A Maritime Safety report has found that Jessica Watson did not follow standard procedures which could have prevented the collision with a 63,000 tonne Chinese bulk carrier just a day after she set sail off southeast Queensland last month. Jessica was on her way to Sydney to begin her attempt to become the youngest person to sail solo, unassisted and continuously around the world.
The report said Jessica fell asleep before her vessel was hit and dragged alongside the cargo ship and that she didn't turn on a device which would have warned her about the crash. She also didn't produce a clear, plotted plan for her journey, didn't develop a fatigue management plan and kept a log with “irregular latitude and longitude entries”.
Acting Queensland Premier Paul Lucas has called on Jessica to give up her quest. He said that Queensland authorities had officially cautioned her and her parents but that they couldn't prevent her leaving as she required only her parents' consent. However, Premier Anna Bligh has supported Jessica, saying “you don't take on a big dream like this and (baulk) at the first hurdle”.
Jessica's parents said they backed their daughter. The discussion on this website has run about 50/50 between those saying she's too young and inexperienced and those saying “go for it”. However, a poll on NineMSN is currently running nearly two-to-one against the trip.
What most commentators in the mainstream press don't seem to realise is that under the Colregs (International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea), authorities DO have the right to prosecute solo sailors. The Colregs state under Rule 5 “Look-out” that “Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions…” Sailing alone, that's not physically possible for more than about 48 hours, so technically all solo sailing is illegal. However, it appears that while we can be prosecuted AFTER the event if we have a collision, we can't legally be prevented from leaving on a journey where it is obvious that for considerable periods we will be breaking the regulations.
As it seems certain that Jessica will soon embark on the journey, this debate will continue to rage until the trip either ends in disaster or, hopefully, she proves the doubters wrong and completes her journey without major incident or the need for outside assistance.
UPDATE: STATEMENT FROM JESSICA'S OFFICIAL WEBSITE.
Jessica Watson and her team wish to advise all of her supporters that she remains on track to achieve her goal of being the youngest to sail solo around the world.
Further to today’s media reports, Jessica’s parents Roger and Julie confirmed receipt of an official letter prepared by Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) in regards to the incident with Ella’s Pink Lady and the bulk carrier Silver Yang.
The MSQ letter was confidential and made some recommendations which have been adhered to, despite the fact that the incident occurred outside MSQ’s jurisdiction.
It is disappointing that the MSQ letter has been leaked to the media.
Jessica’s team wish to advise that they respect all of the maritime authorities and the important role they play in ensuring safety on the sea. Jessica has conducted herself in a highly professional manner right throughout the enquiry process. It is only right to expect a reciprocation of that level of professionalism.
Jessica’s team will continue to treat the MSQ letter as confidential and, as such, will not be making any comment on the contents.
MSQ has last week conducted inspections of the recent repairs to Ella’s Pink Lady and are satisfied with the safety of the vessel. The team is now undergoing final preparations on Ella’s Pink Lady on the Gold Coast, with Jessica planning to sail to Sydney later next week.