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The Abby Sunderland Saga Takes A Twist

| June 12, 2010, 04:49 PM | 16 Comments

As a sailing town, Annapolitans certainly have some connection with Abby Sunderland, the 16 year old who was trying to be the youngest person ever to do a non-stop, solo sail around the earth.

If you are not familiar with the saga, you can Google it.  But in a nutshell, she was in her boat, Wild Eyes, and ran into a storm in the South Indian Ocean. She lost communications, activated her emergency beacons and a search and rescue effort was started. She was spotted in short time and confirmed to be in good shape. She was ultimately rescued by a French fishing ship and is safely on board as of this writing.

Being a sailing town, we know how beautiful the water can be–but we also know how mean and unforgiving it can be as well. Abby’s parents are taking a lot of heat from the media and on the Internet for allowing her to pursue “her dream” of sailing around the world solo–as her brother had done a few years ago.

What are the thoughts of Annapolis and any sailors in Anne Arundel County?  Does a 16 year old have any business sailing around the world alone? Were the parents negligent in not demanding a boat follow her efforts?

After it was known that she was safe, her parents took to her blog. While they were certainly relieved and happy, one sentence stood out:

We are not certain what will happen to Wild Eyes at this time. It is highly unlikely that she will be able to be saved.

While no one but the parents are in their shoes, this seems like the last concern any parent would have when their 16 year old daughter was just plucked from the treacherous South Indian Ocean.

Abby herself followed up with a blog post (presumably from the French fishing vessel) to somewhat lambaste the media for having an interest now–and not when she was embarking on the voyage. She also seemed upset that people would feel that her age and maturity should have played a part in a decision to let her make the sail–or not.  And again, a strange comment after having nearly lost her life:

I keep hitting the wrong keys and am still trying to get over the fact that I will never see my Wild Eyes again. So Ill write more later.

Once again, there is the concern about the boat, Wild Eyes.  And in a surprising move, it appears that the family has established a website seeking donations to salvage the boat and have it brought back to Marina del Rey, California. As to the cost of the rescue itself, reports have indicated that the Qantas airbus which spotted Abby was chartered at a cost of 200,000 AUD ($170,000 USD) which will be absorbed by the Australian rescue organization which spearheaded the efforts.

Certain aspects of this saga are beginning to sound similar to those of  Richard Heene and “Balloon Boy.” What do you think?

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Comments (16)

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  1. Tayloe says:

    On the whole, I agree with the statements presented above, except the last one. I think that some of these statements are odd, but understand many of them. After the initial shock of potentially being in a very dangerous situation wears off, I believe that the brain naturally begins to drift to objects lost. If your house was damaged in a fire, even though you escaped with your life, you would still feel a sense of sadness / longing for the things inside that are no longer present.

    Maybe its because I’m a sailor, but I honestly don’t think that this is a publicity stunt or a blatant disregard for Abby’s life by her family.

    If she had completed the journey successfully, she would be lauded. Rarely would anyone think about the danger that she went through, if she was safe at home. It’s only when a disaster strikes that people begin to bash and say that they themselves would have exercised better judgement.

    Just my 2cents.

  2. Susan Ross says:

    The parents of Amy Sunderland want contributions to save her vessel???? EFFFFFFF YOU…a 16 year old who has no decision making skills sent to sea. You knew the odds, you gambled on the movie and book rights and you want contributions? I have one…my middle digit. You can pay for it from the movie rights.

  3. Amy says:

    Who pays for the massive, multi-country rescue effort? The income lost by the fishing vessel that rescued her? Why aren’t her parents raising funds to pay THAT back? Let alone the fact that her boat will now littler the ocean floor forever. There’s a significant environmental impact there. It’s so incredibly selfish and self-indulgent.

  4. Fred Shubbie® says:

    Fred Shubbie is always willing to support ( in spirit) an adventurous undertaking. I think the parents were doing what they needed to do to encourage the young lady to pursue her desire to dominate her older brother and thus regain the limelight– so be it. I also feel that they, like BP, should have been prepared for a worst case scenario.

