On October 31 1999, after 328 days alone at sea I sailed my 34 foot yacht Lionheart across the finish line into Port Phillip Bay, becoming the youngest person to sail solo, nonstop and unassisted around the world.
My journey involved taking all my food and water for nearly 11 months, steering a course through Southern Ocean gales, past Cape Horn, over the equator and through the doldrums to the antipodal point at the Azores Islands, back down under Africa and the Indian Ocean to Australia. I only sighted land 3 times; I mostly had stars, moon, sun and seas birds to wave at.
My yacht was no stranger to world circumnavigations, an S&S 34 fibreglass cutter-rigged sloop – the same design was sailed around the world by Jon Sanders, David Dicks and most recently Jessica Watson. Her design is well proven by now.
Lionheart was decked out to be self sufficient regardless of any damage the elements could cause – I relied on solar and wind power to charge my batteries. I had spare rigging and swages to make repairs to the stays, a wind vane to steer us by wind and water and a spirit stove to warm the cabin and heat my meals. Because the record was to complete the journey unassisted, I couldn’t stop anywhere for repairs or stores so everything had to be thought of at the start. I forgot to take a comb and had to used a fork to free the knots in my hair!
There is surprisingly little fish in the middle of the ocean where it can be up to 5km deep! Despite my efforts I snagged a total of 6 fish during the voyage – still a welcome supplement to the usual freeze-dried meals and canned corn. I had a folder full of CDs and my guitar – which in hindsight should have been nylon stringed – the steel strings rusted and cut into my fingers.
The trip was made possible by my mother who committed the ultimate trust in a son when she mortgaged our family home (for the second time) to buy the yacht.
Once we had the yacht there were 2 months left before I had to depart to maximise weather systems and make the age record. Miraculously Matthew Gerard from Mistral became my major sponsor at the 11th hour. He told us to send him the bills and my dad worked around the clock with a handful of friends to deck Lionheart for the safest possible voyage. Initially I didn’t like the name Lionheart – it seemed rather confident – I hadn’t made it around yet! But as it turns out it’s a great name for a book and I was eventually able to pay mum back.
1000km on a 14 foot Catamaran – Article
Half a World Away – Article
Lionheart Herald Sun – Articles
Teacher notes for secondary school students studying the book Lionheart can be download here.
My love for the sea began in 1995 when my father introduced my brother and I to small sailing catamarans. The three of us sailed over 1000km along the North Queensland coast and soon after I wrote my first ever adventure story. I was immediately hooked!
Two years later my brother and I set off on a kayaking expedition around the islands of Papua New Guinea, without parents. Together we raised sponsors and took a video camera to film our 5 week adventure kayaking along New Ireland from Rabaul to Kavieng.
Then one year later I joined a crew on the yacht Imajica sailing from the Caribbean to Tahiti via the Galapagos and Marquesas Islands. It was my first taste of ocean sailing and the preparation for the biggest adventure to come. I gained a lot of confidence from Dave the skipper of Imajica that I could handle a yacht on my own and five months after flying home from Tahiti I set off solo aboard Lionheart.
In the 16 years since that voyage I’ve continued sailing boats and making films. I went back to Papua New Guinea and started an adventure sailing business leading groups of four guests on surf, dive and cultural experiences. I named the business after the yacht I first crossed an ocean aboard – Imajica – and made this little film The Imajica Experience.
Not all of my adventures have gone to plan. In 2002 I set off on the timber ketch Kijana with my brother and three friends in an attempt to sail around the world, and (again) film our experience. There were many challenges and I learnt that the greatest adventure is the relationship one can experience between human beings.
If there is anything of my character that I am proud it is that I often try to revisit things that haven’t worked, to try and resolve something that makes it all worthwhile. We eventually made a documentary about our Kijana trip 7 years after the journey. It’s a story that none of us expected when we first set out. You can watch some of it here – 5 Lost at Sea.
Through the ups and downs (lawyers, maxed out credit cards, a boat that sunk, a train crash) I’ve been lucky enough to remain close to the sea – I’ve worked on tug boats, driven around Australia twice and written a short book of poetry full of longing.
Then I met Tina.