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Lots of boats come to Oriental, some tie up at the Town Dock for a night or two, others drop anchor in the harbor for a while. If you've spent any time on the water you know that every boat has a story. The Shipping News on TownDock.net brings you the stories of the boats that have visited recently.

Holly Martin and SV Gecko
"I've always felt like a boat was my first home"
January 23, 2019

“I
‘m the happiest – 100% – when I’m on a boat. Even if it’s nasty and it’s raining, and I’m in the cockpit and it’s cold and windy, I’m happier there than sitting in a little house on land.”

Holly & SV Gecko
Holly Martin climbs aboard Gecko.

Holly Martin anchored in Oriental Harbor in November near Thanksgiving. She was preparing to leave her newly refitted Grinde 27 Gecko with friends for a few months. She was contracted to work in Antarctica on an icebreaker stationed out of southern Chile and needed a safe place to leave her new home.

Gecko is Holly’s first boat, though not her first brush with sailing. Her family made the local news when her sister was born aboard the family’s Cal 25 Direction in 1995 in Oriental. Holly cut the cord. She and her family spent nearly a year in Oriental, trading up to a 33’ steel-hulled sloop called Driver, before setting off for Maine and settling ashore. (Her parents, Dave and Jaja Martin, wrote a book about their experience, Into The Light: A Family’s Epic Journey.)

But a house on land was never Holly’s home. “I’ve always felt like a boat was my first home, and when I was in a house, it was only temporary because I wasn’t on a boat.” That temporary life ashore included college and a degree in Marine Biology, working on others’ boats , and backpacking in the US and abroad. An accident on her last trip overseas landed her back with her family in Maine, unable to work while she recuperated, and finally looking for her own floating home.

She’d been hunting for a blue-water boat, a Tartan or Ericson, 29 – 33 ft. Her father, now a marine surveyor, nixed most of what she found for sale online; the photos told him enough. Then Holly found a Grinde 27 nearby in Salem, Massachusetts and she and her dad decided to pay the boatyard a visit.

Holly & SV Gecko
The Grinde 27. SV Gecko has her original documentation. Holly says it compares the shape of the boat to a whale, something designer Peter Bruun was known for.

Holly was unfamiliar with the Grinde. A small, beamy boat (10 ft across) of Danish design (Peter Bruun), she found it to her liking. Her father looked it over, climbing in lockers and pronounced it sound. Should she ever sell it, he said, he wanted first right of refusal. She bought the boat, then named Seamark.

They hauled out by her parent’s house where Holly had ready access to anything she needed from father’s workshop. Built in 1983, it had a “hunting lodge’‘ feel, complete with plaid horsehair cushion covers. A refit was in order to make it blue water ready, and to bring it more in line with Holly’s personal style. This boat was going to be her home for at least the next 10 years. The plaid had to go.

Holly & SV Gecko
The salon before the refit, complete with plaid cushions. (Photo courtesy Holly Martin)

For eight months, Holly worked on the Grinde as though it were her full time job. The Seamark it had been a small company boat shipped over from Denmark for the purpose. Later, it had been sold at auction (complete with full documentation and original sales folder) and the second owner had “loved it to pieces”, sailing it on day-trips around Maine. It had been taken care of and the hull was in good condition, but the interior needed a complete refit to suit Holly’s needs.

Holly & SV Gecko
Holly on her last day of replacing the port lights. (Photo courtesy Holly Martin)

She tackled the project on her own. It was a first for Holly, but her father guided her when she had questions, showing her how, and then stood back while she completed the work. “I can say that I have done everything here on my own, but with his oversight.”

Holly replaced all the standing rigging and added shrouds, spreaders, running-backs, and a running forestay. She pulled out all the wiring and plumbing, and the galley and sink and countertop in the head. She redesigned the galley, to have more drawers and closed-off storage space, and rewired and replumbed the boat to include additional water storage tanks, and both fresh and saltwater pumps. She pulled the locker face forward where the head’s sink and countertop used to be, creating more storage space. Two through-hulls under the galley sink were replaced.

Holly & SV Gecko
While redesigning the galley, Holly built drawers to fit the exact width of a standard tea box.

