Paraplegic sailor prepares for solo circumnavigation of NZ

by Kristine Lederis
Jon Martins in front of Mt Aoraki after discharge from Hospital

Just 14 months after a skydiving accident rendered Jonathan Martins a L1 paraplegic; he prepares now to become the first disabled yachtsman to complete a single-handed circumnavigation voyage around New Zealand.

Jonathan got bitten by the sailing bug  after a casual chat around a bonfire in taking a Basic Keelboat Course, which eventually led him to races like the Coastal Classic and the purchase of a ‘rust bucket’ sailboat in Te Atatu while still working as a professional skydiving instructor in Taupo.

Prior to his accident, his life revolved entirely around the passion for sailing, with high-priority plans and goals of a voyage to circumnavigate the world: non-stop and single-handedly aboard Ramana, the yacht he practically built himself.

"The plans are to leave no later than Easter Weekend" says Jonathan "to take advantage of the great-late-summer-sailing conditions but I am still dwelling on a few modifications and adaptations on Ramana, specially with the self-steering wind vane, which has been giving me a bit of grief lately..."

"I am heading to the Bay of Islands from Tauranga for a shake down passage, and if all systems are "Go", Ramana and I are off, sailing the mighty Pacific around East Cape" he continues.

 The boat was launched in October 2010 in Tauranga, after three and a half years spent rebuilding her from a bare-rusty hull. And through the recovery from his accident he was able to keep the dream alive by making some further simple alterations to the yacht.

Jonathan explains: "The anchor is now self-launching, so I only have to skid my bum up to the bow, flick a lever and watch the whole anchoring process take place on it's on... I have also bent backwards to modern technology installing a roller furling system for the headsail, which was really hard because I had always been faithful to hank on sails, although the furling Genoa has proven to be satisfactorily efficient and reliable, eliminating the physical strain of constantly changing sails and unnecessary trips forward of the mast, which is always risky in rolling seas, specially with limited mobility..."

 Ramana is a Lemster Zeecruizer 32, a sloop-masted yacht originally designed in the 1950's in the Netherlands. She has been slightly modified from the original wooden version and is built of high-strength Corten steel and ballasted with steel punching s and concrete.

 "The next window is to leave in November" he says about the coming up trial passage to the Bay of Islands "and I am certainly not holding my breath in waiting until then if Ramana and I aren't up to speed by Easter. The sea 'takes no prisoners', you either respect the rulership of the ocean and winds or you simply swim against the tide.”

 "It might turn out to be a good option" continues Jonathan "not only to adapt the odd quirks around Ramana but to also give continuity on the writing of my book, which has been extensively neglected in the past four months on adapting and sailing Ramana around the Bay of Plenty".

 Assuming his solo voyage around New Zealand goes well, Jonathan then plans to venture further afield, building up to his long time dream of a global circumnavigation.

 "In the early days of my hospital rehabilitation" Jonathan reminisces "it was a bit of mayhem when on a Goal Setting Meeting I acknowledged the board of doctors that I was returning to my yacht to set out to high seas again as soon I was finished with the whole program. They strongly advised me against the idea and even put a psychiatrist on my case when I adamantly stuck to my guns.”

 "While they were certainly looking after my best interest" he explains "the 'life goes on' saying is still valid. To me, life is to continue being completely immersed in the elements of the ocean, feeling the breath of the universe filling up your sails with life and listening to sound of the waves being parted under your beautiful hull as it propels your little-floating world at 5 knots across the seas to distant shores."

 Jonathan runs a blog website www.paragonesailing.com not only to track his adventures, but also to prove the accuracy and ongoing relevance of what Captain James Cook once said:

"Do just once what others say you cannot do and you'll never pay attention to their limitations again"    




19 Mar 2013
20 Mar 2013