True Spirit: The True Story of a 16-Year-Old Australian Who Sailed Solo, Nonstop, and Unassisted Around the World


On May 15, 2010, after 210 days at sea and more than 22,000 nautical miles, 16-year-old Jessica Watson sailed her 33-foot boat triumphantly back to land. She had done it. She was the youngest person to sail solo, unassisted, and nonstop around the world.

Jessica spent years preparing for this moment, years focused on achieving her dream. Yet only eight months before, she collided with a 63,000-ton freighter. It seemed to many that she'd failed ...

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True Spirit: The True Story of a 16-Year-Old Australian Who Sailed Solo, Nonstop, and Unassisted Around the World

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On May 15, 2010, after 210 days at sea and more than 22,000 nautical miles, 16-year-old Jessica Watson sailed her 33-foot boat triumphantly back to land. She had done it. She was the youngest person to sail solo, unassisted, and nonstop around the world.

Jessica spent years preparing for this moment, years focused on achieving her dream. Yet only eight months before, she collided with a 63,000-ton freighter. It seemed to many that she'd failed before she'd even begun, but Jessica brushed herself off, held her head high, and kept going.

Told in Jessica's own words, True Spirit is the story of her epic voyage. It tells how a young girl, once afraid of everything, decided to test herself on an extraordinary adventure that included gale-force winds, mountainous waves, hazardous icebergs, and extreme loneliness on a vast sea, with no land in sight and no help close at hand. True Spirit is an inspiring story of risk, guts, determination, and achievement that ultimately proves we all have the power to live our dreams-no matter how big or small.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451616316
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 9/7/2010
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 355
  • Sales rank: 406,907
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jessica Watson was born on May 18th, 1993 on the Gold Coast of Australia . On May 15, 2010, at just sixteen, she became the the youngest person to have ever sail solo, unassisted and non-stop around the globe.

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Read an Excerpt

A note from the author

Thanks to all the people who have followed my blog. When I was putting this book together with my publisher, I started to rewrite the story of the voyage in a more traditional way, but it didn’t work. I lost something doing this. Instead, I decided to include the blogs, though they have been edited sometimes, and then expand on them to reveal things I wasn’t quite ready to talk about when I was at sea and to share things I have learned since. I hope you enjoy reading about my whole journey, not just my 210 days on the ocean.

It can get a bit confusing but throughout this book I have used miles to measure distances on land, and nautical miles to measure distances at sea.

1 nautical mile = 1.15 miles

All temperatures are given in degrees Fahrenheit.

I’ve tried to explain the sailing terms as I go, but I have also included a glossary at the back of the book—I hope you find it helpful.

Jessica Watson, 2010

Chart of Jessica’s circumnavigation

  1. 1. Departed from Sydney, October 18, 2009
  2. 2. Crossed the equator, November 19, 2009
  3. 3. Caught my first (and only) fish, November 23, 2009
  4. 4. Christmas at Point Nemo—the farthest point from any land
  5. 5. Rounded Cape Horn, January 13, 2010
  6. 6. Experienced four knockdowns in the South Atlantic Ocean, January 23, 2010
  7. 7. Passed south of Cape Town and Cape Agulhas, February 23, 2010
  8. 8. Roughly halfway between Cape Agulhas and Cape Leeuwin, March 19, 2010
  9. 9. Sailed under Cape Leeuwin, back in Australian waters, April 11, 2010
  10. 10. Wild seas rounding Tasmania, May 2, 2010
  11. 11. Arrived back in Sydney Harbour, May 15, 2010

What is it in the sea life which is so powerful in its influence? … It whispers in the wind of the veldt, it hums in the music of the tropical night … above all it is there to the man who holds the nightwatch alone at sea. It is the sense of things done, of things endured, of meanings not understood; the secret of the Deep Silence, which is of eternity, which the heart cannot speak.

From Mast and Sail in Europe and Asia
by H. Warington Smyth (1867–1943)


A half-moon had risen, giving the sea a silvery sheen above the darkness below. After sunset, the still, glassy conditions of the afternoon had been blown away by a light wind from the west, and Ella’s Pink Lady was making good time under full sail with the mainsail, staysail, and headsail set. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions for my first night out. Watching Ella’s Pink Lady sail along at a steady 4 knots, I felt extremely proud of my cute little pink yacht. I contemplated the next few days before my circumnavigation. It was a beautiful night, and the thought of something going wrong was the farthest thing from my mind.

