Update on teen solo sailor Abby Sunderland

Posted By on June 11, 2010


I’ve scanned the heavily reported news stories (over 3000 on Google) on Abby Sunderland this Friday morning after hearing she was safe inside her damage boat Wild Eyes and have concluded that the media does a pretty good job of reporting the sensational side of blue water sailing – and with a 16 year old teenage girl becomes even more sensational. In talking with a few people who have heard the news stories, they assumed in reading and viewing recent headlines that small sailboat ocean crossing is rare and very risking – but in reality cruisers are doing it safely everyday.

Just as a small homebuilt general aviation airplane accidents shock people who don’t realized just how many safe flights are made daily, accidents at sea surprise people who are unaware of how many safe blue water voyages are safe and uneventful. That said, challenging oceans on small boats (particularly singlehandedly) can be dangerous.


Having offered my view on the assumptions many make when hearing the reporting of this story, I extended my GRIB weather reading to include more of the southern Indian Ocean (click for larger). I regularly watch and report weather finding for cruisers who circumnavigate in a hope to become more proficient when I have the opportunity to sail. Lately I’ve been watching Mark and Judy Handley who are sailing east to west at this moment toward Madagascar. Their weather has been far heavier than what I’ve been predicting, although for the most part their passage has been safe. If you are unfamiliar with isobar bands, color and coding, the simple approach is to know red indicates areas of reported or predicted high winds.  As you can see from today’s weather picture above, the heavy wind and large seas that knocked down, rolled and demasted Wild Eyes have moved east toward Australia. I’ve also reviewed predicted weather for the next several days and realized how important it is for the fishing vessel that is on its way to pick up Abby Sunderland as the next wave of heavy weather is only a couple days away. Hold on and be safe Abby until rescue arrives on Saturday.



  • William Turner

    I’ve been a long time reader and have noticed you occasionally talk about sailing and seamanship. You last post regarding the weather conditions in the Indian Ocean confirms in my opinion that Miss Sunderland was not being ‘coached’ to avoid heavy weather. If it were her making all the decisions it is one thing, but when parents help to send her on a route as dangerous as she was on, then I fault the parents.

    I don’t recall your friend Donna Lange having others telling her when and where to sail, but these younger kids are getting exactly that. You mentioning the sailor who has been out for 1000 days is a perfect example of knowing where to sail and where not to sail when the weather is known to be treacherous.

Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.