    Her rescue and the associated costs should have been factored in when the parents decided to let their minor child risk the life of her precious ‘Wild Eyes”. The parents should have prepared for losing their daughter, the vessel, or the cost of rescuing the aforementioned.

    But if they are able to recoup the boat and are not held liable for the cost of the rescue, who are we to judge their ability to live their lives fully ?

  5. Nancy says:

    As much as I would like to see Abby get her boat back, the parents need to now set a good example for their daughter and collect money to pay back the good people of Australia.

    I am not bitter at the parents for letting her try to realize her dream, but I will feel bitter if Australia pays for it. As an American, I will be embarrassed if they collect money and then keep it to find and tow this boat.

    Priorities parents…..priorities……

  6. Taylor says:

    I would suggest learning about the situation before making that kind of comment. She comes from a family of well-respected sailors. This is an equipment/weather failure and likely didn’t have anything to do with her skills.

    Actually, the fact that she signaled for help instead of trying to be a hero and set sail again was actually a very good decision.

  7. jerry says:


    i’m guessing this is a scam, unrelated to the sunderlands… someone should investigate…

  8. EOA Staff says:


    Likely not as the link and new image is being hosted on both Abby’s blogspot blog and her “official” site www.abbysunderland.com

  9. EOA Staff says:

    Good point. I guess the question remains if an around the world sail without any type of emergency backup is a good thing?

  10. Taylor says:

    From what I gather from the media reports, Abby Sunderland’s distress call came from inside of Australia’s designated search and rescue area. That means that they are responsible, by their own law, to search for persons in distress. This is allocated in their government budget (possibly). It’s not like they made a special trip for her. They would have done the same for anyone else.

  11. EOA Staff says:

    As would we for ANY sailor. I think my issue is the decision to send her in the first place and now this preoccupation with the boat. We can argue about the emotional stability of a person taking on a voyage liek that forever. I saw a video of a boy making a similar trip (possibly her brother) where he was in tears and really close to a mental breakdown. And Abby was younger still!

  12. Fred Shubbie® says:

    …but to address you question about shameless self promotion and the concern for the boat. Let’s just say I had never heard of Shoe City ( her sponsor) before I saw a picture of her boat–now I have. I guess we have to see what happens after the fact and whether she or Shoe City figure out a way to capitalize on the fiasco. Maybe Shoe City would find it advantageous to pay for the return of the boat to use as a Corporate Headquarter museum piece.

    Unless we know if any of the future attempts to capitalize on the event were discuss previous to her leaving, we can only speculate if this was an orchestrated event.

  13. EOA Staff says:

    I am sure the event was NOT orchestrated (or at least I hope it was not) but now that it is somewhat over, there does indeed seem to be some orchestration. Maybe it is a case of when the world hands you lemons, you make lemonade.

  14. Debbie says:

    It was actually just outside Australia’s search and rescue zone (according to the Aust. Maritime Safety Authority), but y’know, I’m Australian & I have no problem with Australia Govt organising her rescue. If Jessica Watson had been stranded somewhere, we would hope that some other country would’ve done the same for her. What I do have a problem with is her parents saying, “thankyou, and we can’t pay you back, but we will raise money to rescue the boat”. No thought of trying to raise money to pay us back. They’ve taken for granted the enormous cost & effort we’ve put into her rescue. And the French boats. Hundreds of thousands of dollars spent. Just appalling.

  15. Alex says:

    I have no problem with people (of any age) attempting to do daring things like climb the highest mountain or sail around the the world, PROVIDED they take full responsibility for their actions. That includes preparing for rescue or salvage of boats. That can be obtained through sponsors or insurance. This burden should not fall on ordinary taxpayers (in whichever country), as there are more priorities in life than these daring attempts (otherwise we all would be doing that!).

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