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Episode 10: Jessica Watson Show Notes

Thank you to the Queensland Cruising Yacht Club for hosting us for the interview.

Find out more about Jessica's new venture at is proving to be a hit for yachties looking for advice on products, services and marinas

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Hi Folks, welcome onto the Ocean Sailing Podcast. This week we are at the Queensland Cruising Yacht Club and we are talking to Jessica Watson. So welcome along Jess.

Jessica Watson: Hello and thanks for having me.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Jess, happy birthday for yesterday. I understand it was your birthday and ironically, as part of researching questions for today, it's just gone past your six year anniversary since you completed your circumnavigation?

Jessica Watson: It has, which is a bit scary. Six years feels like a while, a lot has happened.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Has it gone fast or have you just packed a lot into the last six years?

Jessica Watson: It kind of feels like a couple of lifetimes ago which sounds ridiculous for a 23 year old to be saying that but it really does. I mean there’s so many things that have happened and it’s too much to keep up with, and it feels like another world.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well in six years, when you, given you were 17, almost 17 when you completed the trip, six years as a percentage of your life. You’ve had like another third of your life almost.

Jessica Watson: Yeah, well that’s a good way of putting it and that’s kind of how I feel.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and I read in your Wikipedia profile that your nationality’s described as an Australian New Zealander. I hadn’t heard of that nationality before. Is that how you see yourself?

Jessica Watson: No, that’s the problem Wikipedia, don’t believe everything you read on it. I mean it is true to some extent but I wouldn’t call myself a Kiwi, sorry grandparents. Sorry Grandad particularly, he’d be a bit upset about that but Mum and Dad come from New Zealand originally, all my family are over there but I do see myself as an Aussie through and through. Sorry to the Kiwis. Love the place, great sailors but I’m definitely an Aussie.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s a lot warmer here, right?

Jessica Watson: It is, yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so today I wanted to talk to you and touch on a few points and ask you a few questions about your circumnavigation. I want to talk to you a bit about life after the trip, which has obviously been a big chunk of your life really and then we’ll talk a bit about your new project that you’re working right now, Deckee, and how that came about. Then we’re going to give Andy Lamont a bit of a surprise call and talk to him. He’s got some questions for you about his upcoming westward bound trip around the world in an S & S 34 called Impulse.

Jessica Watson: Yeah, I’m looking forward to that, I’d love to hear his questions and have a chat to him.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. So I guess jumping back to your circumnavigation and just some questions around that. It appeared on reading your story along the way and afterwards in depth, that something that started out as an idea when you were a little bit younger, turned into quite a serious, well-planned, well thought out project that really gathered significant momentum in terms of the people and the sponsors and supporters that got behind it.

I guess my question for you is, were there moments as the departure date approached, where you suddenly had the flashes of panic, or you got cold feet, or you thought, “I don’t want to do this anymore but I’ve come too far, I’ve got too many people behind it?”

Jessica Watson: No, not at all. And I’m glad about that because that would have been a pretty scary position to be in. I think when I first started thinking about it I realised from doing that first bit of research, I was young. I was 13 by the time I had sort of made up my mind about it fully. So it was before then that I had been thinking about it for a while and I realised how much was involved and I always sort of knew from, even right form then that if I was going to do this, it had to be done properly.

It wasn’t going to be a matter of getting a cheap boat and throwing together a few bits of equipment, and a satellite phone and leaving. If I was going to do it, it had to be in the safest way possible and that meant a lot of money, and a lot of sponsorship and an incredible amount of support that did snowball.

First it was the local sail maker and rigger who were amazing and then it just snowballed into something bigger. I’m very happy that I didn’t have cold feet at the last minute because, as you said, there was a lot behind it at that point. I was just probably the exact opposite, I was just itching to go the whole time and that was actually probably the harder part was to actually slow down and go, “No, I need to do this last part of the preparation properly,” rather than just wanting to get out there so badly.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and so I guess then by the time you left, you were so well prepared and well-travelled, and you had done so many thousands of sailing hours. By that point you were just comfortable and ready to go?

Jessica Watson: Yeah, definitely. I mean, you can always do more, particularly solo in that boat. I would love to have done more of that but it wasn’t sort of possible with having to be 16 and have your boat license. It might have been an issue around sort of legally being able to skipper a boat by myself. It just came down to time and the seasons. But we did decide that I’d sail through the pacific first so that also gave me the first few months in a much better part of the world if any issues did come up with the boat, which we weren’t expecting.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You were headed in a warmer direction to start with rather than in a colder direction.

Jessica Watson: Yeah exactly and just less terrible bit of ocean to give the boat a good run in.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and I read a comment, I’m not sure if it was a quote of yours, but it was along the lines of, “My mom and dad are quite timid when it comes to sailing and they just wouldn’t go out on a rough day but it became my norm.” I just kind of wondered have you always had that kind of gutsy, give it a go kind of attitude?

Jessica Watson: No, not at all. I think maybe it came from mum and dad who, you know, enjoyed boating and a little bit of sailing but really aren’t sailors at all. I was very, very scared and timid when I first started sailing and as a young girl and it was only few years later that I decided I wanted to sail around the world. So I kind of did a back with, I realised that if I was going to sail around the world I’d actually have to toughen up a little bit and yeah, pretending helped to start with.

But I think my approach was quite typical of I think a lot of adventurers rather than maybe sort of your typical kind of adrenaline junkie kind of idea of adventurer. My approach was kind of going back and looking at what could go wrong and that’s kind of the path that fascinated me more than the sort of adrenaline huge waves. I’ve always been interested in that but it was more about what can we do to make this safer? Which seems a bit boring but that’s the part that really fascinated me.

Jessica and her business partners

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I guess reading about some of the extremes going around Cape Horn and across the Great Australian Bight, you had to endure 10 to 12 meter seas, which most people can’t appreciate that sort of three to four story building in terms of height and winds of up to 70 knots and several knock downs. How would you describe to someone who has never sailed in rough whether what it’s like as a 16 year old on your own to out on the ocean and in the dark and those kind of conditions, how would you describe that?

