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Age is just a number
June 10, 2010 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Sad breaking news on a previously discussed topic as 16 year old Abby Sunderland is feared lost at sea.

A comment in the previous thread reviews current attempts at the "youngest to sail" record and a link from the ABC news frontpage highlights a 5 year old hiking prodigy.
posted by T.D. Strange (222 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Here's her blog.

I think on one of the links I saw (before I came back over here) they were saying the nearest vessel to her was 400 miles.

For those of you who pray, now'd be a good time.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:15 AM on June 10, 2010


...---...
posted by mattdidthat at 11:15 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why hasn't some enterprising kid, supported of course by their proud and nuturing parents, ever attempted to go for a Youngest To Drive a Semi Truck Across Their Respective Country Record?

Oh, wait, that would be illegal and dangerous and irresponsible.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:20 AM on June 10, 2010 [35 favorites]


The weather looks like it could pick up a lot in the next few days.

From the penultimate blog entry. . .very chilling.

I am at a loss to form many coherent thoughts about this. Is dying (if this is the outcome) very young doing something you love better than a longer, less adventurous life? I do not think there is an answer to that question.

Safe journeys Abby, in this world or the next.
posted by Danf at 11:22 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why hasn't some enterprising kid, supported of course by their proud and nuturing parents, ever attempted to go for a Youngest To Drive a Semi Truck Across Their Respective Country Record?

Because there would be a huge danger of them killing the thousands of other people also on the road. Also, isn't the sea pretty much law-free once you're out a few miles?

Not that I'm condoning this. I admire her parents for supporting their child but I think they may have crossed from being supportive to being irresponsible.

I hope she's ok and just lost the ability to communicate.
posted by bondcliff at 11:24 AM on June 10, 2010


Okay, just so nobody else makes this mistake, this is not Jessica Watson, who was discussed recently on the Grey as having completed her circumnavigation of the globe.
posted by hippybear at 11:26 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


China just banned children (under the age of 18) from climbing Everest, after the ascent of a 13 year old record-breaker recently.

I thought about that new record the way I feel about these long ocean sails by minors--a tremendous hubris and disrespect for how wild, powerful and terrifying nature still is.
posted by availablelight at 11:26 AM on June 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


Her brother did the same thing (at a year older) a couple of years ago. This is really sad, although the risks were known.
posted by cell divide at 11:26 AM on June 10, 2010


I watched the 20/20 or eyewitness or 60 minutes (I get them so confused) on these "young explorers". I was literally rocking back and forth on the couch because this shit makes me so angry. I hope she's okay, there's no pleasure in saying "I told you so" in these types of situations.
posted by Think_Long at 11:28 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Right now I am torn. I understand the lure of the adventure...but I know there are laws on the books re child endangerment, and I consider allowing someone her age to do this child endangerment. Honestly, I think grown people would be stupid to do this. Especially at this time of year, seaweatherwise.

If she is able to survive this, she's getting a heck of a book deal tho.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:28 AM on June 10, 2010


It's arguably no less tragic (assuming something has happened) than if she were 18, IMHO.

And in context, at 16 you can join the army. For better or worse, I'd see this as someone who was able to make an informed choice, and knows the risks.

And I hope she's actually OK.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:29 AM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


So basically I say the exact same thing Alvy said in less words and I'm the one taking the heat?

I would disagree with that first part.

there would be a huge danger of them killing the thousands of other people also on the road.

Thousands? But point taken.

Is dying (if this is the outcome) very young doing something you love better than a longer, less adventurous life? I do not think there is an answer to that question.


I'm not a parent, so maybe I'm not qualified to speak on this, but I think I'd prefer a live non-record holding child to a dead one.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:30 AM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


OK I'll post a more thoughtful comment. I apologize for the crudeness of my first comment. I just feel that, anyone who takes on a project like this HAS to be cognizant of the fact that a terrible storm, huge wave or other such event could occur, capsizing the boat and swallowing the child. To recognize that fact and then pretend to be shocked and saddened when it finally occurs is kind of naive. Anyone who respects this ugly trend of young children doing insane physical or navigational challenges and then feigns sadness when they go wrong are the REAL ugly ones. I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round. "Let's have children do bullfighting! Then we can act shocked and saddened when the kid is gored through his chin. Or we can have kids do MMA fighting! I'd love to see a 12 year old kid get kicked in the face!"
posted by ReeMonster at 11:31 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


For some reason I'm surprised that, despite knowing exactly where her boat is, no one can get to her particularly soon. It's still a big world, I see.

It does strike me as odd that they can't get real-time satellite images of her, though. Probably, rather than "they can't" it's a matter of "her parents don't have the resources to".
posted by gurple at 11:31 AM on June 10, 2010


I'm not a parent, so maybe I'm not qualified to speak on this, but I think I'd prefer a live non-record holding child to a dead one.

You're spot on despite the lack of "qualifications".
posted by never used baby shoes at 11:32 AM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


To recognize that fact and then pretend to be shocked and saddened when it finally occurs is kind of naive.

Recognizing a fact = intellectualizing.

Being shocked and saddened = feeling.

I recognize the fact that my some of my friends will die before I do. I will be shocked and saddened when they do.
posted by grumblebee at 11:35 AM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm not a parent, so maybe I'm not qualified to speak on this, but I think I'd prefer a live non-record holding child to a dead one.

You're spot on despite the lack of "qualifications".
posted by never used baby shoes at 2:32 PM on June 10 [+] [!]
Eponysad.
posted by lalex at 11:36 AM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Being saddened by the girl's death doesn't imply that one endorsed her project. Not all pity is hypocritical sentimentality.
posted by Beardman at 11:39 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


@ReeMonster: I think anyone is stupid to attempt something like this, and it was certainly a little crazy for her parents to let her do this, but the shock and sadness are real. I'm sad and shocked when I see someone killed in motor sports, even though all the participants know it's a dangerous game. It's sad when a soldier or a cop or a firefighter dies. It bothers me any time someone is killed prematurely, even if they were doing something dangerous.
posted by pjaust at 11:40 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


To each his own. I don't feel sad when over-privileged children who think nothing can touch them attempt to subvert the awesome and fearsome powers of nature. Go back to school kid!
posted by ReeMonster at 11:40 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]



To each his own. I don't feel sad when over-privileged children who think nothing can touch them attempt to subvert the awesome and fearsome powers of nature. Go back to school kid!

posted by ReeMonster at 11:40 AM on June 10 [+] [!]
posted by Think_Long at 11:43 AM on June 10, 2010 [13 favorites]


ReeMonster, I DO feel sad when over-privileged children who think nothing can touch them attempt to subvert the awesome and fearsome powers of nature.

Because they are children. Who really don't know any better. Who don't have parents who will actually set APPROPRIATE LIMITS.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:44 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kids die playing sports, skiing, tobogganing, and sometimes just crossing the road.
I know the risks here are higher, but where do you draw the line and who gets to define that line?
posted by rocket88 at 11:44 AM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Or we can have kids do MMA fighting! I'd love to see a 12 year old kid get kicked in the face!"

This isn't even in the same category. There's nothing wrong with kids training MMA.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:44 AM on June 10, 2010


She activated her beacons at 6am Pacific time. It's possible that she's still fighting through the weather.

Good Luck Kid!!!!!!!
posted by snsranch at 11:45 AM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


We don't know that she's dead. Someone had to have activated those beacons, and the article said that they weren't touching the water when it happened. There's hope yet, so let's not start eulogizing; think instead of some small intercession for a lost mariner.
posted by The White Hat at 11:46 AM on June 10, 2010


Teenagers often lack good judgment, even if they're kind-hearted, intelligent and sensitive souls. I admire this girl for having a kind of cool dream and attempting to pursue it. I genuinely hope she's okay. But her parents did not do their job. They are the reckless dumbasses here. Should this poor girl end up lost, I hope her parents soon face charges of child endangerment.

And in context, at 16 you can join the army. For better or worse, I'd see this as someone who was able to make an informed choice, and knows the risks.

Not in America you can't. The minimum age is 17, and then only with parental consent. If the US military, hungry for recruits as it's been in recent years, feels that this person is a couple years shy of having the common sense to make this sort of decision, I'd take it as gospel. Especially since this is the military we're talking about, not so-called loving parents.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 11:47 AM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Is dying (if this is the outcome) very young doing something you love better than a longer, less adventurous life? I do not think there is an answer to that question.

How could there be an answer to that question? It doesn't make sense. The weight given to achieving a goal, and the willingness to risk are determined by each of us, independently. An "answer" presumes uniform motivations.

-----

I admire her parents for supporting their child but I think they may have crossed from being supportive to being irresponsible.

If they did cross some such line, it happened before Abby sailed into the rough weather. If they were at fault, a successful trip should not have wiped away their error, and if their decision was reasonable, then the occasion of a possible catastrophe doesn't suddenly make it irresponsible.
posted by BigSky at 11:47 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Would it warrant sadness if the kid was under-privileged, ReeMonster?
posted by NationalKato at 11:48 AM on June 10, 2010


I don't feel sad when over-privileged children who think nothing can touch them attempt to subvert the awesome and fearsome powers of nature.

Yeah, fuck those kids, being born into a wealthy household! Fuck em!

Throughout the history of the world kids have underestimated their mortality. How many kids get killed speeding in cars, diving into deep quarries, or hopping trains? Lots of 'em. In most of those cases the parents aren't around to say "Don't do that."

When I was sixteen, if I asked my mom if I could do something potentially dangerous like climb Everest or sail around the world and she said "yes", I would have gone and done it. "woohoo! Best. Mom. Ever! Let's go get killed!" Luckily for me, my mom would have said "no."
posted by bondcliff at 11:50 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, ReeMonster, we get it, you're a compassionless dick, she's dumb and over-priviledged and probably dead.

I'm sure she was well aware of the risks, and perhaps thought "it won't happen to me." Maybe she didn't. Maybe she was ready to accept death. Either way, it doesn't mean she deserved to die.
posted by defenestration at 11:51 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


With other risk-prone activities, you can often divide them into "yeah, normal life risk accumulation" (car accidents, choking to death on an apple, violent crime) or "risky but salvageable in civilization" (break a leg skiing, get to a hospital; stuck hiking, radio for help). Here, "the nearest ship was 400 miles away." That's not exactly quick rescue distance. I get that one of the pulls of this sort of adventure is being out of rescue distance, and I am not sure what qualifies as "solo," but ... I would have wanted another boat tagging along behind her, say about seven miles off, with some kind of solar-powered LoJack installed on her.

And can you imagine how her brother would feel, as well? "I made it, she didn't. Maybe my attempt is what tipped her over into trying." That would be a decade of therapy right there.
posted by adipocere at 11:52 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


To recognize that fact and then pretend to be shocked and saddened when it finally occurs is kind of naive.

I'm pretty sure nobody is pretending to be sad. I expect their genuinely heartbroken. We always must be cautious not to minimize somebody else's pain, even if we think they brought it on themselves. It still hurts. We can discuss what happened, and if it should happen, and what can be done to prevent it, and who is responsible, but I think it's a poor idea to be flippant or uncaring. It's still a 16-year-old who may have died.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:53 AM on June 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


ReeMonster appears to be willing to celebrate the possible death of a 16-year-old girl in order to experience the thrill of taking a contrarian position on an internet forum.

It's worth feeding the trolls, I think, to stop and consider what a unique and special person we've got here. That's well beyond the level of inhuman, incomprehensible filth that I've become numbed to.
posted by gurple at 11:55 AM on June 10, 2010 [13 favorites]


A comment on her last blog post from 'Captain Bill in San Diego':

I think you should plan stops along the way to make repairs and meet the locals like you did in Cape Hope. It would make a better book, plus you would get to see the world a little more, instead of just water. By stopping and making repairs, your boat will be in better shape, keeping you safer. Your boat has to be in top condition at all times to endure 60 knots of wind. A little rip in the sails will become a big rip in the sails.

Something about the wisdom of elders...
posted by grounded at 11:55 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is tough. On the one hand, anytime an ambitious young person dies under tragic circumstances it's...well, tragic. On the other hand, there is a certain "what were the parents thinking?" I do fear, however, that what the parents were feeling was part genuine encouragement and support for their ambitious child as well as viewing it as an opportunity to profit somehow from the situation - and that perhaps the potential dollars clouded the concerned part of their judgment, and only the supportive part was left.

Then again, this seems a bit like the fear of plane crashes thing. Many times more teenagers must die every year from attending parties their parents condoned (or in fact hosted) and then dying in drunk driving accidents. Just as one example. Or teens whose mental issues aren't taken seriously and so instead of getting therapy they kills themselves. I mean, nature is nothing to fuck with, but unrequited love and cheap vodka are much deadlier to the teenager.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:56 AM on June 10, 2010


Bon voyage, kid!

You made me laugh out loud with that one! Well timed and excellently played.


