Monday, November 2, 2009


Have any of you been following Jessica Watson? I saw her story on Good Morning America and it peaked my interest. She is a 16 year old Australian girl who plans to sail around the world--ALONE. Her trip is expected to take 8 months aboard her 10 meter vessel.

At first I thought she was nuts. Then I realized that at her age, with her knowledge, skills and support, I probably would have thought of just such an adventure. I truly can understand the desire. Not sure I could have handled eight months in solitary though. Maybe with all the electronic gadgets available now, it wouldn't be too bad.

She hopes to become the youngest to sail around the world. Recently a 17 year old male( Zac Sunderland) made the attempt and was the first to complete the trip before turning 18. His record lasted a grand total of six weeks when it was broken on August 27, 2009 by Mike Perham of the United Kingdom. If Jessica succeeds, she will be the youngest to make the journey. I worry now for all those adventurous 13 year old children.

Does that seem like an absurd statement? Think again. In August, Dutch authorities placed 13 year old Laura Dekker under state care for two months, following her parent's refusal to prevent her from undertaking her dream to sail around the world, solo. I really think a line needs to be drawn here.

Now I can understand the attitude of these youngsters who are convinced they are impervious to danger and will live forever, but I am wrestling with how the parents of these kids are able to allow such adventures.

In a way I admire their support of their child's dream but shouldn't common sense prevail or am I being too protective? The following is a quote from her father Roger Watson.

"It would be devastating if we lost her, but I still think it would be worse to say 'no you can't go' because of that risk, because of what she has put into it."

This is a dream many people secretly harbor. Besides the pure adventure, the chance to really make a mark in the world, to stand out from all the billions of people, there is the tantalizing attraction of total freedom from all outside influence except the weather. No one to tell you what to do or how to do it. I can remember a time when all of that would have had enormous appeal.

Would Mr. and Mrs. Watson be worse parents by denying her dream? Should you never let your teens ride in cars, go skiing, swimming, scuba diving, horseback riding, surfing, play sports or any of the many other things that can take a life in an instant? Half of me thinks this is ridiculous while the other half says, "You go girl."

However, since she is out there and not my child nor family member that I have any influence over, I can only wish her all the luck in the world and will cheer her on for a safe , successful journey. It is like our soldiers in harm's way today. You may not agree with the whys, but we can all agree that we want them to come home whole and safe.

Jessica is maintaining a daily blog you can see here. I check it out daily and admit I get a bit alarmed on the rare days she doesn't post. It is interesting to learn the particulars of how such a trip can be managed as she explains the basics such as navigation, power sources, food and sleep. She does explain quite nicely. Yes, I will be watching.

I wish Jessica the best of luck for decent winds, calm seas and a safe trip.

I am curious what you would tell your child or grandchild desiring such a quest.


  1. Between the devil and the deep blue sea !!!!

    When I do turn into a parent, I think I wouldn't allow for an adventure of this magnitude until they turn 18 atleast.. But whether kids would listen to me or not is a different story altogether :-D

    Nice post. Got me intrigued about Jessica's progress too..

  2. Being 73 and never had a child I am unqualified to answer, except to say my parents would have said "NO Way Jose! Young ladies are supposed to grow up, marry and have grandkids!"

    I miss two parts of that equation, both starting with G: grow up, grandkids.

    Despite some known disappointments, I think I didn't turn out too bad, adhering to many of their principles.

  3. I think 16 is a bit young but then again it really depends on the person

    I was taking care of my Mom and siblings at 16

    I had some concerns about letting my son play football when he was very young but it meant so much
    he did get hurt
    but he also got hurt on the stairs at school

    it's rough being a parent!

  4. I would never, under any circumstances, give my child the okay to leave me for that length of time - for any reason!!

    I'm adding her link so I can keep an eye on her too.

  5. A parent is just that 'a parent'. They are not cheerleaders - although they do do that. They are not the child’s friend even though fun is part of parenting. Parents are responsible to take a little one and turn them into and a responsible big one.
    I think sailing around the world at least from my non-sailing life. Is a crazy idea for a non-adult. I had a friend who did that when he was 18 and he for sure became a man on that trip.
    My vote is, no go, to non-adults sailing around the world.

  6. Well at 16, I would tell them they have to wait until they are of legal age. So that would upset them, since she wants to be the youngest to make the trip. But like you said, where is the line drawn. Perhaps she's very mature for 16, but still 8 months alone? I have a feeling there will be plenty of other people all along the way watching out for her and perhaps another boat/ship sailing along fairly close by. Who's footing the money for this adventure. Has to be costing someone some big dollars. When she makes stops along the way, I'm assuming she'll be doing that, does she get rid of all her garbage and potty material? Surely it isn't all dumped into the waters. Way too many things to think of ahead of time. No, we wouldn't have let any of our kids at 16 make that journey.

  7. If my girls had asked me to let them sail around the world at the age of 16 I'd have said no. I had enough trouble letting them drive a car. I kept thinking it had only been a few years since I had to remind them to go to the potty!

  8. Grayquill has stated my thoughts on this.
    What happened to parents that parented. They seem in short supply, or is it just that we only hear about a small percentage, and the rest are busy Being parents.

  9. I would say, "Follow your Dreams"... Too many times, we adults (out of fear) stifle our kids/grands --and don't allow them to take the chances in life which may or may not bring them harm. The way I look at 'harm' is that we can walk out to get the mail out of the mailbox and a car can hit and kill us. There's never any guarantees.