Jessica Watson: Not easy to describe. I suppose the first thing is, I sort of say that not to just totally down play what the conditions are like but we were expecting, I was expecting conditions like that and the boat was built for those conditions in the end and that gave me a lot of confidence.

If you put me out in those conditions in any old boat, I would be utterly terrified but because I knew I had absolutely every chance and we’d prepared to actually deal with these conditions that gave me a lot of confidence. It’s incredible. They’re beautiful, the huge waves. It’s just not something you see, it’s just absolutely awe inspiring, obviously a little bit of terror comes into that as well.

You know, there are and there were particularly few hours in the Atlantic that were pretty horrible because I’d had a really horrendous knockdown where you’re thrown into the trough of the next waves upside down and just not knowing how the boat could possibly be structurally sound after that and I was sort of sitting there going, “If we get another wave like that, surely we can’t survive.” And pleasant surprise, I realised that the boat was actually still okay and it was my mind more than anything just getting away from me.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: With that, I guess one of the bigger risks for you was probably injuring yourself in the process rather than injuring the boat and the risk of breaking ribs and bones and skull fractures. How did you sort of manage your own safety in those types of extreme conditions?

Jessica Watson: Yeah, that was something to be very aware of, you’re completely by yourself, days or even weeks away from help. So really it kind of came down to the way I sailed, there was just no risks taken, I’m very proud of the fact I never left the cockpit in over 30 knots of wind. I think it was once where I went forward, not even on the foredeck, and that’s pretty kind of crazy really to think that you can sail around, the whole way around the world without leaving the cockpit in over 30 knots of wind. 

So I had my storm jib up when the storm would approach and I’d just reef down from the cockpit and fill away the last bit of head sail. So, very conservative and that was my approach to the way I did anything. There were lot of days when I was sailing a lot slower than I could have but again, I just didn’t like being cold and wet but also potentially hurting myself. I had little lap belts for storms where I’d sort of sit down and belt myself in to not be thrown around. Inevitably the worst knockdown happened when I wasn’t buckled in.

I remember walking up the walls onto the roof and you get pretty bruised up in a storm like that but I didn’t have any severe injuries at all. We did coat the inside of the boat with foam, probably as much for insulation but also kind of going, “Maybe it’ll help?” The great thing about an S & S 34 is that it’s quite small in the cabin. You go to see in a modern racing boat or even a modern cruising boat and it’s quite terrifying moving around down below because it’s this beautiful wide interior. It has the potential to be thrown 10 feet across the…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s a long way you can travel before you hit something.

Jessica Watson: Yeah, exactly. So a nice small S & S 34 was a bit of a security there as well.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Now, I have to ask, I was texted this morning by my daughter Madison who is 16 and has been doing a bit of off shore sailing with us now, a bit of racing. She’s reading your book at the moment and she just texted me and she’s like, “Dad, I hope it’s not too late, but I have a couple of questions,” and we’ve already asked one but the other one was, she said, “Did you ever feel that you had under estimated the scale and the enormity of the journey and the trip compared to how it unfolded for you?”

Jessica Watson: I can probably honestly say no. In those hours and those moments when you’re actually seeing those waves, you know I spent so long imagining them and trying to work out what they would be like and it’s still, you just can’t really imagine. But overall, I’m really quite proud of the fact that I had a lot of fun out there and that sounds a bit ridiculous but before I left was so hard and even that whole incident where I hit that ship which, you know, you look back and it did happened for a reason. As unpleasant as it was, I think all of that really did sort of toughen me up and I got out of there and I actually was tough. I’m told I do downplay it, but I had fun and I’m proud of that, I enjoyed it as well as having those tough times

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So did you find that any sort of fears around some of the more extreme whether just sort of eventually fell away and you were more in awe of the wonder of the forces of nature and just the natural beauty of it. Even though you can have the roughest, most crazy weather out there. The most I’ve been in is maybe 45 knots and six meters. That got to a point quite quickly where you realise the boat’s going to be okay and it’s just the awe of what’s happening around you. Did you get to that stage or did you still feel this sort of unnerving sort of, “Are we going to be okay? Can it handle everything that’s ahead?”

Jessica Watson: Yeah, after that storm in the Atlantic, I had a big sense of, “Wow, the boat coped with that. It’s still okay. Oh my gosh, if it can survive that, it can survive anything.” And that was a wonderful thing to experience and have that knowledge that it’s a really, really tough boat. But then coming back towards Australia, I sort of got a period where there was storm after storm after storm, and getting a bit closer to land again that was pretty unnerving again. 

You start throwing land into the mix, things get pretty scary. Sea room is an incredible thing. Most people still have this idea they want to run for shore and be near shore and it’s to me, as a solo sailor, it’s just the last thing you want to be near when you’re in bad weather. So that was hard and that was a healthy reminder again of how you never want to forget that as much as it’s incredible, it’s important to remember.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s quite amazing when it’s just you on the ocean and you’re on your own little circle of the planet and there’s just clear water in every direction to the horizon, it’s just you and the ocean, there’s no traffic around, it’s a lot safer and it’s quite magnificent.

Jessica Watson: Obviously ships never gave me a lot of confidence having them around me and yeah, there’s something very special about an empty horizon in every direction and I don’t think many people understand that but it is an incredibly and, of course it’s lovely to share experiences with people and racing, but there’s also something very special about having it entirely to yourself.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Tell me about your sleeping patterns once you set out onto the voyage, you hear about solo sailors being up for 20 minutes and down for 20 minutes and that sounds quite arduous if you’re going to have to do that for 10 days. So what sort of patterns did you settle into once you got established on the journey?

Jessica Watson: Yeah, it got better throughout the voyage. It started out across the Pacific where you do have more islands and more shipping where I would be doing sort of 20 minute cat naps, 40 minutes and then the advice we sort of have got in all the research we did sort of pointed towards “you really need to get a 90 minute sleep cycle in every 24 hours.” And I was getting in a couple of them. It sounds incredibly harsh, I think people just hear that and go, “Oh my goodness, how do you do that?”