That said, I can still offer up my hopes for safety. I hope the weather clears and they find her rattled but alive, and maybe ready to come home, or continue.
I do think there is a serious failure to parent going on here though. A 16 year (girl in this case) old on a round the world solo sail? Those are some fucked up parents. And get this, the mother is due with another kid very soon. So, we will all be back here in a few years discussing the next kids solo trip to the moon in a hot air balloon.
posted by a3matrix at 11:56 AM on June 10, 2010


I feel like the message of the Icarus myth wasn't "Icarus was an asshole."
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:56 AM on June 10, 2010 [9 favorites]


Sticherbeast: "I feel like the message of the Icarus myth wasn't "Icarus was an asshole.""

Daedalus, on the other hand...
posted by The White Hat at 11:58 AM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'll admit to having mixed feelings. I feel for her, whether she is lost or just in trouble, because every life is precious. At the same time, my sympathy is limited by the stupidness and self-createdness of the situation. I'm not convinced that she had the life-experience to fully assess the risks and rewards, basically. That solo sailing is risky has been proven many times already.

In the meantime, I'll hope that she's fine, and also hope that fewer children take on these kinds of risks for such foolish reasons.
posted by Forktine at 11:58 AM on June 10, 2010


[a few comments removed. ReeMonster, you've said your bit, now please give this thread a rest. Everybody else, as you were. If anybody needs to talk about this more, you know where to do it.]
posted by cortex at 11:59 AM on June 10, 2010


Is dying (if this is the outcome) very young doing something you love better than a longer, less adventurous life? I do not think there is an answer to that question.

How could there be an answer to that question? It doesn't make sense. The weight given to achieving a goal, and the willingness to risk are determined by each of us, independently. An "answer" presumes uniform motivations.


A timeless question, a la the Iliad.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:59 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The thought of one of my kids in distress with the closest help 400 miles away just takes my breath away. I hope she lives to tell the tale.
posted by domino at 12:00 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hope to hell she gets out of this okay.

As a parent of a three year-old daughter it's hard to know how I'd feel if she was that age with the amount of experience she's had, etc. ... But my initial reaction (as it was when I saw the story originally) is WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU, PARENTS!?
posted by papercake at 12:04 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Most likely he wouldn't care at all. I mean I haven't seen him ranting about the dangerous things other teens are put through every day.

Admittedly its utterly shocking that there's parents who allow their kids to do anything besides sit in front of the TV or computer all day, but to put things in a different perspective, in the 1800s children in their early teens were putting out to sea. I'm not sure if we care more about children now, or simply infantilize them; either way as a result, we get people who are still children through college. As far as I'm concerned, she was old enough to know the risks, so the wisdom or foolishness of the attempt rested on her head.
posted by happyroach at 12:06 PM on June 10, 2010


The sea is the most cruel, dark, foreboding mistress humanity has ever known. For anyone, man or child, to venture into her embrace is to come face to face with the end.
The sea is mother-death and she is a mighty female, the one who wins, the one who sucks us all up.

- Anne Sexton
Journal entry, 19 Nov, in The Poet's Story, 'A Small Journal'.
posted by wcfields at 12:14 PM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


One interesting facet of this is that, when we talk about the ethics of this, we aren't really talking about the actual kid involved or her actual parents. We can't. We don't know them. So when we blame (or praise) the people involved, I guess we're really talking about semi-fictional characters, based on ourselves as kids and/or parents -- or based on most kids and parents that we know.

There are some people, who, I'm sure would feel anger or contempt towards a 30-year-old who pulled a stunt like this. But many of us feel that exploration, endurance and risk are important parts of the human experience. And when people are mature, we tend to stop saying, "What a stupid fuckhead!" and "How irresponsible!" Instead, we say, "He was brave. He tried. How sad that he failed!"

What makes this different, of course, is the girl's age. MOST kids are not mature enough to understand this sort of risk at 16. I certainly wasn't. So my only way of relating to this story is to imagine my parents letting the 16-year-old me do something like that. Which would have been insane.

But this particular girl -- being an individual human -- might be extraordinarily mature for her age. Or not. We don't know. Thinking back to my youth, I did know a FEW kids who were pretty fully formed by 16. Had they done something like this, they would have done it with the same mindset and understanding of a 20, 30, 40 or 50-year old.
posted by grumblebee at 12:14 PM on June 10, 2010 [13 favorites]


Why hasn't some enterprising kid, supported of course by their proud and nuturing parents, ever attempted to go for a Youngest To Drive a Semi Truck Across Their Respective Country Record?

This is a stupid analogy. Assuming she was licensed, this 16-year-old girl would in fact be able to drive across the country by herself. And statistically it would probably be more dangerous than what she's doing now.

She isn't a "child," she's 16. She's spent much of her life at sea, and she watched as her brother sailed around the world by himself a year before. I'm glad her parents let her go, and I hope she's okay.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 12:16 PM on June 10, 2010 [6 favorites]



Alexander the Great was conquering the middle east and establishing cities with his name at her age.

I realize that it is popular in this day and age to hover over and protect kids from the dangers of homeless people on the subway.

But it seems to me that these folks knew and understood the risks. This is sad, and maybe tragic, but frankly, I would have let my kid do this if I thought he were up to it. I would rather have a son who lived, truly lived, and died doing something he was passionate about than having raised a namby-pamby middle-manager suburb dweller with 2.5 kids and 3 SUVs that dies of heart disease at 42.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:18 PM on June 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


For better or worse, I'd see this as someone who was able to make an informed choice, and knows the risks.

---posted by MuffinMan


Who the hell knows anything at 16?

At 16, I was baffled by my parents' explosive reactions when I'd drive home drunk. I was informed of what could happen and knew the risks of getting caught or crashing, but I was 16, immortal, and besides... nothing bad could ever happen.

I shudder to think of how my parents would have responded if they caught me on a boat in the middle of the ocean.
posted by From the Fortress at 12:20 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I respect the ocean. I fear the ocean. As far as I'm concerned, sailing is always a risky adventure, no matter how old or experienced the captain is. A few years ago, a woman I went to K-12 with was lost at sea. She and the crew she was sailing with all had tons of experience. These things happen. It's aways sad.
posted by Ruki at 12:21 PM on June 10, 2010


Not to be flip, but I wonder if this family would allow their daughter to take risks if they were less privileged and couldn't afford things like oceangoing boats. With money comes recklessness or was it already there?
posted by Burhanistan at 12:22 PM on June 10, 2010


The only people irresponsible in all this are the armchair parents.

Keep telling kids that they need to settle for second best. That dreams are just dreams. If it weren't for those capable of pushing beyond what others said could not be done or should not be done we'd still be living in grass huts around a campfire wearing loincloths.

I'm appalled at those treating this situation as if a toddler has been boxed up and put on a canoe for a trip across the Pacific. Give this young woman the credit and trust she deserves. In fact, go read her blog a bit. She's more mature than many twice her age. She's incredibly well informed about the dangers present in her journey and she knows how to handle them.

Of course there's risk involved. She knew that and accepted that. And she has the maturity and mental faculty to make that acception.

The scary thing, to me, is that people think age alone is somehow the be-all and end-all to determining a person's ability to make sound judgement. That had she started out on this trip one second after her eighteenth birthday we'd see comments along the lines of "that's sad. she was extremely brave" instead of "wow, those parents are horrible! child endangerment! neglect. RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE!"

She's got amazing guts; more in her pinky than the armchair parents who want to tie everything down and wrap it in bubblewrap so nothing bad ever happens.

I hope she comes out of this fine. I hope she makes another attempt and succeeds. And I hope she goes on to have even more amazing and inspiring journeys. The human race needs more people like her. A million more.
posted by ruthsarian at 12:25 PM on June 10, 2010 [38 favorites]


Then again, this seems a bit like the fear of plane crashes thing. Many times more teenagers must die every year from attending parties their parents condoned (or in fact hosted) and then dying in drunk driving accidents.

Sort of a bad analysis here. Sure, the leading cause of death among "older teenagers" (ages 15-19) is from automobile accidents. Here's a chart of causes of death among older teenagers, with the percentage of deaths each causes:

Motor Vehicle Traffic - 39.98%
Homocide - 13.70%
Suicide - 10.95%
Malignant Neoplasms - 5.23%
Poisoning - 3.52%
Heart Disease - 2.93%
Drowning - 2.32%
Congenital Anomolies - 1.80%

Other "accidents" account for 5.85%
Other medical / disease issues account for 4.08%
And 9.61% is listed under "other."

Out of those automobile accidents, I'd assume alcohol is involved fairly often, and yeah - parent-condoned parties probably cause more deaths than solo-circumnavigation accidents.

But come on? Fewer than one America teenager per year attempts a solo circumnavigation of the globe. But if the same number of teenagers who got into a car at least once a year (which is to say, nearly all teenagers) attempted it, I'd guess that it would be the leading cause of death by a wide margin.

Your chance of dying in a plane crash is statistically quite small. You chance of dying in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe is astonishingly high.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:26 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can see the "OMFG death is always terrible!!@#" crowd is out in force on this one.

IMO, if someone wants to risk their life on something, more power to them, so long as they aren't harming others. Sure, it's sad when people die. It's much less sad when people die doing what they love than when they drop dead of a heart attack or disease or random accident without ever having done any of the things they wanted to do.
posted by wierdo at 12:27 PM on June 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


I hope she's okay and it all turns out okay. I don't judge her for setting out to do this -- the I just hope her desire to do this wasn't in any part due to the lure of being known as precocious and talented (which is probably why anyone wants to set a "youngest [whatever]" kind of record."

My dad wanted us to be like these kids who are the youngest neurosurgeons or cardiologists. He'd always clip these articles from the newspapers or call us in to hear about some 7 year old who graduated from engineering school or whatever. I just don't see the purpose of being the youngest anything.

I can see wanting to have an amazing adventure. I hope that's why she wanted to do it. I was not a precocious child, but at her age, I just wanted to go see Hollywood and Paris, but not alone.
posted by anniecat at 12:28 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who the hell knows anything at 16?

At 16, I was baffled by my parents' explosive reactions when I'd drive home drunk.


Right, that's you. And a lot of other teenagers. But not all teenagers.

I didn't get drunk at 16. Why not? Because "I was informed of what could happen and knew the risks of getting caught" and I took all that stuff seriously. I have never felt even slightly immortal. I didn't then; I don't know. Yet, occasionally, I took risks. When I did so, I KNEW I was doing something risky.

I am not claiming I was a super mature kid, but I was mature in that way. Since most teens aren't, if I was making some kind of policy (about drinking age or whatever), I wouldn't base it around me as a model of The Typical Teen. But if I was a parent, I WOULD base decisions around what I knew about my particular kid.

My parents did that. They let me drink as much as I wanted. They knew me well enough to know I wouldn't abuse the privilege.
posted by grumblebee at 12:29 PM on June 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


I hope for her safe return.
posted by Daddy-O at 12:31 PM on June 10, 2010


I don't judge her for setting out to do this -- the I just hope her desire to do this wasn't in any part due to the lure of being known as precocious and talented (which is probably why anyone wants to set a "youngest [whatever]" kind of record."
Yeah. I don't really know how I feel about this particular kid and this particular choice that she and her parents made, but the whole "youngest person to [do dangerous thing]" phenomenon strikes me as really creepy and potentially destructive, particularly in a media landscape where 24-hour news channels are always looking for instant celebrities. I have no idea why Abby Sunderland decided to sail around the world, but it seems to me that there are a lot of forces that encourage kids like her to undertake dangerous record-setting adventures that maybe aren't such a good idea.
posted by craichead at 12:34 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


And she has the maturity and mental faculty to make that acception.

And you know that how? By reading her blog? There's a reason 16 year olds can't drink, join the army or drive (in many states), because they don't have the maturity or experience to do so.

She's got amazing guts; more in her pinky than the armchair parents who want to tie everything down and wrap it in bubblewrap so nothing bad ever happens.

You've taken parenting and turned into a false dichotomy. If there is anything that is more nuanced than parenting, I don't know what it is.

The goal of a parent is to produce a confident, independent individual capable of living life on their own terms and chasing their dreams. This involves dozens of decisions every day. Many of which involve risk.

And I can't help but feel that this was a horrible decision by the parents and they will have to live with the guilt.

By the way, I'm an "armchair" parent of three.
posted by cjets at 12:36 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who the hell knows anything at 16?

This girl. Read her blog and find out.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 12:37 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Who the hell knows anything at 16?

At 16, I was baffled by my parents' explosive reactions when I'd drive home drunk. I was informed of what could happen and knew the risks of getting caught or crashing, but I was 16, immortal, and besides... nothing bad could ever happen.


And we are all different aren't we? When I was five I was worried about finding some place to sleep when on a trip with my parents. When I was eleven I started to plan my eventual trip abroad to work. I was the kind of kid that gradually dared to do more things as life went on.

