He’s a 44-year-old canyoning guide from Katoomba and he’s slowly making his way around Australia in a sea kayak. Only three other individuals have successfully made the journey to date — the book of one of them, New Zealander Paul Caffyn — “planted the seed” and inspired Jason Beachcroft to set off from Sydney’s Rose Bay in January and “turn left at the Heads”.
His Facebook friends have nervously watched the unassuming adventurer’s journey over the last 8000 kms and 200 days at sea. Beachcroft hasn’t sought any publicity — but when he had to fight off a two metre salty [saltwater crocodile] last month on Gregory Island, off the Kimberley coast of Western Australia, those friends felt compelled to dob him in to The Blue Mountains Gazette.
On a rare break in Broome a week ago he spoke to us about the journey so far, fighting off crocs and sharks along the way.
Posting a photo and news about the July incident, he told his friends just after the event that the salty was trying to drag his boat out to sea and a “tug of war” ensued with the salty on one side holding his kayak wheels and him at the other end.
Beachcroft hadn’t seen any crocs when he landed, but had “woken up to the sounds of the croc dragging the boat away”.
He said he had little choice but to hit the crocodile several times with a spear.
“This kayak is my house, it’s my transport and I didn’t want to have to set off the EPIRB [emergency beacon].”
Posting this message he wrote: “With one hand I untie the hand spear, two whacks with the blunt end no change, two whacks with the sharp end it lets go, two more whacks it heads back to the water. Ten minutes it’s back again. A few harder whacks and I claim both the boat and beach as mine. I’m nearly meant to be out of croc territory. HA.”
Australia’s own version of Bear Grylls also took the chance to snap off a pic on his camera.
“Looking back I think it’s funny. I didn’t think it was funny at the time, “ he said laughing. “I was happy it wasn’t a four metre croc because I needed to get my boat back off him.”
Beachcroft said he has also “been attacked about three dozen times by sharks”.
“They bite the rudder, they are drawn to the vibrations but they normally just get a mouthful of metal and stop.”
He also had a whale breach just 10 metres in front of him.
On his 20 kg, five meter carbon fibre sea kayak he has enough food to last a fortnight plus maps, charts, a GPS, extra paddle, a phone and solar cell and batteries.
He has organised five food drops to various remote locations along the way, but mostly picks up food “village to village” along the route.
Prior to this, his biggest endurance test was the 53-day, 750 km traverse, skiing and walking the alpine trail from Victoria to the A.C.T.
For training he paddled on Wentworth Falls Lake, Lake Lyell in Lithgow (where he also worked as a TAFE outdoor recreation teacher) and Lake Jindabyne. He practiced life-saving deep water re-entry and self rescue in the ocean off the NSW South Coast.Wentworth Falls TAFE outdoor recreation teacher and friend Adam Darragh said Beachcroft was a true adventurer in every sense of the word.
“It’s his personal journey but it is super exciting,” Mr Darragh said.
“So many people in the Mountains are excited about it. Daryl Wilson who runs Mountains Youth Services Team said his two children were in the bath the other night going ‘I’m going to be Jason and you are going to be the crocodile’. It’s just really cool.”
Beachcroft says his biggest challenge will come in about three weeks when he faces the longest stint, along the Zuyedort Cliffs in Western Australia - a 200km unbroken cliff line, which took Paul Caffyn 34 hours of continuous paddling. Caffyn, who was the first to circumnavigate around Australia 31 years ago, told the Gazette he was impressed by Beachcroft’s progress.
“Jason is doing amazingly well,” Caffyn said. “He has the east coast behind him, the Gulf of Carpentaria, Arnhem Land and the Kimberleys and now almost clear of croc and cyclone country. I am most impressed with his progress.”
Beachcroft said he had had help from a few friends and also kind strangers along the way. One fisherman four days out of Darwin gave him a bacon and egg breakfast which he ate sitting in the kayak — but the rest of the time he is relying on his wits and courage.
“People I meet start with “You’re crazy” and then they say “Good on you”.
His own family in Melbourne (mum and siblings) also think he’s “crazy” he added “but that’s nothing unusual”.
He is using his own savings for the 15-month journey and is spending on average a little over $1000 a month. Any new sponsorship was welcome, he said.
Depending on weather, fatigue, food, big seas or other potential logistical disasters, he hopes to sail his kayak back into Sydney in March or April next year.
Beachcroft’s circumnavigation plans also include Tasmania —something his predecessors haven’t done.
“I don’t know if I’m going to succeed but I’m giving it a shot.”