Jessica Watson learning to sail when she was younger

You get used to it, it’s the first few days that are often very tough. The first three days typically and it’s a shame that most people are only ever at sea for three days because it’s wonderful after that once you’ve found your legs and you’re in a new sleeping pattern and I would get a lot of my best sleep in the morning, after the sun had kind of risen and you’d be able to relax just that little bit more. Then when I got further south, there’s a lot less down there in the southern ocean so I would be sleeping for 90 minutes at a time and then waking up quickly checking things and going back to sleep, it’s a lot better.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: In terms of collision avoidance at sea, did you use radar, AIS? And what sort of range alarms did you set? 

Jessica Watson: AIS, it’s just fantastic. I mean the radar is great but it chews through a lot of power and even just the alarms I don’t think are really, you know, when you're out in the middle of the ocean, really it’s just big ships or ocean going vessels that you're dealing with. So they are on the AIS, which is fantastic and the alarms that you can setup were just fantastic. 

Obviously once I was well out to sea you’d just, well anytime actually. By myself when I’d ever be thinking about sleeping, you’d have it just the furthest setting and if anything comes on to the screen at all which could be a quite a number of miles away depending on the conditions for the radio, and that would wake me up with a very, very loud alarm. My alarm was incredibly loud. The AIS was something we changed, I had a couple of them after the collision and one of the reasons for the collision was the fact that the AIS hadn’t gone off as it should have.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah right. So the great thing about AIS is especially in bad weather when you can see a vessel 90 minutes away, not just a few minutes away, how amazing that is in terms of being safe and confident at night in the dark, in really adverse conditions. Especially being able to understand the closest point of approach and how long that’s going to take you before you’re at that point, instead of trying to guess in the dark which side of your boat the vessel is going to pass, whether you’re on a collision course. It’s amazing how deceptive lights in the dark is and being able to judge depth and those sorts of things.

Jessica Watson: Without a doubt. You don’t have to sit there on deck for the hour it takes to pass and better still, there are a couple occasions when a ship would look like it was going to be a little bit close and I would literally call them up on the radio and go, “Hey, it’s looking a little close, hint, hint, do you want to get out of my way? Give me a bit more room so I don’t have to go out in the cold and jive?” A couple of times I talked them into it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s pretty good.

Jessica Watson: I think they were just so shocked from hearing this little girl’s voice on the radio that they’re going, “What’s going on here?”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so let’s jump to the conclusion of your trip on May the 15th, 2010. You stepped ashore in front of 70,000 people. Did you do anything to prepare for that great down to earth speech that you gave in that moment or did you just sort of step ashore and just wing it?

Jessica Watson: No, I mean I knew. I think everyone had told me what I should expect and I’m glad about that because it might have been a bit too overwhelming if I had just stepped off and been hit with that. The most incredible thing was that the couple of days before because I was running, well not a bit early but everyone sort of wanted to set a date. Even all my New Zealand relatives and all the people that supported me wanted to be there. I was at that point, if I wanted to come in I would have just come straight in but I was very happy to sort of hang out and wait a couple of days, just slow ride down. 

And those couple of days were just the most amazing thing because I was able to sort of let it sink in and get my head together and then be ready for the day I got in. It was just overwhelming. I’m sure anyone who has been at sea knows that feeling of returning to a port and everything feels so close and you’ve had empty horizons and just seen, you know, I only saw land three or four times the entire time. It’s pretty boring and everything feels overwhelmingly close and intense. Every smell and every sight is just a lot more intense than it normally is.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: How challenging was it readjusting to life on the land, getting back into a schedule and having people all around you again?

Jessica Watson: Oh it was all just, I think I was riding a wave of adrenaline for a couple of years, I’m not exaggerating. It was incredible. I think a lot of people worried about how I might adjust but because there was just so many positive things happening, and I was a little bit strange and had a bad case of the sea legs. I think I used to never talk to people looking at their face and some silly little habits that I gained like that, just from being by yourself for so long.

But honestly, it was all so exciting and new because you’re doing these things you haven’t done, even the smallest things were a novelty. Just being able to go for a walk, which was still something I was enjoying months after.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: What doors have opened since May, 2010 as you entered the next chapter of your life that have really surprised you, that you didn’t see coming?

Jessica Watson: Look, there are so many things. One of the wonderful things was being able to go and actually do a bit of traveling afterwards. I’d sailed around the world but I hadn’t seen a lot of it. So whether that was sort of booked tours in all sorts of parts of the world and boat shows in Brazil and Europe and actually being able to do a bit of sailing in the Mini’s over in France. I really loved that.

I was sort of thinking whether I’d go down that competitive path for a while, and the Youth Sydney Hobart project we did is something I’m really proud of. That was a big project, it took a while, a lot of effort and energy went into that and really proud of the result. It taught me a huge amount sailing wise but much more than that as well.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: In terms of people management, leadership, and some of the skills like that?

Jessica Watson: Yeah, and we had the opportunity to work with some really amazing mentors and partners. Deloitte was one of our sponsors and they put us through some of their sort of leadership and team, very corporate style training and team work programs. That was really amazing to apply that to basically a bunch of teenagers on a yacht for sailing.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I read about your role with the United Nations and your trip to Jordan and Lebanon where you met with Syrian refugees. Do you want to tell me about that?

Jessica Watson: Yeah, I mean obviously, the wonderful thing is that I’ve had the opportunity to support a lot of different organisations in the last few years and this is one that sort of has become a bit more of a long term role rather than a sort of once off. I have been over to Laos and to see the sort of school feeding programs over there and then, recently last year to Jordan and Lebanon. 