Would I have want to sail around the globe? probably not
Would I have been aware of the consequences? Definitely
posted by furisto at 12:41 PM on June 10, 2010


There's a reason 16 year olds can't drink, join the army or drive

Yes, because we can't have different sets of laws for each person. So we base laws on how most people work. The law might be a good law, but it says nothing about this particular girl's maturity.
posted by grumblebee at 12:41 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


ruthsarian: Keep telling kids that they need to settle for second best. That dreams are just dreams. If it weren't for those capable of pushing beyond what others said could not be done or should not be done we'd still be living in grass huts around a campfire wearing loincloths.

I don't disagree with the idea that progress only happens when people are willing to take risks, and I agree with you also that 16 (and even younger) can be the age of reason for a lot of people, but you know what? There is nothing wrong with second best. Or third best, or even not placing at all. IMO there is something wrong with teaching kids that only the best matters, that there can be only one, that a world record is valuable but a world record with an asterisk (which this will have if she survives, because she's had help now) isn't.

Most people live life on a small scale, and although it's often brave and valuable work that improves the lot of those around them, it's not world-record stuff. If Abby Sunderland survives this adventure and gets her record, I hope she then goes back home and teaches poor kids/kids with disabilities/someone else who doesn't have the means how to sail. I think that's the kind of life progresses us as a species, not just as individuals.
posted by headnsouth at 12:44 PM on June 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


Admittedly its utterly shocking that there's parents who allow their kids to do anything besides sit in front of the TV or computer all day, but to put things in a different perspective, in the 1800s children in their early teens were putting out to sea. I'm not sure if we care more about children now, or simply infantilize them; either way as a result, we get people who are still children through college.

This is another pretty poor argument. First of all, "childhood" and "adolescence," as we know them are modern constructs. In Western countries, children are no longer expected (or allowed) to begin work at age 6 nor "put out to sea" in early teens. That's generally a good thing, even if kids are infantilized to a great extent. Kids did what they did in the 1800s because they had to. The risks were very high then, and the chances that death or serious injury would occur were put aside in the interests of basic survival and human need. That's not the case any more, and it would appear that society believes it's a good thing.

As far as I'm concerned, she was old enough to know the risks, so the wisdom or foolishness of the attempt rested on her head.

Well then . . . would you have sex with this teen girl, if she wanted you to? A sixteen year-old girl who willingly engages in sex with an adult is more likely to come out of it "okay" than the same sixteen year-old girl making a perilous trip in the high seas, often hundreds of miles from the nearest human. Statistically speaking.

Yet still, society has determined that sixteen year-old girls lack the mental maturity to effectively make the decision to engage in sexual relationships with those just a couple of years older. Hell, she can't join the army, take nude photos of herself, drink or even buy a pack of cigarettes.

Do you honestly believe that kids her age have the decision-making capability to engage in a pursuit much riskier than any of those activities?
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:45 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really hope this ends up being a scare and not a tragedy.

However, I'm really not sure that I can see much difference between this and enlisting 17 and 18 year olds for the military, as was mentioned upthread. Especially because from what I can remember anecdotally, many 17 and 18 year old boys (the majority of recruits) have much less maturity than many 16 year old girls, especially 16 year girls that have spent their entire adolescence learning their craft toward the pursuit of a specific goal. But no one says parents should be sued for child endangerment when their 18 year old who just learned to do his own laundry gets killed by a landmine in Iraq.

I can see saying that this specific goal doesn't really serve any purpose and maybe should not have been attempted. That's a valid point (though rather tacky at this juncture). To say that her parents are rich, horrible, neglectful people and the parents of new military recruits are heroes, though, seems like a huge double standard. Even if you think the current USian wars are just, honorable, sensible events (which I do not), many of those kids, gender aside, are still probably unprepared to make the decision to die. If they're not prepared, they should not have been given the option to choose. If they are, it's highly arguable that this girl is, too, especially as she's spent longer training for this event and learning about the dangers than almost anyone will spend in boot camp or specialist school. The line between 16 and 17 does not automatically imbue someone with vast quantities more maturity.

This does not go for parents of seven year olds. They deserve the negative attention.
posted by wending my way at 12:47 PM on June 10, 2010


I would rather have a son who lived, truly lived, and died doing something he was passionate about than having raised a namby-pamby middle-manager suburb dweller with 2.5 kids and 3 SUVs that dies of heart disease at 42.

These are not you or your son's only two choices. You know that, right?

I'll admit right off the bat that I find the fetishization of near-death experiences as "Adventure!" a bit mystifying, and probably closer to feeding an addiction than to having a genuinely meaningful experience, at least when you're talking about record-setting endeavors. But that's me.

At the same time, I think adults can do as they please with their lives.

She is not an adult.

16 can be mature, but it is not, by any stretch, experienced or wise, because it has not had enough time. Just because a kid has great sailing skills does not mean they have developed good judgement. They haven't had time.

I think she and worse, her parents, were intoxicated by being famous for taking this risk, and all the accolades and attention it would bring to accomplish what she's attempting, and I think that's not at all the same thing as a pure desire to live life fully. I hope she doesn't pay for that with her life. But if she does, the responsible adults who allowed her to take this risk, who possibly encouraged her to do so, are to blame. They owed her better than that.

Not because she should stifle her life, but because there are plenty of ways to live a rich full life without throwing that life away.
posted by emjaybee at 12:51 PM on June 10, 2010 [9 favorites]


This is a stupid analogy. Assuming she was licensed, this 16-year-old girl would in fact be able to drive across the country by herself. And statistically it would probably be more dangerous than what she's doing now.

No, you're a stupid analogy! These attempts are notable solely because those engaged in them are very young in the context of the the endeavor. If age is just a number and means nothing in terms of ability, why is it a big deal when a young person tries something like this? Why bother recognizing their age at all? Obviously a 16-year old driving a vehicle cross-country is pretty banal. At this point, a circumnavigation by some 50 year old guy is too. But a 16 year old girl, sailing solo - that's something else! As would be my hypothetical Youngest Driver.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:52 PM on June 10, 2010


People die sailing solo in the southern ocean. If they're kids, then kids die doing it. If they're young fit adults in the prime of their life, then young fit adults in the prime of their life die doing it. If they're grizzled old salts, then grizzled old salts die doing it. The southern ocean kills sailors, period.

She knew that. Her parents knew that. If she, and they, are willing to accept that risk, there's no less reason for her to do it than for anyone else to. In two years, when she's 18 and an adult, she won't likely know any more about sailing than she does now, and she won't be any more southern-ocean-proof than any human being ever is.

I will be very sad if she's lost at sea, but I hope she never regretted doing what she wanted to do.
posted by rusty at 12:53 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


This thread is a litmus test.
posted by fixedgear at 12:54 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


One interesting facet of this is that, when we talk about the ethics of this, we aren't really talking about the actual kid involved or her actual parents. We can't. We don't know them. So when we blame (or praise) the people involved, I guess we're really talking about semi-fictional characters, based on ourselves as kids and/or parents -- or based on most kids and parents that we know.

Yes, this is why the characterizations of the parents are presumptuous. It's not a decision that can be made from a distance. Her parents evaluated her capability, not the capability of an abstract average 16 year old. No one was in a better place to make that evaluation than they were. Her parents were almost certainly more invested in Abby's well being than anyone else. She had peers in her age group who had made successful solo circumnavigations; there is little reason to think that they were grossly negligent in letting her go. Their right to make this decision should be respected.

-----

I don't really know how I feel about this particular kid and this particular choice that she and her parents made, but the whole "youngest person to [do dangerous thing]" phenomenon strikes me as really creepy and potentially destructive, particularly in a media landscape where 24-hour news channels are always looking for instant celebrities.

I also agree that this is a creepy trend. The attention earned by becoming the youngest to do X is kind of weird and shallow. It makes you wonder if a circumnavigation would have been the object of her focus if she couldn't set a record.
posted by BigSky at 12:54 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who the hell knows anything at 16?

This girl. Read her blog and find out.


I sounded much smarter and more intelligent than I really was when I was 16. I sounded like a genius who had it all together at 21. I impressed a lot of people, but when I think back, I sounded then like I knew what life and everything was about. I'm in my thirties now and I can tell you, I most certainly did not. Maybe I'll turn 40 and think I knew nothing in my thirties. But I think I was pretty much faking depth and intelligence at her age.

Though I miss that feeling of total confidence. I was like a young puppy, excited, bounding about. Totally unafraid, but I had been pretty sheltered and definitely not adult. No one depended on me. I didn't know what having a job and making money was. The decisions I made then were not as anchored in reality as they are now. I had a vague concept of the future. I thought 30 was ancient.

Maybe she's living in the moment, though, so who's to say what's right? I get the sense from the article that the parents "influenced" her dreams and goals in some way. Because I knew I would never be a 12 year old neurosurgeon (I had to put in a lot of effort to learn science and I couldn't do it without effort and thus couldn't be a 12 year old whiz kid/naturally talented genius), I swore off science and went in the opposite direction. Poor dad then sent me some articles of older prodigies, but you could tell he was disappointed none of us were showing a genius for anything by the time we turned 16.
posted by anniecat at 12:56 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


If my kid wanted to bike across America or something else monumental like that I'd be supportive. I'd also be right behind them in my car. The whole trip.

Why wasn't there a second boat following her? If I was sending my child on a trip like that I'm make sure there was a team close by to assist if necessary. She'd still be sailing her boat by herself, but there would be seasoned sailors close by if something bad happened.

I say let these kids go and be adventurers, but a responsible parent should do everything in their power to assure that their child will have the tools and resources they need to be successful and above all live through the adventure.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:57 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh that poor child. I hope she makes it home safe.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:57 PM on June 10, 2010


Do you honestly believe that kids her age have the decision-making capability to engage in a pursuit much riskier than any of those activities?

I believe that Abby Sunderland, by all accounts, has been sailing for what looks like a very long time; I believe that she was raised by sailors and showed that she could take whatever they thought the sea might throw at her, and I believe that they had two years to think about this, and they decided that yes, she would be able to do it and though they agonized over the risks, they did everything they could to minimize them while still allowing her to do it. Read again what the article says about her father training her; he is not going on faith, but by what she has concretely demonstrated.

If you're saying you wouldn't let your own sixteen-year-old do this - that's fine, no one is asking you to. But you seem to be saying that it is absolutely impossible that any sixteen-year-old, anywhere, could possibly have sufficient sailing expertise or awareness of risks to be allowed to try what Abby is trying to do. And I'm afraid we're just going to have to agree to disagree on that one.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:59 PM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


14 year old attempts to break record for most lions provoked with acid. "She had a really mature blog" say cool smart parents
posted by Damn That Television at 1:00 PM on June 10, 2010 [16 favorites]


Burhanistan: With money comes recklessness or was it already there?

Someone (I cannot remember who), who went from lower-middle class society to very, very rich society, observed that "wealth doesn't make you good or bad, smart or stupid; wealth doesn't make you anything but *more* of what you already were."

I can't know how accurate this might be, but from anecdotal life experience, I'd side with this sentiment.

I hope this young woman lives, and I feel for her parents, whether or not her parents were completely and utterly wrong for letting her go, that doesn't mean they somehow "deserve" the pain that might come with losing a child, and especially losing a child because they allowed her to do something they possibly shouldn't have. I have no children, and never will, but I cannot think of anything worse for someone who has a child than the death of that child, for any reason. (This is not to minimize the agonies of losing anyone else, so please don't take it that way.)
posted by tzikeh at 1:02 PM on June 10, 2010


Would you trust any 16 year old you know to vote? I mean: vote with a conscience about issues, and not just for a guy who mentions Jedis in one of his speeches, or someone their church group or other social group thinking machines tell them to?

Would you trust them to serve on a jury that decides if someone gets life in prison?

Would you trust them to, say... backpack across Asia alone? In some country where the closest English speaker is 400 miles away?

Our society has many smart, well-informed teenagers who have tons of knowledge at their disposal via the internet and other resources, and they still end up pregnant. Knowing the risks and how to prevent becoming so. And their parents are always inevitably shocked, because they always think their kids have better judgement.

This might not be the case with this kid, but I think the operating word in that statement is "kid". Sure, 100 years ago we had teens working in hazardous places and operating as adults would. But, in my mind, there's a reason that changed. And it changed for the better IMO.
posted by From the Fortress at 1:02 PM on June 10, 2010


Those particular seas at this particular time of year? Foolhardy. I don't care how long she or her parents or her parent's uncle's cat's chiropractor have been sailing. These seas at this time of year are too treacherous.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:03 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


She's got amazing guts; more in her pinky than the armchair parents who want to tie everything down and wrap it in bubblewrap so nothing bad ever happens.

Being a parent is a constant exercise in risk management - is what my child about to do/want to do beyond their ability/skill/knowledge/whatever at the moment? what are the consequences for letting them try and fail?

For my toddler, I have baby gates on the stairs - because he isn't all that stable on his feet yet, and I want to avoid him testing out the stairs when I (or mom) can't be there to watch. Because we know we have to let him try and learn how to get down them without falling...but the consequnces of him falling combined with the high probability that he will means we want that learning to happen while he is supervised and someone can intervene quickly. As he gets more confident and able, the baby gates will go away. I can't tell you when that moment will be - because it is different for every kid.

