Stuart Cleary on the Gold Coast in the lead up to his Tasman Odyssey.
Stuart Cleary on the Gold Coast in the lead up to his Tasman Odyssey. Contributed

Four years preparing for adventure sunk in only 12 hours

STUART Cleary paddled out of Ballina on Sunday night in an attempt to become the first kayaker to cross the Tasman Sea, but 12 hours into the journey his vessel began to sink.

Formerly of Ballina, now living on the Gold Coast, Mr Cleary, 53, had spent four years preparing for the epic trip and said he was "devastated" by the unsuccessful attempt.

Mr Cleary told the ABC that he lost control of the steering on his vessel.

"I lost steering. I tried to fix it up but it just wasn't working," Mr Cleary said.

"We had a series of events and I realised the kayak was sinking ... I was trying to make it back to the coast here but it just didn't quite happen.

"Everything happened really quickly ... once I realised how much water was getting in the cabin it was all over.

"It was a case of putting the flotation bags on and waiting for someone to come pick us up.

"I'm devastated, just absolutely devastated."

After activating a distress beacon, Mr Cleary was rescued around 75km off Coffs Harbour at 4.15pm on Monday.

The kayaker, who holds the longest continual indoor rowing world record of 78 hours and 567,178m, had undertaken extensive research and training for the Tasman attempt, including making his own kayak and originally expected it would take 60 days.

His kayak is believed to be still afloat in the ocean containing his passport, GPS equipment, satellite communicator and a waterproof computer.

On his website, Mr Cleary, a former deep sea diver and oil rig worker, said his motivation to make the Tasman attempt came after watching the documentary Solo: Lost at sea, in which Andrew McAuley dies attempting to kayak from Tasmania to Milford Sound in New Zealand in 2007.

Mr Cleary wrote that he emerged from the global financial crisis feeling "over-worked, overly-fit and almost, over 50" then saw the documentary as a catalyst.

"I began to think: Why did he go in a tiny kayak? How did he get so far? What can I learn? Could it be done? How could it be done?" Mr Cleary wrote.

Back on dry land, Mr Cleary told the ABC he would not make a second attempt.

"It's too much work, too much cost."



REVEALED: Coffs Harbour's Most Influential list

premium_icon REVEALED: Coffs Harbour's Most Influential list

The final instalment of our 12-part series.

Coffs Harbour's Most Influential - Part 11

premium_icon Coffs Harbour's Most Influential - Part 11

The Coffs Coast Advocate lists the people effecting change

Mayor named Coffs' Most Influential

Mayor named Coffs' Most Influential

Results are in, mayor Denise Knight is the city's most influential.

Local Partners