Crossing the Ditch

Route of the trans-Tasman kayak crossing

Crossing the Ditch was the effort of adventurers Justin Jones and James Castrission to become the first to cross the Tasman Sea and travel from Australia to New Zealand by sea kayak.

Setting off from Forster, New South Wales on 13 November 2007 in their custom-designed kayak Lot 41, the two-man expedition succeeded where previous attempts, including the fatal journey of Andrew McAuley, had been unsuccessful. They arrived at Ngamotu Beach, in New Plymouth, New Zealand on 13 January 2008.

The expedition holds the world record for "the longest trans-oceanic expedition in a double kayak by two expeditioners".[1]

A significant aspect of this undertaking was the use of the internet to allow the public to track the progress of Lot 41 in real time, and message the crew. Photographs and podcasts from the crew were made available just hours after they had been transmitted from the craft.


The Team

Jones and Castrission in October 2011

The crew of Lot 41 were James Castrission and Justin Jones, two Australians from Sydney, Australia. They attended school at Knox Grammar School together and later kayaked across Bass Strait, as well as being the first to paddle the length of the Murray River, a distance of 2,560 km.[2]

In addition to the crew of the kayak, many others, both in Australia and New Zealand, helped in the preparation for the voyage as well as providing constant support from land.

The Journey

Justin and James departed Forster, Australia at 1:30 pm AEST on 13 November 2007.[3]

By 2 December they had reached the vector halfway point, 1039.5 km from Forster and 1058.24 km from Auckland. Their distance over land, which measures the actual path travelled by the kayak and not a straight line, was 1372 km. One of the difficulties faced by Lot 41 were strong headwinds. These winds on their own would have made the crossing more difficult, however the design of the cabin at the stern of the kayak compounded the issue. When the winds blew from behind, the cabin presented a smooth, aerodynamic shape which reduced the tailwind advantage. In contrast, headwinds met a nearly vertical cabin entrance which acted as a large sail fighting against the paddlers.

"Lot 41" and the "Tasman Rats" arrive in New Plymouth Harbour, New Zealand

The initial plans for the crossing had Lot 41 making port at Auckland. Conditions encountered during the crossing, including strong winds and currents, saw them travel in circles for some time and added almost 1200 km to their journey. As a result of these conditions, especially those encountered as they approached the New Zealand coastline, the decision was made to use an alternative destination of New Plymouth instead.

The adventurers paddled into New Plymouth harbour on 13 January 2008, landing on Ngamotu Beach at 12:20 pm NZST.[4]

The crossing took 60 days, 20 hours and 50 minutes.

Lot 41 Design and Construction

The kayak Lot 41 was designed for the trans-Tasman crossing by Rob Feloy, who had designed the kayak for Peter Bray's trans-Atlantic Crossing approximately six years earlier. The Lot 41 design includes two cockpits, a cabin at the stern of the craft, a large water tank and storage for over 60 days of food for the two kayakers. An array of solar panels was incorporated into the design in order to charge the batteries used to power communication systems, bilge pumps and a water desalination unit. The fibreglass kayak was built in Australia in 2005 and fitted with support systems including emergency beacons, satellite phone, global tracking system, and GPS.

History of the Names

The Ditch

The Tasman Sea has for many years been referred to as "The Ditch" by Australians and New Zealanders. The exact etymology for this term is uncertain, however when traveling between Australia and New Zealand, it is commonly referred to as "crossing the ditch".

Lot 41

Lot 41 is named after the auction lot number of a race horse, "Phar Lap", widely considered to be Australia and New Zealand's most famous racehorse. Born and bred in New Zealand, the thoroughbred destined to be Australia's wonder horse was known only as Lot 41 when he was sold at the 1928 National Yearling Sales near Wellington. Following his purchase by a Sydney trainer, the thoroughbred made the trans-Tasman crossing to Australia, where he became famous.

Other Trans-Tasman Crossings

  • Kayaking
    • 2 Dec 2006. Andrew McAuley departed Tasmania but turned back on 6 Dec after some equipment issues and severe weather.[5]
    • Jan 2007. Andrew McAuley departed from Fortescue Bay, Tasmania, Australia bound for the South Island of New Zealand. Andrew McAuley was last reported 35 nautical miles (65 km) from New Zealand before an emergency search and rescue operation was begun. Andrew's Kayak was found adrift, the emergency beacon unactivated. Andrew's body has not been recovered.[6]
  • Rowing
    • 1969. Anders Svedlund attempted a Crossing from New Zealand to Australia, however he was over-turned five days after leaving from Auckland's Manukau Harbour and returned to New Zealand.[7]
    • 1977. Colin Quincey, an England-born New Zealander, made the first successful human-powered trans-Tasman crossing. He took 63 days 7 hours to row his Yorkshire Dory row-boat from Hokianga, New Zealand to Marcus Beach on the Sunshine Coast of Australia.[8]
    • 2007. Four Australians, led by Steven Gates, departed from Hokianga, New Zealand on 29 November. They arrived in Sydney Harbour on 30 December at 8:15 am, having taken 31 days to make the crossing.[9]
    • 2010. Shaun Quincey completed the solo row from Australia to New Zealand in March 2010. Shaun is the son of Colin Quincey, who completed the reverse journey in 1977.

See also


  1. ^ "Kayakers set on beating the Ditch". The New Zealand Herald. 14 November 2007. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  2. ^ Crossing the Ditch - About Us
  3. ^ Patrick (Race Recon) (13 November 2007) "Tue 13 Nov. Day One" Live Expedition Forum (Day 1 to Day 11), Retrieved 2008-1-19
  4. ^ "Trans-Tasman kayakers arrive in NZ" Scopical, 13 January 2008
  5. ^ "He's Off" Andrew McAuley, 2 January 2007
  6. ^ "Take Two" Andrew McAuley, 11 January 2007
  7. ^ Quincey, C. (1977). Tasman Trespasser, page 202. Auckland: Hodder & Stoughton.
  8. ^ Quincey, C. (1977). Tasman Trespasser, page 190. Auckland: Hodder & Stoughton.
  9. ^ "Australian rowers cross Tasman Sea". Radio New Zealand. 30 December 2007. 

External links

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