My older son, who is four, is very risk averse by nature...currently the work with him is encouraging him to go out and play soccer, listen to adults who aren't his parents or teachers, and experience sports with other kids. It is, from my perspective, an incredibly safe thing for him to do. From his perspective, it is scary and confusing. Do I give into his discomfort, and pull him back from this risk - or do I push him into trying something a little different because I know it is a safe place for him to try this new thing, and struggle/fail? Maybe we've tried to introduce him to this before he is ready...but most kids his age are. Again, its different for every kid.

I can't judge the parents or the 16 year old in this case because I don't know them. I know I wouldn't be willing to let one of my kids try this particular adventure. I admire the hell out of the kid for wanting to do this; I wonder whether or not she truly, truly grasped the risk she was taking. I hope she did go into this with her eyes wide open, that her parents did everything they could to make her aware of the risks and to mitigate them; and I also have my fingers crossed that she will be plucked out of this predicament and brought home.
posted by never used baby shoes at 1:04 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hope that this turns out okay.

It seems to me that no matter how mature a 16 year old is, no matter how many risks they understand, a teenager's brain cannot wrap itself around its own mortality.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:07 PM on June 10, 2010


The goal of a parent is to produce a confident, independent individual capable of living life on their own terms and chasing their dreams.

Quoted for truth and highlighted for emphasis. Living life requires you to be alive, not dead becuase you did something "noble" at 16.
posted by Big_B at 1:07 PM on June 10, 2010


I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking back to all the crazy, dangerous shit I did when I was 16 and realising that yes, given the opportunity, that could well be me out there. At 16 I knew pretty much all there was to know - or so I believed.

It's been said more eloquently by others, but with each passing year I become more aware of all the things I don't know. And I think I'd argue that if it's not the same for you, you're probably doing it wrong. At 16, any appearance of self-assurance and life experience is largely bluster.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:08 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


3 year old feared dead in attempt to become first person to swim to bottom of active volcano. "She had a really mature Zwinky avatar" say really good parents, grieving
posted by Damn That Television at 1:13 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


This thread is a litmus test.

So is every thread, it's just that usually people don't notice the results.
posted by aramaic at 1:21 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking back to all the crazy, dangerous shit I did when I was 16 and realising that yes, given the opportunity, that could well be me out there. At 16 I knew pretty much all there was to know - or so I believed.

It's been said more eloquently by others, but with each passing year I become more aware of all the things I don't know. And I think I'd argue that if it's not the same for you, you're probably doing it wrong. At 16, any appearance of self-assurance and life experience is largely bluster.


I agree with this, but what sort of knowledge are we talking about here? I think we're talking about two kinds: mechanical knowledge (sailing skills) and common sense.

I assert that a 16-year-old can absolutely have the mechanical skills to be a master sailor. It's rare, of course, but with the right training, it can happen. It takes about ten years to master most skills. So if she started at around six, she should be fantastic at it by 16.

I don't see how a 16-year-old can have common sense. So that's the issue. Or is it? Is "it's dumb to risk your life in this way" common sense? Is the point, "she shouldn't do it, because if she dies at 16, that's a life wasted"? That's not really common sense. That's a value.

Common sense is "If you don't wear a seat belt, your changes of dieing in a crash escalate."

Common sense is not "It's stupid to die in a crash." That's a value.

I had different values when I was 16 than I do now. But were my 16-year-old values wrong? I don't see how that can be. They were just different.

If you could somehow clone this girl, stop her clone from sailing, and then, when the clone is 40, ask, "Aren't you glad we stopped you from sailing?" she might say, "Yes!" But that's a 40-year-old speaking with 40-year-old values.
posted by grumblebee at 1:22 PM on June 10, 2010


My father was a child psychiatrist, and believed that age 16 was the age at which is mature enough to be considered an adult and have the associated privileges and responsibilities. However, that was just his intellectual opinion.

When I told my parents at 16 I was planning on dropping out of high school and moving to a commune in Colorado, he said, fine, but I'm calling the cops and turning you in as a runaway if you do. Plus, he was considering looking into getting the local hippie bookstore owner busted for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. In other words, the Expert may have believed one thing, but as a Parent he wanted to keep me safe.

Parents or not, people on this thread have strong emotions and opinions on the wisdom of this girl's parents. There is no right or wrong answer here, it should go without saying.

By the way, my parents had pretty good arguments for not becoming a high school dropout. I didn't leave home until I got my diploma. I ended up in Colorado, anyway, though years later, at which point "Libra" (as the commune was called) had folded.
posted by kozad at 1:25 PM on June 10, 2010


After seven-year-old pilot Jessica Dubroff died while trying to set a record Joan Ryan penned an interesting article about such young record-seekers and their parents.

I hope Abby returns from the sea safe and sound.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:35 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wish things like this could be channeled into the things we're still trying to conquer. Trade the boat for a spacecraft and let her journey into space to worlds never touched by humans so that her name lives on forever in the history books. If the price of failure is going to be death, at least let it be for something that will be respected and honored by people all over the globe. This wasn't even a novel thing for her immediate family. I'm sure it meant a lot to them and those into sailing, but it just seems pointless.

At any rate, I hope she survives and is rescued. I hope she's out there hanging on somehow, knowing the rescue is coming. Hang on, Abby.
posted by cashman at 1:37 PM on June 10, 2010


I don't feel sad when over-privileged children who think nothing can touch them attempt to subvert the awesome and fearsome powers of nature.

The question is if you feel sad when over-privileged children who think nothing can touch them attempt to subvert the awesome and fearsome powers of nature die. Because that's probably what happened here. Not sure why you think you little rhetorical point there is the issue at hand.
posted by spaltavian at 1:37 PM on June 10, 2010


This is an example of how wrong we can be about other-people's kids: when I first started directing Shakespeare plays, I was HORRIFIED when parents brought small children (sometimes 5 or 6-year-olds) to see my shows, because I KNEW those kids were going to disrupt the play. The first time it happened, I contemplated not letting the family in.

(Understand that my productions have no eye-candy. It's people in street clothes talking in blank verse for three hours.)

I knew the kids would act out, because, at six, there was NO WAY I could have sat through "Hamlet." By the end of the first hour, I would have been jumping up and down on my chair.

Turns out, we've had some immature audience members, but none of them have been children. I'm still STUNNED by the sophistication of some of these New York kids. I still expect a problem every time I see one enter the theatre. I'm wrong every time. These parents know their kids. I don't.

(I'm not making an analogy. I understand that a night in the theatre is not the same thing as crossing the Atlantic. My point is that children are individuals, and unless you know the specific child, there's not much utility in making an assumption about her maturity.)
posted by grumblebee at 1:43 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


posted by Oriole Adams After seven-year-old pilot Jessica Dubroff died while trying to set a record

Just so everyone's clear, Jessica Dubroff was not the pilot at the time of the crash. According to the NTSB's investigation, the crash was caused by pilot in command Joe Reid's "improper decision to take off into deteriorating weather conditions (including turbulence, gusty winds, and an advancing thunderstorm and associated precipitation) when the airplane was overweight and when the density altitude was higher than he was accustomed to, resulting in a stall caused by failure to maintain airspeed." The NTSB further determined that "contributing to the pilot in command’s decision to take off was a desire to adhere to an overly ambitious itinerary, in part, because of media commitments."
posted by mattdidthat at 1:44 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't want to wade into the muck here. Anyone interested in my take on the armchair parenting discussion can read my previous comment.

But I do wonder (and have wondered, as I've watched Abby struggle the entire way) how much equipment choices impacted Abby's safety. Jessica Watson did her circumnavigation in Ella's Pink Lady, a nice but relatively conventional cruising sailboat, while Abby is in Wild Eyes, an Open 40 race boat with similar displacement but vastly more sail. (Having trouble finding specs but supposedly similar to the Class 40.)

Compare Jessica's relatively uneventful voyage (a couple knockdowns, but few equipment failures) to Abby's (multiple autopilot failures, leaks, knockdowns, fouled rigging, and now this) and I guess the answer is in: the impact on her safety has been huge.

Here's a heartfelt wish for Abby's rescue. She's a brave kid, and I hope she lives to tell us all about it.
posted by richyoung at 1:45 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]



Our society has many smart, well-informed teenagers who have tons of knowledge at their disposal via the internet and other resources, and they still end up pregnant.

So because some smart, well informed teenagers get pregnant, that means that Abby Sunderland is incapable of sailing a boat around the world?

There are some very poor arguments in this thread. Sure, there's nothing wrong with the premises that
1) most 16 year olds are not capable of sailing a boat around the world;

2) Abby is 16,

but you also have to recognize that this is an inductive argument, and as such the closest you can get to the truth is that

it is improbable that Abby is not capable of sailing around the world.

That doesn't make it impossible. Particularly since none of you making this argument actually know the person in question.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:46 PM on June 10, 2010


Our society has many smart, well-informed teenagers who have tons of knowledge at their disposal via the internet and other resources, and they still end up pregnant.

It's fascinating watching Abby become a symbol in real time. People in this thread are using her to work through or pronounce their feelings about parenting, teenagers, privilege, etc. And "Abby" becomes whatever is necessary for each person's rant.
posted by grumblebee at 1:51 PM on June 10, 2010 [9 favorites]


Her parents did the math: "If she succeeds, we'll be famous and the whole world will be talking about us. If she dies, we'll still be famous, and the whole world will be talking about us. So let her sail off into the fathomless ocean where she'll be nothing but a little 16-year-old speck 400 miles from the nearest person. We'll survive -- ha! ha! ha!"
posted by Faze at 1:54 PM on June 10, 2010


I remember hearing about her and assuming that there would be a support ship running behind or alongside, or at least some radio contact maintained with someone very close by.

Shows you what I know.

Hope she's okay.
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:54 PM on June 10, 2010


I really hope she returns home safely.

I wouldn't want my 16-year-old do something like this - mainly because I wouldn't want to lose my child at sixteen. Talk to me in fourteen years, and if my child is a master sailor by then, I still probably won't revise that opinion.
posted by pinky at 1:55 PM on June 10, 2010


...and who gets to define that line?

When a child is clearly incapable of making a reasonable and informed judgement on the matter, the parents get to define that line within the boundaries of the law.

When a child is clearly capable of making a reasonable and informed judgement on the matter, the child is considered an adult, and gets to define that line within the boundaries of the law.

The grey area -- specifically, at which age this transition takes place -- is codified into law under a given society's assumptions about the latest age a reasonably intelligent and informed child is expected to gain the ability to make reasonable and informed judgements. So, you have your answer there, from a legal perspective.

Of course, some kids don't have that maturity even beyond the legal age, and some have it far earlier. Ultimately we can't come up with a rule that covers all circumstances; it is possible Abby was not ready to do this, but it was equally possible that she was, and that she fell to a fate that would have stymied a 32-year-old with her level of experience.
posted by davejay at 1:59 PM on June 10, 2010


Her parents did the math: "If she succeeds, we'll be famous and the whole world will be talking about us. If she dies, we'll still be famous, and the whole world will be talking about us. So let her sail off into the fathomless ocean where she'll be nothing but a little 16-year-old speck 400 miles from the nearest person. We'll survive -- ha! ha! ha!"

I'm going to take a contrary view and say her parents, who love her very much and don't want any harm to come to her, did everything they could to talk her out of it and, barring that, did everything they could to help her prepare for her endeavor. Sometimes loving someone means allowing them to follow their dreams, and supporting them when they do.
posted by davejay at 2:01 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


At that age your brain is still in development.
posted by mecran01 at 2:09 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the arguments against this trip that trot out pregnancy, wreckless driving and other teen misadventures will have a lot more significance when hundreds of thousands of 16-year-olds take to the seas in expensively equipped yachts.

Until then, let the parents be the best judge of her abilities.
posted by CynicalKnight at 2:11 PM on June 10, 2010


This story seems to indicate she was no longer eligible for the record.
posted by bovious at 2:11 PM on June 10, 2010


This girl isn't a child of privilege, anyway.

She is a child of obligation, because her brother did it. You can't count on a child in that circumstance to be able to tell anyone she wasn't that into it or didn't think she was up to it-- including herself.
posted by jamjam at 2:11 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


(i.e. not eligible due to her age after she set sail after putting in for repairs some months ago. Sorry, I should have been clearer. I have no intention of referring to her in the past tense and I hope she hangs on until help arrives.)
posted by bovious at 2:14 PM on June 10, 2010


When I was sixteen my parents thought I was a genius. They were wrong.
posted by Evangeline at 2:19 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Emergency Rescue Effort Underway .. Was On Phone With Father When 'Call Dropped.'
posted by ericb at 2:20 PM on June 10, 2010


She is a child of obligation, because her brother did it. - jamjam

Doubly obliged, because she came up with the idea first! From her blog:
"I plan to be leaving to sail solo around the world this time next year. For three years now I have wanted to do this trip, before my brother ever came up with the idea! Even though I did come up with the idea before Zac ever did, it is due somewhat to him that I am actually doing it now."
posted by crepesofwrath at 2:25 PM on June 10, 2010


"If she dies, we'll still be famous, and the whole world will be talking about us. So let her sail off into the fathomless ocean where she'll be nothing but a little 16-year-old speck 400 miles from the nearest person. We'll survive -- ha! ha! ha!"

