May 15, 2010

Welcome Home, Jessica Watson.

Jessica Watson, the 16 year old from the Sunshine Coast completed her solo 7 month sail around the world today.  She completed the expedition in a 34 foot yacht.  A formal welcome home was organized for today at The Sydney Opera House.

I decided to brave the crowds and find a spot on the steps of The Sydney Opera House to wait for Jessica to walk her pink carpet.

I got my supplies organized.  A thermos of camomile tea and some fruit.  I found the thermos at Ikea this week.  It was less than $8 and is a good size for day trips.  It worked pretty well.  The outside, though metal, didn't hot at all.  My drink stayed piping hot for 5 hours. The red button that flicks open to pour out your drink didn't leak.  It's easy to clean if you have a baby bottle brush cleaner on hand.  A good buy for winter.



In less good Ikea news, they appear to have stopped making their lightweight plastic clothes hangers.  All they had was box after box of wooden hangers in various finishes.  I don't know which is worse for the environment, chopping down trees for hangers or releasing more carbon when making plastic hangers.



I have too  many clothes and not enough wardrobe space for more wooden hangers....

I made it to the steps of The Opera House in good time.  I was there around 12 noon and there was a decent crowd but we all had enough room to sit down, stretch our legs and drink from our thermos flasks.  The Hello Kitty adorned backpack marking my territory on a step.



Jessica Watson's (I can't resist retelling this, one MP accidentally referred to her as Jessica Simpson during a parliamentary sitting) story has captured the hearts of so many Australians and people from all over the world.  Young and old, male and female, sailors and land lubbers.  On a personal level, I admit to only starting to closely follow her journey in the last few weeks.  She is so unassuming, genuine and go getting.  You can't help but like her and be inspired by her determination in making all the contacts and arrangements for this sailing expedition.  What I admire most about Jessica is that she considers herself a 'normal' person who had a big dream and just had the perseverence more than anything else to make it happen.




The crowd was friendly.  Jessica had encountered rough seas on the home stretch into Sydney so her planned arrival was behind schedule  by several hours.  No-one really minded.  We had glorious weather, a large flat screen to watch and our own thoughts about what Jessica's story meant to ourselves to contemplate.





The advantage of being there 'live' - no ads.  We had live commentary or good music instead.



There were progress shots of where Jessica's boat was and at the beginning, when she was further out in rougher waters without the pleasure craft waiting for her, I didn't really appreciate just how small her boat is.  Occasionally, a huge wave would rush by and we'd lose sight of her boat.  My heart stopped.  Jessica faced this for 7 whole months.

Her yacht is solidly built but round the world sailing is said to age a boat by several years, (not to mention the solo sailor navigating it).  The Sydney to Hobart yachts are more built for speed and are perhaps not as robust as the one that Jessica sailed.


Jessica's name up in the clouds, if not in lights.


The ferry's got in on the act as well.



One other touching observation was the number of little girls and babies present.  Many were dressed in pink (either in honour of Jessica and her yacht, the Ella's Pink Lady or else because that's their favourite colour) or in tutus.  I had a chuckle to myself because it seems to me that little girls under the age of 5 seem to favour the wearing of tutus to mark special occasions.



This little girl was both in pink and in her tutu.  I think they like the tutu because they create so much movement when you've heaps of energy and think nothing of tearing up and down through crowds, deaf to your parents telling you to be careful.

The pink carpet was graced by Our Latest Premier and her children as well as KRudd (I can call him that because that's his twitter name) and Mrs KRudd.



The excitment was building.  The man in the shot below is the harbour master and is in charge of sounding the (pink) horn when Jessica crossed the offical finish line which was an hour or so out from The Opera House.



We went wild.  A ferry released a ceremonial spray of salt water - which drenched the boat and camera where Jessica's family were.


The initial footage of Jessica (after customs boarded her boat to stamp her passport and inspect her yacht) brought a tear to many people's eyes, myself included.  She had returned safely with her mission accomplished, new wisdom and maturity and back to her family.

She was joined on her yacht by 2 other young adventurer sailors, Australian Jesse Martin and Englishman Mike Perham who helped her sail the yacht in after she had crossed her official finishing line.  The 2 boys had been a huge support to her in the 210 days that she was out to sea.  This gave Jessica time to change, have some Tim Tams (as I too would have done) and acknowledge to herself exactly what she had achieved.


Their progress was a hampered by the sheer number of other boats on the water.  It was at this point that I realized just how small her yacht was compared to the relative giants that were crusing along in the calm waters.

The Tim Tams must have worked because Jessica was able to walk her pink carpet with her sea legs and be greeted by the Premier and Prime Minister.


KRudd declared her Australia's latest hero but Jessica denied that she was.  She was an ordinary girl who had a big dream and chased it.


Good on you, Jessica.  You've inspired all of us to have our dreams and work steadily towards them.

3 comments:

  1. Oh how wonderful that you were there SSG.. I watched it on television and I did wonder whether any of the Sydney bloggers would brave the crowds. What an amazing young woman - an inspiration to everyone especially teenagers. (and glad your drinks kept warm in the flask too!) x

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  2. What a nice recap of Jess Watson's homecoming. I was following it on TV, but it must have felt amazing to experience it all live.

    "You don't have to be anyone special to achieve something big. You just have to want it."

    So much wisdom from an extraordinary 16-year-old.

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  3. What a fantastic experience. I am so pleased you got to see her arrive home and join in the celebrations. She is an inspiring girl and I am so proud of her determination.
    Great photos - the pink sky one is awesome.

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