He gave it everything
He battled wind and rain, braved the cold and crashing waves but after 84 days at sea Scott Donaldson’s attempt to conquer the Tasman Sea ended.
Tantalisingly close to landfall in Taranaki but frustrated by a week of winds blowing him offshore, the former Matamata man decided to abandon his mission of becoming the first person to kayak the Tasman solo on Friday.
Unable to change his battery pack and the possibility of a Friday night in huge waves without communication was too risky.
‘‘Conditions were pushing me back to Aussie and I couldn’t compete without a rudder.
‘‘I didn’t get out to change the battery so I was running short on power,’’ he said.
On Friday, 74km from Cape Egmont, Donaldson climbed out of his cabin, pushed aside his kayak – now adrift – and clung to rescue swimmer Mike Melody.
The pair were winched into the Taranaki rescue helicopter where Donaldson was offered blankets and made a phone call home.
What they said to each other ‘‘ was between those two’’, crewman Andy Cronin said.
Although the seas were rough and winds strong, the rescue went well and by 3pm the helicopter landed at the hospital where Donaldson’s wife Sarah and an ambulance were waiting.
Sarah rushed to the side of her bearded husband, clutching at his arm as he took his first steps in almost three months.
Still in his wet-weather gear, booties and lifejacket, Donaldson was ushered into the ambulance.
Two hours later a clean-shaven and showered Donaldson fronted media at Taranaki Hospital.
‘‘Sorry I’m late, the hot shower was too good to move from,’’ he said.
A disappointed Donaldson said giving up was heart-breaking.
‘‘I didn’t want to go home, at the end of the day I didn’t get to the finish line and that hurts me.’’
Donaldson, who was kayaking to raise awareness of asthma and the need for physical activity, apologised for his failure.
‘‘I’m sorry I couldn’t get there, but there is nothing I could do about it. I hope people gain something from what I did out there, I gave it everything I had.’’
When he left Coff’s Harbour in New South Wales on April 19 he was expecting to take 50 to 70 days to reach Port Taranaki, but after a strong start he began to face problems.
First his rudder was lost and then he was battered by storm after storm. As the days dragged on he got low on food and water and two parcel drops were made.
But a determined Donaldson carried on and after making up ground, Mt Taranaki was in his sights.
Then the wind changed and Donaldson spent the next six days hunkered down in his cabin drifting further from New Plymouth and the Taranaki coast as easterly winds blew.
The wind and waves rose and on Thursday night Donaldson faced what he said was the nastiest night he’d been in – but not once did he fear for his life.
‘‘I rolled three to five times and was on my side a lot, maybe 30 plus times,’’ he said.
Although not completing his mission, Donaldson said there was a sense of satisfaction in knowing he ‘‘left it all out there’’.
This was Donaldson’s second attempt at crossing the ditch and was three years in the making.
As to the question of whether he would try for third time lucky?
SO CLOSE: Former Matamata man Scott Donaldson with his wife Sarah and son Zac, 4. AIRLIFTED: Kayaker Scott Donaldson was airlifted to hospital after he abandoned his trans-Tasman crossing on Friday. His wife Sarah was by his side as he made land.