I hope her parents aren't using her in their own quest for fame. Her parents seem strangely confident in her abilities. I'm not a parent, but I think I would have worried about her loneliness and emotional health, whether she might get sick or scared. I wouldn't have wanted her to feel that way at all if I could have prevented it.
posted by anniecat at 2:26 PM on June 10, 2010


it is due somewhat to him that I am actually doing it now.

Well, that's a mature and self-aware attitude, at least.
posted by davejay at 2:27 PM on June 10, 2010


I'm going to take a contrary view and say her parents, who love her very much and don't want any harm to come to her, did everything they could to talk her out of it

Any evidence for this? The fact that her brother made the same trip at seventeen would lead one to believe that her parents were actively encouraging it (not to mention subsidizing the cost of both trips).
posted by cjets at 2:32 PM on June 10, 2010


Her parents seem strangely confident in her abilities.

Well sure. You've got to believe in your kid if you're going to see them off on something as mind-blowing as that. Even if you have your worries inside, you tell them they can do it, and you show confidence and almost will it into them, for those moments when they begin to doubt themselves.

It's kind of depressing imagining if they never find her or her craft, and recalling that infographic post 3 back showing ocean depths.
posted by cashman at 2:35 PM on June 10, 2010


From the NTSB report on Jessica Dubroff's crash which was posted above, a sad bit:

In another ABC News interview of both the pilot trainee and her
father at Half Moon Bay, her father inquired, “who told you you wanted to fly
across country?” and the pilot trainee responded, “you.” Her father responded
“oh, I did,” at which time the ABC News correspondent conducting the video
interview inquired “oh, did you come up with the idea dad, is that where it was?”
The pilot trainee’s father responded “I did originally, and I asked [the pilot
trainee’s] mom if it would be OK with her, if [the pilot trainee] flew across country, and she said yes. And I asked [the pilot trainee] and said ‘hey, honey, you don’t have to answer me right away. You could think about this a little, but [the pilot trainee] said ‘No, that’s something I’d like to do’.”

posted by anniecat at 2:38 PM on June 10, 2010


I'm going to take a contrary view and say her parents, who love her very much and don't want any harm to come to her, did everything they could to talk her out of it

I assume then that she bought her very expensive boat and gear with babysitting money, after receiving her certificate from court showing her to be an emancipated minor?
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:43 PM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


It would be really sad if she's not found safe and well....hoping for some good news on this story- does anyone have an update?

OK, I'm new here, but anyone else think it's a little too soon for our snap judgements on her and her parents? The first one was 8 minutes FFS!
posted by welovelife at 2:45 PM on June 10, 2010


I either missed this update on Abby's blog from her parents, or the weird timestamps (it shows up in rss as being from the last few hours) mean it was just put up just recently, but their update entry kind of makes me want to slap them (were it not for the incredible feelings of heartbreak and worry they are surely experiencing). Part of it:
"We are working closely with American, French and Australian Search & Rescue authorities to coordinate several ships in the area to divert to her location. There are several ships in her area, the earliest possible contact is 40 hours. We are actively seeking out some sort of air rescue but this is difficult due to the remoteness of her location. Australian Search & Rescue have arranged to have a Quantas Airbus fly over her location at first light (she is 11 hours later). They will not be able to help her other than to talk via marine radio if they are able to get close enough. Hopefully, they will be able to assess her situation and report back to us."
40 hours? Or if rescue flies in after 11 hours, they can't help her, just look at her? Seriously, that's got to be some kind of form of child endangerment.
posted by cashman at 2:48 PM on June 10, 2010


Don't start any eulogies yet, she's probably still in the game. I'm reading here that she has a water tight compartment and that the beacon signaling her being swamped hasn't gone off.

I'm hoping that she is found beat up, scared shitless and sailing that little craft like a bad mofo!
posted by snsranch at 2:58 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


So because some smart, well informed teenagers get pregnant, that means that Abby Sunderland is incapable of sailing a boat around the world?

I don't recall ever stating that.
My point was, sure, she's a well-informed, highly knowledged, bright, and smart kid.
But she's a KID. That demographic is not widely known for their wise judgment skills.

Kids should not have the responsibilities of adults, and should not be able to pursue dangerous endeavors of adults. Having the freedom to do stupid dangerous shit like this is one of the perks of being an adult.

People in this thread are using her to work through or pronounce their feelings about parenting, teenagers, privilege, etc. And "Abby" becomes whatever is necessary for each person's rant.

I guess my issue is that I have a few teens that I know and love, and I wouldn't (couldn't) allow them to do something so obviously dangerous. Even if someone I knew had done it directly before them, and everything turned out just fine. ("But my friend Johnny goes motocrossing without a helmet all the time!")

Maybe it's just me being a horrible person, but I don't like when the kids I love put themselves in very real, tangible danger.
posted by From the Fortress at 3:11 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Having the freedom to do stupid dangerous shit like this is one of the perks of being an adult. I very politely disagree with this. As the father of two verging on teen boys, I know very well how terrifying it is to let go because I am so worried about their welfare. But if they have the skill and knowledge, who am I to hold them back?

I think that is precisely the case with Abby. I'm sure her parents are horrified right now, but Abby is undoubtedly a very highly trained and skilled sailor. She has earned the right to do this.

If anyone needs to be angry about anything, think about the cost of the rescue mission. But THAT could have happened to anyone of any age.
posted by snsranch at 3:47 PM on June 10, 2010


posted by snsranch If anyone needs to be angry about anything, think about the cost of the rescue mission.

Why should people be angry about the cost of the rescue?
posted by mattdidthat at 3:53 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I too have teens. When they plan a trip, the first thing I need to know is "Where will you be?" When they call me with a problem, my first question is "Where are you?" My comfort level with their travel is directly correlated with my ability to rescue them. The middle of the Indian Ocean is way far off my comfort chart.

I hope she is ok.
posted by SLC Mom at 3:56 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why should people be angry about the cost of the rescue?

Yeah I'm not getting that either. That's the last thing I would care about. It's not like balloon boy or something. She needs rescuing. And what?
posted by cashman at 3:59 PM on June 10, 2010


Maybe it's just me being a horrible person, but I don't like when the kids I love put themselves in very real, tangible danger.

Of course you're not being a horrible person. But you're talking about the kids YOU know. You're not talking about Abby. You projecting the kids you know onto her. Which is natural and understandable. But her parents are (hopefully) seeing her -- the actual Abby. They may know something about her that you don't.
posted by grumblebee at 4:03 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why should people be angry about the cost of the rescue?

Some of the comments up-thread are about teen stunt/stupid behavior and how teens threaten lives other than their own. I think the point was to show that while there will be great monetary cost and danger to lives during this rescue mission, that it could happen to anyone, not just a teen.

Perhaps that was a poor illustration or poorly worded.
posted by snsranch at 4:12 PM on June 10, 2010


I think we can all agree that we hope she turns up safe.

The arguments for or against her being out there really don't matter much at this point.
posted by bwg at 4:40 PM on June 10, 2010


Dear God, be good to me;
The sea is so wide,
And my boat is so small.


safe home kiddo
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:54 PM on June 10, 2010


If I had a boat
I'd go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony
I'd ride him on my boat
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean
Me upon my pony on my boat

Bon chance.
posted by fixedgear at 4:59 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


People in this thread are using her to work through or pronounce their feelings about parenting, teenagers, privilege, etc. And "Abby" becomes whatever is necessary for each person's rant.

I hope you realize you're at the top of that list, grumblebee.
posted by dead cousin ted at 5:07 PM on June 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


Kids should not have the responsibilities of adults, and should not be able to pursue dangerous endeavors of adults. Having the freedom to do stupid dangerous shit like this is one of the perks of being an adult.

+ "in your house."

Maybe it's just me being a horrible person, but I don't like when the kids I love put themselves in very real, tangible danger.

It doesn't have anything to do with being a horrible person. For you, the anticipated pain of losing a child is so great that a relatively small but real risk of doing so is not worth the reward of seeing your child overcome real danger in a scenario they very much want to experience. This is the stance of the majority. But everyone else's values are not identical to yours, and some will decide on a different course of action when they weigh the risk and reward. That doesn't make them horrible people either.
posted by BigSky at 5:10 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Some people are adults at sixteen. That used to be expected (that one be an adult at sixteen). The fact is, it's entirely possible that she had all the information anyone could ever have - at this point in her life - to carry out this adventure. But, just as anyone else who might be prepared to carry out circumnavigation could have, she ran into some trouble.

Her age might very well not be the point, is what I'm saying.
posted by marimeko at 5:30 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why should people be angry about the cost of the rescue?

Not sure where the commenter lives, but that's often the default position out here in BC when people get themselves in trouble doing something risky, and for good reason in certain contexts. We have a lot of bad-ass extreeeeeeem ski dudes that every year think it's fuckin bad-ass extreeeem to go off the marked ski runs and "bushwack" despite the signs saying don't do that and then wind up lost in the woods and in need of helicopter rescue that costs us all a bunch of cash.

Now whether or not that applies here is a whole 'nuther question. I'm just spitballin here though.
posted by Kirk Grim at 5:33 PM on June 10, 2010


Why should people be angry about the cost of the rescue?

Because the millions of dollars wasted on these monuments to narcissism (let the record reflect I feel the same way about sixty year olds doing this shit) could be spent helping people who have only stumbled across misfortune, rather than actively seducing it?

Australia bails out several of these idiots nearly every year, and it costs literally millions of dollars each time. That money could be used on people who can't afford 500k boats, or even $50 shoes. Irresponsible or not, I don't care; people are entitled to get their kicks however (if they're adults), but doing it in this way is profoundly selfish and entitled. There are plenty of people who make amazing sailing voyages without endangering themselves very much at all.
posted by smoke at 5:33 PM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


I hope you realize you're at the top of that list, grumblebee.

I don't realize it.

It's very possible that I am stuck in a blind spot. Can you explain in what way I'm using Abby as a symbol?

The point I was trying to make is that I don't know her. She might be an immature (or average) child who has no business doing what she's doing. Or she might be an adult in the ways that matter for this scenario. How can I or anyone else here know?

I don't get how that's making her into a symbol so that I can rant. I may be ranting, but I'm not constructing a symbolic Abby to do so.

Or am I? I don't get it.
posted by grumblebee at 5:53 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hope Abby is okay. This cube-jockey needs to know there are adventurers in this world.
posted by Intrepid at 5:59 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Come on, smoke, we want to protect these idiots. We'd feel like shit if we didn't, and rightfully so. It isn't about saving one's person's life, it's about how, as a species, we protect our own. This is deficit financing, and the money is being spent on creating a society that feels secure enough to go out on a limb, take risks, and eventually, maybe, hopefully, become better.
posted by seagull.apollo at 6:00 PM on June 10, 2010


go out on a limb, take risks, and eventually, maybe, hopefully, become better.

The third does not necessarily follow from the first two. And there's no way you could argue that the cost-benefit ratio of spending millions of dollars rescuing would equal the results of using that money to fund, you know, actual innovation etc. I don't think society has ever had a problem with people not taking enough risk.

Thirdly, it's a completely false dichotomy anyway. As I said, there are tonnes of ways to "go out on a limb" etc without recklessly endangering yourself and forcing million dollar subsidies of your hobby - not when something unpredictable and random happens, but when something fairly typical happens.
posted by smoke at 6:08 PM on June 10, 2010


richyoung, you can't find specs for an "Open 40" because there are none; the Open classes are, well, open to any yacht that fits in a "box rule" for their length and has certain prescribed safety equipment. The International Monohull Open Classes Association oversees the Open 50 and Open 60 classes, which are the boats that are sailed in the 5 Oceans and Vendée Globe races. The "Open 40" is a parallel class whose box rule is written by the Class 40 association.

Now, I was a proponent of Jessica Walter's attempt, but she sailed in (southern) summer, Oct–May; even the Vendée sailors avoid the southern ocean in winter. This looks, to me, like bad planning and bad seamanship, and on that basis, I think Abby shouldn't have gone; and my fear is that she went now because by this summer she'd be older than Jessica.
posted by nicwolff at 6:23 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


And the ocean said: what are you trying to find?
I don't care, I'm not kind,
I have bludgeoned your sailors, I've spat out their keepsakes . . .


Part of what I, for one, have always loved about the ocean is its indifference. It is no one's mother or friend. It simply is. If I knew Abby well enough to know that she understood that -- whether that grand solitude was truly what she chased, rather than her brother's reputation or her parents' pride -- I would know enough to be at peace with the idea of her early death.

