Holly Martin: Heading to the Marquesas Islands in the Pacific

Holly Martin: Heading to the Marquesas Islands in the Pacific

“Over 4 weeks at sea, less than 2 weeks to go!”

By Mary Frances Barstow and Jaja Martin

Last fall Holly Martin, 28, set out from Round Pond Harbor on the Pemaquid Peninsula, on her way to sail around the world alone. In the pursuit of this dream, she had bought a 27-foot-long Grinde (built in Denmark in 1983), refitted it with painstaking care, and christened it the SV Gecko. On her trip so far, she has experienced many, many wonderful times . . . and some bad weather, a stop to work for a while, and one massively disruptive coronavirus pandemic, which closed harbors and made resupplying for the Pacific crossing extremely difficult.

As readers of this column may recall, Holly was in quarantine for weeks near the Perlas Islands of Panama, with a small community of other sailors whose travel plans were also on a virus-related hold. But as Holly’s mom, Jaja Martin, told us last month, Holly was finally able to get in the requisite supplies and start out for her next port of call: the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. These small, isolated volcanic islands in the middle of the Pacific would take an estimated 40 days of sailing to reach.

Jaja Martin has a busy summer life in Maine, running a Y sailing camp out of Round Pond Harbor, but an important part of her daily routine is to communicate with Holly via her Garmin inReach. Jaja has generously shared the following update on Holly’s progress.

Holly has been doing great on her Pacific crossing—over 4 weeks at sea, less than 2 weeks to go! The comforting part, for me, is that I can see exactly where she is at any given moment. My job is to be Holly’s weatherman, and I can send 160-character messages to her daily. This messaging capability was especially important when she first left Panama headed for the Galapagos Islands. During that section of her passage, Holly was fighting headwinds and a strong adverse current. Being able to receive wind, weather, and current information helped her decide on her course. After the Galapagos Islands, Holly quickly entered the trade winds. With wind and current behind her, she began the magical part of passage across the Pacific. Idyllic sailing. Weather reports became less important, although I was able to advise her on which latitude to head for to get the best ride.

At the beginning of June, Holly left Panama after provisioning as well as she could. It was a daunting task, considering the strict restrictions Panama had placed on their population. Each person was allowed to be out for a two-hour period (time determined by the number on one’s identification) on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (for women) or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday (for men). No one was allowed out on Sunday. That made provisioning pretty hard. She was happy to get away from the city and out on the cool, clean ocean.

June 1 was her first day out. On June 12 Holly passed north of Isabela Island, Galapagos. On June 13 she was sailing through the wind shadow from the island group, but by the next morning she was free and clear, riding the trades.

After that, Holly got into the glorious routine of living on a boat. Time takes on a new dimension at sea. The things that become important have very little to do with the cares one has on land.

On June 13, Holly crossed the Equator. A reason for celebration! June 22 marked her halfway point. Other significant happenings she noted were: June 25, “Ate last tomato”; June 26, “Found hidden tomato / ate last tomato”; June 28, “4 wks out”; June 29, “Onto last jar of PB”; July 1, “Only 1000 mi to go”; July 2, “Cookies 4 bfast? OK!”

Today is July 2, and I can see that Holly is getting closer to where she is headed. She still has over a week before she will make it to Nuka Hiva in the Marquesas, which is her destination. It’s exciting to watch her little boat progressing along its track across the Pacific. Holly is such an amazing kid. I’m so lucky she’s my daughter, and I’m so happy that she has the courage to do the things that speak to her heart.

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