Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Crossing the Ditch

Imagine that two young Aussie blokes have decided to kayak across one of the roughest stretches of ocean in the world, The Tasman Sea. Imagine that when they begin planning their quest that, although they are adventurers, they have only limited experience in kayaks, yet they plan to paddle an ocean that regularly kicks up two-story waves. Imagine that they will be taking refuge from the frequent and violent storms in a tiny cabin on their specially-built kayak, and that one of them is the claustrophobic while the other is chronically seasick. And imagine that the last person to attempt this crossing was lost at sea.
It sounds pretty crazy and no doubt some will argue that it is, but in January 2008, James Castrission and Justin Jones became the first people to successfully kayak from Australia to New Zealand. Castrission's book, Crossing the Ditch, is a terrifically good read chronicling the two mates' adventure.
From some brief family history, through their decision to undertake the expedition and their many months of preparation, Castrission takes us through the story of design and out-fitting their kayak (named Lot 41), and how it almost sank on their first sea trial. He leads us through his search for a cure to his chronic seasickness, a malady which could have halted the expedition before it even began, and he describes his ever-changing and complex feelings towards Andrew McAuley, who beat them across the Tasman, but was lost within sight of New Zealand.
Castrission's description of the crossing itself is terrific. They reached the halfway point on Day 17; little did they realize that the second half would take them 45 more days as weather and currents forced them to paddle an extra 1100 km on top of the planned distance of 2200 km.
There's also a detailed appendix with stats and info about their kayak, food supply, training regime, and equipment.
A great book, seek it out.
Or if you like to watch moving pictures instead of reading words, watch the companion DVD with the eerily similar title, Crossing the Ditch. James and Justin have assembled a remarkable collection of footage from their crossing and you feel like you are sharing in their adventure, from the cramped quarters of their boat and the fatigue and desperation that set in as the currents held them in a relentless grip, to their relief and joy at completing the voyage.


  1. How timely! Am running a global competition for the next few weeks where the prizes are 2 signed copies of Crossing the Ditch! :)

  2. If you get the chance, see the DVD - really amazing stuff. If anything just to see James continuously throw up with sea sickness - haha!