I mean they’re just an incredible organisation on a global scale and things like particularly with Laos. It was issues that are in our back yard and hunger and I think I’m just, you meet the families and the kids and they’re very inspiring. But I’m normally more inspired by the workers and what goes into, you know it’s not as simple as just dumping some food. So quite extraordinary and I’m just so lucky to have had those experiences. It’s again, changed me and taught me so much.

Ella's Pink Lady, an image that became famous across every household in Australia

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well it must be a pretty amazing perspective you have of the world now that you’ve had the opportunity to see it from so many different angles?

Jessica Watson: Yeah. Yeah definitely, very lucky to have had that and the funny thing is you think I sort of expected to walk away very upset from the refugee camps. But I actually walked away so inspired because I met some people who were making the best out of these situations. You come back here and my big sort of feeling was that we need to make the most of what we’ve got here and not waste it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s interesting, there’s a documentary called The Happiness Project, which is about where the happiest nations are in the world and interestingly, some of the African nations rank the highest because to gap between the expectations and how they actually live is nil.

Jessica Watson: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: As opposed to many of the western nations where there’s lots of unhappiness because the gap between where they are today and their high ideals is vast. So it’s interesting when you talk about people being happy with their lot and being happy with exactly where they are despite how little we may perceive they may have.

Jessica Watson: Yeah, probably part of the reason I had a lot of fun sailing around the world as well because I had this expectation that it was going to be miserable a lot of the time. Got out there and realised it was actually quite enjoyable the majority of the time.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so how much public speaking do you still do today? I guess there was a lot immediately after your trip, but do you still do much public speaking today?

Jessica Watson: A bit. A lot less than it was for a couple of years there but I still do a fair bit, and I have come to really enjoy it. I went through a period where I was just so sick of talking about sailing around the world but I’m really happy that I’ve found a sort of way of enjoying that again and bringing some of my other experiences into that which is something that I feel like is a good story and I enjoy talking about now.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and where are you currently living?

Jessica Watson: Mostly down in Melbourne but I’m still up here in Queensland a fair bit with parents and family and I do seem to end up in Sydney a fair bit too. So East Coast Australia I think is a safe.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and I read that you don’t really feel the urge to become a professional sailor and cruising’s more your thing. Did you ever feel the urge or the weight of public expectation when you returned from your circumnavigation with the questions sort of public about, “What’s next for Jessica?” Or, “What’s your next challenge?” And some sort of obligation to need to find new challenges to take on?

Jessica Watson: Yeah, there’s the one thing that people say and it seems to be literally the second thing they say to me is, “What’s next? What are you going to do to better that?” And I really struggle with that because everything I’ve done since, and finishing my degree and studying different things now, have bettered that to me. But people do seem to want me to go and do something more dramatic and media worthy than what I’ve done and I’m never going to do that for that reason.

Yeah, and it’s quite funny that some people seem to think that there’s some sort of ownership over me and what I should do that they have some sort of say in what they think I should be doing. It was something I was quite seriously considering whether I would want to pursue racing sailing and maybe race around the world by myself or something. But I kind of have come to realise, it took me a couple of years, that I just don’t have a competitive bone in my body, so it wouldn’t have worked too well for me.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Sometimes when something become a job, it’s not as much fun anymore as well.

Jessica Watson: That’s something that I’ve become more and more aware of and that’s really important to me. I love sailing and I love every part of it and I want it to be something that’s a big part of my life for the rest of my life rather than something I do as a job.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and how did you feel about Ella’s Pink Lady being preserved forever in the Queensland Maritime Museum?

Jessica Watson: Yeah, that’s a perfect place for her. I mean by the time we’d finished setting her up for the voyage, she was sort of set up for one thing only and wasn’t going to help me with any of the racing I wanted to do. So that’s the best place for her. Bunch of school kids get to go visit and I go visit every now and again.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s pretty cool and nice to think she’s not just going to deteriorate on a mooring somewhere and eventually get degraded like many other boats that don’t get the attention they deserve.

Jessica Watson: Yeah, exactly, it’s just wonderful. I didn’t have the time in those first few years to look after her and who knows what happens in the future, and this way she’s looked after forever.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Let’s talk about Deckee and your investment in that. It’s a technology based solution around the marine industry and it’s had some investment to date of some $90,000 and the Deckee website talks about being a service provider to a marine industry of more than a million boat owners that spend some $2 billion dollars a year on services in store and products. 

You have aspirations as a business for going overseas at some point and the business has been part of the Slingshot Accelerator Program and picked up a whole bunch of awards including tourism awards, start up awards, and digital creativity awards. So tell me about your role and how did you get involved?

Jessica Watson: Yeah, I heard about it, gosh it would have been late last year, maybe even more like middle of last, it would have been more like middle of last year and Mike had been through the accelerated program. Mike’s the founder and I heard about what they were doing and I suppose I just immediately saw there was a need for it. As a boatie, you’re traveling up the coast and you want to know where you should be finding the best marine businesses and locations. 

And we have all these fantastic cruising guides, which are wonderful but, huge big books in’ 2016? There should be a place for that on the Internet and I kind of eventually got involved because I realise that that’s something I want to be a part of and to give the boating community, particularly the sort of cruising sailing community, a place and an amazing resource online.

So yeah, my role is sort of communications manager but there’s only the three of us so it does mean a bit of everything for now, which is really wonderful. I absolutely love it because it’s working with amazing boaties all over the place and really exciting. We’ve got some great things happening with a rebuild of the site, pretty much done now so looking forward to rolling that out and getting some feedback on that as well.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, certainly great having everything online and on demand that you think of tips these days instead of having to carry everything on board and when you pull into a new destination or a new area, you may not have the information you need. So having that online and on demand is fantastic.

Jessica Watson rounding Cape Horn

Jessica Watson: Yeah, and obviously the other big thing about Deckee, so essentially part of it is that it’s a trip adviser for boating. So to have that information there from other people, not just the one author, you’ve got comments and reviews from a whole range of boaties who might have been there just the week before. So that’s where it will become really, really useful if everyone jumps on board as I’m sure they will be as they hear this and actually help the rest of the community out by sharing their opinion as well.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Just to clarify, it’s

Jessica Watson: That’s right, yep. Yeah, put it in Google or .com, it’s not that hard.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and how old is the business now?

