Abby Sunderland made the news in 2010 for trying to sail around the world by herself—at age sixteen. I remember seeing a brief story about her and thinking, “You go, girl!” Recently, Abby released Unsinkable: A Young Woman’s Courageous Battle on the High Seas (written with Lynn Vincent), the story of her record-breaking trip and how it ended so disastrously in the Indian Ocean.
Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson. This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Unsinkable is an incredible story that leaves me in awe of this amazing young woman and what she accomplished. Many critics thought Abby was too young to sail solo around the world. People who knew nothing about Abby, her family, or their preparations for her journey attacked her for realizing her dream.
In response, Abby writes in Unsinkable,
When this country was founded, guys my age were running farms or apprenticing in a trade or going to war. Girls my age were starting families. Now we’re supposed to have ‘teenage years,’ which seems to mean you go to high school, maybe play a sport or learn an instrument. If you belong to a church, you might go on missions trips to foreign countries, which is cool. Other than that, it’s hang out at the mall, surf the Internet, and wait until you’re eighteen to start your life.
I agree with Abby; our society is underestimating our young people, coddling and babying them, and then wondering why they get into trouble in high school. Abby’s parents believed in her and her abilities and helped her realize her dream. Vincent writes, “[Abby’s father] Laurence had always believed adults would be surprised at what young people can accomplish if given the chance, instead of being penned up like colts in a stable, unable to stretch their legs.”
As Abby talked about what life at sea was like, and what she had to do to keep sailing, my amazement grew. I’ve done some tough things in my life—hiked the Wext Coast Trail or biked 150 km in one day—but nothing compared to what Abby did. I would’ve given up long before she did, but she kept going, impressing even the experienced sailors on her team.
In the six months she spent on her boat, she learned and grew and deepened her faith in God. At the end of her voyage, Abby sums up her trip by saying, “Alone with myself at sea for months, I learned who I am. I made some mistakes, but survived them and learned. I am twelve thousand miles wiser, twelve thousand miles more resilient, and I have twelve thousand miles more faith in God.”
Abby’s trip ended when a rogue wave rolled her boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean and broke her mast. Even then, Abby wasn’t willing to give up. She wanted to find a way to jury rig a new mast and keep going. There were moments in her story when I cheered and moments when I cried.
Abby Sunderland should be an inspiration to every girl her age, and her parents to families everywhere. This world would be a remarkably better place if every sixteen-year-old dreamed as big as Abby did and if every parent gave their child the wholehearted love and support that Abby’s parents gave her.
Unsinkable made it onto my Best Books of 2011 list.