as I’ve turned my trial journey for now into a series of mooring hops. Last night tied up directly under the sweep of Norah Head lighthouse was pretty special. Each mooring stop brings out a host of well wishers, and there have been paddling partners as well. Jason Slade and his family have been around a few bends with loud encouragement. Rob and Marg Cook enlivened the leg from Norah Head to Bird Island with tales of their recent trip down the Darling. Marg solved a very practical problem by removing a bag of my garbage. Next a trio of NSWSKC members slipped in alongside for a slow ride from Catherine Hill Bay to Caves Beach past spectacular cliffs caves shoreline. Together Campbell, Reece and Caoimhin have an encyclopaedia of practical sea kayaking experience. Tales from Reece on ways to stab a screwdriver through ones own hand made quite a few kilometre disappear. A band of locals led by Anne Moore were at Swansea Bridge to cheer. Sue Smith and Greg jumped on the water to guide me to a safe mooring for the night. There I shared a dinner with James Farrell. This was James’ first post Covid drive out of Sydney. Through trial and error we determined that two paddlers simply won’t fit together in Blue Moon’s dining room. The jet boil coped with heating water for two dehyd meals. James got to sit in the puddle in his ski to eat whilst I got the high chair on Blue Moon’s deck. Great company I’ll miss when the real oceaneering begins at Port Macquarie. Tomorrow forecast weather is a 20kt SE tailwind to blast me into Newcastle. I was reminded all the locals are driving down to Narrabeen for the marathon series race!

Above: A speck passing by Wybung Head (photo Anne Cowper )

Above: and into Swansea inlet (photo Jason Slade)

Day 5 19 Nov 2021 (Terrigal to Norah Head)

Plan had been hatched overnight to have a relaxed day, spend a bit less time paddling so there was more time for eating. I did do less, lazy paddling, but not sure about the more eating. Acclimatisation does seem to be working and no seasickness all day a big relief. 25km over 8hrs for an average 3kmh, on glassy calm ocean. I love a good lighthouse, and Norah Head lighthouse is a classic, with a white tower, slowly revolving prism and nearby keepers cottages all set on a jutting rocky headland.

I’m now parked directly under it moored to a Marine Rescue buoy. Legend of paddling Cam Tunbridge came out to meet me on a SUP, and guided me into my haven. He’d already cleared the tie up with Marine Rescue.

Jason Slade paddled out again too, this time with his two girls Kimberley and Briony balancing on the back of his ski. Cam and Jason both tempted with (declined) offers of land accommodation and meals. Another Richard, a fellow old SUCC member and Bass Strait crosser, swam out to say hello whilst treading water.

Full moon tonight. Tomorrow I’m hoping for a southerly to push me to Swansea.

Above: Approaching the Entrance for the 2nd time (photo Lindsey Williams)

Above: Norah Head for bed (photo Allan Newhouse)

Day 4 18 Nov 2021 (The Entrance to Terrigal)

So to today, and a loop ending back in Terrigal Haven. I’ve learnt something, and that is that Blue Moon has a terminal forward velocity, of approximately zero, in the chop created by 15-20kt predicted headwinds. Speed rises to about 3kmh cross hop, and is flying at almost 4kmh downwind. Not wanting to drift into the coast I decided to head more directly back to Terrigal to use a buoy to stop crash landings. My weatherman Roger has forecast more favourable wind speed and direction tomorrow, so I’m going to head out hoping to make Swansea by nightfall. On a positive, no seasickness tonight so celebrated with my first Coke of the journey.

Missed seeing everyone at the time trial last night, and reading the TT news today.

Above: sheltering at Terrigal Haven (Photo Peter Thomson)

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Day 3 17 Nov 2021 (Barrenjoey to The Entrance)

Yesterday’s route made great progress, at Blue Moon pace, from a start at Barrenjoey to The Entrance. Unfortunately, the entrance is not an entrance for ocean kayaks. 200m of surf separated me from safe lake sanctuary. So at 6pm I took the only option and headed east to put space between me and crash landing. Tougher going into a headwind but infinitely uplifted by being joined by Greg and Jason Slade on a double ski. From when I stopped paddling round 8.30pm, drift set in. Fortunately along the coast, not in toward shore. Unfortunately backward, undoing some of my day’s mileage. Just like James and Justin, and Scott Donaldson, on a mini scale.

Above: heading north past central coast (Photo Peter Thomson)

Day 2 16 Nov 2021 (Sydney to Barrenjoey)

A mini update via iridium. 34km in just under 9 hours, so average round 3.5kmh. And that is with a great tailwind. It was however hampered by seasickness. I’m reminded I should acclimatise in a few days. Highlights were meeting up with lots of people during the day. Anjie and Kerry at The Quarantine station, followed by Jeremy Spear and a merry band of Shark Island Paddlers. Then in the afternoon under Barrenjoey lighthouse I was met by Ruby and Caoimhin, then Col Campbell in kayaks. Mardi arrived straight off a bus walking the bush tracks along the shoreline. So too Eric Filmalter - he swam out to Blue Moon, arriving like an otter with gifts of a huge slab of biltong. Thanks to all for making the second day of my journey feel special.

Above: Out of Sydney Heads (photo Tom Holloway)

Above: Barrenjoey for the night (photo Ruby Ardren)

Day 1 15 Nov 2021 Departure

Above: Departure (photo John Bowe)

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!!Day -8 6 Nov 2021 Launch but not Leave Party

So many friends have sent messages wishing me well for my adventure. Thanks to each and every one of you. Many would like to know departure plans. The main event is a covid-compliant launch party spread on Saturday afternoon, 6th November at the boatramp under Roseville Bridge.

Above: Blue Moon and friends on 6 Nov

Later the following week, when final preparations are complete and a favourable window of weather is forecast, I plan to slip very quietly out Sydney Heads.

Day -15 - 30-31 Oct 2021 Hawkesbury Classic 2021

But for covid, last weekend would have been the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic. For a few paddlers, the river had survived the pandemic, and was still inviting paddlers. Five paddlers in four boats set out from Windsor on Saturday afternoon.
|Classic start at Windsor
What better way to warm up a few muscles in preparation for launching into the Tasman? On the Tasman trip, the aim is to use Spot satellite tracking to keep followers updated on progress. The Classic run was a chance to trial that technology - and here's the track for the HCC paddle (breadcrumbs are 10 minute intervals).

Nature's quirk was to serve up mild, rain-free, wind-free conditions all the way, a paddler's dream.

Above: Checkpoint A was a little quieter than normal...