The Inside Scoop From A Member Of Abby’s Team

The Abby Sunderland forum over at Sailing Anarchy is a great place to follow what’s happening. One of the participants is SMSScott, who is involved with Abby’s circumnavigation. He recently posted this information:

Between about 3:00 pm PDT and 5:00 pm PDT we had many very short broken calls from iridium phone from inside boat.

Abby had been Knocked Down several times in 60 Kts winds earlier in the day. Last Knock Down stripped radar from gimbaled mount on mast. There was slight amount of water in boat. No other damage was noted running backs were intact. A full damage survey had not been done yet outside.

There are no other details of any of the particulars from Abby, like i said they were very very short broken and dropped calls.

She felt she was in good shape after these incidents. The main reason for the call was engine would not start. We got engine started and it was working OK. B&G wind instruments atop mast were still in working order she had 35 Kts wind and was sailing with jenny only. Basically she felt all was OK.

Iridium dropped another call and we expected a quick call back as she had been doing for several hours. 30 minutes to 1 hour passed with no contact.

Then USCG called with first EPIRB deployment this was a manual EPIRB from inside cabin. Short time later Personal EPIRB was also activated. There is also a Class 1 automatic deployment EPIRB in cockpit that has not activated.Both EPIRB’s were tracking with each other as best as could be determined at this early stage. Just about the time of EPIRB activation it would have been getting dark.

She does have a life raft and survival suite.

Her last water temperature report June 5 was 54 degrees F and cabin was 60 degree F…since then just yesterday (i think) she has reported verbally a cabin temp of 65 degree F

Search and Rescue has been handed over to the French.

French navy vessel 2 1/2 days away has been diverted to EPIRB position. Fishing vessel 40 hours away has also been diverted to EPIRB location.
Initial EPIRB location was 557 NM NNE of PORT-AUX-FRANCIAS.

That is the extent of what we know.

This is the most full and complete info you will get from anywhere I was on the phone calls with her. If you hear anything else but this it is either not true or it is new info.

The good news I take from this is that the automatic EPIRB has not been activated. That likely means Wild Eyes is still afloat, and as long as Abby is still aboard that gives hope. Stay tuned.

Update: Similar account from Abby’s family on her blog. I’m starting to hope that after getting creamed she just decided she’d had enough and punched the two manual EPIRBs, calling to be taken off the boat. If so, she will be found, and should be safe.

Here’s another video of Abby, describing her plans:

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Is Abby Sunderland Lost At Sea?

I sure hope not, but this report is not good news:

Abby Sunderland, 16, who is attempting to become the youngest sailor ever to circumnavigate the globe, was feared lost at sea today after her crew lost contact with her boat….Casher told ABC News that he last spoke with the 16-year-old sailor around 6 a.m. PDT after she had been knocked down twice during the night because of strong winds.

One of those knock-downs, Casher said, ripped the radar off the boat. She had been speaking with Casher on a satellite telephone earlier because of engine problems and was in the process of fixing those problems when she told Casher she’d call right back.

She has not been heard from since, except for the distress signals.

Abby is approximately 500 miles north of the Antarctic Islands on her bid to become the youngest to circumnavigate the globe in a sailboat, solo.

People have a way of disappearing at sea, only to turn up eventually. But the Indian Ocean is a cold, remote place. Abby’s last blog post said she was preparing for some nasty weather:

The last few days have pretty busy out here. I’ve been in some rough weather for awhile with winds steady at 40-45 knots with higher gusts. With that front passing, the conditions were lighter today. It was a nice day today with some lighter winds which gave me a chance to patch everything up. Wild Eyes was great through everything but after a day with over 50 knots at times, I had quite a bit of work to do…

The wind is beginning to pick up. It is back up to 20 knots and I am expecting that by midnight tonight I could have 35-50 knots with gusts to 60 so I am off to sleep before it really picks up.

