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Tachyon Hutt, 18, set off on the trip from Kenepuru Sound on Wednesday night because he wanted to see his brother in Wellington, Stuff reported.
He made the trip with just a lifejacket, compass and mobile phone, and did not take waterproof clothing, water or food. He said he had no regrets about the ill-fated trip, though he was grateful for his rescue.
"I'd do it again, but I'm not going to at this stage," he told Stuff.
"I was on an adventure, why should you stop nature? Why should you cut out someone's freedom?"
Hutt left at 10pm on Wednesday and had expected the trip to take six hours. But his motor cut out and he called for help at 9am the next day.
Police were able to geolocate him using his cell phone location and he was located around 12km west of Mana Island. A Westpac helicopter directed police to his location.
"I've got family up here and I thought I'd just go and do something," he told Stuff.
"We've had the lockdown and we've been all self-isolated and that and I needed something to take my mind off things."
Hutt said he decided to head towards Mana Island to spent the night after conditions changed.
"I just stopped for a little break and then I started paddling and I thought it might be easier and quicker to get a tow, I thought why waste the energy when I can get a ride?"
After initially failing to get hold of the coastguard, he managed to contact police.
"I didn't panic at any time, I was quite comfortable," he said. He had crossed Cook Strait several times before, but in larger boats.
Wellington Maritime Police Senior Sergeant Dave Houston said yesterday Hutt was in reasonably good nick, slightly cold but not hypothermic and very lucky.
"He's lacked preparation to do essentially a 100km voyage in a dinghy," Houston said.
"In his situation, he didn't check the weather forecast and lucky for him, it was probably the best weather conditions you could actually get.
"We've got strong tides that go through the channel, lots of rips and unsettled water. It's all quite unpredictable and can change at the drop of a hat."