Jessica Watson, the Girl Who Sailed Around the World — Alone

by jdroth on 3 May 2011

What did you do when you were sixteen? I read a lot of comic books, watched too many music videos, and sulked because my parents wouldn’t buy me stuff. You know — standard teenaged angst.

When she was sixteen, Australian Jessica Watson did something awesome: She sailed around the world. Alone. Non-stop and unassisted. Watson left Sydney on 18 October 2009, sailed east through the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Indian Oceans, and returned to Sydney on 15 May 2010 — three days before her seventeenth birthday.

This being the Internet Age, Watson documented the journey on a blog and on YouTube. In one blog post, Watson explained why she chose to sail around the world:

When I first dreamt of sailing around the world, the first thing that caught my attention, was curiosity about whether or not it was even something that was achievable. It wasn’t so much the action and adrenaline parts that appealed to me, but thinking about all the details and finding ways to minimize the risks. I wanted to challenge myself and achieve something to be proud of. And yes, I wanted to inspire people. I hate that so many dreams never actually become anything more than that, a dream. I’m not saying that everyone should buy a boat and take off around the world, but I hope that by achieving my own dream, I’m showing people that it is possible to reach their own goals, whatever they might be and however big or small.

Now that I’m out here, I’m also finding that a big part of it is just about having fun and making the most of every day. And the other amazing thing is that it’s no longer just my dream or voyage. Every milestone out here isn’t just my achievement, but an achievement for everyone who has put so much time and effort into helping getting me here.

Also, I’d like to say that I’m not doing this to prove a point, but that wouldn’t be completely true. For almost 6 years my family lived on our motor boat travelling and based at different marinas on the east coast of Australia. When you live on the water, it’s sort of like an unwritten law that when another boat is pulling in, you stop to give a hand and take their lines. But being a ‘little girl’ meant that more often than not, my offer of help would be completely ignored, while the line was passed to the fully grown man next to me. I found this incredibly frustrating as I knew that I was just as capable of handling the lines as anyone else. I hated being judged by my appearance and other people’s expectations of what a ‘little girl’ was capable of.

So yes, I hope that part of what I’m doing out here is proving that we shouldn’t judge by appearance and our own expectations. I want the world to know exactly what ‘little girls’ and young people are actually capable of!

Watson’s YouTube channel includes a couple dozen videos chronicling her journey. Here, before she sets out, she gives us a tour of her 34-foot boat, Ella’s Pink Lady.

Along the way, Watson kept a video diary. Here’s an entry from late October 2009:

Jessica Watson’s video diary, day five

Nearly three months later, Watson shares her enthusiasm as she passes South America’s Cape Horn on 13 January 2010:

At this point, it’d been three months since she’d seen another person, two months since she’d seen land, and a month since she’d seen another vessel. “I don’t know how a scraggly little rock can look so beautiful,” she says, “but I’m telling you, it’s beautiful.”

Mid-way between South America and Africa, Jessica was delighted to be surrounded by hundreds of dolphins:

Note: About the time Watson was cavorting with dolphins, sixteen-year-old American Abby Sunderland departed on her own attempt to sail alone around the world. She was unsuccessful, but her story is awesome too.

On 22 February 2010 (as I was lounging in a hammock in Belize), Watson was passing Africa’s Cape of Good Hope:

A month later, on 20 March 2010, Watson shared a greeting from halfway across the Indian Ocean:

And on 15 May 2010, Watson sailed home to Sydney harbor. If you only watch one of these videos, watch this one.

I love seeing all of the boats that accompany Watson and Ella’s Pink Lady back to dry land. And I love seeing all of the Australians who came out to cheer her home.

“I don’t consider myself a hero,” Watson says. “I’m an ordinary girl who believed in a dream.”

Note: You can read about Watson’s adventures in her book, True Spirit.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Katy May 3, 2011 at 23:45


Thanks for sharing this. My son is almost 16 years old, which makes this young woman all the more amazing.



2 Moneycone May 4, 2011 at 06:05

A very inspiring story! I remember reading about Abby Sunderland – people actually were mad at her parents for letting her do this! Even though she didn’t make it, I hope she keeps trying and prove the naysayers wrong.


3 Steve July 1, 2011 at 10:42

If you like this please read Dove by Robin Lee Graham, he did this too, and it makes an amazing story.


4 Cathy August 12, 2011 at 07:26

Google Robin Lee Graham. He sailed around the world alone, setting out from California at the age of 16. In 1965. Didn’t have satnav, had a sextant, a compass, and the stars. I’d like to see someone try that today.


5 Bruce Parsons August 28, 2011 at 19:43

I think you are amazing and i am using your story with disadvantatage youth to inspire them


6 Gregory Harding September 12, 2011 at 15:46

This is a very touching story which is amazing! I wish I was as courageous as Jessica Watson. thank you very much for sharing this.


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