SYDNEY, May 16, 2010 (AFP) - Australian teenager Jessica Watson says that she talked to herself and yearned for land during the seven-month voyage which saw her become the youngest person to sail solo around the world.
Watson sailed into Sydney Harbour a national hero on Saturday, with tens of thousands of people gathered to welcome the 16-year-old home from the unassisted journey during which she had battled towering waves and loneliness.
She said the reception, which was led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, was "pretty amazing" after months at sea during which she barely saw another boat, let alone a fellow human being.
Asked whether she had begun to talk to herself because of the solitude, she said: "I’ve always done that. I did notice that towards the end I was probably talking to myself more."
"Everyone seems to think, ’Out there by yourself, ooh spooky, creepy. But it’s not actually like that out on the water," she told Network Ten, adding that there had been some occasions when it was so calm it was eerie.
Watson, who had earlier told reporters she had been craving fresh fruit and a salad after her voyage, revealed she hardly ever slept at night on the boat, preferring to nap during the early hours of the morning.
And she said it was the rocking of the waves, as much as the physical efforts of sailing, which wore on her during the 23,000-nautical mile voyage.
"Just the constant motion, it just gets you after a while. Especially after a rough week," she said in the first of several carefully arranged media interviews recorded shortly after her arrival.
"All you want to do is just walk around a room, or lie down, do anything without clinging on, holding on the whole time."
The teenager, who had been criticised before her departure as too young and inexperienced for the perilous journey after she crashed into a freighter in a trial run, also admitted to doubts about the voyage.
"For a while there it was driving me mad because I hadn’t actually done any solo sailing and there I was telling the world I was about to sail solo, non-stop, unassisted around the world," she said.
"I knew I could do it but it was just that niggling doubt."
Watson was Sunday keeping a low profile, resting at a Sydney hotel with her nearest and dearest and enjoying her first sleep-in in several months, while the media hailed her a hero.
"You little beauty," read The Sunday Telegraph’s front-page headline, adding that the petite Watson had "sailed into our harbour and into our hearts yesterday."
The Sun-Herald also praised the plucky Queenslander, saying the nation was riding a "wave of inspiration" after she brought her 10-metre (33-foot) bright pink yacht safely home after 210 days at sea.
Watson’s manager Andrew Fraser said the world had now changed for Watson, who turns 17 on Tuesday and who has said she wants to finish school and learn how to drive a car.
"She’s going to be very busy... she knows that, but for now she’s looking forward to it," he said.
The schoolgirl will spend the next couple of months completing a book about the voyage, to be called "True Spirit," and a television documentary.
On her return on Saturday, Prime Minister Rudd, who was waiting at the Opera House, praised her as "our newest Australian hero."
"At 16 years old, you are a hero for all young Australians, you are also a hero for all young Australian women, you do our nation proud. This is a great day for our country," Rudd said.
Still a little shaky on her feet after so long at sea, Watson disagreed.
"I don’t consider myself a hero, I’m an ordinary girl," she told the welcoming crowd.
"You don’t have to be someone special to achieve something amazing, you’ve just got to have a dream, believe in it and work hard. I’d like to think I’ve proved that anything really is possible if you set your mind to it."Well done kid,............ HF&RV