Read Kijana Online

Authors: Jesse Martin

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Also by Jesse Martin
Lionheart: A journey of the human spirit




The authors have made every attempt to locate and contact the holders of copyright to material in this book. Any further information should be sent to the publisher.

First published in 2005

Copyright © Jesse Martin and Ed Gannon 2005

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The
Australian Copyright Act 1968
(the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10% of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.

A Sue Hines Book
Allen & Unwin
83 Alexander Street
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Phone: (61 2) 8425 0100
Fax: (61 2) 9906 2218
Email: [email protected]

National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication entry:

Martin, Jesse, 1981– .
Kijana: the real story.
ISBN 1 74114 429 9.
1. Martin, Jesse, 1981– — Journeys. 2. Kijana (Sailboats).
3. Voyages and travels. I. Gannon, Ed. II. Title.

Edited by Margaret Trudgeon
Text design by Phil Campbell
Typeset by Pauline Haas
Printed in Australia by Griffin Press

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To anyone who has ever wanted to be someone or somewhere better. And, to my crew, who each went on their own journey during Kijana.


Throughout the book kilometres and miles are used to record distance. Distances on land are recorded in kilometres, while distances at sea are in miles. In this case ‘mile' refers to the metric measurement of a nautical mile (1.852 kilometres), which is longer than the land mile of 1.6 kilometres.


Map of Kijana's voyage

Chapter One
Still dreaming

Chapter Two
Coming together

Chapter Three
Finding our sea legs

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight
Talking to the dead

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten
Lost tribe

Chapter Eleven
The Beach

Chapter Twelve
Trouble in paradise

Chapter Thirteen
No regrets


Photograph and illustration credits

About the author


consider what that word means? Tropical jungles, exotic ports, sparse deserts and wild natives – they'd all surely figure in anyone's definition. They certainly did for me. In fact, these were the things I planned to see and experience on my ultimate adventure – sailing the seven seas with a group of friends. It was the stuff I'd been doing since I was a kid. For instance, the two-month 450 nautical mile journey on an open catamaran along the tropical Queensland coast when I was just 14. Or the five-week kayak odyssey with my younger brother, Beau, along the beautiful coast and villages of Papua New Guinea when I was 15. Then there was the time I flew alone as a wide-eyed 16-year-old to the crime-riddled South American country of Belize on the strength of a phone invitation to join a crew, which was a hell of an adventure, and the 11 months I spent at sea to become the youngest person to sail solo, nonstop and unassisted around the world. My visits to the boardrooms of Australia's most powerful companies were also nerve-wracking adventures, as was plunging into the bright lights of America's most popular television talk show.

But I now know that adventure means so much more than conquests and excitement. Adventure is actually another word for life. Think about it. Think of all the hurdles and obstacles thrown in your path as you do this simple thing called living – schoolyard fights, falling in love, losing your job, getting married, having kids, sickness, drugs, loneliness, death. These are all adventures.

It took a crazy experience called Kijana to make me realise that all the things that I thought of as adventures were really just a sideshow to the ultimate adventure – growing up.

But enough of the philosophy – let's get into the story – the story of Kijana.

I first became fascinated with the adventure of sailing in September 1995, a few weeks after my fourteenth birthday. That was when Dad, my brother Beau and I began a two-month journey, sailing a tiny 14-foot open catamaran along the north Queensland coast to Cape York. We were doing it pretty hard on that trip, camping out in the open and living off burnt fish. Yet I loved the thrill of the adventure and didn't want it to be my last.

We arrived at Lizard Island, a resort island, to find ourselves surrounded by luxury boats. I loved their nice comfortable cabins, with fresh water on tap, and the fact that they'd been sailed to this beautiful tropical place. I thought, hey, I'd love to get my own little boat and sail around the world doing all the stuff we're currently doing, except in a bit more comfort. My imagination sprang to life with images of exotic ports, meeting people, swimming in crystal-clear water, diving and catching fish. It'd be bloody sensational.

