16-year old Abby Sunderland set sail last weekend on an attempt to sail solo around the world, and in the process, become the youngest person to accomplish that feat. She launched her 40-foot long boat, the Wild Eyes, from Marina del Rey, California, following a delay of several days due to the heavy storms that have plagued that area recently. If all goes according to plan, Abby will be at sea for roughly 5-6 months, making the journey non-stop without ever pulling into port.
Abby won’t just be battling the ocean waves and unpredictable weather while out on the high seas, she also faces a little competition for the crown of “youngest around”. Australian teenager Jessica Watson, who we told you about here, is in the middle of her own circumnavigation attempt, having just cleared Cape Horn, at the southern end of South America. Jessica is now making her way across the Atlantic towards Africa. And lest we forget, 14-year old Laura Dekker is hoping to make the same journey later this year, provided Dutch officials allow her to set sail.
For Abby, sailing runs in the family. Her brother Zac temporarily held the record for youngest solo circumnavigation last year when he completed the voyage at the age of 17. His record was bested by British teen Mike Perham a few months later. Perham is also 17, but is a few months younger than Zac.
It use to be that teenagers simply asked their parents for the keys to the car, but in the case of these adventurous young men and women, they’re hitting the high seas and spending months alone out on the water. The questions remain however; Should we be encouraging these activities and how young is too young?