I've recently stated a coupla times in a coupla different places that I intend to be more creatively positive instead of being reactively negative in my posts. To lean toward meeting that goal, lemme start this post on a positive thought and and continue mostly in the vein, with maybe just a little snarkiness sneaked in there, like a dash of wasabi used to enhance the flavor of a dish. [No! "Snuk" is not acceptable, unless you're the kind of person who says "on accident."]
Abby Sunderland is a person I admire greatly but not because *I* want to do a solo circumnavigation and feel envy when I think of her. I love to sail and I enjoy having time alone but I have no desire to sail around the world just for the sake of doing it and I certainly don't wanna spend that much time alone. I admire her because she is a person who had a desire and pursued that desire in the face of tremendous opposition. From outsiders, anyway. Her family obviously supported her and I say kudos to them.
Currently, Abby is dismasted in the vastness of the Indian Ocean She was knocked down several times in winds gusting over 60 knots and large waves. Her radar was torn away in one of the knockdowns. Her engine compartment flooded. Her satellite phone went out. Oh woe! Oh horror! Blah, blah, blah.
For those of you unfamiliar with sailing, allow me to inform you that shit happens on a boat, especially a boat which is in tough conditions and has been at sea with no break for months. Abby is an experienced sailor, her boat is well-founded and perfectly-suited to survive difficult conditions, and she is well equipped. She has a dry suit, survival suit, life raft, and ditch bag with emergency supplies. Wild Eyes is designed for travel in the Southern Ocean and is equipped with 5 air-tight bulkheads to keep her buoyant in the event of major hull damage. It is built to Category 0 standards and is designed to self-right in the event of capsize. She has two EPIRBs, one of which is automatic and turns on when submerged. Etc. This was not some spur-of-the-moment decision undertaken without forethought or planning. This (young) woman was experienced and prepared. Speaking of her age…
Alexander the Great became king at age 16 and then resolved the riddle of the Gordian Knot (by chopping through it with his sword, which is precisely how he became ruler of Asia Minor), subsequently totally ravaging the Middle East, and pressing on into the Indian subcontinent before his death. We all love the story and artifacts associated with Tutankhamun who became pharaoh at 9 and ruled Egypt for a decade before his death. These are just a couple of examples from history of people we now call "teens" and think of as "children." It is only in very recent Western history that we've infantilized teens and defined them as a form of "child." Returning to thoughts of Abby and her age in the context of attempting a solo circumnavigation, MJ was 12 when we moved aboard the Zombie Princess. Chloe was 11. I'd rather have either of them as crew on a difficult passage than a lot of people I know who are 30-something, or 40-something, or whatever. Calendar age is a meaningless measure of… well, Hell!, almost everything. Robin Lee Graham set out on a solo circumnavigation at 16 in 1965 with his boat Dove, which, compared to Abby's fabulous 40-foot, specially-crafted Wild Eyes, was a 24-foot production P.O.S. (A Lapworth Gladiator. I've never been a fan of Lapworth's designs.) with no GPS, no Satphone, no EPIRB, etc.
Wait. That's too much detail. This post is only peripherally about sailing. Sailing is just the specific context for Abby Sunderland. And a few others. What this is about is life. A life of freedom and choice and self-direction. In response to natterings about the dangers of ocean sailing, Abby's folks countered with the dangers of driving on the freeway. Naysayers demurred, complaining that the two were not congruent. No, they're not congruent at all. Driving is much more dangerous than deep-ocean sailing on a yare craft. I reiterate a position I've stated a time or two: If you don't know what you're talking about, you should learn a bit before you comment or you should shut the fuck up.
To Abby, Abby's family, and other self-directed, autodidactic teens out there, I say: I support you. I love that you are pursuing your dreams, whether that dream is a solo circumnavigation or a desire to be a manga artist. Keep going after whatever it is that you want. Ignore the annoying cawing of the doom-crows. Listen to your own inner voice. It's your life. Live it.
Robin Graham's Dove
Exploring manga art
P.S. Ben Lovejoy forced me to write a song about Abby. It's here.