Holly Martin’s Solo Voyage Around the World

Holly Martin’s Solo Voyage Around the World

Provisioning in Tahiti

Holly Martin set out last fall from Round Pond Harbor on the Pemaquid Peninsula, in her 27-foot-long Grinde sailboat, which she christened the SV Gecko. Holly had purchased this vessel in Connecticut and renovated and refitted it for the long trip ahead. Her goal: to sail alone around the world.

Back in the years 1895 to 1898, Joshua Slocum was the first man to circumnavigate, or in his words, “to chase the setting sun and see it rise behind me again.” Now, even in this high-tech era of weather satellites, fiberglass hulls, and other modern conveniences, it remains a rare feat, requiring great skill and involving many unknowns. In Holly’s case, the coronavirus epidemic has proven to be a major unexpected factor, affecting what ports are open and where she can resupply. But she has persevered with good spirit. She is now spending time in French Polynesia, in the South Pacific. We are fortunate that we here in Maine have been able to follow along with her journey into the other, now warmer hemisphere. Holly’s mother, expert sailor Jaja Martin, is in occasional touch with Holly via a Garmin inReach, a two-way satellite communicator. Jaja here gives an update on Holly’s latest news and a sense of life in the Fakarava Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago.

Winter plans

Holly will stay in French Polynesia for the cyclone season, which usually extends from November through April. Right now, she is in Tahiti provisioning with groceries and essential boat items. In Tahiti, there are big stores, and food is relatively inexpensive, although it’s a lot more expensive than in the States. Holly has buddied up with other cruisers (sailing people) to rent a car for provisioning, which is easier, and a better deal than taking a taxi around the city of Papeete (the capitol of French Polynesia). She’s doing a huge provision now, then she’ll continue on, traveling among the Tuamotus, Marquesses, and Gambier Islands.

The COVID situation over there

French Polynesia has of a lot of COVID now that Tahiti has opened its doors to international travelers. The COVID cases are mostly in Tahiti and the other popular islands in the Society archipelago. The remote islands have no COVID cases, or very few depending on the island. After leaving Tahiti, Holly plans to take a COVID test (which is mandatory) and isolate before disembarking on the remote islands. She definitely doesn’t want to bring any germs with her. Most islands do not have a mask culture (since they don’t have COVID), and Holly says it’s nice to experience normalcy.

Kite school

Holly has made friends with the couple who own and run the Fakarava Kite school http://www.kitetuamotu.com/. The husband is French, and the wife is American. In fact, the wife spent one summer cruising Maine solo (her mom lives in Harpswell, Maine.) The husband and wife each have their own boat, and they keep their boats in same places. They anchor in Fakarava Atoll for the main tourist season, and during cyclone season they move around to different atolls. They even have an air B&B, so guests can stay on their catamaran while taking lessons. The kite school also offers free-diving and spear fishing. Full meals are included with their B&B. They get an international clientele. Holly recently met a couple from Maine that was staying with them.

Other friends

Holly has an easy time making friends, and she has a mix of cruising friends and local friends. One week she helped local a family who were leaving their farm for a few days. Holly fed and watered their animals while they were away. She filled the water troughs with cistern water. Holly used her machete to open coconuts for the pigs each day. She also took care of the dogs, cats, and chickens.

“Everyone is friendly,” says Holly. She made friends with the local fishermen who also take tourists sightseeing. “Making island friends is a good opportunity to learn French, since the locals don’t like to speak English,” says Holly.

Activities day to day

“My days are full of activity!” says Holly. She spends her time snorkeling, sailing her dinghy to other parts of the reef, walking on the beach, playing with local dogs and cats, hanging out with other sailors, spear fishing, watching the sunrise, accomplishing boat projects, and cooking. Fresh supplies can be limited on the islands, so Holly makes creative meals. She’s becoming an expert at making tortillas, naan, and all types of bread.


Holly reads a lot. Book trading and swapping is very popular amongst cruisers. The yacht service businesses all have book-trading shelves. “I have two lockers of books,” Holly says. “One locker is filled with books to trade, and the other is filled with my favorites which I won’t trade. I haven’t run out of books yet. Not all the books are good. Sometimes, you get bad books. But there’s always something to read.”

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