But I'm not, and none of us are; so here we are, having this argument.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:27 PM on June 10, 2010


Yeah, here's the wind chart for her current location. She's pretty much in the middle of that. Good luck to her.
posted by nicwolff at 6:29 PM on June 10, 2010


smoke: We ain't gonna stop saving people, it just ain't our style. To say that this thing is stupid and this thing isn't is all fine and dandy on the internet, but when a mayday goes out you don't do a so-called cost-benefit analysis before rescuing the person. You just go and do it if you have the means, and worry about everything else later.
posted by seagull.apollo at 6:38 PM on June 10, 2010


But she's a KID. That demographic is not widely known for their wise judgment skills.

It's that, plus more. The brains of individual humans simply aren't fully developed at that age. You (the theoretical parent) may never see this at all. You might really believe that your child is exceptionally mature, stable and wise. Your child may never get into trouble or do anything stupid due to poor judgement. But in large part, it's because we shelter kids from radically unsafe situations. We should do! So a situation like this one, where the girl may be expected to encounter events wherein her own judgement may be irrelevant (i.e. sixty-foot waves) is one where the parents can't truly be said to have any knowledge whatsoever of how their child may deal with it. The truth is no one knows until they've been through it, and most who do suffer through these experiences find that the self-awareness which comes with it doesn't remotely compensate for the cost. In essence, it's a fool's bet.

I've seen this a thousand times close up, when I was in the war and every day meant unusual risks for everyone. (Though a primary difference is we didn't go looking for them.)

What's interesting to me is that a solo circumnavigation of the globe by someone under 18 is probably many times more dangerous than life in Sarajevo during wartime for someone of the same age. And I say that as someone hit twice by snipers, and shelled in an occurrence which killed my parents, not to mention suffering from other factors which did cause people to die - freezing cold, lack of food, and sanitation issues which all led to poor health and illness.

We were trapped in Sarajevo - couldn't get out. So if some wealthy American family had announced that they were sending their 16 year-old daughter into Sarajevo during the war, because it's something she genuinely wanted to see and besides, she's "mature" and "capable" and "understands the risks," well EVERYONE would have been appalled and disgusted. It would have been an insane thing to do. Worse would have been the expectation that millions might be spent on extracting this girl from the situation if trouble occurred - in a place where suffering was an everyday thing for the locals. Stupid, and stupidly narcissistic.

But actually, odds are that she would probably have come through it more safely than she would come through a solo sailing expedition around the world. The difference in acceptance of one over the other is simple: Sailing is "nice" and "admirable" - a healthy, upper-middle class white pursuit. Watching a war would be, well, demented for a kid to do. A pointless risk, nearly all parents would agree.

Attention-seeking parents are weird - if Abby doesn't make it, her parents will probably rant about their joy that she died doing what she wanted, rather than feeling the awesome guilt at the realization that their decision was actually a kind of child murder.

I want to say one more thing. As a child, I was allowed to do a few things that were pretty off-limits for other kids. My parents trusted my intelligence and maturity, too. (Though they wouldn't have allowed anything as out-and-out stupidly risky as this stunt.) Even if they had, there would have been one crucuial difference. They would not have allowed my theoretical attempt to sail around the planet to be in any way connected to or driven by the media. I've dealt extensively with the media, and I understand how in some situations it can affect a teenager's judgement. The fact that these parents were such willing whores for the media speaks a lot of their own lack of judgement . . . even before you get to their most basic mistake.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 6:38 PM on June 10, 2010 [12 favorites]


In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life — It goes on.
posted by Senator at 6:46 PM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:56 PM on June 10, 2010


Good luck and safe waters, kid. Sorry your parents are murdering idiots.
posted by Damn That Television at 7:01 PM on June 10, 2010


Abby's parents let her sail around the world or die trying. Literally. And for what? For glory? Fame? To stave off boredom? Or because she and her parents believed she's such a unique snowflake that her development into adulthood would not be complete without a solo, unassisted circumnavigation of the world, on routes beyond the reach of rescue should she encounter the peril she now faces?
posted by hhc5 at 7:07 PM on June 10, 2010


But she's a KID. That demographic is not widely known for their wise judgment skills.

You can't just scream "She's a KID" as if that settles it somehow-- 16 is a very gray area and some 16 year olds are more mature and more experienced than many 20 year olds. Would I let a 16 year old vote? I know some very serious, knowledgeable 16 year olds that would make much more informed decisions in a voting booth than many adults. Should a 16 year old be allowed to have sex with an adult? I certainly did, and many of my girlfriends did as well-- it wasn't exploitation, it was our choice. Unfortunately we have to have these laws pertaining to age because some 16 year olds aren't fully mature-- but some ARE.

Just go to any High School and you'll find plenty of kids with good judgment skills--they'll be the high achievers who have put their nose to the grindstone; forsworn drugs, alcohol, and dating; taken on volunteer jobs or developed a sport skill in order to graduate at the top of their class.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:07 PM on June 10, 2010


Luckily, passage on the oceans is still free to all, and the hand-wringing molly-coddlers haven't yet enacted laws preventing this and other heroic endeavors. Children have been going to sea pretty much forever. In the past, teenagers commonly bore just as much responsibility and some accomplished far more than this. This woman is a young adult, the artificially extended adolescence society imposes on modern youth notwithstanding. So please get a grip. She's not frikken lost at sea. Her EPIRBs have been activated. Completely different thing.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:08 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't read the comments, I don't think my blood pressure would survived the trip through this thread.

The only thing worth saying is really our hope that she has survived, our best to her parents, family and friends.
posted by HuronBob at 7:13 PM on June 10, 2010


The brains of individual humans simply aren't fully developed at that age. Sorry, Dee Xtrovert, but that's just bullshit.

At that age my little brother and I were to the point where we would, as surfers, only paddle out during winter and in pretty solid storms. Sure we would so some Sunday sessions just to get wet, but the point is that our level of skill and ability left us with only winter big wave surfing as a challenge. And FWIW, there were a couple of times when lifeguards paddled out to warn or rescue us only to have us paddle THEM in to the shore.

I really wish people wouldn't count kids so short.
posted by snsranch at 7:18 PM on June 10, 2010


Just go to any High School and you'll find plenty of kids with good judgment skills--they'll be the...
...ones not sailing the Southern Seas alone, 400 miles from rescue, for reasons known only to her and her parents.
posted by hhc5 at 7:31 PM on June 10, 2010


Come on, smoke, we want to protect these idiots. We'd feel like shit if we didn't, and rightfully so. It isn't about saving one's person's life, it's about how, as a species, we protect our own.

Complaining about the cost to save these "monuments to narcissism" != wishing we'd let them die and save the money.
posted by mreleganza at 7:43 PM on June 10, 2010


So a situation like this one, where the girl may be expected to encounter events wherein her own judgement may be irrelevant (i.e. sixty-foot waves) is one where the parents can't truly be said to have any knowledge whatsoever of how their child may deal with it. The truth is no one knows until they've been through it, and most who do suffer through these experiences find that the self-awareness which comes with it doesn't remotely compensate for the cost. In essence, it's a fool's bet.

If this was true, high risk activities like solo circumnavigations, mountaineering, big wave surfing, hang gliding, etc. wouldn't be as popular as they are, and the subjects of the dreams of multitudes more. It's quite clear that a sizable number of people reckon the experience to be worth the hardship. You can see the evidence in all the people voting with their dollars and lives.
posted by BigSky at 7:48 PM on June 10, 2010


At that age my little brother and I were to the point where we would, as surfers, only paddle out during winter and in pretty solid storms. Sure we would so some Sunday sessions just to get wet, but the point is that our level of skill and ability left us with only winter big wave surfing as a challenge. And FWIW, there were a couple of times when lifeguards paddled out to warn or rescue us only to have us paddle THEM in to the shore.

That's awesome. I could ski down mountains backwards and make great chicken stew when I was nine. Unfortunately, neither my awesome experiences nor yours have anything to do with the biological development of the human brain. Look up "teenage brain development" and do some reading about how - before you call bullshit on something and relay only anecdotal and irrelevant support for your opinion.

If this was true, high risk activities like solo circumnavigations, mountaineering, big wave surfing, hang gliding, etc. wouldn't be as popular as they are, and the subjects of the dreams of multitudes more. It's quite clear that a sizable number of people reckon the experience to be worth the hardship. You can see the evidence in all the people voting with their dollars and lives.

Absolutely, though you're mischaracterising things in your list - a solo navigation hundreds of miles from help is much riskier than those other activities. And I fully support the right of an adult to kill him- or herself by engaging in risky practices, so long as no one else is hurt. I don't support a child engaging in something as risky as what Abby is doing. How would anyone feel if someone died trying to rescue her? It's happened in situations like this. And I wouldn't suggest that we not try to rescue her, but frankly, wouldn't it make sense for people to have to buy rescue insurance or put up a bond for rescue costs before engaging in obviously risky and unnecessary endeavours like this? People get upset at the bailouts of big banks and auto companies who fucked up on their own. Rescue efforts here are similar. The vast majority of people living closest to where these rescue efforts will take place will never have the luxury to take a year off in adolescence and sail around the world; many of them will know few days that aren't constant toil. It's difficult to link things readily in a complex world, but metaphorically, the cost to undo the damage of one family's narcissistic folly here (if it's even possible to do so) takes food from the mouths of the hungry and poor.

The more I think about all this, the more I'm appalled at the waste, ego and unrelenting sense of privilege in all this. I don't blame the poor girl, as I assume she has about as much sense of the world as I did around that age. But holy shit, I'd really love to have a go at her mindless guardians.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:25 PM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Complaining about the cost to save these "monuments to narcissism" != wishing we'd let them die and save the money.

The rescue might easily exceed a million US dollars. Is a life worth that? I'd say so. But you could relocate and save many, many victims of war for that same amount - people who are suffering through no fault of their own. We'll spend that money to try to save Abby. But - to give a personal example, when I was in Sarajevo during the war, being bombed daily, the UN would not declare a state of siege, as this would have obliged them to evacuate certain people, and it would have been expensive. So many died, despite having no say in what was happening to them. This included many cute, bright and adventurous girls who were quite like Abby.

People react to individuals. Like Abby, or Anne Frank. But people cannot grasp tragedies on a grand scale equivalently as well. When I was in Sarajevo and everyone around me needed help, the world complained about the cost of saving people - people who were innocent of the events surrounding them, people who did not choose (or in this case, allow their children) to take reckless risks. Jews fleeing the Nazis were turned back from America's shores, and it was popular decision at the time. There hasn't been a post on Zaire or Darfur here in a while, despite many Abbys dying there every day. I support saving everyone, but bringing up the rescue costs here is legitimate; it shows that someone's thinking of the big picture.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:57 PM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


As a child, I was allowed to do a few things that were pretty off-limits for other kids. My parents trusted my intelligence and maturity, too. (Though they wouldn't have allowed anything as out-and-out stupidly risky as this stunt.) Even if they had, there would have been one crucuial difference. They would not have allowed my theoretical attempt to sail around the planet to be in any way connected to or driven by the media.

I think this is a really, really important point, and I agree with it 1000 times over.

I did some stupid-ass shit as a kid, risky as all get-out. By and large, my parents were ok with it (though I'm sure I gave them plenty of grey hairs in the process), because they were willing to trust my judgment, and to step in if they thought I was going too far.

But they were making their judgment calls on their own, with no eye on records, on the media, or on future book deals. Add those factors in, and you start having a strong incentive for extra risk.
posted by Forktine at 9:17 PM on June 10, 2010


Would you trust [...]

I wouldn't trust the average person in their 30s with most of that but I seem to be legally required to.
posted by prak at 9:27 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Regardless of whether 16 is too young to do a solo circumnavigation–and I realize that maturity is a process that proceeds at a different pace for each person, with no single age where any person reaches some measure of maturity–regardless of all of that, this push to be the youngest will inevitably lead to tragedy. Indeed, it seemingly had Abby Sunderland sailing into a southern hemisphere winter in order to beat Jessica Watson. And if Laura Dekker has her way will have her attempting the journey at 14. Unless we start saying that merely being the youngest to complete some dangerous task is not a laudable goal someone is going to get killed. Hopefully that someone isn't Abby.
posted by 6550 at 9:37 PM on June 10, 2010


On one hand, I'm like super proud of her just going and doing her thing. 16 is plenty old. Go forth!

On the other: You're a smart, willful kid with (apparently) a buttload of resources. Go teach in Africa. Go build a school. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Camp out on your Congressman's doorstep. Go do something that will help someone.

All these "Climbing Everest" and "Sailing to x" folks drive me bonkers. It's selfish and weird, the last refuge of excitement for rich, bored people. So many people need a helping hand and you decide to go to the literal end of the Earth to prove something? Please.
posted by GilloD at 10:00 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's my best attempt at understanding what's going on out there.

