Over the last few weeks I have found myself reflecting on the much criticised, chronicled and at last congratulated adventures of Jessica Watson, teen solo round the world sailor.
Among the sailing and boating fraternity, opinions have abound on records, racing, technological assistance, mental stamina, sponsorship and the likelihood of success (defined in a variety of ways). Amongst the wider community there have similarly been differences of opinion on what would motivate parental encouragement of such a potentially risky endeavor.
After absorbing all the commentary and opinion I’ve come to a number of my own conclusions on what to make of it all.
The first is that Jessica’s voyage has been a triumph for the philosophy that an uncomplicated childhood in which your parents allow you to go on “lots of little adventures” and in which they take a very active role in your education makes for a confident young person with the ability, self belief and resilience to tackle life’s challenges…and to inspire others to do the same.
There are a lot of mean spirited and misinformed armchair adventurers out there who, despite having never been to sea themselves, have some very heated opinions on the topic and lack the usual fuel of justification that is “wasting tax payers money”. If you’ve been offshore in a yacht in anything more than forty knots of breeze in the middle of the night, then you’ll know that no amount of technological assistance or gadgetry can absolutely guarantee you a safe passage home to your loved ones.
My final conclusion, to use the words of Robert Louis Stevenson and so aptly quoted by Jessica’s mum is that “Home is the Sailor, Home from the Sea”. I’m sure there is not a mariner anywhere on land or at sea that would not agree with this and feel glad to hear of a fellow sailor’s safe return to port.