He gave it ev­ery­thing

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page -

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?

‘‘Un­likely.’’

Pho­tos: CHAR­LOTTE CURD/ TARANAKI DAILY NEWS

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.

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