I’d left Mooloolaba with an escort of boats and helicopters at around ten that morning, and after fifteen hours at sea and weeks of full-time preparation I was feeling tired and slightly queasy. It normally took me a few days to find my sea legs. Confident that everything was fine, I decided to put my head down for a few minutes and have a catnap.

Ella’s Pink Lady and I were about 15 nautical miles east of North Stradbroke Island by this point. I’d have liked to have been farther offshore, away from the local fishing fleets and possible shipping. However, the current and earlier light winds meant I hadn’t sailed very far since leaving. After scanning the horizon, checking the radar and AIS (alarm indication system), and setting my alarms, I climbed into my bunk, still wearing my life jacket and harness.

A horrible bone-shuddering explosion of noise woke me as Ella’s Pink Lady was suddenly stopped in her tracks and violently spun around. I jumped up as the awful grinding noise continued, and a quick glance up through the companionway told me that we’d collided with something huge: a ship. The sky was a wall of black steel, towering over me and obscuring the stars. The roar of engines filled my head and my whole world.

Leaning out into the cockpit, I grabbed at the tiller, flicked off the autopilot, and tried to steer us. It was hopeless. There was nowhere to go, nothing I could do. Shuddering and screeching, we were being swept down the ship’s hull. Another glance told me that the ship’s stern, with its bridges protruding, was fast approaching. The noises were getting louder and, knowing that my mast and rigging were about to come down, I rushed back below hoping for some protection.

With my hands over my head, I sat on my bunk as a whole new and far more terrible set of noises began. A few seconds passed, but to me they felt like hours. The cupboard next to me ripped apart as the chainplate behind the bulkhead splintered it into a million pieces. The boat heeled to one side, then sprang upright with the loudest explosion yet as the entangled rigging suddenly freed itself and crashed to the deck.

When the boat steadied and the roar of the engines started to fade, I went back on deck. It was a mess. There was rigging, lines, and huge rusty flakes of black paint and slivers of metal from the ship’s hull everywhere. Beyond Ella’s Pink Lady I could see the dark outline of the huge ship’s stern slipping away unaffected, leaving us at a stop in the foaming white slipstream.

Shocked and disbelieving, my head still reeling, I desperately tried to come to grips with what had happened while checking the bilges for water and the hull for damage. All I could think was, “my poor boat,” and while I flicked switches to see what equipment still worked, it became a sort of chant—“my poor boat, my poor, poor boat.” I was numb and still shaking off the last remnants of sleep; being scared hadn’t crossed my mind. My only thoughts were for Ella’s Pink Lady.

Taking deep breaths to calm my shaking hands, I picked up the radio to call the ship and then grabbed the phone to tell Dad what had happened. “I’m okay,” I told him. “I’m fine, perfectly okay, but we’ve been hit by a ship, we’ve been dismasted,” I finished in a rush.

Back on deck, alone and miles from land, it took me more than two hours to slowly clear the deck, lash the broken rigging in place, and cut away the tangled headsail. I had to pause frequently to lean over the side and throw up, as my earlier queasiness had turned into full-blown seasickness. Finally, I turned on the engine to motor the six hours to the Gold Coast.

How quickly everything had changed.

Ahead of me lay at least 23,000 nautical miles of empty ocean, furious gales, and the threat of multiple knockdowns as I sailed around the world. But on that day, I doubted that anything I was to face in my months alone at sea would be as difficult as holding my head high as I steered a crippled Ella’s Pink Lady between the Gold Coast breakwaters and saw the crowds lining the river, the fleet of spectator boats, and the scrum of waiting media.

I didn’t know if the crowd was there to show their support or to witness what many thought was my early defeat. I had to force myself to ignore negative thoughts and to concentrate only on guiding us up the river, throwing the occasional wave and half-hearted smile to nearby boats.

I knew that in one horrifying incident I had given fuel to anyone who had criticized me and my parents for what I was trying to do. In their eyes, I had proved exactly why I shouldn’t ever be permitted to sail alone. However, in that same moment, I had proved to myself that I had the ability to achieve my dream. Any doubts about whether I could cope mentally vanished. I realized my inner strength.

