Kayaker abandons adventure

Scott Donaldson has rolled three times during the night and is like 'a dice in a cup' as the waves batter his kayak.
Scott Donaldson has rolled three times during the night and is like 'a dice in a cup' as the waves batter his kayak.

Transtasman kayaker Scott Donaldson has been reunited with his wife after being plucked from rough seas off the Taranaki coast this afternoon.

Mr Donaldson was winched on board the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter around 2.15pm after requesting a rescue from the Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination Centre.

He arrived at Taranaki Base Hospital at 3pm.

Rotorua Daily Post chief photographer Stephen Parker said he was able to walk to a waiting ambulance.

His wife Sarah was waiting to meet him and she hugged him before they both went in to the hospital's emergency department.

"His wife walked over and she was visibly pleased to see him," Mr Parker said.

He said a bearded Mr Donaldson was still in his lifejacket and wet weather gear. He was walking with no obvious problems.

"He walked about five metres to a waiting ambulance, which took him to the hospital. There was a smile on his wife's face."

A freshly shaven Mr Donaldson told a press conference at the hospital later that he was feeling "pretty good physically" but a third attempt at the transtasman crossing was unlikely.

He said he was hurting after not completing his journey.

"I didn't hit the finish line and that hurts me deeply and will hurt me for a long, long time," he said.

"I didn't want to go home."

Mr Donaldson said he felt gutted when he saw the helicopter arrive to pluck him from his kayak, which was "wearing thin" following the "nastiest night" of the journey.

"34 miles short -- that really gets me," he said.

He said the decision to call off his mission was not made based on emotions.

"It wasn't hard to make the call."

He said if he had gone through the weather conditions forecast for tonight he would have risked losing communications, and that wasn't a risk he was willing to take.

He said he was the healthiest he had ever been, but had been craving the bacon and egg pie his wife had prepared for his first meal back on land.

Mr Donaldson thanked all of his supporters and apologised to them for not finishing the journey.

Mrs Donaldson said she was very relieved to have her husband home and proud of him.

"He is so strong and determined and that sense of character is priceless."

'He was chatty but disappointed'

Taranaki Rescue Helicopter pilot Mike Parker and crew member Andy Cronin spent 40 minutes at Mr Donaldson's location in the Tasman Sea to get him on board safely.

Mr Cronin said Mr Donaldson seemed upset but relieved to get onboard the helicopter.

"He was chatty but disappointed," he said.

Mr Cronin said the conditions at sea were "windy and rough" but the rescue had been straightforward.

Mr Donaldson phoned his wife from the helicopter and they spoke briefly, Mr Cronin said.

Mr Parker said the only visible injuries Mr Donaldson had suffered in the rough conditions last night was a bang to the nose.

"He didn't let on he was too hurt," he said.

Mr Donaldson, 44, abandoned his attempt to be the first solo kayaker to cross the Tasman Sea after being injured in bad conditions last night.

He suffered injuries to his face and chest overnight when his kayak rolled three times and his harness broke.

He was around 90km west of Pungarehu adjacent to the west coast of Taranaki.

'Like a dice in a cup'

Taupo rescue pilot John Funnell, who has been assisting Donaldson on his mission, reports conditions are getting worse with wind gusting up to 100km/h.

He said Donaldson spent the night holed up in his cabin off the coast of Taranaki, "like a dice in a cup".

During the night Donaldson, 44, rolled three times and the restraint he uses inside the cabin failed.

He suffered injuries to his face and chest.

Mr Funnell said in a statement that the injuries were not life-threatening, but of concern.

"As a result a support vessel has been dispatched from New Plymouth. They will not meet up with Scott until late this afternoon, in the meantime other support options are on standby.

"This is devastating news for his support group and Scott.

"Scott reports the current weather is the worst thus far he has experienced during the crossing."

The wind is expected to gust between 70 and 110km/h between 5pm and 11pm tonight.

The adventurer has been at sea since April and will be the first person to kayak solo across the Tasman Sea if he successfully reaches the New Zealand coast.

He was currently around 90km west of Pungarehu adjacent to the west coast of Taranaki.

However Mr Funnell earlier said the rough night hadn't put Donaldson off his mission. "He's going to keep going."

"We've got gale-force winds out there. It's fair to say that we're looking forward to the end of it and the weather to improve.

"We are a little bit concerned, it's very violent out there.

"I was talking to a helicopter operator on the West Coast and he said it's been a hell of a night over there."

Donaldson's cabin was watertight and he had a bilge pump if any water did get in, Mr Funnell said.

"The kayak is robust...but the issue is, even though it's a small cabin, he's inside it - it's like being a dice in a cup - you're getting bashed around in there.

"Hopefully that weather will abate through the course of the day."

Donaldson was expected to reach land sometime next week "at the earliest", he said. As a result, another supply drop would be needed.

"I think the plan is to send a boat out to take some more supplies out to him...hopefully [on] Saturday morning. This weather system is proving challenging."

This is Donaldson's second attempt to cross the Tasman, after his kayak filled with water two days into his his first attempt in May last year.

He is making the trip to raise awareness for Asthma NZ, an illness both he and his 4-year-old son suffer from.

He is also hoping to highlight the importance of increasing aerobic activity levels in our day to day lives.

Mr Funnell said he had never met the kayaker and only became involved in the mission after Donaldson's wife Sarah appealed for him to help.

"His wife rang up and said 'my husband's kayaking the Tasman and he's run out of food'."

He had conducted three supply drops to the kayaker to-date, he said.

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