Why I gave Pink Lady to Jessica Watson

Adventure is a good thing and has ruled my life from day one. In fact, if you had to describe the meaning of life, well, it’s an ADVENTURE!

So what is an adventure? – “Any activity with an unknown outcome”.

While I have often supported and promoted young adventurers when I can (including Jesse Martin in “Lionheart” who inspired Jessica), when I turned 50, I decided to make it a direction for the second half of my life. Adventure makes good people!

Jessica called me one day and told her story. She was 15, ambitious, determined with a big dream. I listened. We spoke for 30 minutes and agreed to stay in touch. I sent her my BOC KNOCKDOWN video. I told her she needed a boat no matter how big the dream. Without that, no one would care.

Six months older and wiser she still had no boat. We spoke often and she listened. It was going nowhere. She and her dream impressed me.

In 1995 I lived for a year in isolation with my wife in a 2.4m x 3.6m box chained to rocks in Antarctica. We produced a documentary – Two Below Zero. Before that a major sponsor agreed to back us. Just a formality for the seven board members to sign off. At that board meeting, one disagreed and in 20 minutes convinced six more we may die! The sponsorship was cancelled.

In January 2009 I was on an expedition in Antarctica. It was clear to me that if Jessica did not get a boat now, it could not happen. Should I get her one? But then I thought, ‘what if she dies?’. Instantly I remembered that boardroom decision.

At that moment, with tears in my eyes, I decided to buy her an S&S 34. I would underwrite the cost of all the equipment to make sure she had enough to be safe, launch her first press conference announcing the dream and the inevitable ‘day after reaction’, then find her a manager. At that point I had never actually met Jessica. It had been a long, warm, cyber relationship. I didn’t tell her my decision. 

Don and Jessica on board “Pink Lady”

One month later in Hobart we met for the first time for an hour between her flights to and from yachts gaining sailing experience. It was a poignant meeting. She made a strong impression. I told her I will buy the boat. She said ‘wow!’. I flew to her parents to explain what this meant. The risks, reward, the good, the bad and the reality of life, death and living well. Above all I explained what I thought of Jessica and why. She could do it. They agreed! I bought a boat. 

I gave Jessica the keys with a long list of risk mitigating conditions and one strong word of advice. SHE must make all the final decisions. Not me, not any mentor, or adviser. I suggested a North Pacific route before Cape Horn to settle her and the boat. I placed a full page advertisement seeking volunteers to help a 15 year old girl refit her boat to follow a solo dream. People arrived with a smile.

My decision to then sit in the background and not even appear for her Sydney send off was a personal one of acknowledging this as her dream. Not mine. She knew I was there whenever needed. I would have loved to be in Sydney to welcome her home, but I was at sea 40 days in an open boat with nothing, suffering derivations on my TALISKER Bounty Boat Expedition. I was recreating the infamous Mutiny on the Bounty open boat voyage of survival for Capt. William Bligh. 

Jessica rang me from Pink Lady just before she arrived. We laughed. What an amazing young lady she was and is! BRAVO JESS! What a ride and thanks for inspiring so many! It is a truly beautiful story. Yes I feel proud of her!

Keep the dream alive…

Don, February 2023

The Art of Adventure


Exercise your god given right to choose your own direction.
And influence your own destiny and try to choose wisely and well.

Have the daring to open doors to new experiences.
And step boldly forth to explore strange horizons.

Be unafraid of new ideas, theories and new philosophies.
Have the curiosities to experiment, to test and try new ways of living and thinking.

Recognise the only ceiling life has, is the one you give it.
And come to realise that you are surrounded by infinite possibilities for growth and achievement.

Keep your heart young and your expectations high.
And never allow your dreams to die.

Given to Don by his mother 'Betty' on his 21st birthday