In the coming months, when Ella’s Pink Lady was thrown violently about by the wind and waves, or when home felt a million miles away as we drifted, becalmed, and the days ran into each other in slow motion, I was able to look back on that day after the collision with the 63,000-ton bulk carrier Silver Yang and draw strength from knowing I’d held myself together when all I’d really wanted to do was fall apart. As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That tanker could have killed me, but it didn’t. And in its wake I was stronger, more determined, and ready for whatever came my way … almost.

© 2010 Jessica Watson

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Table of Contents

A note from the author ix

Chart of Jessica's circumnavigation x

Preface 1

Part 1 The Starting Point 5

Part 2 The Voyage 89

Stage 1 Sydney and North to the Line Islands 95

Stage 2 South to Chile and Cape Horn 155

Stage 3 North After Cape Horn 213

Stage 4 The South Atlantic to the African Continent 217

Stags 5 Rounding South Africa 251

Stage 6 Southern Ocean to Home 261

Part 3 Home 327

A guide to Ella's Pink Lady 342

Internal guide 344

Glossary 346

Acknowledgments 349

Photographic acknowledgments 353

Sponsors 355

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 5, 2010

    True Belief...True Spirit

    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars True Spirit, True Belief, September 30, 2010
    By MollyLam - See all my reviews
    This review is from: True Spirit: The True Story of a 16-Year-Old Australian Who Sailed Solo, Nonstop, and Unassisted Around the World (Paperback)
    Years ago, a friend said to me:
    "Every single one of us has a fierce strength within...that sometimes goes unrealized.
    But, when we discover it...amazing things can happen."
    Such is the story of this amazing young woman,
    who discovered her fierce strength,
    and developed that strength into a force that would lead her to the realization of a dream.
    Tales of adventure are captivating.
    Jessica Watson's tale is no exception.
    What makes her story different from the rest,
    is the warm and engaging way in which it is told.
    Her story is not just read, it is experienced.
    Readers find themselves involved in this amazing voyage...
    during the becalmed, serene days; and the turbulent, stormy nights.
    We are there as Jessica sings happily at the top of her lungs,
    and when she struggles with the difficulties of being homesick.
    Most importantly, we are there at the triumphant ending,
    when Jessica achieves her dream.
    "True Spirit" is not just a book.
    It's the invitation to become a part of the adventure of a lifetime.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 4, 2010

    True Spirit Truly Inspires

    Every once in a blue moon someone comes along and has a different take on how to live life. All of us, when we were young, read about people doing amazing things, but how many of us when putting the book down said to themselves, "I could do that " and then did it!

    Imagine what chain of events would have had to occur for a teenager who was washing dishes to pay for sailing experience, with no boat and only a dream, to become the girl who two years later would sail into Sydney harbor to the rapturous welcome of tens of thousands of fans, the public praise of the Prime Minister, and international sailing stardom!

    Written, first person, in an engaging and understated style, the book "True Spirit" is the story of how a young girl from an adventurous family was taken by the dream of sailing around the world, solo, nonstop and unassisted after hearing a book by Jesse Martin read to her by her Mother. Martin, who had circumnavigated ten years before, had written how he was just an average person with a dream. Through hard work and dogged perseverance, Jessica replicated his achievement a few days short of her seventeenth birthday. Jess's charming personality really comes through in the book, as it did in the captivating blogs written by her during the voyage.

    "True Spirit" starts with Jessica's life before the dream takes hold at age eleven. Jessica gives some background of her unusual childhood living on a boat, and on the development of her taste for adventure.

    Following, is a description of how all the various pieces came together, from preparing the boat, to the sponsorships and public debate over the wisdom of someone so young undertaking such a difficult and possibly deadly voyage. The events surrounding her dramatic ship collision at night during a practice run, as well as the resulting public debate are covered.

    The book really takes off as she leaves Sydney harbor and into the unknown. As part of the voyage narrative, the blogs that Jessica sent from sea are included and elaborated on, giving the reader an insight into Jess's emotional highs and lows while solo voyaging. All was not smooth sailing. In the South Atlantic the yacht suffered four serious knockdowns. The blogs are the heart of the book, and give the reader a sense of what it is like to be at sea, with its vast sky, sealife, and raw power. The daily rhythm of life at sea is captured, with its routines, reflective times, and constantly changing weather conditions. Jessica becomes one with the sea and her boat, Ella's Pink Lady.

