Cross­ing the fi­nal bar

Colin Quincey Obit­u­ary – Pi­o­neer­ing Tas­man rower.

Boating NZ - - Contents - BY LINDSAY WRIGHT

And it’s true – he in­spired many young peo­ple to tackle a life of ad­ven­ture and chal­lenge.

Quincey had al­ready clocked up 35,000 off­shore sail­ing miles, in­clud­ing a world cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion he started at age 19, when the no­tion of being the first per­son to row the Tas­man oc­curred to him.

“On 18th June, 1976 I walked out of a small wharf­side of­fice on Auck­land into teem­ing rain” the book be­gins. “The car was suf­fer­ing yet an­other dose of se­vere in­di­ges­tion, the rent was due. I didn’t have a coat and I’d just re­signed from my six­teenth job in eleven years. I ig­nored the rain (bod­ies are wa­ter­proof) and pad­dled my way to Queen Street. As I walked, watch­ing soggy, se­ri­ous faces and the hus­tle and has­sle of the city cen­tre rush­ing its in­evitable way through an­other pre­dictable day, an old fa­mil­iar feel­ing washed through my body – a feel­ing of free­dom.”

He spent some of his re­main­ing cash buy­ing a book – An Evo­lu­tion of Sin­gle­han­ders – but, not hav­ing the cash to buy or build a yacht, opted for oars in­stead. When he found out that no one had ever rowed the Tas­man, the die was cast.

A for­mer Bri­tish RN of­fi­cer, Quincey as­sid­u­ously stud­ied charts, pre­vail­ing wind and cur­rent data for the route. Sea­soned sailors shook their heads in dis­be­lief – the Tas­man had to be tack­led from West to East – but Quincey wasn’t a man to take the usual route.

Although he was born in Hull, Eng­land, that home of hard­ened North Sea trawler­men, both the man and his book were and are true Kiwi clas­sics. Tas­man Tres­passer is sprin­kled with laugh-aloud gems of his la­conic hu­mour and re­veal­ing in­sights.

He’d been Master of the sail train­ing ship Spirit of Ad­ven­ture, then taken work as a house painter, his son, Shaun, says. “That’s when he had the idea of row­ing the Tas­man – lots of time with his hands busy – but his mind free to roam.”

Quincey read ev­ery­thing avail­able about ocean row­boats and, in­spired by the boat John Fair­fax had used to row the At­lantic in 1972, built his own Tas­man Tres­passer to a sim­i­lar de­sign. Lean and dou­ble-ended in light ply­wood.

His epic ad­ven­ture be­gan at Hokianga in June 1977. Tas­man Tres­passer’s pal­try 61Ah bat­tery pow­ered the run­ning lights and a VHF ra­dio, but

oth­er­wise he nav­i­gated by the sun and stars; no sat­phone, no GPS or weather charts. He gave him­self 50-50 odds for sur­vival but, in the event, landed at Mar­cus Beach, Queens­land 63 days and seven hours later.

He surfed Tas­man Tres­passer into the re­mote beach at night and stag­gered on weak­ened legs about 3km towards a house light. The house­hold­ers fed him, or­gan­ised peo­ple to man­han­dle the boat above the high wa­ter mark and lo­cal police be­gan clear­ance for­mal­i­ties – and gave him a cig­a­rette. “I sat down on the garage floor to rel­ish the first puffs of this long-awaited fag – and was told later that I had a stupid grin all over my face,” he re­called.

Shaun Quincey, in his own Tas­man Tres­passer, be­came the sec­ond per­son to row the Tas­man and com­pleted the fam­ily cir­cuit 33 years later when it took him 54 days to row solo from New South Wales to Ninety Mile Beach in 2010.

Af­ter the cross­ing to Aus­tralia, Quincey joined the RNZN and served at var­i­ous post­ings between 1978 and 2001. That year he quit the Navy and bought an 11.8m ketch, Edith May. He re­fit­ted her to NZYF cat­e­gory one.

“She must have been the old­est yacht to get cat one,” Shaun says. “Dad just liked ad­ven­ture – what­ever the chal­lenge, it just didn’t seem big enough for him.”

He took to the sea once more in 2003. He was headed for Tonga, but Edith May struck a ship­ping con­tainer near the Poor Knights Is­lands and sank be­neath him. But he even­tu­ally made it to Tonga and took on a vol­un­teer teach­ing role at St An­drews Col­lege. He ended up as prin­ci­pal for four years.

His next chal­lenge was help­ing to build a school for or­phans in Burma (Myan­mar). The 60-year-old ad­ven­turer taught English there but was taken hostage for three months by “lo­cal mili­tia” be­fore es­cap­ing and swim­ming across the Mekong River to free­dom in Thai­land.

He lived in north-east Thai­land for a few years then moved to Aus­tralia. From 2008 un­til 2011, Quincey man­aged a com­mer­cial clean­ing com­pany in Dar­win, then re­tired to the Bay of Is­lands.

“He had a small dory which he used to row around the bay in,” says Shaun, “but af­ter he was di­ag­nosed with lung cancer, he slowed down a bit.” He also vol­un­teered at the Cit­i­zens Ad­vice Bureau and at Pai­hia’s lo­cal op shop.

Colin Quincey died in Kawakawa aged 73 on 9th July, 2018 and is sur­vived by his sons – David, Ben and Shaun.

Farewell sailor. BNZ

LEFT Quincey’s odyssey to Aus­tralia wasn’t ex­actly a straight route.BE­LOW LEFT Set­ting new records, Quincey was one of a kind.

RIGHT Pre­par­ing the boat for de­par­ture.

TOP The sup­plies needed for a Tran­sTas­man row.

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