She is a strong woman. She is a wife. She is a loving mother of two beautiful children. She’s also a sailor, a writer, and a source of inspiration for so many people. Kelly Watts, the author of ‘Sailing to Jessica’, took the time and answered a few questions about her book and, of course, Pasifika.
Pasifika Tales: What made you decide to write ‘Sailing to Jessica’? Did you want to immortalize the memories of your journey?
Kelly Watts: I think most of us have dreamed of doing something radically different in our lives, whether it is sailing around the world, living in a foreign country or switching careers. And yet something holds us back. I wrote our story, in part, to encourage others to take a chance, to follow their dream. And I wanted to share our incredible journey that took Paul and I not only halfway around the world, but also on a personal journey from landlubbers to sailors, and from infertility to being parents.
PT: Did you expect so much interest in your book?
KW: I really didn’t know what to expect. I think the biggest joy is receiving emails from my readers. Some have set sail because of our story, others have quit their corporate job to start new careers and others are considering adoption. What a thrill!
PT: Your voyage must have been an extraordinary experience for you and your husband. Knowing what you know now – the good, the bad and the ugly – would you do it over again?
KW: One look at my beautiful children and the answer is ‘Absolutely!’ Even if we hadn’t miraculously adopted our daughter (and subsequently our son), I would still do it over again. Paul and I learned so much about each other and ourselves on our trip that our priorities – and our view on life – have changed. As C.S. Lewis once said, ‘A man who has been in another world does not come back unchanged. One can’t put the difference in words.’
PT: I do believe Pacific Islands hold a special place in your heart. What are your impressions of the region?
KW: We loved the Pacific. While we marveled at the beautiful palm-studded islands, the crystal turquoise water and abundant fish, we liked the Pacific Islanders even more. We were welcomed by friendly, smiling people everywhere we went. And they made the biggest impression on us.
PT: And if you were to choose the most amazing place in the Blue Continent, what would it be and why?
KW: I can’t pick one. We loved watching the girls dance in Hiva Oa (Marquesas), playing with the kids and visiting the black pearl farms in Katiu (Tuamotus), riding our bikes around Bora Bora (Society Islands), learning how to make fishing lures with John in Suwarrow (Cook Islands), participating in the Independence Day celebrations in Nukufetau (Tuvalu), meeting our daughter in Tarawa (Kiribati) and our son in Majuro (Marshall Islands).
PT: May I ask about your daughter’s adoption? Was it something you had planned?
KW: We had already decided to adopt when we finished sailing around the world and we had already made some inquiries into the process before we left New Zealand. But Jessica was unexpected – as miracles are.
PT: Was the adoption process difficult? How do you recall that time?
KW: At the time, Tarawa followed an older version of the British adoption laws and their legal system was well-organized and well run. That part of the process was smooth. Getting a visa for Jessica from the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services proved to be more difficult but we finally(!!) succeeded.
PT: Why did you decide to adopt a second child from the Pacific Islands?
KW: When we decided to adopt our second child, we just thought that it made sense to have two Pacific Islanders. But as the children are growing, and now asking questions about their adoption and their birth families, I am glad that they are Pacific Islanders. The Pacific Islanders have a beautiful view of adoption: adoption is like marriage: a lifetime bond that links the birth family to the adoptive family though the child. Knowing that this is their concept of adoption, and respecting it, we had taken the time to get to know Jess’ birth family in Tarawa. Then we had gotten to know Nick’s birth family in Majuro when we had adopted him. Thanks to their cultural view on adoption, we are now better able to answer our children’s questions and to help them understand themselves.
PT: Do you embrace Pacific cultures at home?
KW: We try… But just last week the kids told me they didn’t want to play ukulele anymore; they’d rather play soccer!
PT: Do you often go back to Pasifika?
KW: We have been back a couple of times to see the kids’ birth families and for vacation… sigh, sigh… I’ m ready to go again…
PT: Let’s get back to your book. Any plans to write a sequel? I’m sure your readers, myself included, would be absolutely delighted.
KW: I am excited about an article I wrote for Cruising World magazine; it is slated to appear in their June or July 2014 issue. The article discusses our sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands in Australia. This was the first time we’ve been sailing with the children and our first time on a catamaran – a magical week! And I am nearly done with my first children’s book, aimed for 2 – 5th graders, about two children who set sail with a Magic Map and the help of their dolphin friend, Chuff, while being chased by a wicked pirate. The book, the first in a series, aims to offer children an exciting fictitious story accompanied by educational ‘chart kits’ which explore the wonders in our world, from the places mentioned in the story to the biographies of famous explorers to related historical and geological events. In short, as a mom, it’s something I’d like my kids to read.