The nav station, before lacking an instrument panel and showing open wires, was redone. Floorboards were stripped and replaced. Holly cut new foam for the cushions, and sewed new cushion covers. Nearly everything received a coat of white paint.

After cleaning and painting the hull, Holly and her sister put their artistic skills to use. She freehanded the name on the stern and her sister, Teiga, designed and painted the Gecko.

Gecko was ready to return to the water. This would be the first long-haul voyage in Gecko’s 35 years.

They left Maine in October 2018, headed for Oriental.

Holly & SV Gecko
The salon after: new cushions, new paint, new floor, new galley.

The trip down, says Holly, was difficult. Weather was rough and she was nearly knocked down coming out of Sandy Hook, NJ. “The cockpit seats on the leeward side were underwater,” she said, “but it wasn’t quite filling the cockpit yet.”

It was two hours of “really intense” weather.

“The only time that I was a little bit nervous was when it was gusting 35 and it was shallows – the seas had kicked up quite a bit… I was over my head,” she said. “I was 100% in the zone, but also there was a part of me that was like ‘this was really dumb’.”

However the rough conditions helped her get a better feel for the Grinde 27: how much sail to put up in how much wind, what it feels like when the boat is overpowered, how it handles in high winds.

Holly & SV Gecko
Holly wanted to personalize Gecko. That meant a white interior, color in the fabrics, and a work in progress above the v-berth: a sunflower.

Thinking back on the experience, Holly said, “I think the more you push, the more you realize you can push. You figure out how to work with the environment. If you want to get somewhere, you’re gonna have to deal with weather and it’s scary until you do it, and then sometimes it’s still scary, but then you’ve done it and it’s a known. The scariest things are the unknowns.”

Holly & SV Gecko
A headband rests on a fan.

She made it to Oriental in November, in time for Thanksgiving. Coming through the rough weather had been necessary; she was on a schedule. Holly had to return to Antarctica.

Holly works as a Marine Technician on the icebreaker Laurence M. Gould, a Scientific Research Vessel stationed out of southern Chile. Her boat and crew deliver supplies and personnel to Palmer Station. Then they assist scientists with their research.

Holly & SV Gecko
Holly on the job: hanging a block on the A-frame. (Photo courtesy Holly Martin)

She says she works as a crane operator, but her job is more than that. She is a risk analyzer and manager of expectations. “Every day I’m making weather calls. It’s weather and ice, and can you put this thing in the water and get it back? And that’s what you’re thinking about every time. You’re putting $1.5 million equipment on this little wire, down into the ocean and hoping it comes back.”

Scientists on the RV L.M. Gould have thousands of dollars in grant money and a limited amount of time to conduct their research. “They’re so blindly trying to accomplish their science that they’re not even thinking about the environment around them and that’s kind of our job – to be like, ‘we get it, You’re 100% focused on this thing you’ve been been prepping for for years. But it’s blowing 40 knots and we cannot do this thing. I’m sorry.’”

Holly & SV Gecko
Holly secures her dinghy to the deck.

Holly has made a career of pushing boundaries and it’s part of what informs her decisions when she pushed Gecko through foul weather on her way south. “We’re always pushing the boundaries with our equipment because you have to – you’re in an extreme environment,” she said. “At times it makes you really nervous, but if you only go with %100 confidence you’re never gonna do anything.”

When she returns, Holly plans to head down to the Caribbean with the intent to make Panama by August. There is no destination. She’s excited about getting to the South Pacific and about experiencing daily life on her boat.

Holly & SV Gecko
A gecko on Gecko.

“I’m the happiest, 100% when I’m on a boat. Even if it’s nasty and it’s raining and I’m in the cockpit and it’s cold and windy, I’m happier there than sitting in a little house on land. I like the communities you meet, and the people when coming into a new anchorage and going ashore and walking around. You’re very free and self-sufficient.

“I’ve done a lot of backpacking and you’re always thinking about ‘where am I going to sleep tonight’ and you’re always in a different bed and dealing with other people and traveling is exhausting. But on a boat, you know where you’re sleeping, where you’re cooking your food, you know what you have, so you’re moving your home with you. So it’s really a nice way to travel and I’m just excited to explore on my boat a little bit more.”

Holly & SV Gecko
In the anchorage.

Posted Wednesday January 23, 2019 by Allison DeWeese


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