Kraken’s Stories From The Deep: A word from Lionheart
He’s one of the greatest Australian explorers of all time, but when Stab first met Jesse ‘Lionheart’ Martin he was a shy young man with a generous smile and a firm handshake. The fact he became the youngest person in history to sail around the world solo was not immediately obvious. We caught up with […]
He’s one of the greatest Australian explorers of all time, but when Stab first met Jesse ‘Lionheart’ Martin he was a shy young man with a generous smile and a firm handshake. The fact he became the youngest person in history to sail around the world solo was not immediately obvious. We caught up with him again recently, during a break from his day-job ferrying workers to and from oil and gas rigs in North West Australia, to relive some of the most horrific, depressing and enlightening moments of that ’round the world journey.
Stab: What were you thinking before heading out?
Jesse: I was mostly just anxious to get out there. In theory I reckoned I could do it but on the other hand a lot of the world was saying I probably couldn’t. I was anxious to find out what the result would be. The results being: how bad the weather was gonna get, could I hack it, and basically, will I survive, will I make it?
What was life like before you left? Back then I had a junk-mail round with my brother and in my free time we’d go skateboarding down to the pool because back then none of us had licenses. There were weekend parties, girls were pretty big at that time, still are, and I was out living in a kind of country area of Melbourne so there was quite a distance between our houses and we’d be riding around on bikes or whatever to hang out.
How’d you prepare? I’d been on a sailing trip earlier in the year and had been doing study via distance education. I came back in June and made the decision that I’d leave in December. I spent the five months beforehand on leave, mum mortgaged the house to get the yacht and I got all the equipment I needed in the last two months before I left. That took up a lot of time: ordering the equipment and then getting it on board. We were doing that right down to the day I was leaving.
What did your friends think? Not many of my friends really said much. I think it was probably a little bit hard for them to imagine. It was just so… out of left field. They knew the words but didn’t really know what it meant – kinda like, we might see him soon or we might not. So, erm, see ya mate!
Your first major challenge? Getting used to the lifestyle was the first challenge. It was really lonely in the beginning, which was made worse by no wind. I was just bobbing around feeling like I was stuck. There was no progress. It took a month to get under New Zealand which really isn’t that far for that amount of time. Then I had my first gale under New Zealand and made a few mistakes during that. I threw the drove out the wrong side of the boat and it got caught around the keel so that was a bit of shakeup. But it was also a great ice breaker. When the gale was done I’d passed my first test.
When did you realise you’d really underestimated something? Definitely my stores planning and equipment back up. You rack your brain for spare parts to take but it’s always the things you hadn’t thought of that break. I had three laptops and none of them broke, but only one furler and it broke and I had no spare parts for that, so I had to take it off. That meant I was limited in the flexibility of the sales; I could only get it halfway up so it was more manual work raising sails by hand the old fashioned way. It also puts more stress on the rig leaving the sale out for longer than you should.
Your most frightening moment? I hit a whale. Or, I got hit by a whale, I’m not sure. There were two whales either side of the boat and there was nothing I could do. I’d read stories about boats getting sunk by whales and it was definitely a fear of mine. I was doing seven knots, the whales were following me but in the end nothing happened.
Storms? My worst storm was under Africa – a force 10 storm, where I had five knock downs in one night. I woke up and there were no solar panels, the stove was upside down, but the mast was still up fortunately. That night listening to the gale was frightening. I was just praying for it to die down then you’d get another knock down and another knock down and you didn’t know when it was gonna stop.
Pirates? There was a point where I thought I was being followed by pirates. I radioed them and they replied in spanish. I didn’t know what that meant but when I turned my boat they followed me, which is weird because boats don’t really follow each other out on the open ocean, y’know, because everyone has their own courses. When they pulled up close to me I came out on deck and they did too. Then they started taking photos. So they were following me, just not for the reasons I thought.
What was the low point emotionally? When my family flew over to the Azores to meet me. I’d been looking forward to it for six or so months but then they got there and I only got to spend half an hour with them before they had to leave. That was the hardest part. I’d been through half the trip and then almost instantaneously I was staring down the second half. And I knew it was going to be harder than the first half because now I knew what I was looking down at. It was something I looked forward to for so long but it was over so quick.
Were there moments when it all seemed so worthwhile? Most mornings really, if the boat was travelling well. That moment before the sun came out and the sky was starting to light up was just perfection. And it happens a fair bit out there. You call it the small moments but they’re quite precious really.
Looking back, how has it shaped you? Well, I rode that wave for 10 years of my life. I’d talk about it a fair bit at corporate gigs and elsewhere, which was good, but I’m kinda glad it’s over. In that sense it’s been a career. What exactly I loved about that trip is hard to explain. I don’t know if you can share it with someone else. That would be the ultimate, if I could share what I loved about that trip with people. But I think it would change the nature of the trip. The solitude of it all is part of it. – Jed Smith
You can follow Jed on twitter, here.
And, you can buy Jesse’s book, here.
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