When her dad spoke with her, she had only the genoa up. That means she's running before the storm in these crazy winds, on autopilot much of the time (because she was reportedly below working on mechanical issues). Running with a storm is about the only tactic available in a boat like Wild Eyes, but it puts her at high risk of knockdowns or rollovers. She had reported more than one knock-down already in this storm, and probably was in for more of the same given the conditions.

Her submersion-activated beacon hasn't gone off yet, so she's still afloat. She's very well equipped (exposure suit, life raft, etc.) and her beacons are transmitting her real-time GPS coordinates that put her roughly here according to this story. Her dad is on record as suspecting she's been dismasted or lost the keel and capsized. The most likely scenario is that she's in her life raft or inside Wild Eyes, getting badly banged up but with a very decent chance of holding out for rescue.

I'm not giving up on Abby yet.
posted by richyoung at 10:26 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


The brains of individual humans simply aren't fully developed at that age.

Sorry, Dee Xtrovert, but that's just bullshit.


Sorry surfing snsranch dude, it is science!
posted by mlis at 11:13 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


It seems to me that no matter how mature a 16 year old is, no matter how many risks they understand, a teenager's brain cannot wrap itself around its own mortality.
posted by roomthreeseventeen


Me either.

Personally, I feel the decision is between her and her parents. I am glad that the high sea's are still relatively free.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 11:26 PM on June 10, 2010


Saying, "sorry, but that's bullshit" is really disingenuous discourse. Do you really expect anyone to respond to that in a calm and thoughtful manner or that they will be receptive to what you say? Is it good faith arguing/discussing?

Either say "sorry, but that argument is incorrect because of", or own up to your snottiness and say "sucker, that's bullshit". But give up that passive-aggressive attempt at rhetorically slamming someone. It's...horseshit.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:28 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


She's alive.
posted by avocet at 11:54 PM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


We have just heard from the Australian Search and Rescue. The plane arrived on the scene moments ago. Wild Eyes is upright but her rigging is down. The weather conditions are abating. Radio communication was made and Abby reports that she is fine!

We don't know much else right now. The French fishing vessel that was diverted to her location will be there in a little over 24 hours. Where they will take her or how long it will take we don't know.

More updates as news comes in.

Laurence & Marianne


via
posted by spacewrench at 11:57 PM on June 10, 2010


First off, glad to hear she's alive and apparently well.

-----

Absolutely, though you're mischaracterising things in your list - a solo navigation hundreds of miles from help is much riskier than those other activities. And I fully support the right of an adult to kill him- or herself by engaging in risky practices, so long as no one else is hurt. I don't support a child engaging in something as risky as what Abby is doing. How would anyone feel if someone died trying to rescue her? It's happened in situations like this. And I wouldn't suggest that we not try to rescue her, but frankly, wouldn't it make sense for people to have to buy rescue insurance or put up a bond for rescue costs before engaging in obviously risky and unnecessary endeavours like this? People get upset at the bailouts of big banks and auto companies who fucked up on their own. Rescue efforts here are similar. The vast majority of people living closest to where these rescue efforts will take place will never have the luxury to take a year off in adolescence and sail around the world; many of them will know few days that aren't constant toil. It's difficult to link things readily in a complex world, but metaphorically, the cost to undo the damage of one family's narcissistic folly here (if it's even possible to do so) takes food from the mouths of the hungry and poor.

I haven't seen any statistics on the risks faced by solo circumnavigators. Perhaps it is much riskier, but I'd like to see some evidence in support of that.

Yes, rescuers have died in the course of making rescue attempts. How did the successfully rescued feel afterwards? Who knows, but I hope they got over it. When the rescuers took that job they also took on that risk, and that also applies to the workers on all other ships that might be called in to help someone in peril. That's one of their collateral duties. I don't see much point in giving someone a guilt trip over a tragedy, especially if she hasn't been incompetent in her handling the boat.

No, I don't think anyone should have to put up a bond or buy insurance for a rescue attempt. There are people (see his September 2008 post) who go to sea without a satellite radio or an EPIRB. They won't be calling out to anyone. But perhaps those who do call for help should be billed for the costs of the rescue.

And no, the capital spent rescuing a boater does not result in food taken out of the mouths of the poor. Not metaphorically, not in any way. There is simply no connection. A certain percentage of boaters are going to run into trouble. The cost of rescue operations is a function of the total population of boaters. Would the poor be receiving additional food and shoes and shelter if there were no sailboats or trawlers (and thus no rescue operations) on the ocean? No, sailboats and trawlers and marinas and tourism create jobs all over the world. Sneer at the privileged families and their yachts all you like, but that luxury market has created economic growth, both here (U.S.) and abroad.
posted by BigSky at 12:40 AM on June 11, 2010


She's safe.
posted by sarastro at 1:46 AM on June 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


A certain percentage of boaters are going to run into trouble. The cost of rescue operations is a function of the total population of boaters.

No, the cost of rescue operations will be, as with the cost of rescuing cretinous trampers who head into the bush without adequate preparation, or the clean-up of car crashes, a function of the number of people who do stupid shit, plus a much smaller number of actual accidents.
posted by rodgerd at 1:56 AM on June 11, 2010


The brains of individual humans simply aren't fully developed at that age.

The human brain starts trailing off in ability in the forties and fifties, typically, as well, but I don't notice so many of the people who love to whip out the "teenagers don't have fully-formed brains" applying similar logic to people aging past brain prime.
posted by rodgerd at 2:00 AM on June 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


"trailing off?" I assume that means "at capacity," "all full up," right?

I mean it sounds negative, but surely it isn't.
posted by crunchland at 3:43 AM on June 11, 2010


a tremendous hubris and disrespect for how wild, powerful and terrifying nature still is.

It's not hubris if you kick nature's arse. If the world were full of people like you we'd all still be living in caves. Don't go out there, it's not safe! Fire?! Do you want to kill us all? A WHEEL?!!? What arrogance! You're ohnlee sixteeeeeen!

She's safe.

You mean she didn't die? Just like the other 'stupid little girl' didn't die (sorry, I mean 'was murdered by her reckless parents')? This is my surprised face -> :|
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:09 AM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


happyroach: Admittedly its utterly shocking that there's parents who allow their kids to do anything besides sit in front of the TV or computer all day, but to put things in a different perspective, in the 1800s children in their early teens were putting out to sea. I'm not sure if we care more about children now, or simply infantilize them; either way as a result, we get people who are still children through college. As far as I'm concerned, she was old enough to know the risks, so the wisdom or foolishness of the attempt rested on her head.

There's a big difference between being part of the crew and solo. My Da went to sea at 14. He was a deckhand and not in charge of a damned thing. Even with the skills he had, it was recognised that he didn't have the maturity to run a boat. At 18, when he started skippering himself, he sure didn't go out in comparable conditions/areas to Abby's itinerary. For all his assumed invulnerability, he just wasn't that hungry - for money, for applause, for anything.

nicwolff: Now, I was a proponent of Jessica Walter's attempt, but she sailed in (southern) summer, Oct–May; even the Vendée sailors avoid the southern ocean in winter. This looks, to me, like bad planning and bad seamanship, and on that basis, I think Abby shouldn't have gone; and my fear is that she went now because by this summer she'd be older than Jessica.

It makes me wonder if it took her longer to activate the beacon. If she weighed the risks of dying against the certainty of losing the award. That terrifies me.

rodgerd: No, the cost of rescue operations will be, as with the cost of rescuing cretinous trampers who head into the bush without adequate preparation, or the clean-up of car crashes, a function of the number of people who do stupid shit, plus a much smaller number of actual accidents.

And when those services are divided between the accident and the drunken fucking arseholes losing their way/unprepared dickheads running out of fuel? Heart rending. Wondering if your trained and prepared relatives might have survived (or been less injured) if rescue personnel weren't having to run another rescue and explain to self entitled arsewipe of the week that the sea will actually kill them fucking dead if they get tanked and play silly buggers, or not bother checking the weather, or assume they know better.

The sea swallows you. It affects everyone even tangentially connected. I no longer read these stories, or those about jerkwads being rescued. I tense every time I get a glimpse of the ocean on the news. The lack of respect for the terrain shown by Abby and her family horrifies me.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:27 AM on June 11, 2010


Abby's the daughter of a shipwright who owns a yacht management company, and has been sailing since she was a baby. She's qualified for this and her parents aren't monsters for supporting her.

Also, as someone who was legally emancipated from her parents at age 14 and has led a very responsible & successful life since then, let me just say that some of you don't know from teenagers. Yes, I get that most of you were complete idiots at 16, but while you were busy drunk driving, getting pregnant, and dropping out of school, you had peers who were head and shoulders above you, in ways you clearly can't fathom.
posted by zarah at 4:40 AM on June 11, 2010 [19 favorites]


Not reading the debate above--just here to say woo!
posted by Beardman at 4:45 AM on June 11, 2010


I'm glad she has been contacted and says she's fine. Hope that ends this.
posted by cashman at 5:15 AM on June 11, 2010


Oh wow, thanks for the update, let's hope they can get her out safely.
posted by dabug at 5:16 AM on June 11, 2010


She's qualified for this and her parents aren't monsters for supporting her.

Really? She's qualified for sailing into that sea at that time of year?
posted by 6550 at 6:03 AM on June 11, 2010


**gives cool anecdote about how I didn't "do pot" in high school** and thats why we should eliminate the legal status of minors. Sorry the rest of you are full of fail. **slam dunks ... a basketball??**
posted by Damn That Television at 6:26 AM on June 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


This girl is going to be airlifted out of the Indian Ocean and lowered directly onto Oprah's couch, still wrapped in a towel.
posted by hermitosis at 6:43 AM on June 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


No, the cost of rescue operations will be...

Regarding the costs:
"The maritime authority, which paid to charter the plane, said it would not be seeking compensation for the search, which initially fell just outside of Australia’s search and rescue region.

'That’s the way the system runs,' search coordinator Kinley said. 'We would expect people to rescue any Australian yachtsman (in these conditions). It’s our obligation to do this and we’ll fulfill those obligations as Australia does.'

He did not say how much the rescue mission would cost."
Now, I was a proponent of Jessica Walter's attempt, but she sailed in (southern) summer, Oct–May; even the Vendée sailors avoid the southern ocean in winter.
"But renowned Australian round-the-world sailor Ian Kiernan said Abby should not have been in the southern Indian Ocean during the current southern hemisphere winter.

'Abby would be going through a very difficult time with mountainous seas and essentially hurricane-force winds,' Kiernan told Sky News television.

Conditions can quickly become perilous for any sailor exposed to the elements in that part of the world."*
posted by ericb at 7:06 AM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


geek anachronism: It makes me wonder if it took her longer to activate the beacon. If she weighed the risks of dying against the certainty of losing the award. That terrifies me.

She'd already lost the award by stopping for repairs at Cape Hope, IIRC. She was continuing just to finish.

So happy she's safe.
posted by swerve at 7:26 AM on June 11, 2010


Hooray!

Saying, "sorry, but that's bullshit" is really disingenuous discourse.

You're right, I was being an ass. Sorry about that.
posted by snsranch at 7:39 AM on June 11, 2010


Has anyone floated the idea that they just Balloon Boy'd us? I sure hadn't heard of this 16 year old sailor until she got into trouble, now she's all top of Google News, etc.. Maybe she was riding it out all along, nothing she couldn't handle, but activated the emergency beacons anyway to give us all a ride.
posted by nowoutside at 7:49 AM on June 11, 2010


Has anyone floated the idea that they just Balloon Boy'd us? I sure hadn't heard of this 16 year old sailor until she got into trouble

You must have missed the equally contentious earlier thread, or the many news stories before she set sail.

Yes, I get that most of you were complete idiots at 16, but while you were busy drunk driving, getting pregnant, and dropping out of school, you had peers who were head and shoulders above you, in ways you clearly can't fathom.

I feel bad for people who peak in high school. Life must be such a disappointment for them.
posted by fixedgear at 7:53 AM on June 11, 2010


Has anyone floated the idea that they just Balloon Boy'd us?

I LOVE "balloon boy" used as a verb. Thank you.
posted by grumblebee at 8:24 AM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Has anyone floated the idea that they just Balloon Boy'd us

I see what you did.
posted by Think_Long at 8:54 AM on June 11, 2010


Has anyone floated the idea that they just Balloon Boy'd us

I kind of leaned back and laughed, shaking my head at such preposterousness. And then I saw that along with her blog, there's her site and her web store with a bunch of $50 shoes, and apparel and other things for sale. I sure, sure hope that's not what's up.
posted by cashman at 9:14 AM on June 11, 2010


nowoutside: Maybe she was riding it out all along, nothing she couldn't handle, but activated the emergency beacons anyway to give us all a ride.

She activated her emergency beacons because her mast broke. Just because you'd never heard of her doesn't mean she hadn't been all over the news before she set sail.
posted by swerve at 9:21 AM on June 11, 2010


No, the cost of rescue operations will be, as with the cost of rescuing cretinous trampers who head into the bush without adequate preparation, or the clean-up of car crashes, a function of the number of people who do stupid shit, plus a much smaller number of actual accidents.