Jessica Watson: Well it would be, it’s just over a year now. Learned a lot in that first year, slowly and steadily growing and really hoping for some exciting things around this new website.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and what’s your ultimate vision for the business and your plans beyond Australia?

Jessica Watson: Ultimately yeah, to provide a really helpful resource for the boating and sailing community. Australia first but certainly if it’s something that works here and it’s useful here, there’s a need for it around the world as well. So we’ll see where we go.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and how many businesses do you have listed on there currently?

Jessica Watson: We’ve got close to 4,000, which I think out of six or 7,000 businesses, is significant. There’s still a way to go there so obviously we’re asking marine businesses to get in touch and definitely list their details and there’s the opportunity to be listed as a directory there but then also some of the ways it will be built in with locations and encourage your customers to actually leave the feedback there. There’s all this amazing feedback and people do want to say great things and this is the platform for it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Great, and what sort of feedback have you had so far from the customers and the businesses that are benefiting from the platform?

Jessica Watson: We’re certainly seeing that people are saying that there’s a need for it, there are only so many options from the businesses perspective where you can be advertising your product and where is it actually relevant to be advertising, getting the word out about your business. 

Certainly that customer feedback is quite new. We’re seeing in every other industry that that’s becoming a really, really important marketing tool and it’s just, there hasn’t been a platform for that for the marine community yet. From a user feedback, obviously the more people on there, the more useful it gets. Hearing some positive things so far but we just know that the more people using it, the better it gets and that’s the important thing to get to that point. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: What are the biggest things that are driving the growth of the site at the moment?

Jessica Watson: Well we are seeing a lot of people kind of discovering it through people, friends telling them about it. We’re getting out and doing sort of being part of as many community events as possible and then also through sort of the stories and the blog style articles that we’re writing, putting out a couple, normally one or two a week. A lot of people are reading that, sharing that and hearing about Deckee that way as well, which is wonderful.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, I’ve been chasing somebody for some details for a survey for three weeks, for a survey that I need to get done for insurance and last night I thought, “Why don’t I just go onto Deckee, look up the Gold coast and see what’s there?” And sure enough I found a surveyor straight away in Palm Beach and got the contact details and straight onto it.

Jessica Watson: Wonderful.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Otherwise if you can just Google the stuff, often you go mental because it brings up such broad results that it doesn’t often find what you’re looking for.

Jessica Watson: Well, that’s exactly it. Is that look, this is probably jumping ahead of myself a little bit here as I’d love to say Deckee become a bit of a Google for the boating world. It’s a place that you actually trust and you know that it’s actually boaties are on there, so it’s information for boaties rather than having to contend with everything on Google. Yeah, and we’ve had good feedback and that was around the award wins too about the design of the site. So something we’re keeping in mind as we build the new one as well.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s a good looking site and I found it easy to use, and I think the review based concept is a really smart one.

Jessica Watson: Yeah, right direction but as I said, learning a lot as well which is really important because we want to be providing the most useful tool possible.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: What do you need more of right now to drive your growth? Is it business listings or customers, or essentially eyeballs and traffic to drive leads and contact to those businesses?

Jessica Watson: It’s hard to know what comes first, but really our focus is with the user and particularly a lot of our cruising sailors who are typically really generous people who want to share. Your average racing sailor might be a little more busy and heads down to the boat all weekend and doesn’t have a lot of spare time.

But cruising sailors are really generous and want to spread their opinions which is wonderful. So really engaging with them is number one concern and getting them on board in using the site, and hearing what they want to be using and what they want to see and then I think the businesses are seeing, once there’s a huge amount of people using the site and finding it useful that it’s something they want to be part of.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Are there any other similar websites in the world for the marine industry that are similar to Deckee, or is what you're doing here quite unique?

Jessica Watson: It is quite unique. There’s a few sort of similar concepts and in the States, we’re seeing, and globally a few sort of sites. Some pretty incredible marina booking platforms and things like that popping up, which is great to see that people are again sort of saying they want these resources online. But so far, yeah certainly it is quite unique but we’ll what happens I imagine in the next few years as well.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So Jess, is there anything else you want to tell me about Deckee or anything else you wanted to share about Deckee and plans and ides for that before we give Andy a call?

Jessica Watson: No, look, I really want to encourage people to get on there and use it. Also we really love feedback and honest feedback. You know, that’s what’s going to help us grow and improve. So keen to hear that and hear what people think as the new site’s launched as well. So please do get on board and share your opinions, good and bad and your favourite anchorage. What’s good about that and what people need to be aware of.

Jessica enjoying the sunshine while sailing on Queensland waters

Ocean Sailing Podcast: The more people share, the more people get to benefit from that sharing and those reviews and that information.

Jessica Watson: Just becomes more and more useful, yes.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, great resource from that point of view.

Jessica Watson: Definitely, yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so Andy Lamont, we’re going to jump online and we’re going to call him through Skype to his mobile and we have a chat to Andy because I spoke to Andy maybe a couple of months ago, he’s got a trip coming up, big trip going west, going upwind for some crazy reason…

Jessica Watson: Yeah, that’s pretty crazy.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: …around the world, and he’s, it would be fair to say, he’s certainly a fan of yours. When I spoke to him I said, “If you had some questions for Jessica Watson, what would they be?” And he said, “I’d ask her about this, this, and that.” So got me thinking at the time, “Oh maybe I could organise for you to have a chat to him and maybe he could ask you those questions directly.”

Jessica Watson: Id’ love to. I always love somebody who has chosen the right boat for the voyage.

Andy Lamont: Hi, Andy speaking.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Hey Andy, it’s David here.

Andy Lamont: Hey Dave, how are you going mate?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Good, thanks. Can you hear me okay?

