16-year old Abby Sunderland found safe at sea

16-year old American Abby Sunderland has been spotted safe at sea by a search plane that flew out of Perth this morning. The California native, who had been attempting to solo circumnavigate the Earth, is reportedly fine, and her ship is upright, although her sails are down, and most likely destroyed.

Yesterday morning, Abby contacted her support team, via satellite phone, to report that she was navigating through 20-25 foot waves, with winds of 35-50 knots swirling around her. She also reported that her ship, the Wild Eyes, had been knocked down twice, which means that the conditions were bad enough to knock the boat onto its side, with the sail touching the water. She hung up the phone saying she was going to make a few quick adjustments to the boat, and that she would call back soon. That was the last anyone heard from her directly. Later, she would set off two distress signals, and many feared the worst.

Abby has been sailing across the Indian Ocean since departing Cape Town, South Africa a few weeks back. She is approximately 2000 miles from Africa and Australia, putting her in an incredibly remote position that is difficult to reach. She is currently too far out for a rescue helicopter to make the journey, but ships are now inbound on her position, with the first expected to arrive sometime in the next 24 hours.

Abby set out on her solo sail around the world on January 24th, hoping to become the youngest person to accomplish that feat. She was also following in the footsteps of her older brother, Zac, who made the same journey at the age of 17 last year. The disappearance at sea comes just weeks after Abby’s Australian counterpart, Jessica Watson, completed her solo circumnavigation, finishing up just three days shy of her 17th birthday.

Friends and family are breathing a sigh of relief this morning, as it appears that this story will have a happy ending.

[Photo credit: ABC News]

Another teenager sets sail on a solo circumnavigation attempt

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?