I'm pretty sure that "the number of people who do stupid shit" is a function of the size of the total population doing that activity. So is the number of people who have actual accidents.
posted by BigSky at 9:25 AM on June 11, 2010


She'd already lost the award by stopping for repairs at Cape Hope, IIRC. She was continuing just to finish.

Well, she was still attempting to be the youngest to circumnavigate the globe in a boat solo, she just missed out on the uninterrupted part when she docked in South Africa, so it wasn't "just to finish". There was still a record attempt being made.
posted by inturnaround at 9:59 AM on June 11, 2010


Zarah, what you did was amazing and kudos on it. But having to cope because you are forced to by circumstance is not the same thing as taking on an unnecessary risk to get attention.

The reason what you did was amazing is because so many 14-year-old would not be able to do it; not just because of immaturity, but because acquiring good decision-making skills takes time, and also making a lot of screwups w/out ruining your life or killing you to learn from. Having people taking care of you while you do that increases your odds of success dramatically.

You made it; lots of other kids who, say, end up on the street at 14, do not. They end up dead, or addicted, or damaged in other ways. Which is why we consider parents who do turn their kids lose at 14 either incapable or uncaring.

In Abby's case, she seems to have handled the danger well and to be exceptionally mature. Kudos to her too. But her parents still allowed her to put herself in a life-threatening situation for no more noble goal than being the "youngest" to do something, and honestly, that's fucked-up.
posted by emjaybee at 10:33 AM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am hoping as hard as I can that the father's quote (below) just came out slightly wrong in the update story from Beardman.

We took a ton of unsolicited flack from other parents about "inviting disaster" for simply having a large trampoline in our back garden when our boys were younger. Because we were well aware of the risks, we did a very good job of patrolling & frankly, the main problem was dads "having a go" - then losing their bouncing car keys in the low bushes nearby.

So I've been inclined to assume the best of the parents here.

But now I'm wondering.

From the link:
"Laurence Sunderland said his daughter would not be resuming her round-the-world attempt once she has been rescued, the AFP news agency reports.
Zac Sunderland outside the family home in California on 10/6/2010 Abby had been trying to break her brother Zac's solo voyage record
"We've got our Abigail back and the quest will be over," he said. "Knowing that she's alive and well means so much more to me than any sailing record. It's just a huge, huge relief.
"

That just sounded strange. I can't fathom why he even mentioned the sailing record at all?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:17 AM on June 11, 2010


Actually that seems pretty good to say, to me. The whole reason she was out there was for the record. And he's basically saying to her "I Love You", because obviously they will talk about this in their family for years to come. It would be crushing to be stranded at sea, in an amount of peril, and then have your dad seem like he was happy to have you back but that it was disappointing you didn't set the record.
posted by cashman at 11:34 AM on June 11, 2010


I can't fathom why he even mentioned the sailing record at all?

I would imagine it's come up in every question he's been asked today. The alternative is to say he doesn't love his daughter and/or he is indifferent to her safety. I don't believe that to be true.
posted by inturnaround at 11:54 AM on June 11, 2010


The alternative is to say he doesn't love his daughter and/or he is indifferent to her safety. I don't believe that to be true.

Inturnaround,
That's very peculiar "alternative"!

I only meant he could have omitted the bloody record altogether!

You're probably right, though - that he was asked repeatedly about the original goal of the venture & that's why he had to make a point of it.
(The quote just sounded an odd note with me...)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:11 PM on June 11, 2010


Too much money.

I also believe that we've been balloon boy'd. Enjoy swallowing the bait - hook, line and sinker.
posted by Malice at 12:25 PM on June 11, 2010


I don't think we've been balloon boy'd, but after reading through the blog last night and googling the boat they bought this family spent a lot of money. ~$150k for the boat and then it had to be transported across the continent and then gutted and overhauled. Then flying to Cabo with equipment and hiring a crew and flying to Cape Horn to meet her? Wow. All my daughter got so far was a pink scooter and I make her wear a helmet.
posted by Big_B at 12:36 PM on June 11, 2010


Cartoon coyote feared lost attempting to break world record for wearing rocket skates while carrying giant horseshoe magnet. "He had amazing guts ... more in his pinky than the armchair parents who want to tie everything down and wrap it in bubblewrap so nothing bad ever happens. We are cleaning them off the road as we speak" said paramedics at the scene
posted by Damn That Television at 12:56 PM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, I get that most of you were complete idiots at 16, but while you were busy drunk driving, getting pregnant, and dropping out of school, you had peers who were head and shoulders above you, in ways you clearly can't fathom.

You totally just crowned yourself Unfathomably Superior. Um, congratulations?
posted by palliser at 1:43 PM on June 11, 2010


So ... as I suggested, she's not frikken LOST AT SEA after all. Turns out her preparation, planning and skills were demonstrably adequate to the task. This is me not holding my breath waiting for an apology from all the idiots accusing her parents of murder.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:19 PM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm glad she's okay. But I just spent an hour reading her blog--and just as interestingly, the comments section--and I'm not convinced that she is really as super-specially mature as half the people here are arguing. I'm not a sailor, but I've done a fair amount of outdoor education, and from my perspective, her blog sounds like the account of someone who is technically proficient enough to get herself out of some pretty bad scrapes, but who lacks the judgement to avoid getting into those scrapes to begin with.

Her blog entry from June 2 is a good example of all this. Among other things, most of the commentors on her blog who are/were sailors seem to agree that if she'd taken her sail down farther before she went to bed, she wouldn't have woken up almost knocked over in a gale with water pouring into her boat, but in her own account, she never admits that she messed up.

I'm not saying that she's a bad kid by any means. She just sounds like a funny mix of grown-up and immature, just like most other sixteen year olds I know, and not like someone so on top of their shit that they clearly belong out in the southern ocean in the middle of the winter.
posted by colfax at 2:30 PM on June 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm starting to lean toward them wanting the attention. I saw this page earlier (linked off of her main website) and it just had her interviews. It's since been updated with multiple videos of the rescue discussion. Ebay listing ended this morning, there's a twitter page, blog, product website, main website, interview website, urls on the boat sails. Hey, what do I know.

from my perspective, her blog sounds like the account of someone who is technically proficient enough to get herself out of some pretty bad scrapes, but who lacks the judgement to avoid getting into those scrapes to begin with.

Watching some of the interview videos kind of made me feel the same way.
posted by cashman at 2:50 PM on June 11, 2010


Turns out her preparation, planning and skills were demonstrably adequate to the task.

Wasn't "the task" solo circumnavigation of the globe? Or at the very least, getting herself to dry land. Without a mast, she's basically helpless and in need of rescue, which doesn't seem to me to be an ending that proves the adequacy of her own planning and skills.
posted by palliser at 3:26 PM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


from the Associated Press:

International sailing bodies, meanwhile, have refused to recognize around-the-world trips by youngsters in an effort to discourage them.

University of Southern California sociologist Julie Albright attributes the rush to perform such feats of skill and endurance at least in part to parents pushing their kids to excel beyond all expectations.

"These kids are raised with the notion that every kid gets a trophy and every kid is more intelligent and better than all the others," said Albright, who is also a veteran sailor and former commodore of Southern California's South Bay Yacht Racing Club.

Even if Sunderland is physically capable of making the journey, Albright questions whether she or any 16-year-old really has the maturity to do so. She said studies show the human brain does not develop its full potential for reasoning until a person is in their 20s.


My favorite quote from the same article:

Laurence Sunderland said Friday that he "gave her the option" of bowing out at that point in her trek.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:58 PM on June 11, 2010


"Plane Locates Teenager Sailing Solo"
"Abby Sunderland in good health after rescue"
posted by blueberry at 8:22 AM on June 12, 2010


Huh. So does the French fishing ship get compensated in any way for dropping everything to rescue her, or is that just something that maritime folks are expected to do for each other?
posted by craichead at 8:39 AM on June 12, 2010


"The Australian maritime authority did not say how much the rescue mission would cost but said it would not be seeking compensation for the search, which initially fell just outside of Australia's search and rescue region. It was not immediately clear if the French vessel would seek compensation." *
posted by ericb at 10:11 AM on June 12, 2010


Ocean Rescue - Who Should Pay?
posted by ericb at 10:12 AM on June 12, 2010


This is me not holding my breath waiting for an apology from all the idiots accusing her parents of murder.

Dear PareidoliaticBoy: I'm very sorry you think you're entitled to an apology. I'm also sorry about the pareidolia, though I had absolutely nothing to do with that.

Since it's apparently necessary for some people, I would like to announce that I'm happy for all involved that Abby Sunderland is alive and unharmed after sailing into what could have been a fatally wrong place and wrong time scenario.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 4:56 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh look.

Sailor Abby Sunderland's Dad Signed Her To TV Deal Before Her Doomed Voyage

The father of teen sailor Abby Sunderland told The NY Post that he's broke and had signed a contract to do a reality show, "Adventures in Sunderland," about his family of daredevil kids weeks after she set off on her doomed and dangerous solo sail around the globe.
posted by Damn That Television at 10:58 AM on June 14, 2010


This is me not holding my breath waiting for an apology from all the idiots accusing her parents of murder.

lol @ dis in light of the fact that the broke dad forced his impressionable teen daughter to sail around the world so he could make money
posted by Damn That Television at 11:07 AM on June 14, 2010


I was hoping someone would post about that.

At least Balloon Boy didn't REALLY have to get into the balloon....
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:31 PM on June 14, 2010


Sailor Abby Sunderland's Dad Signed Her To TV Deal Before Her Doomed Voyage
Huh? The article says differently:
"The father of teen sailor Abby Sunderland told The NY Post that he's broke and had signed a contract to do a reality show, 'Adventures in Sunderland,' about his family of daredevil kids weeks after she set off on her doomed and dangerous solo sail around the globe."
posted by ericb at 12:37 PM on June 14, 2010


I have no problem with the family "selling their story," as I don't with others who have previously benefitted financialy by telling their stories by way of writing books, having documentaries, films and television shows made about their solo trips around the world. Robin Lee Graham comes to mind -- book and film.
posted by ericb at 12:44 PM on June 14, 2010


...the broke dad forced his impressionable teen daughter...

Oh come on. Her trip has been in planning since she was 13 y.o. Her brother's trip also took years of planning and preparation.
posted by ericb at 12:45 PM on June 14, 2010


"...filming ["Adventures in Sunderland"] began four months ago.*

Magnetic Entertainment's website on 'Adventures in Sunderland' (Reality TV), 'Abby's Journey' (Documentary), 'Solo Dreams' (Documentary about solo circumnavigation journeys of Abby Sunderland, Jessica Watson and Laura Decker). This production company profiles youths (and their families) who undertake various challenges and extreme sports.
posted by ericb at 12:54 PM on June 14, 2010


Her trip has been in planning since she was 13 y.o.

Well that removes any doubt from my mind that she was raised by her dad specifically to do this kind of shit.
posted by Damn That Television at 1:07 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


BTW -- Magnetic Entertainment has video footage of Abby prepping for her voyage at their website. The boat she is on carries a mainsail with logos promoting 'Shoe City,' 'Kikkoman' and a Shoe City sponsored website: Abby16.com. Very common to have sponsors who underwrite the costs of such a voyage. This challenge was hardly unplanned and last minute. The idea that this was a "balloon boy' stunt is simply foolish.

BTW -- in addition to her blog (as linked to above), Abby has a website.
posted by ericb at 1:10 PM on June 14, 2010


Oops -- link which contains video footage.
posted by ericb at 1:11 PM on June 14, 2010


Various television interviews of Abby pre-voyage and current coverage.

I'm impressed with her especially in this pre-voyage interview on ABC.
posted by ericb at 1:18 PM on June 14, 2010


13 year old: "Dad can I sail around the world by myself"
Dad: "no not until you're old enough to be appealing to the reality television demographic"
posted by Damn That Television at 1:19 PM on June 14, 2010


Broke dude with 8th kid to be delivered any second. He may not have sent her off for the money, but I do think that despite his protesting that the reality show was 'the last thing on his mind', that it surely affected his (and their) judgment.

Huh? The article says differently: weeks after she set off on her doomed and dangerous solo sail around the globe.

But the NY Post article says he'd been shopping it around for some time: "Sunderland said he didn't initially get many bites." It's not like the media got wind of it so he capitalized. He seems to have been thinking about it for a while, and signed the deal after she actually left. So when he was shopping the show around before the voyage, and getting almost no attention, I don't believe him that he wasn't letting that affect whether or not she should go out into the Indian Ocean when the seas would be really rough. According to the father, they are broke, and there are 10 people to feed.
posted by cashman at 8:06 AM on June 15, 2010


Her mother, Marianne Sunderland, who is pregnant with the family's eighth child, said the family did not have the $300,000 necessary to compensate Australian rescue officials, the Courier Mail reported.
We can't afford the rescue fees!
Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the government would not be seeking reimbursement for the cost of the rescue.
I call balloons on this story.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:51 PM on June 15, 2010


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