    The last part of the book chronicles the incredible welcome that Jessica received after completing her record breaking voyage, as a country stopped to welcome home one of its own who dared to carry on in the face of adversity, and fulfill her ambition.

    Upon finishing the book I was struck by how absolutely amazing Jessica is, and how much she accomplished in a very short time. A humble soul, Jessica insists she is an average person. Her message to the world is that we all have the ability to do remarkable things, we just have to dream, plan and work hard! Jessica Watson is an inspiration, and I'm quite sure we haven't heard the last from this very special person.

    Thomas Point
    Maryland USA

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 18, 2010

    A compelling story told with youthful honesty and passion

    I was able to quickly read Jessica Watson's vivid account of her round the world voyage on Ella's Pink Lady. Why quickly? It was because I had followed her voyage almost from the beginning and read the blog updates almost every day and posted comments quite often. Therefore, much of it was revisiting familiar territory while living her adventure again.

    "True Spirit" is a unpretentious account of a young girl that had a dream and meticulously charted a course to realize and accomplish that dream which she did on May 15, 2010 when she sailed back into Sydney Harbor. Her odyssey was the culmination of years (yes years) of planning, preparation and training in order to sail smart and with caution. This was in no way a spur of the moment decision.

    In the book, a reader will quickly realize the enormous support and encouragement she received from her family, her friends and professional sailors as she untiringly soaked up information she would need. This approach carried her through some absolutely terrifying moments where she experienced six knockdowns from brutal waves of 10 meters height and more. Alone at sea for 210 days, she experienced highs and lows but with maturity beyond her years she constantly rose to meet any challenge the sea could throw at her

    ."True Spirit" is a case study in human perseverance and determination and I highly recommend it to anyone who seeks a uplifting account of a young girl who first defined her dream and set out to make it happen. She aptly defines inspiration and in doing so has become a role model for young and old alike.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 8, 2012

    Inspiring story

    The Nook version of the book has youtube video links!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Great read!

    True Spirit is an incredibly inspiring story about a young girl who overcame challenges, and sailed solo, nonstop, and unassisted around the world. Jessica was very young when her family moved out to live on a boat. At first she was hesitant about sailing in general, but then grew to love it. At only 11 she made the decision that she wanted to sail around the world after she read a book by Jesse Martin about his adventures sailing around the world. She was instantly inspired and through lots of perseverance and determination, on October 19, 2009 she took off from Sydney, Australia on her boat called Ella's Pink Lady. During the hard months that followed on her adventure, she blogged and used this as a diary. which is elaborated throughout the novel. She faced many challenges such as bad weather and loneliness, but was able to overcome the harsh conditions in order to live her dream. After around 7 long months, Jessica sails back to Sydney where she is greeted by her family and thousands of Australian fans. She proved that anything is possible when you put your mind to it, and she sent this message to people worldwide through her amazing book. The theme of her story is that any average person can do amazing things if they put their mind to it and make it happen. I loved this story and its amazing message! I was incredibly inspired. My only dislike was it dragged on a little from day to day. However, I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for a great read because it will change your life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2010

    Truly Inspirational

    As one faithful blogger wrote regarding Jessica Watson: ".Every so often, the Universe presents humankind with a soul uniquely qualified to uplift and inspire others simply with the goodness of their being. You are most definitely one such special soul, kind lady."

    I followed Jessica's adventure daily by way of her blog and I was immersed in her story from before she set sail until long after her grand homecoming in Sydney Harbor where she was welcomed by 100,000 well wishers. True Spirit doesn't just revisit the great memories that I have of her adventure. It builds on those memories and heightens the emotions that I experienced while following her voyage. In True Spirit, Jessica vividly conveys the beauty and the peace that the sea has to offer as well as its tempestuous power and the respect that it demands. As you read True Spirit, you will feel the wide range of emotions that Jessica experienced during her 210 day solo, non-stop circumnavigation aboard a 34' sailboat. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll experience anxiety, and you'll feel your adventurous spirit soar. And above all, you will most definitely be uplifted by Jessica's incredible warmth, positive attitude and indomitable passion to live her dream. True Spirit is one of the most inspirational stories that you will ever have the pleasure of reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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