    My sons have always been encouraged to 'go for it' although I was a little antsy when my eldest went on a long hiking experience in Alaska ALONE. He did get back safely--and loved it.


  10. I think we have become a world of thrill-seekers and reality show contestants. The desire for fame seems to outweigh prudence and good parenting skills. What I remember about being 16 is that despite the fact that I thought I knew it all, I didn't. It's a parent's responsibility to provide the healthy boundaries to a child's inherent wanderings. Wanting to be the youngest to accomplish something does not seem like the best rationale for pursuit.

  11. Whoooo...what an adventure but I agree that I would not give permission for this until my child was of age....however, I don't really know not bring in that situation.

    Thanks for this interesting post!

  12. lostworld,
    Tough choice isn't it. It would probably be hard when they are 18 also. Think it might depend on the kid.

    Oh, are we supposed to be grown up?? Crap I knew there was something I was forgetting to do.

    I know, it is tough and you are so right about school steps. They can get hurt anywhere.
    We are not all equal at 16.

    Can't blame you, had I children, I would really be torn. Glad you are going to watch also.

    Intererting about your friend who did that at 18.
    Eighteen may be legal but think it depends on the kid. Anyway you turn, there will be fall out.

    She has no one following her except via phone. She did mention seening some boats yesterday. I am sure she has stops along the way to restock. She has sponsers who are paying for it.

    Can't blame you, it would have been my first response.

    I do believe most are busy being parents. It is the rest we hear about.

    I am proud of your courage and I would have rathered you be my parent.
    It must have been hard letting your son hike Alaska but I am sure he is a better, more confident man because of it. He doesn't have to look back on his life and say,
    "If only" or "I wish I had".

    I hope she isn't doing it just for the title of being the "youngest" for that title will not last long. The last "youngest" title only lasted 6 weeks. Hopefully it is to test and prove herself.

    I guess it would depend on the child. Some at 16 shouldn't carry out the trash without assistance. Others are starting software companies.

  13. There is a saying about giving our children both roots and wings...finding the balance is the tricky part.

  14. Here in Australia it is a very controversial issue and many of the points you raised the media are raising.

    I think people are saying she is a little fool hardy because on her attempt out of the harbour she actually crashed into a freighter ship and had to return for repairs. I mean she wasn't even 5 hrs into her journey.

    Personally, do I think she is ready.....? NO

    I actually don't think she realises the dangers....and her parents could be living out their lifetime fantasy....who knows.

    So yeah...I would be against it....if she could pay for the boat and all the equipment I would say.....go but until you can enjoy being a child.

  15. I as a parent I would have said NO! I could live with the quilt of preventing her from living a dream until she was of age...but not the quilt of letting her do such a dangerous thing at 16...if she were be harmed. I don't like to gamble either!!!

  16. Olga,
    That says it perfectly. Sometimes I miss not having children then other times, I am darn glad I don't. It is that balance thing that is so hard.

    I was really wondering how the Australians were viewing this. I guess not much differently than we are. There are two definite sides here. Hard to tell which one is completely right. Everyone would have to vote their conscience.

    Sure glad I didn't have to make the decision. As you said, there would be guilt felt no matter which decision was made. It would all depend on what guilt we could live with.

  17. WOW! I had not heard about her....I think she is the bravest 16 year old I have ever heard about! Like you, I wish her all the luck in the world! I admire her tremendously and I think it is great that her parents are supporting her in this major endevor!

  18. Thanks for the link to the blog. Wishing her all the luck. Though not for me - I can hardly stand to be in the kayak sometimes - it does seem like quite an undertaking and will be a great accomplishment if she can make it happen.

    What's that Robert Hastings quote? "Regret and fear are twin thieves who rob us of today" or something like that.

  19. OOLOH,
    There aren't many parents who would support such an endeavor which I guess is why the ocean is not full of teens. They are rare indeed. Unless they are "balloon boy" parents, they deserve a ton of credit for their courage.

    I just love that quote. If I could cross stitch, I would put that on a sampler.
    I would like to think we could all draw our last breath with none, or at the most, a very short list of, "If I had only...." on our lips. Life is way too short with no "do overs".

  20. Hello Patti, nice to meet you.

    Interesting post. I knew sailors that have crossed the oceans and sailed around the world. They did it for the adventure and for the journey. And I must add, some of them were not young and some of them were not that fit, they were mostly couples but I knew of one man that had sailed single-handedly, but they did it and I admired them.

    Going back to Jessica and parenting, you have said all to be said and I am with you, when and where do we draw the line.

    I apologise for the long comment, I enjoyed your post and will follow Jessica. I am intrigued by the courage of people who dare to sail the oceans regardless of what the reasons.

  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  22. Ocean Girl,
    Welcome to TNS and thank you for stopping by and commenting.
    I too totally admire her courage. It is one thing to think about doing it but to actually do it like she is attempting, is amazing. I wish her the very best.

  23. In the Netherlands there is now a 14 year old girl who wants to sail around the world to become the youngest person to do so, but her mother, and child protection are against it. The judge thought it wise to wait another year. So she is not allowed to sail around the world just now, besides she has to finish her school and the time of year is not right.Her name is Laura Dekker and I see you mentioned her name!! Sorry!!

  24. Reader wil,
    Yes, I do believe Laura is way too young. I guess what worried me the most about these young girls is not so much violent seas, but violent men such as pirates. People have been attacked as close to the US as the Bahamas. She would be no match.