Well, she did it.
You had only to observe the huge crowds waiting around the foreshores of Sydney harbour to see that, whatever many thought of a 16-year-old girl setting off alone to sail around the world, they now accepted Jessica Watson as their very own hero.
Tens of thousands waving flags and calling her name gave Jessica, the youngest person to sail unassisted around the world – and into the history books – a rock star welcome when she moored her yacht beside Sydney Opera House.
Battling enormous waves at times, fighting boredom during calm weather and dismissing the words of critics who said she would never do it, the plucky teenager spent seven months at sea and travelled 23,000 nautical miles to achieve a childhood dream.
When she collided with a cargo ship off the Queensland coast while preparing for her incredible journey, dire warnings were expressed that her quest to sail around the world was doomed to failure. Experienced sailors said she’d be lucky to even get away from Australian waters.
But as her 34ft yacht Pink Lady was escorted into the harbour by a flotilla of dozens of spectator craft her critics were silenced.
Her achievement at becoming the youngest person to sail around the world unassisted has set her up for hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorships, a documentary and a book – and won the hearts of most Australians including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
He was at the Opera House, along with other politicians, Jessica’s parents Julie and Roger who had travelled to Sydney from their Queensland home, and captains of industry as the tiny yacht battled through one last hurdle – heavy seas and a torn mainsail as she came through the mouth of the outer harbour, delaying her expected arrival by two hours.
Despite the incredible welcome she received, Jessica insisted that her achievement was not about setting a record but following a dream. ‘I’m still just Jess,’ she said by satellite phone as she neared her destination.
‘She was always going to be “our Jess”, despite this achievement’ said her mother as, with the Opera House in sight at the end of her voyage, the teenager, overwhelmed by the enormous welcome, commented: ‘I think there’s going to be a great party.’
Her voyage will not be registered as a record in any case in order to discourage ambitious parents pushing younger children off to sea.
What she wanted to do was prove to other young people that they did not have to be anyone special to achieve something big. ‘You just have to want it,’ she said.
Once she has recovered her landlubber legs, Jessica plans to celebrate with English teenager Mike Perham and Australian Jesse Martin, two young sailors who hold solo circumnavigation records.
Among the crowds was 89-year-old Patrick Lee who, dressed in Australian flags, sailing badges and a Neptune pitchfork, said: ‘I’m an old bloke who’s turned up to say thanks for what Jessica did. It’s an amazing achievement and an inspiration to both young and old.’
In her blog as she neared the Australian coast, Jessica wrote jokingly that she was going to miss getting up and going sailing every day.
‘I’m going to miss the kick I get from overcoming challenges by myself, flying along in the dark.
‘A new sunset every night and the time I always take to watch it. I’m going to miss watching the waves and sea.
‘I know it’s been nearly seven months and I’m still not bored by it.’
Her parents were the first to greet her as she stepped onto a pink carpet on the Opera House forecourt. The tears flowed as she told them how happy she was to see them again.
They laughed as she struggled to stand up after so many weeks at sea.
‘You’re back and you did it,’ said her mother.
Jessica brushed back a tear as she turned to look at the yacht that had served her so faithfully during her epic voyage that had begun and ended in Sydney.
Prime Minister Rudd gave Jessica a hug in front of the enormous crowd at the Opera House, then described her as ‘Australia’s newest hero.’
Welcoming her back to dry land, he said she might feel a little wobbly on her feet but in the eyes of all Australians she now stood tall.
‘You are a hero for all Australians, for all Australian women,’ he said. ‘You do our nation proud…you have lived your dream.’
Mr Rudd added: ‘This is a great day for our country. You do all of our hearts proud.’
Jessica had one simple message for the crowd, the nation – and the world:
‘If you have a dream, follow it. No matter how hard it might seem, just follow it.’
It’s a story that has raced around the world, shocking and sickening everyone – the tale of a sex-mad grandmother and her grandson who are expecting a baby together.
