Friday, January 1, 2010

Jessica Watson - From a book to the Horn

Tony L

At a very young age you listened to your mum reading ‘Lionheart’, the book about eighteen-year old Jesse Martin’s 1999 solo, non-stop and unassisted voyage around the world from Sandringham on Port Phillip Bay in a 34ft Sparkman & Stephens yacht he named ‘Lionheart’. You were captivated by this story and soon discovered another Australian, Kay Cottee, had completed a similar solo, non-stop and unassisted voyage from Sydney to become the first woman to complete this task.

The years went by and you learnt to sail, presumably on the waters of the inlet at Mooloolaba, a popular holiday place on the coast of Queensland not far north of Brisbane. Mooloolaba has a large Marina used by ocean-going yachts and no doubt the sight of their masts and rigging became an early fascination as you dreamed of following in the footsteps of Jesse and Kay.

Then, in May 2008, you heard about an opportunity to sail with an organization called Oceanwatch from New Zealand to Fiji and back to New Zealand on a boat called ‘Magic Roundabout’. You did that trip – to gain experience – and although you learnt much about the aches and pains associated with ocean sailing, your appetite for the sea became unquenchable so instead of flying home you sailed home to Brisbane on another boat.

By this time your mind was made up. You learnt how to use a spell-checker and worked on a proposal for obtaining sponsorship with assistance from your Mum and Dad, and a group of helpful friends.

By October (2008) you had reeled in a few businesses interested in sponsoring you and you continued to increase your sailing experience by sailing on a large catamaran named ‘Big Wave Rider’ which was owned by Bruce Arms who later became your Project Manager’. On this trip you experienced the use of a drogue (parachute) designed to slow a boat running downwind in a storm. You followed this trip with some racing with the Cairns Yacht Club before returning home to begin doing presentations to raise interest in your planned voyage.

On 2 December 2008 your new website “” was launched and you set a target date for departure as ‘late next year’ (2009). About the same time you acknowledged the efforts of Zac Sutherland and Mike Perham and became ever more determined to become the youngest female to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world.

You again joined a crew on ‘Magic roundabout’ and set off from Mooloolaba to conquer the Tasman, known by Aussies and New Zealanders as ‘The Ditch’. It was a trip planned to give you hands on experience making all the decisions required to complete the voyage and you experienced a variety of weather conditions and learnt much from it. It was a voyage in which you learnt how to set a steering wind vane, how to tolerate little and no wind, how exciting it was to be accompanied by sea birds and dolphins, what it was like in a ‘bouncy’ 3 metre sea and strong wind, and what ‘living aboard’ a boat was really like.

During January 2009 you again joined the crew on ‘Big Wave Rider’ and learnt what it was like to fix rigging things while suspended from the top of a yacht’s mast.
Around that time too, you gained a number of sponsors and Bob McDavitt, a well known meteorologist from New Zealand offered his support and weather routing service for your voyage.

Early in February you departed Mooloolaba for Hobart, Tasmania, on ‘Big Wave Rider’ and on the way you called in at Southport and Sydney and sailed under Sydney Harbour Bridge for the first time. On this trip you experienced the use of a solo climbing system to climb ‘BWR’s’ swaying mast to fix a lashing on the radar reflector near the top of the mast while at sea. [to be continued]

In Hobart you met Don McIntyre, a very experienced solo sailor who was to become one of your most valued supporters, and who provided the boat in which you would sail to fulfill your dream. You then went to New Zealand to board a yacht called ‘Evohe’ for a trip to Campbell Island, at latitude 52 S, for experience in the cold conditions of the ‘furious fifties’, you recently referred to as the ‘fearsome fifties’. Back home again, and March became a month of looking for sponsorship and raising awareness of your plans.

During May your press conferences became increasingly frequent, you celebrated your sixteenth birthday, studied for your Ocean Yachtmaster certificate, learnt to use a sextant, gained your Australian Boat Licence, began sailing an S&S 34 referred to as ‘’, and took it to the Sanctuary Cove international Boat Show on the Gold Coast south of Brisbane. After that ‘ was stripped down and one by one her numerous faults were fixed. Nothing was to be left to chance and a steady stream of new equipment was fitted to make her as safe as she could be.

In June you did a sea survival course, learnt how to maintain a marine diesel engine, how to diet on the trip, and listened to Don McIntyre and Mike Perham quiz you on how you would cope with numerous different sea scenarios.

