Hero's welcome for Jessica
TEENAGE adventure sailor Jessica Watson is on dry land after her epic solo around the world voyage.
The 16-year-old Queenslander stepped ashore at the Sydney Opera House a couple of minutes before 3pm (AEST) Saturday.
The youngster has now completed her solo, unassisted circumnavigation of the globe - an epic 23,000 nautical mile (about 38,000km) journey.
Camera crews mobbed the teenager as she stepped ashore and onto the pink carpet, while the thousands-strong crowds cheered their support.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd shook Jessica's hands, as did NSW Premier Kristina Keneally, as the teenager struggled with a huge presentation bouquet.
She was a "hero" admired by Australians, and "do our nation proud".
"You have lived your dream," he added.
Youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo, nonstop and unassisted
The 16-year-old Queenslander sailed through the Sydney Heads at 1.55pm (AEST) on Saturday to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo, nonstop and unassisted.
Her mum, Julie, cried as her daughter crossed through the Sydney Heads finish line.
"She's home," she said.
"She said she would sail around the world, and she has.
"Home is the sailor, home from the sea."
The crowd roared as the horn sounded to mark the momentous end to Jessica's 23,000 nautical mile (about 38,000km) journey.
But onlookers will have to wait at least another hour to see the youngster dock at the Sydney Opera House.
Customs officials will inspect her boat and stamp her passport before she is escorted along a pink carpet to a stage where she will be met by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and NSW Premier Kristina Keneally.
Watson will then address the audience in a speech about her adventure.
Last hour of an epic voyage
The young Queenslander - who hopes to go down in history as the youngest person to sail solo and unassisted around the world - said she's taking deep breaths to stay calm amid the excitement of returning home.
With an hour or two of her epic voyage remaining, Watson said in a live interview broadcast at the Sydney Opera House that she was mentally preparing herself for the homecoming.
"It's all building up," she said.
"It's definitely getting exciting."
However, despite rough seas and her impending return, Friday night wasn't a sleepless one.
"I managed to get a couple of hours' sleep," she said.
"I am taking a deep breath before I get in."
The 16-year-old is relishing the last moments of her odyssey, saying she will miss being at sea, but is looking forward to fresh fruit, washing her hair, seeing her family and being a normal teenager.
Watson will set foot on dry land wearing shorts and expects to be a bit wobbly on her legs.
"It's been so long since I have been able to stretch my legs," she said.
"Every time I have come in from a short passage, I have been wobbly for a few days.
"I am expecting to be very wobbly."
Watson realises life will change the moment she disembarks from her pink yacht, Ella's Pink Lady.
"I do realise it is going to change and I am going to try to do normal things," she said.
Earlier her manager Andrew Fraser said her trip along the NSW coast had been slowed because of a torn mainsail.
Mr Fraser said she was battling rough seas and strong winds.
'It's very tricky out there - the swell is very big," he said.
"...You have to remember that sail has been in use for seven months."
Pink carpet welcome for Jessica
With tears in their eyes, Jessica Watson’s parents could not contain their pride as they hovered in a helicopter just 10 to 15 metres above the solo sailor off Sydney.
Today, for the first time in almost seven months, Roger and Julie Watson will be able to hug their 16-year-old as she steps onto a jetty outside the Sydney Opera House before making her way down a 100 metre long pink carpet to share the stage with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
After 200-plus days at sea, Jessica is expected to have great difficulty walking and will take some time to reclaim her ‘land legs’.
On hand will not only be Jessica’s parents but also siblings Emily, Tom and Hannah, along with Jessica’s best friend Pamela.
Jessica is expected to finish her 38,000 kilometre (23,000 nautical mile) journey about 11.30am at Sydney Heads before arriving at the Opera House to meet her family at the Man O War Jetty about 12.30pm in front of a national television audience.
Her final hours at sea will be far from an easy ride home with the weather bureau predicting winds of up to 45 knots and waves of up to seven metres offshore.
Adventurer Dick Smith told the Daily last night that Jessica’s boat looked ‘tiny’ as she battled 40 knot winds and five metre seas.
“It was quite frightening,” he said of the conditions. “It looked as she was a tiny little boat in a giant ocean.”
Jessica’s mother, who sent a special mention of thanks for the Coast and Daily’s support of Jessica, described her sheer joy at seeing her girl up so close.
“They had a few tears in their eyes,” Dick Smith revealed of the emotion as Jessica spoke with her parents on radio.
“I can see you,” the Watsons said as they spotted their girl.
“Isn’t she the most beautiful girl you could see,” Mr Watson said as he looked down on his daughter waving in the rain.
Coast MP Peter Slipper is nominating Jessica for Young Australian of the Year, while Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore says she is considering giving Watson a key to the city.
“In these days of celebrity worship ... it’s so refreshing to see a role model who’s famous for all the right reasons,” Mr Slipper wrote in his nomination.
“Jessica hasn’t achieved glory using her looks or shock tactics – she’s in the spotlight for her genuine talent, courage and enormous sense of adventure.”
Dick Smith couldn’t agree more.
“I don’t think she has any idea of the welcome home she is going to get but she deserves every bit of it.”
In her blog, Jessica, who can't wait to get her driver's licence when she returns to the Coast, described her countdown to finishing.
“I’ve spent the day on deck watching us surf along with a grin from one seriously cold ear to the other numb one.”
“Have I mentioned how excited I am?
“It’s like the day before Christmas except I don’t ever remember getting this excited about Christmas.”
Related Jessica Watson stories