Andy Lamont: Yeah, you're just a little bit faint, but I can hear you.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, I’ll try and speak up. So Andy, I’ve got somebody else here that is going to have a chat to you about your upcoming westward bound trip around the world and she’s listening in the background.

Jessica Watson: Hello.

OSP: In fact, we might have to sit a bit closer so she can hear you but I have Jessica Watson here Andy.

Andy Lamont: Oh Jessica? How are you going?

Jessica Watson: Yes, hi, good, how are you?

Andy Lamont: Good, thanks. 

Jessica Watson: Good to hear about your trip.

Andy Lamont: So is that you? Is that Jessica Watson, is it?

Jessica Watson: Yes, yes. Sorry.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: How many Jessica’s do you know?

Andy Lamont: I recognise your voice. Thanks for calling Jessica. Yeah.

Jessica Watson: No, no problem.

OSP: So Andy, we’re doing an episode for the podcast and Jessica and I have been having a chat for the last hour or so. When I had spoken to you a couple of months ago, you said if you could speak to Jessica, there are some questions you’d like to ask as part of your preparation. So now you have the opportunity.

Andy Lamont: Yeah. That’s right.

Jessica Watson: I love your choice in boat obviously.

Andy Lamont: Yeah. It was good to get an S & S 34 and just doing it up. Yeah, so where are you now Jessica? You’re in up north in…

Jessica Watson: In Brisbane, I’m down in Melbourne a lot these days but Brisbane today. You’re Gold Coast based, aren’t you?

Andy Lamont: Yeah, that’s right. So I head off in October and sail westward bound. But yeah, there were some things I wanted to ask you about. I’m sort of a blank at the moment.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I thought you would, so I’ve written down your questions for you Andy because I remember some of them.

Andy Lamont: Good on you, all right.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I knew I would be putting you on the spot. So one of the questions you said you would like to know more about is the sail configurations for each wind level and what Jessica found to be the best settings as the wind range went up.

Andy Lamont: Yeah, that would be interesting to know.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And at what point she changed from a genoa to a full genoa, and a genoa to a jib and reefed the main, and things like that.

Andy Lamont: Yeah, that would be good to know how you went with that.

Jessica Watson: Yeah, I suppose I kept it all pretty basic It was certainly no racing trim with a lot of it. Really it was just the main with, I had three reefs in it which was fantastic and the genoa, which would just fill away a bit of as it got windier and then the big thing I did was used the stay sail a bit which was good but probably not. I don’t think it made a huge amount of difference but then I’d keep the storm sail on the stay sail and just I had to leave that up for quite a while, it wasn’t doing any damage before or after a storm to have it up there ready.

And I don’t know. I suppose the big thing is just getting the main down earlier so it’s not overpowering when you’re sailing, I don’t know if you’ll have a wind vane, but you just can’t sail with too much sail area with the wind vane, you’ve got to be a bit more conservative.

Andy Lamont: Yes, I’m just fitting, I just spoke to Phil George just sent me up a wind vane actually.

Jessica Watson: Oh wonderful.

Jessica Watson inspecting the top of her mast on her circumnavigation

Andy Lamont: I just fitted that last week, yeah. That’s the thing, you’ve got to balance the boat to just keep it underpowered.

Jessica Watson: Yeah. I highly recommend a nice small third reef not that on an S & S 34 sail it could be that big anyway, a third reef.

Andy Lamont: Yep. Oh good, so that’s good to know. Well I’ve got a small third reef, but I’m probably going to do. Did you just have the one main sail for the whole trip?

Jessica Watson: I did, I had a spare, which wouldn’t have been a great sail but I didn’t need it. I was stitching it up a little bit. There was little bits of damage and things.

Andy Lamont: Yeah, okay. So that’s good. It lasted the whole trip for you?

Jessica Watson: It did, but it was suffering a bit towards the end so I’d definitely be taking a spare.

Andy Lamont: Yeah, well I’ve got a spare. I thought I might get another new one made, but I’ve got a spare sort of the whole thing that came with the boat. That was the idea I had of having another main, just so I could have one ready to pop up just in case.

Jessica Watson: Yeah. That would probably do the job.

Andy Lamont: Yeah, well that’s good to know. And what about things like did you have a wind generator the whole way?

Jessica Watson: The wind vane sorry?

Andy Lamont: No, the generator.

Jessica Watson: Wind generator?

Andy Lamont: Did you have any at all?

Jessica Watson: I did actually replace that quite towards the end of the trip. It was fantastic, I liked it and I had a spare whole unit, which I might have been able to problem solve with the first one. I don’t know, someone with a bit more technical knowledge and experience might have been as well but I had the spare there and I just replaced it which was just fantastic. But yeah, you really need your different options with the solar and even being able to run, I was running in and out gear a fair bit, which is not overly great for it either.

Andy Lamont: So you say solar was pretty much, not really that much help down south?

Jessica Watson: No, I still found it surprising how down south it was more that they, or one of them particularly got a bit smashed up during some knock downs and was a bit less effective after that.

Andy Lamont: Yeah. That’s good to know and so you took all your water didn’t you?

Jessica Watson: Yeah but I was catching a lot. My water maker was only like a little hand backup one so it was really only going to get me out of trouble in a sort of survival situation. But I was very surprised and impressed with how much I was able to collect particularly through the Pacific, which might not be as much help for you but the gutter…

Andy Lamont: Well I’m going up and under on down straight home. Because I’m going out the way. So there were gutters on your…

Jessica Watson: Dodger. They were very effective. Yeah, they were great and then obviously just you turn and run with it if once you’ve sort of washed the salt off and put the topper on the end of the boom, pull it up a bit and let it all run off the gooseneck.

Andy Lamont: Yup. That’s good to know. What about, is there anything you would have done differently now that you’ve done it once like as far as the boat goes or?

Jessica Watson: What was that, sorry? Would I do anything differently?

Andy Lamont: Yeah, that you sort of think, “Oh, that was a bad idea.” Were you able to rely on certain things, or is there anything you would have done differently?