In July ‘’ was painted pink, and on 27 July 2009 she was renamed ‘Pink Lady’ and trucked to Sydney for the Sydney International Boat Show, and you attended many interviews with Don McIntyre, Jesse Martin and other supporters. ‘Pink Lady’ was then returned to Mooloolaba for more fitting out to make her ready for the voyage.

On 2 September 2009 Ella Bache stepped on board as your major sponsor and ‘Pink Lady’ became ‘Ella’s Pink Lady’.

It was time for action. On 8 September you departed Mooloolaba and the Sunshine Coast for Sydney. You overcame a hiccup caused when you didn’t give way to a ship and made an unscheduled visit to Gold Coast City Marina for repairs before again departing for Sydney on 1 October.

Ella Bache ‘launched’ their involvement as major sponsor on 12 October and ‘Ella’s Pink Lady’ was readied for departure. Those of us who were following your progress began to sense your building excitement, and interest in the date of your departure from Andrew Short Marine at
The Spit on Sydney’s Middle Harbour increased.

Then, on 17 October 2009 you announced: “Tomorrow I’m going to get up and sail around the world!”

Since then you have done just that. You stepped up to the mark and set off to fulfill your chosen task, and as time went by you ticked the boxes and wrote ‘job done’ as you passed each goal you set to achieve your dream.

And now, at the end of 2009 you have Cape Horn in your sights and have accumulated a large following of International supporters who communicate with you via your blog pages and think of themselves as part of your ‘extended family’, and an even larger collection of blog-readers interested in your daily progress.

You have become renowned as a wonderfully descriptive writer, a photographer who teases us with the beauty of all that the sea and sky has to offer, a video commentator with a unique sense of understated humour, and Australia’s most famous “Chocaholic”!
Thanks to Tony L (Mt Martha VIC) for his insight so far.

1 comment:

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this recap of Jessica's evolution from a young child, listening to her mum read her the book "Lionheart" by young circumnavigator, Jesse Martin, to her own progress fulfilling her dream to follow in his footsteps . . . and make her own mark in the world . . . being the youngest female to circumnavigate, solo, non-stop, and unassisted!! Did Tony write this, John, or did he contribute to it? Whomever wrote it, it's so well done, and (as the box I checked indicates) I found it extremely interesting . . . even though I was aware of all of it having been one of the daily (and nightly) readers of Jessica's blog!! I also enjoyed reading your thoughts on our blogging rights and responsibilities . . . and, although I'm not a teacher, I am a life-long student! ("Learn as if you were to live forever, and live as if you were to die tomorrow" - Gandhi ) Thanks, John! Carol Florida U.S.A.


*Never forget the greater picture of why I'm blogging. I will not write posts to gain followers, get attention with snarky comments, or harm either students of co-workers with my words. I blog to become a better teacher, hone my own insights, gain a better understanding of my teaching journey, connect with other educators who, in turn, can make me become a better teacher.

*Always write about a child in a way so that if their parent found the blog they would know I respected every aspect of their child's learning- although I may write weaknesses I must always show the child's true strengths & write to show how much I love and appreciate the child.

*Always write about my co-workers in a way that also reflects their strengths. I have amazing co-workers, which is truly a blessing. I value collaborating and believe that we are better teachers when we put our heads together. I never want to write anything that will in any way hurt our relationship, which in turn would hurt the students' learning. I don't want to use my blog to vent, in turn hurting the trust someone has put in me.

*I will work hard not to write anything that will prevent me from doing my job. I do not want anything I write to hurt my co-workers, students, or my school in any way. I have the best job in the world, and I would hate to end up having to leave teaching because I forgot the bigger picture in my blog.

*I try my best to stick to these, but I'm sure you can find posts I've written that don't follow these 4 rules. But I try. Sometimes I might think I'm following them and I don't, and later I can see where I made my mistake. Know I'm trying, and if you feel I haven't done one of these let me know.

So, here's what I see as our blogging rights-

*We have the right to reflect on our teaching journey on-line.
*We have the right to collaborate with educators from all over the world.
*We have a right to wonder what is best practice, debate education policies/practices/teaching styles, and question what is not working in an on-line forum.
*We have a right to use our blogs to process a difficult day, as long as we stay within the lines of the responsibilities listed above.

The combination of the Rights/Responsibilities allows us to:

*Communicate & collaborate with educators from all over the world
*Become more reflective in our teaching
*Improve our teaching practices to best benefit our students
*Find the silver linings inside the most frustrating of days & know that we are not alone
*Keep a sense of humor, which, in turn, allows us to be stronger teachers who come back to work day after day inspired, energized, and ready for a challenge