Drifting on Gilligan: Tailem Bend man prepares to set out on a River Murray journey

Drifting On Gilligan: Mark Martin is about to set off on a journey exploring the many river ways of the River Murray in a tiny houseboat.
Drifting On Gilligan: Mark Martin is about to set off on a journey exploring the many river ways of the River Murray in a tiny houseboat.

MARK Martin is a man on a mission and he is inviting all of us to come along for the journey.

The Tailem Bend man is about to set off on a journey exploring the many river ways of the River Murray in a tiny houseboat, checking out all the towns along the way and the paddle steamers and interesting river boats he sees on his trip.

And he is cataloging and recording his adventure on his YouTube channel, Drifting on Gilligan.

Mark - who is known locally as Pommy - said his dream was to take his little houseboat all the way up to Yarrawonga, to the start of Lake Mulwala.

And while his goal is clear in his mind, he said he would take the journey as it comes.

"There are a lot of ifs and buts ... I'm thinking I might be away for three weeks, I might be away for three years," he said.

"In a perfect world if everything is going well, I've got enough money the boat is still going and I don't get a whole in the boat and the motor doesn't break down, I reckon I can get up to Yarrawonga in 18 months time."

"Then spend 18 months coming back, plus going up the Darling as far as I can go ... when I can't go any further, I'll get in my tinnie and go as far as I can."

Mark said his passion for the river came from his childhood, growing up spending his summer days at his family's property on the Murray at Bow Hill.

He grew up on a farm at Wynarka and said they spent most of their holidays at the river.

"I can still remember the sign saying 21 miles to Bowhill ... it was an easy holiday spot that dad could still go back and check the sheep and all that stuff," he said.

Mark said his dad was one of the early adopters of water sports in the Murray and he would make his own waterskis and he had fond memories of swimming in the river in a makeshift "swimming pool" with chicken wire used to create a safe space when he was young.

He said he used to see the paddleboats going past and developed an interest the in old river boats.

"My play pen (swimming pool) at Bowhill with my sister Jenny Stark laughing at me" - Mark Martin. Photo: Facebook.

"My play pen (swimming pool) at Bowhill with my sister Jenny Stark laughing at me" - Mark Martin. Photo: Facebook.

Mark now lives at Tailem Bend, with the gateway to the River Murray literally at his back door and he said the time was now right to take off an explore it.

"In the last eight years or so, getting old and seeing people around you dying, about my age ... might as well do it while I can" he said.

Mark said he begin looking for a suitable boat to take him on his journey.

He said he found a caravan that had been converted in houseboat in Sydney and he took the plunge, bought it, got it delivered and then begin getting it ready for its journey.

The boat is ready for him to live in, complete with solar panels, a new battery system to run off grind, a fridge, shower and everything he needs.

Mark said the houseboat passed its first test, crossing Lake Albert this month and now he is set to go.

The lockdown delayed his departure, but he is now due to leave next week.

"The plan for the journey is just to do short trips, as they say 'there's no hurry on the Murray.'

"Life's a gamble, so give it a crack"

A motto that appears on his YouTube page is "Life's a gamble, so give it a crack".

Mark is no stranger to giving things a crack and his back story is an entertaining as the one he is about to create on the river.

From cabbie to comedian, motorsport star to division one premiership lawn bowler, from casino dealer to pizza shop owner, Mark has done it all.

He is a keen motorsport enthusiast and reached high levels in solo speedway racing, spending seasons racing in England.

He then had an interest in drift cars, a hobby that took him to Japan to participate in drifting events.

He then said he had a "midlife crisis and bought a speedway car" and he was back into racing for a couple seasons before slowing down again and focusing on planning his river adventure.

Work wise, he was a dealer at the casino for 10 years before becoming a taxi driver - a job he was in for 23 years. He even had a stint as pizza shop owner.

From driving cabs, another of Mark's hobbies bloomed; stand-up comedy.

Mark developed the Angry Cabbie stand-up routine and would perform in Adelaide's comedy clubs and he even had a Fringe show.

He built his show around his experiences over nearly two decades behind the wheel of a cab.

Mark the content creator

Mark said some of the comedy elements would transfer into his content he prepares for his YouTube channel on his trip.

He said while he hoped his YouTube channel would appeal to others keen on riverboat adventures and the history of the area and the waterways, he would mix it up a bit from time to time.

Mark said he would be doing food reviews, checking out the local fish and chips shops along the way.

He said to look out for his video of his reviews of the Lower Murray savory slices.

"I've tested the Meningie one, the Tailem Bend one, the Murray Bridge one and I've scored them all so look out for that."

He said he is going to try some catch-and-cook videos for a bit of fun.

Mark spends a lot of time convincing people carp can be prepared in a way it is really nice to eat, but admits people struggle to believe him.

  • -Details: Check out Drifting on Gilligan on YouTube or follow his journey on Facebook.