So the waiting begins. Keep your fingers crossed for Abby, and you can stay in touch with what is happening via her blog and her website.

Update: Blogger Pete Thomas is reporting that both Abby’s EPIRBs went off, and one is either attached to her life raft or survival suit. Sure hope it is the former, if she is in the water. he also spoke with Laurence Sunderland, who had been on the phone with Abby earlier to see how she was coping in the rough conditions. “Everything seemed to be under control,” Laurence Sunderland told Thomas. “But then our call dropped and a hour later the Coast Guard called.”

Here’s Abby, talking about the trip. Her father’s comments, starting at 2:23, are painful to hear.

The (New) Wetass Chronicles: Adventure Lost

Cross-posted from The Wetass Chronicles at

When Jessica Watson set out from Sydney, Australia, last October to sail non-stop around the world, solo and unassisted, I was—how shall I put this?—extremely skeptical. It wasn’t her age—just 16—so much as her inexperience, though that is age related. It didn’t help that she collided with a freighter before the start. I thought her parents were idiots.

Mostly, though, it was my perception of solo, RTW sailing as an epic, dangerous, and lonely challenge, requiring superhuman discipline, an ability to survive on little sleep, and the capability to fix, invent, and jury-rig your way around the globe. I got that perception from devouring the RTW sailing literature from the early days: Robin-Knox Johnston, Bernard Moitessier, Miles Smeeton, and many others. Also, from following the inspired craziness of the Vendee Globe. This canon elevates solo, RTW sailing to world-class adventure, matching anything you can find in mountaineering or exploration.

But now that Jessica is cruising serenely toward Sydney on her S&S 34 Ella’s Pink Lady, about to conclude her voyage successfully and become a marketing superstar, I realize that it’s time to update my perception.

I don’t want to take too much away from her accomplishment. Any solo, RTW voyage is a big deal, and I sincerely doubt I would have fared as well. She was knocked down multiple times, slugged her way through gales and headwinds, and, at least early in the voyage, sometimes appeared on the verge of tears.

But after following her voyage I was struck by how much the nature of this sort of adventure has completely changed. It just doesn’t feel very “solo” or “unassisted” anymore, and that takes the blood and guts out of it. Think of all the time Jessica spent on the sat phone, talking to her family and shore team. Problem with the autopilot or generator? Get on the horn with the manufacturer for step-by-by step repair instructions. Feeling lonely and blue? Call up your Mum for a chat and some bucking up. Need an emotional lift? Read the comments on your blog.

And then there is weather. Without doubt, the most challenging element of early voyages was a nearly complete inability to know what weather lay ahead in time to do anything about it. So part of the deal was having the snot knocked out of you on a regular basis. In the Southern Ocean, you got the snot AND the crap knocked out of you, and that was why it was such a hoary, intimidating place.

But both Jessica and Abby Sunderland (the other 16-year old who was up for a little global sail), have been on the receiving end of incredibly precise and detailed weather routing. So good that Abby commented that “it was like having driving directions.” So good that I was amazed at how rare truly nasty weather was. In fact, I would venture to guess that Jessica experienced less extreme weather, and a lower average wind speed, than most if not all previous solo RTW voyages.

Now, if I was a 16-year old (or the parent of one) setting off to sail solo around the world, I would want every technology and level of support imaginable, especially weather routing. But there is no question that all that support, and all the connections to the real world, completely change the nature of solo, RTW sailing.

I think that’s a shame, and it’s something that is happening in other extreme sports, like mountain climbing (where almost anyone fit can now climb Mt. Everest, thanks to fixed ropes and climbing guides who do almost everything but push you up the last step).

In 1968, sailing around the world solo and non-stop was so hard Robin Knox-Johnston could barely do it. In 2010, it is so easy a 16-year old can do it. It’s just not that exciting anymore. Knox-Johnston’s book, “A World Of My Own,” is one of the greatest adventure books ever written. I sincerely doubt I’ll read Jessica’s.

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