Jessica Watson: Look honestly, there was very little with the boat, which was fantastic. I don’t know if it was me now, I would probably actually enjoy sailing it a little bit better and get the code zero out and things like that but equipment wise, yeah, really very little. There was a few things that corroded and didn’t sort of work and rigged up a new little battery meter, but there were all such small things that didn’t really matter.

Yeah, no I can’t honestly say that there would be one sort of big thing that would really, I’d change. It’s the right boat for it and yeah, just keep it simple with the equipment and back up for everything, it’s really all there is to it.

Andy Lamont: Did you have separate bilge? Did you close up all your bilge or did you have it all draining in under the motor? Oh no sorry, you didn’t have the motor in it, did you? So did you have your separate bilge or was it just one big bilge of all that?

Jessica Watson: No, they were quite separate and that was some pretty impressive bilge pumps in all of them and hand pumps as well, probably a bit overboard. Yeah, so have you got the engine in the centre, do you?

Andy Lamont: Yep.

Jessica Watson: Yeah, that’s great.

Andy Lamont: Yeah I got the engine in the centre. I want to close it off, because it all drains into the bilge, the one bilge…

Jessica Watson: Yeah okay.

Andy Lamont: …under the motor and I was wanting to sort of change it all up so that I’ll separate to have a forward bilge, a mid ship bilge, and an aft bilge so that if there is bilge coming in, I know where it’s coming from. Did you have that? Or did you just have it all separated? The bilges?

Jessica Watson: Yeah, it was quite separated obviously at the front. I think the engine really was a bit separate but got to a point and it would just drain in and I did have a pretty leaky prop glands, stern gland.

Andy Lamont: Oh did you?

Jessica Watson: Yeah. Which didn’t worry me but towards the end it was getting a little worse, which wasn’t ideal.

Andy Lamont: Yeah. Was that just a stuffing box gland or?

Elle Bache; major sponsor for Jessica Watson

Jessica Watson: Yeah it was. So yeah, there wasn’t too much I could do about it but it didn’t even matter too much, I just had to make sure I was pumping out every now and again.

Andy Lamont: Right. Cool, well that’s pretty interesting. Is that right on you?

Jessica Watson: Yep, that’s right. I mean I don’t know how, my rig was definitely pretty overkill so whether that’s entirely necessary but I suppose the rigger just thought it was absolutely no harm at the time. Yeah.

Andy Lamont: Yeah. I know you say the inaudible were pretty easy to deal with, and you didn’t have any problem with accidents. Did you have a boom break?

Jessica Watson: Oh what sorry? A boom break? I did use one a bit to start with but I actually just found that really your only option is just to run a preventer and just run something towards to the front of the boat and back and because you’re only tacking every few days, it’s no big deal just to set it up and yeah.

Andy Lamont: Set it up, yeah.

Jessica Watson: That really is the only thing that I found really effective.

Andy Lamont: Yeah, that’s really cool. Well that’s quite all. I’m sort of in the boat ready now. I’ve been sort of working on it over 18 months. Just slowly getting everything done. That was sort of very interesting things to talk to you about. The main thing was just sort of pretty much the boat’s pretty much standard as it comes, and it handles everything pretty good and not really insistent. What navigation do you use, chart plotter?

Jessica Watson: Yeah, chart plotter but I also just had the software on the computer, on the HP Toughbook, which was great and then all the backup GPS handhelds and charts. Which hopefully never had to get used and there was even a sexton on board which I would have been in trouble if I needed that. Might have eventually found where I was.

Andy Lamont: Yeah it’s the same. I’ve got like a million different GPS’s and sextons.

Jessica Watson: Yeah exactly. Yeah, likelihood of needing it is pretty low.

Andy Lamont: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So Andy, David here, when we were talking, you had some questions around downwind sailing and whether you were going to pole out your genoa or run wing and wing, or what have you. Did you have any other questions around down and sailing sail configuration at all?

Andy Lamont: Did you run twin heads at all Jessica or?

Jessica Watson: I never did, no. I mean it probably would have helped. Yeah, but I never did, I had a code zero too which I reckoned was pretty useful. I didn’t use it a huge amount but yeah, poling out would definitely be a good thing to be able to do but I never tried the double.

Andy Lamont: Yeah, right. I was all keen to pole out and do that and I re-read John Sanders’ book and he was saying that he didn’t want to pole out the genoa because it rubbed the foresail too much and I was thinking, “Oh, all right.” So I might not do so much of that poling out. But that was what I was talking to David about, whether or not to use the pole or not.

Jessica Watson: Yeah, I mean I’d definitely have it with you but I mean, John’s the real expert. If you’re going to go around three times, you’re going to really going to have to really keep an eye on what’s going to wear out and what’s going to be an issue.

Andy Lamont: Well that’s really interesting. Yeah.

Jessica Watson: Yeah, well do get in touch if there’s anything closer to the time. Yeah I’m sure there’s a lot of good people and you’re talking to all the right people I’m sure…

Andy Lamont: Yeah, how much metho did you take?

Jessica Watson: I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head but it would be in the back of my book. I actually had far too much.

Andy Lamont: It’s in the back of your book? Yeah.

Jessica Watson: I think it is but if not, I’ll follow up with that but I did have far too much.

Andy Lamont: I’ll have to have a look at your book again.

Jessica Watson's route around the world

Jessica Watson: I didn’t need quite that much and it was great with the little cylinders that I had so it was completely sealed and there was no way that any meth could spill even completely upside down.

Andy Lamont: Yeah. I’ve got one of those, it’s fantastic.

Jessica Watson: Great.

Andy Lamont: Yeah, so do you know if you had a lot left over when you came back or whether you’re sort of go back and have a look at how much it took and do you remember that or not?

