Dave Puklowski, left, and Russell Blowers, right, surrounded by friends and family on Sunday afternoon, minutes after Dave stepped ashore after completing his circumnavigation of the South Island. Photo: Jessie Johnston.

Challenge over, mate rapt


After 22 days on the water, Dave Puklowski has completed his “Challenge for a Mate”, returning home on Sunday afternoon to a welcome party of friends and family.

Dave’s challenge was to solo circumnavigate the South Island in a 3.8-metre rigid hull inflatable boat, becoming the smallest powered craft to do so.

His 22-day adventure was all in aid of his mate Russell Blowers, who suffers from a rare and painful form of rickets, the challenge raising funds to pay for Russell’s latest surgeries.

“Being the smallest powered craft to solo navigate, that sort of represents a few worries like, is the motor going to last? Especially when you’re out right down Fiordland and Foveaux Strait and things like that, it’s constantly on your mind, especially when the weather gets really bad,” says Dave.

“I had more bad weather than good but, all in all, nothing to complain about, I guess, I knew it was going to be a challenge, that’s what it’s all about.”

With wind, rain and large swells to deal with, Dave describes the experience as a “little bit busier and a little bit scarier” than he’d imagined, including around four days in total when bad weather conditions made travel impossible.

“One of the worst parts was after I’d had three nights by myself in Fiordland, then I tried to get around to Bluff to meet up with the shore crew again. I had to turn back, it was too rough and it’s really hard to turn back, it’s not what you really want to do but you have to put safety first,” says Dave. “I thought we’d do a bit of travelling then meet up with the crew, we’d talk about the day and then we’d go and see some sights, and we did do a little bit of that but it was just incredible how busy we were, it was just full on the whole time.”

Dave says that while he was the one driving the boat, it was by no means a solo mission.

“There’s so many people involved that need to be thanked, including all my sponsors, all the Challenge for a Mate crew and all the other people who supported me, even coming into [Nelson] there was a dozen boats as I was coming along from French Pass that were waving me over, and the Nelson coastguard, they were out there, too.”

Dave has now started the Challenge for a Mate Foundation, inspiring everyday people to take on challenges to support friends in need.

Russell is also looking forward to seeing how Challenge for a Mate can help others.

“It’s incredibly emotional and very humbling to have so many people involved and helping out with the cause. I think Dave probably hit on a really big thing that’s really important for him, and for me as well, that [the foundation] has been set up to help other people in the future and everyone who’s been involved in Challenge for a Mate so far has been behind that concept as well. So if there’s anybody out there who wants to use this and use our knowledge, just get on the website, get in touch with us and we’re more than willing to help.”

In total Dave used about 2000 litres of fuel, spent over 100 hours travelling and covered 2800km.

Anyone interested in learning more about Challenge for a Mate can visit challengeforamate.nz