|Shipwrecked teen sailor tells survival story|
|Written by Christine D. Johnson|
|Thursday, 05 May 2011 02:27 PM EDT|
Abby Sunderland's solo seafaring crisis strengthened her faith in God
Author: Abby Sunderland and Lynn Vincent
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release date: April
Quotable: "He came through for me. I was a strong Christian throughout my trip and came out an even stronger one in the end." —Sunderland
Motivated to become the youngest person to ever sail solo around the world non-stop, 16-year-old Abby Sunderland came close to fulfilling her dream.
She and New York Times best-selling co-author Lynn Vincent tell of her 12,000-mile journey in Unsinkable: A Young Woman's Courageous Battle on the High Seas, releasing this month from Thomas Nelson.
Raised in sailing with her father a shipwright, Sunderland was "pretty confident" as a sailor, she said. "Taking on the world was a pretty big challenge, but one that I was pretty sure I was up for."
Aside from her upbringing and specialized training, she was inspired by her brother Zac Sunderland's sailing solo around the world, a 13-month quest that ended successfully in July 2009.
While her brother took on the world by the equator route, Sunderland chose the southern ocean route, leaving from Marina Del Ray, Calif., and heading around Cape Horn through the Atlantic Ocean, then to Cape Town, South Africa, and out to the Indian Ocean—where her journey ended nearly 2,000 miles east of Madagascar.
"When you're going along the equator, it's tougher navigation; there are pirates and things like that you have to worry about," she said. "When you're down South, it's freezing cold and you get some pretty gnarly storms down there and icebergs and things like that."
The second of eight homeschooled children lost her battle with the sea four months into her voyage and just over halfway around the globe. "I was in the exact middle of the Indian Ocean," she said. "I was as far as you can get from any search and rescue place. I was hit by a rogue wave and my boat was rolled. I was dismasted and I lost pretty much all of my communication. I had no way to contact home and let anybody know what happened. So my boat was completely disabled and I had no way to tell anyone."
After her boat—Wild Eyes—rolled, her parents, Laurence and Marianne Sunderland, withstood a great deal of criticism in the media, but the young sailor defended their decision to let her go on the trip.
"After I rolled, some of the criticism was just so off the wall and ungrounded," she said. "I really couldn't believe some of it. It was a little bit hard. My parents were coming under a lot of criticism for a decision that I had made. I felt pretty bad about it. I had gone out and told the world that I was going to do this because I wanted to."
Sunderland wants to inspire other teens to think big about their lives and how they spend their time. "I think there is a lot of trouble with low expectations with teenagers," she said. "It would be nice to see more teenagers getting out and breaking the normal status of the teenager world. All they are expected to do is get good grades, take out the trash and that sort of thing."
But it's not only teens she wants to inspire to follow their dreams. "Some people would say my whole trip was a failure because I didn't reach my goal," she said. "But the way I look at it, at least I tried, and it's so much better that I gave it a shot and I am not saying, 'I wish I had taken that chance when I had it.'
"I really just hope that through my story people see that you can follow your dreams. Things don't always work out, but it's good to go for it. Also see how amazing God was in my life, it's really a great story, I think."
After rolling her boat, she was "a little worried," she said. "I didn't think anyone would be able to get to me so far away from land." After sending in her position for rescue, it was two days before she was picked up by a fishing ship. Eventually she made it to Reunion Island, where she was reunited with her brother and a couple of her team members.
Sunderland found her faith strengthened and her life changed from the experience. "I don't think you can come through a trip like that without having changed in some way or another, although, being myself, I really am not the best person to ask about that," she said. "My faith definitely played a big role on the trip.
"The morning after I rolled I was sitting on my chart desk, and I was starting to think a little bit too much about what was happening, so I prayed, and just seconds after I prayed, a huge plane flew over me.
"It's said that at some point in any sailor's life, they are going to reach their limit and they're going to reach their breaking point and call on the Lord—and that was mine there. He came through for me. I'd been a strong Christian throughout my whole trip and came out an even stronger one in the end."
To order Unsinkable, call Thomas Nelson at 800-251-4000, or visit www.thomasnelson.com.