Jonathan Martins' solo voyage across the Pacific seemed "cursed" - until a chance discovery revealed his yacht's name had been changed.

The Tauranga man, who is believed to be the first paraplegic to complete the almost 12,000km solo journey, left Panama on his 11m yacht Pelican in June and arrived at Tauranga Bridge Marina yesterday afternoon.

Mr Martins said his trip had been plagued with problems until he realised his vessel's name was not its original.

He had bought the boat from a group of "Norwegian boys" who had changed its name from Pelican to Rabalder.


He left Panama from Balboa on June 26 after spending two months refitting the yacht. The first day of travel was good, but on the second or third day it became "squally" and "gnarly", he said.

When he reached the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, Mr Martins lost his autopilot.

"It was a bit depressing because I still had about 7000 miles [11,265km] to go, all the way to New Zealand, to go that far without autopilot and alone is a big deal."

When scrambling around trying to solve all the issues he was encountering, Mr Martins came across some evidence that made him suspect the boat's name had been changed.

"You know that thing about changing the name of the boat being bad luck? The boat was called Rabalder on paper, that was what the Norwegian boys named the boat.

"I found out the original name was Pelican when I saw it on a plank. There was a point in the Pacific when everything was going wrong, the autopilot was broken, I had some issues with the sails, the lower stay started to break, everything was going wrong.

"I was getting really sick and thought there was something cursed with this boat and whatever it is I'm throwing overboard. Then I thought - it's the name. I changed it to Pelican, then everything changed."

He added: "I've been agnostic my whole life but there was one moment on the trip where ... I felt there was some spirit looking after me."

Johnathan Martins
- A serious skydiving accident on New Year's Day 2012 left him a paraplegic
- He spent the first year after his accident learning how to deal with his body.
- After about 10 months he started working on his boat ramana, which is still berthed at Tauranga Bridge Marina.
- In Easter 2013, he undertood a solo trip around New Zealand in Ramana.