Trans-Tasman kayaker Scott Donaldson quits

STORM TROOPER: Kayaker Scott Donaldson.
STORM TROOPER: Kayaker Scott Donaldson.

Injured kayaker Scott Donaldson has apologised to the public for not completing his mission to be the first to kayak the Tasman Sea solo.

Donaldson fronted media this afternoon just hours after being plucked from the ocean about 74km off the coast by the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter.

He was clean shaven, his trans-Tasman beard a victim of his arrival in New Zealand. 

GIVEN UP: Scott Donaldson
GIVEN UP: Scott Donaldson

‘‘I’m sorry I couldn't get there but there’s nothing I could do about that,’’ he said.

‘‘I left everything on the track.’’

Donaldson, 44, called it quits after suffering head and chest injuries in what he said was the ‘‘nastiest night’’ he had experienced in almost three months at sea.

OFF COURSE: Kayaker Scott Donaldson has been drifting southwest.
OFF COURSE: Kayaker Scott Donaldson has been drifting southwest.

‘‘I rolled about three to five times and was on my side a lot, maybe 30 plus times.’’

He threw in the towel because it was getting too dangerous to be out on the ocean, he said.

The wind has been blowing him further away from land for days and last night a wave took out his radar.

DRY LAND: Scott Donaldson walks from the rescue helicopter to an ambulance, with the support of his wife Sarah.
DRY LAND: Scott Donaldson walks from the rescue helicopter to an ambulance, with the support of his wife Sarah.

He was getting low on power and spending another night on the water without communication was too dangerous, he felt.

Donaldson was winched from the water and landed at Taranaki Base Hospital about 3pm today.

His wife Sarah was rushed to his side and clutched to him as he was walked into an ambulance and off to the emergency room.

A bearded Donaldson was still wearing his wet weather gear and life jacket at that time, but the man who greeted media this afternoon was clean shaven and warmed-up after a shower.

‘‘Sorry I’m late, the hot shower was too good to leave,’’ he said.

Sarah said she was extremely proud of her husband.

‘‘His strength of character is priceless,’’ she said.

Formerly of Rotorua, Donaldson, 44, left Coff's Harbour in New South Wales headed for Port Taranaki on April 19.

When he gave up he had about 83km of his 2000km journey left.

Donaldson lived in Rotorua for 12 years, before he moved to Auckland to be near his boat builder and the sea.

Despite lack of sponsorship, the Rotorua 44-year-old was intent on raising awareness about the need for physical activity, in partnership with the New Zealand Asthma Foundation. Both he and 4-year-old son Zac suffer from the condition.

The voyage was three years in the planning. But it did not result in smooth sailing.

It was his second attempt to conquer the Tasman. Last year, technical issues forced him to abandon attempts from Coff's Harbour and then Port Macquarie when his kayak filled with water two days in.

When Donaldson's kayak lost its rudder on this trip, it seemed unlikely he would complete his journey in the 50 to 70 days he planned.

Sometimes, he had to drag a paddle behind him to keep him on course. Still, he battled on. 

When he began running out of food and water, 300 nautical miles west of New Plymouth, Taupo-based helicopter pilot John Funnell swooped to his aid, parachuting three small container loads of water and freeze-dried food on June 20.

Unfortunately, a water container fractured on impact, so a second drop from Donaldson's inadvertent guardian angel in a Piper Comanche aircraft, came six days later.

But everything Funnell did to help Donaldson, the weather poured cold water on.

He has been luckier than Australian adventurer Andrew McAuley, who attempted to kayak the Tasman Sea in 2007.

His flooded kayak was found 56km short of Milford Sound, his target end-point, a month after he set out.

McAuley's body was never found. 

Taranaki Daily News