However, my plans weren't exactly greeted with the same enthusiasm by the others. When I told Dad I wanted to sail around the world, he said ‘OK' as if I'd announced I was going to the shop to buy an ice-cream. I spent the rest of that trip making lists of what food and equipment I would need and reading boating magazines to find the boat I'd need.

By the time I returned to school in 1996 I had one thing clear in my mind – I was going to sail around the world. The notion of doing it nonstop hadn't been considered at that point. It was only when I heard about 17-year-old David Dicks leaving Fremantle in February 1996 aboard his 34-foot yacht,
, in an attempt to become the youngest person to sail solo, nonstop and unassisted around the world, that the thought of doing a similar thing entered my mind.

Around that time a family friend gave me some books about others who had successfully sailed around the world. There was one by Tania Aebi, an 18-year-old from the United States who, in November 1987, returned from a two-and-a-half
year solo journey around the world on a 26-foot yacht. Another was
First Lady
by Australia's most famous female sailor, Kay Cottee, who became the first woman to sail solo, nonstop and unassisted around the world, completing her journey in 1988. They made for pretty inspiring reading. So inspiring, that as I read each book, the idea that I should attempt a solo voyage began to build in my mind.

By the time I'd finished reading, my decision was made – I wanted to become the youngest person to sail solo, nonstop and unassisted around the world.

I learnt that American Robin Lee Graham was the youngest to commence an around-the-world trip, at just 16 years of age, so I decided to up the ante and leave when I was 15. I set a departure goal of early 1997, by which stage I would be 1512 years old.

I was as flush with cash as your normal 14-year-old, so I set about raising some dough. I wrote to about 50 major companies seeking sponsorship. I got 24 replies – all of them rejections.

Undeterred, I decided to seek a crew position on an around-the-world trip to gain some experience. I did a two-week trial down the east coast of Australia with the skipper of one planned trip, but that voyage fell over financially for him, much to his and my disappointment.

At the same time I continued to seek sponsorship, until I realised that my dream of still being 15 when I left was becoming a very long shot. I then hit upon the idea of making documentaries to fund my endeavours. To do that I'd have to film something.

Of course, that could only mean embarking on another adventure. Flicking through
Australian Geographic
magazine I came across an account of a sea kayak expedition in Papua New Guinea. I was mesmerised by one photograph in particular, of a man in a kayak in beautiful crystal-clear water. I knew instantly that was where my filming adventure lay.

After making heaps of calls and letters, I managed to get $3000 in sponsorship from
Australian Geographic
, as well as cheap flights, some insurance and equipment. The bulk of the finance came from Mum, via a $4000 loan.

I needed a travel companion, so Beau, who is two years younger than me, stepped in after a mate pulled out. We left in September 1997, one month after my sixteenth birthday, paddling 150 miles over five weeks and seeing some amazing sights. It wasn't easy, and there were times I was terrified, but it was an adventure – and I loved it!

After we arrived home in late October I had a five-minute teaser tape of the trip professionally produced, which I was going to tout to television stations. Unfortunately, this took a bit longer than I expected and, as things began to move so quickly, the tape got a bit lost in my wake.

I continued my search for a position on an around-the-world crew, which led me to an Australian boat that had spent the previous three years meandering around the globe. In a few weeks it would be in Florida, in the United States, where it wanted fresh crew to sail the final six-month stretch to Australia. I was keen – very keen.

By this stage it was the end of 1997, which was crunch time for my education. I was due to start Year 11 the following year, the first year of the crucial Victorian Certificate of Education. If I was to embark on my final years of school I had to make a decision – school or adventure.

No matter how hard I tried to see the sense of doing my VCE, I ached to go on another adventure. It was an opportunity too good to miss, so I applied for the crew position.

It took a few weeks for them to reply. I remember how nervous I felt as I opened the letter. I also remember the disappointment when I read the rejection. They'd filled the spot and no longer required crew.

I was devastated. This had been my best chance, I told myself, and now it had gone.

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