Jessica Watson: Yeah, no I do remember there was a lot left over. So however much I took, it was too much. But I suppose it’s something that you don’t want to be running out of so you know, cold food would be pretty miserable. Yeah, well good luck with the wind vane. It’s awesome, it takes a bit of getting used to. I’m sure you’ve used one before but lots of spare blades, loads of spare ones because I did snap a few of them and also lines you can never have enough lines because they did even if I set it up perfect, it will still chafe a lot.

Andy Lamont: Yeah. So that’s good. I’ll take lots of spare blades. It’s so light, so you can sort of take as many as you need, can’t you?

Jessica Watson: Yeah, exactly. Honestly, however many you think, just add a few more.

Andy Lamont: What about anti-foul? Do you remember what anti-foul you used?

Jessica Watson: It was an international brand and there was a lot of it on there.

Andy Lamont: Was there?

Jessica Watson: Yeah, there was. Probably the only thing there is you probably couldn’t go high enough because that’s where I had a bit of growth because you obviously healed right over and then so much water higher up that we probably should have gone even higher than we thought. 

Andy Lamont: Yeah, I hear you. I was thinking the same thing actually. I was thinking I might even put a vinyl strut above my water line and to sail that. That’s probably six or seven inches above the water line because yeah, they do tend to get dirty, don’t they? Close above the water line.

Jessica Watson: Yeah, definitely.

Andy Lamont: Well that’s good. Well, look I really appreciate you taking my call. It’s quite great to contact you. I sort of followed when you began to turn around and yeah, I thought it was fantastic what you did. It was very inspiring, so it’s great to talk to you. If I come up with something, I might have to shoot you an email or something like that, if I need some advice on something.

Jessica Watson: Yeah, please do.

Andy Lamont: Ah thanks. Your boat was pretty much perfect as it was, probably the whole way.

Jessica Watson: Perfect in that we didn’t get tempted to over complicate anything. If you keep it simple, there’s only so much that can go wrong. So yeah. I’m sure there’s more we could have done to get the right speed and different things out of it, but it wasn’t about that.

Andy Lamont: No it’s the same for me. It’s about finishing really, that’s the main thing.

Jessica Watson: Yeah, exactly. Good luck with it, I’m sure you’ll be sort of posting or updating somehow on the way and look forward to following you as well.

Andy Lamont: Yeah, well I will be and Dave will be working with me on that, so that will be great. Thanks very much for talking with me Jessica and you have a great day and I’ll shoot you an email and so you’ve got my email address if you ever want to talk to me about anything. Let me know if I can do something for you?

Jessica Watson: Sounds good, yeah, I’ll do that.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, we can arrange that.

At age 23, Jessica Watson has packed a lot into her young life already

Andy Lamont: All right. That would be great. As I said to you, if I have some questions I might just shoot you an email and maybe get some tips, and I’d really appreciate it. So thanks very much and again for all of that. Thanks for your time Jessica.

Jessica Watson: No problem, good luck with all the work.

Andy Lamont: All right, thanks very much.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Thanks Andy.

Andy Lamont: See you, bye.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: See you later on. So that was a few challenges just getting sound clarity and stuff.

Jessica Watson: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So thanks for doing that because I know Andy’s been consuming all of the good advice that he can, form all sorts of people and getting as much as he can read to prepare, he’s got a massive to do list as you can probably appreciate.

Jessica Watson: Gosh yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I know he wants to…

Jessica Watson: Never ending. Yeah. No it’s funny because I sort of go, “Oh, I don’t know how much there is.” I can sort of tell him but you start realising all these little things and yeah, there are a lot of simple little things that would possibly make a big difference.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I saw one of your presentations once and the thing I actually truly felt sorry for you on the sail was having to rebuild the toilet because it’s not and a very pleasant job.

Jessica Watson: No, no that was one thing that it fell apart during knock downs. Bit annoying.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, that’s great and so is there anything else you want to touch on before we wrap up the day Jess? Is there anything else you want to share or talk about?

Jessica Watson: No, I think I’m good. I mean, as I said, I love sailing of all kinds these days and I love good stories and following and looking forward to following trips like that, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to do. I think that the Internet and things like this these days you can just follow such great stories from around the world from home.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Actually, one question, on last question on that. What percentage of your trip was reaching or downwind sailing would you say? Versus going upwards?

Jessica Watson: I don’t know, probably maybe only half or I don’t know? I’ve never really kind of looked at it on percentage terms, yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Because Andy’s going the opposite way so I was just wondering if we were to work backwards on the percentage his was going to be upwind as opposed to downwind.

Jessica Watson: Yeah, he’s in a bit more trouble but I reckon as much of the course is into the prevailing but mine was probably a bit unique because I was supposed to be further south. The idea is you’re down south and you’ve got more wind behind, stronger and faster but I tended to enjoy sunshine warmth and the whole way across the Indian Ocean which is of course such a huge percentage of the trip, I was just so much further north than I really should have been. I was getting a lot more headwinds and lighter winds as well.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right, but you are warmer and drier.

Jessica Watson: Yeah, I was pretty happy about that. I was totally okay that it was a little bit slower.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and if you’re not in a hurry, you might as well stay warm.

Jessica Watson: Exactly, and just the severity of every storm that came past was just that you just see it, it was so blatant on the weather charts that if I was a couple degree further south it would be 20 knots more and that’s not good.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. Okay, well, Jess, it’s been really, really great talking with you today. So thank you so much for traveling to the Queensland Cruising Yacht Club so we could sit together and thanks for sharing your story on the Ocean Sailing Podcast and thanks for taking the time out to talk to Andy as well. I know he really would appreciate that and I’m sure when he gets off, when he got off the phone he probably had five more questions straight away for you.

Jessica Watson: I’m sure, yeah no problem, it’s been great.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, great, good luck with Deckee. It looks like a great business model, a great idea and it’s going to be a great new website and a great service. So I encourage everybody to take advantage of and you’ll find all sorts of great help and advice and tips and stories and blog articles and reviews, and it’s a great looking the website, so good luck with that, that adventure.

Jessica Watson: Thank you very much.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Thanks Jess. 

Interviewer: David Hows

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