ROWING ON: Malcolm Skelton pictured rowing off the Coffs Coast on Saturday, April 8, 2017.
ROWING ON: Malcolm Skelton pictured rowing off the Coffs Coast on Saturday, April 8, 2017. Rick O'Ferrall

Cairns adventurer rescued after rowing from Coffs Coast

CAIRNS adventurer Malcolm Skelton won't let a failed attempt to row the Tasman Sea stop him from fighting for change.

The Earlville man was on Saturday rescued by a Filipino bulk carrier ship about 285km off the NSW coast, 11 days after he left Coffs Harbour bound for New Zealand's North Island.

His expensive and hi-tech row boat, Sarah J, remains adrift on the Tasman and is being tracked by GPS.

After several days of "mind-blowing” sunrises and wildlife encounters, Mr Skelton's long-planned adventure turned pear-shaped at the weekend when he met a "maelstrom of bad weather”.

"I was being pushed south and, after speaking to forecasters, realised if I continued on that track I could have been hit by some nasty winds of the Roaring Forties, which I wanted to avoid at all costs,” the 46-year-old said.

He contacted the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and, knowing the large bulk carrier ship was nearby, decided to activate his EPIRB.

The moment was heartbreaking for Mr Skelton, who was aiming to become the fastest person to row the Tasman while also raising funds for research into Friedreich's ataxia - a rare degenerative disease suffered by his wife Sarah.

"I was sitting in the cabin of the row boat and I knew that as soon as I flicked the switch my attempt was over. It brought me to tears,” he said.

"I was gutted, but I knew it was the right decision.”

He started rowing towards the "massive” Filipino vessel and was welcomed on board by its crew.

Mr Skelton, who runs a tree lopping business, was then taken to Newcastle and is due to arrive in Cairns on Thursday afternoon.

He hasn't seen his wife since leaving Coffs Harbour earlier this month.

"I just want to hug her,” Mr Skelton said.

Despite the setback, he has vowed to continue raising awareness for Friedreich's ataxia and could even make another attempt to row the Tasman later this year.

"I've just got to keep beating the drum ... this is not over,” he said.



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