I’m waiting to hear more from this couple in the hope that they can confirm this weird arrangement or write it off as a hoax. I suspect the time is drawing near for the truth to out. Meanwhile, allow your mind to boggle….
Grey-haired Pearl Carter and her 26-year-old grandson Phil Bailey are madly in love with one another, they are reported as saying, and while she is well past the age of bearing a child herself, they say they are eagerly awaiting the baby that is developing in the womb of a surrogate mother.
The abhorrent love match between the granny and her grandson, 46 years her junior, has been turning stomachs as it speeds around the globe, bloggers saying it has left them feeling uncomfortable and dirty.
Little wonder when Miss Carter talks in an interview of luring Mr Bailey into her bedroom, kissing and seducing him, leaving him to claim later that ‘making love to Pearl was a real eye opener. It was love combined with all this sexual tension that had been building up.’
Realising she could not give her young lover a child, Miss Carter has used her retirement money of £20,000 to find a surrogate mother and buy a donor egg to inseminate with Mr Bailey’s sperm.
A sensational and stomach-churning story that has run big in a New Zealand women’s magazine this week – and left computer screens burning hot as it has whizzed through cyberspace.
But is it true?
While many readers believe the couple are living in New Zealand, New Idea, the Auckland-based magazine which is running the story has failed to mention any home town or even a country where the couple are living.
The original story appears to have emerged from the United States, in fact, for a more detailed version run on America’s News Relay website describes the couple as living in Indiana.
Whether News Relay picked it up from another source is uncertain for the story has been running out of control on the web. But it appears to have been around for at least a week to enable New Idea in New Zealand to pick it up and publish it.
There have been claims by bloggers that the affair is so gross that it just cannot be true, while others suggest that a photo of the couple, with Mr Bailey’s arms around his grandmother, has been manipulated. Another blogger suggests that the photos might be real but a prankster has written a fanciful story to go with them.
While the grandmother and grandson are certain to soon emerge to confirm their story if there is any truth in it, we can only ponder over the claims in the astonishing tale.
According to the couple, Miss Carter had an illegitimate child, Lynette, when she was 18 while living with her Catholic parents in Indiana. The child, a girl, was given away to prevent the family’s shame.
Miss Carter never saw her daughter again and eventually married, but had no more children.
Meanwhile in 1983, so the story goes, Lynette had a baby of her own – Phil – and raised him as a single mother.
Now Mr Bailey says that when he was 18 he learned his mother’s story – and she also told him that she was dying from brain cancer. Six months later she passed away and he decided to track down his grandmother. It was three years before he found her and wrote her a letter.
Miss Carter was stunned to hear from him and when she saw his photo ‘I thought what a handsome and sexy man he was before pinching myself – he was my grandson!’
She says a friend told her about Genetic Sexual Attraction, which occurs when close relatives are attracted to each other.
In 2006, the story claims, grandmother and grandson met for the first time and, Miss Carter declares, ‘from the first moment that I saw him, I knew we would never have a (normal) grandmother-grandson relationship. For the first time in years I felt sexually alive.’
Mr Bailey, a carpenter, says: ‘I wanted to kiss her there and then. My feelings were overwhelming.’
They went shopping together, dined together – and in the second week she lured him to her bedroom, expecting rejection ‘but instead he kissed me back.’
They set up home together and make love three times a week, unable to keep their hands off each other.
Then they talked of having a baby together – and surrogate mother Roxanne Campbell came into their lives after reading their appeal in an advertisement.
Now heavily pregnant, Roxanne admits she was initially shocked when she learned of the relationship between the budding parents, whom she sees once a month when they accompany her for scans.
‘I make no apologies and I believe God’s given me a second chance,’ says Miss Carter. ‘I never in a million years thought at 72 I’d be “pregnant”.’
Time will now tell if this is a phantom pregnancy – or whether, in a few weeks, an elderly woman and her grandson will be strolling down the street with a pushchair containing their baby – amid a storm of outrage.
* Read my story in London’s Daily Mail, here: