The Kid is All Right

Abby Sunderland, the 16 year-old trying to sail around the world, is alive and well.

But veteran Australian sailor Ian Kiernan echoed the concerns of others that she would be sailing through the Indian Ocean when weather conditions would be at their most treacherous.

“I don’t know what she’s doing in the Southern Ocean as a 16-year-old in the middle of winter,” said Mr Kiernan, who himself has sailed solo around the world. “It’s just foolhardy”.

There’s a big difference between 16 and 7, but one common factor that this event shares with the death of Jessica Dubroff in Cheyenne, Wyoming is hubris about the weather. It’s one thing to let a kid sail around the world or fly across country. It’s quite another to let them sail during storm season, or force a takeoff as a thunderstorm is developing. If the adults in these kids’ lives can’t keep them from doing a risky thing, at least they should be able to help manage the risks and be a counterbalance against go fever.

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110 replies
  1. 1
    SP says:

    Her brother’s going to give her shit for not being able to break his record.

  2. 2
    vtr says:

    I heard her Dad explain that they’re all Born Again, and had prayed very hard about this. Everything’s Going To Be All Right.

  3. 3
    r€nato says:

    I’m glad she’s OK. Most who criticize will focus on the recklessness of the parents and the cost of the search and rescue effort and who pays for that, but beyond that there’s always a non-trivial risk to the lives of the rescuers. How’d you like to be a loved one of sineone who dies due to a mishap while trying to rescue someone from their extreme foolishness?

  4. 4
    r€nato says:

    @vtr: well that erases any remaining doubt that these people might be dipshits. If he gives credit to Jeebus for her rescue, I swear I’m going to get on the next flight to Thousand Oaks and personally kick him in the junk.

  5. 5
    Guster says:

    Is she blonde? Because otherwise I don’t know why I’d give a shit.

  6. 6
    swalker says:

    I don’t get the comparison with the girl pilot. She wasn’t at the controls when the plane took off, her flight instructor was. And while perhaps their decision to take off was influenced by, say, not getting behind schedule, pilots take off in rain all the time. The “sudden storm” happened within a few minutes of takeoff, and those aren’t always predicable. I don’t know that these two are exactly parallels.

  7. 7
    AhabTRuler says:

    I would disagree insofar that I consider “go fever” to be an oversimplification of the deeper organizational issues that led to the Challenger and Columbia incidents (cf. Vaughn and Perrow), and thus not very applicable in this situation.

  8. 8
    TomG says:

    Here’s my general take on this:
    I’m much more concerned about governments and their restrictions on us than I am about parents and their decisions about their young children.
    I know it’s easy to second guess parents and point fingers at what we think is poor parenting, and I know that rescuing foolhardy youngsters involves other people who didn’t ask to be put at risk themselves. Still, the level of outrage I see sometimes would be better directed at people who have the legal power to take your things away, or put you in jail because you smoked a plant.
    There will always be parents who allow their kids to make what we think are stupid decisions. There are also parents who overly restrict their kids. None of these parents have powers over me or my friends and family – unless they work for my government. I can criticize, but I try not to fall into the “take their kids away from them” authoritarian BS that assumes things will be better if the State gets its mitts on the children.

  9. 9
    BrighidG says:

    In a year she’d be old enough to join the U.S. Army and yet, I’m sure she has more sailing experience than most 17-year old Americans do with war… so what’s the big fucking deal?

  10. 10
    Keith G says:

    @vtr: Personally, I am glad Jesus decided to keep Abby safe. Better her than any of those kids in Haiti. They were so undeserving.

  11. 11
    Punchy says:

    She’s clearly too immature to know how to hit the rescue beacons when her mast shears off. Maybe her parents will be charged with a felony for allowing her daughter to get halfway around the world before she performed exactly the right series of steps to request assistance.

  12. 12
    chopper says:

    she’ll just try again next year. maybe she’ll try to win the record for ‘youngest person to ever break the israeli naval blockade of gaza’ instead.

  13. 13
    eemom says:

    Yay! A new thread on this subject!

    Dear Jesus, please let somebody important say something really, REALLY stupid today. kthxbai.

  14. 14
    eemom says:

    @chopper:

    lolz. That would bust the innertubz.

  15. 15
    Keith G says:

    @Punchy: I am unfamiliar with modern solo sailing craft. What you seem to be saying is that there is little real skill and judgment/decision making to do.

    Just turn on the ‘puters, add to your blog, seal up below when the a storm comes, if something bad happens, hit a button and wait for the million dollar rescue effort.

    Wow, they are pioneers.

  16. 16
    AxelFoley says:

    Thank goodness she’s safe.

    Her parents are still fuckin’ morons.

  17. 17
    Hawes says:

    As a teacher, I’ve been privileged to hear a prominent neuropsychologist talk about adolescent brain development.

    The simple fact is that our prefrontal cortexes do not fully develop until we’re in our mid-20s. That’s why you can’t rent a car until you’re 25.

    The prefrontal cortex is responsible for – among other things – risk assessment and long term planning. “If I jump off the roof and miss the pool, what will happen to my ankles?” That sort of thing.

    One of the main jobs of being a parent or teacher is being an kid’s prefrontal cortex for them.

  18. 18
    Lit3Bolt says:

    The funny thing I find about all the childless risk-minimizers of this activity is that if sailing solo around the world at age 16 is not a big fucking deal, then it’s…not a big fucking deal and unworthy of any recognition and celebration, and you shouldn’t even do it in the first place.

    That said, Abby has lived more in the past 4 and a half months than I ever will and I will die unmourned and unloved because I am, in all things, a failure.

  19. 19
    chopper says:

    @AxelFoley:

    this.

    and no, it isn’t like football.

  20. 20
    Peter J says:

    I heard her Dad explain that they’re all Born Again, and had prayed very hard about this. Everything’s Going To Be All Right.

    Maybe it’s all about abstinence awareness? Maybe she’ll end up on a speaking tour with Bristol?

  21. 21
    Shygetz says:

    Glad she’s safe.

  22. 22
    kay says:

    @Hawes:

    It’s the whole modern justification for a juvenile process. The old one was ‘they don’t have the full set of rights, so shouldn’t have the full set of responsibilities”. Now it’s brain development.

    It’s all about that they don’t understand the scope of consequence of actions, so don’t have the requisite measure of intent. They don’t, either, in my experience. They are amazed when the most predictable terrible things happen :)

    On a base level, to me, it’s that they haven’t seen enough terrible things happen. “No one could have predicted” is actually a true statement when you’re 16. No one is more surprised and appalled than the 16 year old themselves when the catastrophe happens.

    Too, and it’s probably not true for this kid, a lot of them have “hero” fantasies that come from movies and television.

    I have to say, though, I think there’s a huge range of acceptable parenting, and you have to get to know the people to see what’s really going on. I don’t know if they’re competent parents of this kid, they know her better than I do.

  23. 23
    TomG says:

    Lit3Bolt @ 18:
    I never implied any of that myself. I’d be happy if newspapers didn’t make such a big deal over stuff like this, but I don’t control what they choose to print, so….
    And even if it wasn’t a big deal, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing.
    Also – I suspect you are trying to be snarky, because your last sentence is completely illogical. The second half (about you) has nothing whatsoever to do with the first (about a stranger’s accomplishments).

  24. 24
    Comrade Javamanphil says:

    @Hawes: While everything you say is true, the important piece missing is that from roughly 14-25 they think their brains are perfectly aware of the risk and dangers, thank you very much, and they will do what they please! It is a parent’s job to be that risk assessor but good luck convincing the child you are doing them a service. At some point you have to let them do stupid things and learn what the consequences of that are and hope that they don’t get anything worse than a scar. With that all said, I wonder what is riskier, allowing her to sail around the world solo at 16 or have a driver’s license?

  25. 25

    I rejoice that she is alive and apparently in good shape. Now, I am awaiting the book deal, TV interviews and made-for-tv movie.

    Still wouldn’t let any child of mine try to sail around the world solo at 16. They’d have to try for emancipation if they wanted to do that.

  26. 26
    BottyGuy says:

    I don’t really understand this: “It’s quite another to let them sail during storm season”

    She is sailing AROUND THE WORLD. Even at world record pace it will take 4 months, it is going to be “storm season” somewhere along the path. Oceans have storms all year long, she obviously needs to avoid Hurricane/Typhoons but avoiding storms is pretty much impossible.

    BrighidG remark about the the age to join the American military seems right on the mark.

    Also, looking at my sons, 21 and 19, I don’t think they would have the maturity to do this but I can see my daughter, 11, achieving that kind of maturity by 16. I think we’ve also dumbed down expectations of what teenagers should be capable of, I especially think so after reading Huckleberry Finn recently.

  27. 27
    Punchy says:

    @Keith G: I’ve already said my piece on the previous thread.

    I’m proud as hell my parents let me do what I wanted at that age, and I’m sure it’s b/c I demonstrated some advanced maturity. I think this kid fits in that same category. Sail again next year, I would say (although the authorities-that-be will never allow it to happen)

  28. 28
    60th Street says:

    It’s nice to know she’s okay.

    More power to her for her sense of adventure, determination and guts to try and accomplish this. I don’t give a fuck if she’s a Jebus freek or not, she’s a woman, so battling sexist garbage is an extra mountain to climb and I applaud her for just taking that on.

    Consider most teenagers and then consider that this girl and her older brother had an actual goal as early as 13 and have been working toward it ever since. It wasn’t just a whim, she’s been training for it for three years and had a lot of people involved in helping her prepare, including her pops. Other determined youngins do life-threatening crazy shit that takes time and trial to master and we call them Olympians and celebrate them, so I don’t know why people get down on this girl and her family for her choice.

    Read about her training for it with her father, her brother. It’s really interesting stuff. She left in February and it’s June! Look how far she got!

    I’d say she accomplished plenty for a 16 year old girl. She’s probably seen shit in the past few months that would have had most whiny poser douchebags pissing their Old Navy cargo shorts.

  29. 29
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    @BrighidG:

    You try going to basic training with a bunch of 18 year olds when you are 24. They are the most fucking annoying people on the face of the planet. Emotional maturity=nonexistent.

    Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should. Or, rather, joining the military at 18 != circumnavigating the globe at the wrong time of the year as a 16 year old.

  30. 30
    chopper says:

    @kay:

    On a base level, to me, it’s that they haven’t seen enough terrible things happen. “No one could have predicted” is actually a true statement when you’re 16. No one is more surprised and appalled than the 16 year old themselves when the catastrophe happens.

    Too, and it’s probably not true for this kid, a lot of them have “hero” fantasies that come from movies and television.

    i agree with this. kids today (and i’m sure our parents said the same about us, but i digest) have been more coddled from reality than in previous generations. in part because we keep them away from the negative issues that occur in real life (both directly and indirectly).

    shit, i know people who never had to deal with the death of a family member like even a grandparent until they were almost 30. can you believe that? never having to emotionally deal with death until 30? my dad saw his father and brother die before he was 12 and that was considered relatively normal back during the depression.

    your average 16-year-old, and i’m not saying this kid is one but still, your average 16-year-old doesn’t seem to know much of anything about the real world and consequences. if anything the age for drinking, or driving, or having any real responsibilities at all should be going up.

  31. 31
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    Bleh, I don’t give two shits about her (warning, class warfare rant):

    She’s from Thousand Oaks, CA, home of (by any sane standard) pretty affluent types, and those kinds of people-the insulated rich, who think they are masters of life-those people think they can do just about anything. Its far from certain that most 16 year olds families can afford to indulge in sailing as a hobby, much less ponying up the costs for a global voyager (they must have gotten some sponsors, but still, this ain’t something your typical middle class family is going to do, unless you have a warped view of the definition of middle class).

  32. 32
    Face says:

    They are the most fucking annoying people on the face of the planet.

    Generalize much?

    I’m not surprised by the “no one I know could do this at that age, so therefore no one is able to!” attitude. Most people probably thought Phelps couldn’t win 8 medals, well, because, nobody had.

  33. 33
    Svensker says:

    @BrighidG:

    In a year she’d be old enough to join the U.S. Army and yet, I’m sure she has more sailing experience than most 17-year old Americans do with war… so what’s the big fucking deal?

    Because the Army doesn’t put 18-year-olds in charge of making life and death decisions ON THEIR OWN. They have sargeants and officers making the decisions while the 18-year-olds follow orders.

  34. 34
    Violet says:

    @vtr:

    I heard her Dad explain that they’re all Born Again, and had prayed very hard about this. Everything’s Going To Be All Right.

    Look for her to “write” a book and go on a Christian speaking tour about how God Provides if you only Believe Hard Enough. Nevermind the pesky facts that there were Christians in Haiti who got crushed in the earthquake leaving children to be orphans. They must not have Believed Hard Enough.

  35. 35
    matt says:

    According to the CDC, the number one cause of death in children is motor vehicle accidents. In the United States during 2005, 1,335 children ages 14 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes, and approximately 184,000 were injured. That’s an average of 4 deaths and 504 injuries each day.

    All you parents who allow your children to be driven around in cars should have your kids taken away from you. You reckless and irresponsible car parents kill 4 of your kids a day! You should all be in jail!

  36. 36
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    @vtr:

    I heard her Dad explain that they’re all Born Again, and had prayed very hard about this. Everything’s Going To Be All Right.

    If she gets through this it will be down to luck not Jesus. If worst comes to worst it will be the RAN or the RNZN who will risk their lives to pull her arse out of the freezing water in mountainous seas.

    Fuck these attention chasing retards, I wish we could just let them drown.

  37. 37
    vtr says:

    @r€nato: Dad also got a special dispensation regarding that Bible clause advising that those who would follow Him should sell all their earthly goods and support the poor. Dad was also point to a Holy Hedge Fund. How the hell else do you afford a yacht like that?

  38. 38
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    @chopper:

    That’s pretty fucked up. Hey, while we’re at it, lets bring back Medieval levels of living, I don’t think today’s coddled youngsters have seen enough death and violence!

  39. 39
    Athenae says:

    Because the Army doesn’t put 18-year-olds in charge of making life and death decisions ON THEIR OWN. They have sargeants and officers making the decisions while the 18-year-olds follow orders.

    And allegedly adult politicians at home giving THOSE people orders. Which obviously worked out great. Thank God for adult maturity. We should be finding those WMDs any day now,

    A.

  40. 40
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    @Face:

    Umm, no. The teenagers in basic (and AIT) were annoying as fuck. I could’ve done without 90% of them.

    The point is that this kind of sailing is a poor analogy with joining the military-18 year olds have all sorts of structure and oversight in the military, while a 16 year old who is out on her own, well, exceptionally mature, bright, and intelligent 16 year olds just aren’t the norm!
    I realize this whole thread is argument by anecdote (which I am just as guilty of) but doesn’t anyone remember high school? Teenagers are just stupid.

  41. 41
    gil mann says:

    I’m glad she’s OK, but fuck this kid for getting a Christopher Cross song stuck in my head.

    In a year she’d be old enough to join the U.S. Army and yet, I’m sure she has more sailing experience than most 17-year old Americans do with war… so what’s the big fucking deal?

    As I understand it, someone had the nerve to live their life as they see fit without asking blog commenters for advice first.

  42. 42
    Face says:

    Teenagers are just stupid.

    Thanks for proving my point.

  43. 43
    Tyro says:

    a lot of them have “hero” fantasies that come from movies and television.

    Did Socrates complain that the pernicious influence of the Iliad was giving the Youth of Today™ dangerous “hero” fantasies?

  44. 44
    JR (not the other JR) says:

    A couple of notes about this family:

    1. When their son did this last year:

    “But this has not been easy on Zac’s parents. Laurence Sunderland, a shipwright whose business has suffered because of the recession, reluctantly conceded in an interview that the odyssey has cost about $140,000, and that the family is sinking hopelessly into debt and now must pay for Zac’s passage through the Panama Canal. ”

    And then they begged for donations from his “fans”.

    Citation: http://latimesblogs.latimes.co.....-debt.html

    2. Mom is nine months pregnant with child number 8, which had to have been conceived some time after this financial hardship they brought upon themselves.

    It’s like if Richard Heene married Nadya Suleyman.

    In conclusion: DUMBASSES.

  45. 45
    kay says:

    @chopper:

    your average 16-year-old, and i’m not saying this kid is one but still, your average 16-year-old doesn’t seem to know much of anything about the real world and consequences. if anything the age for drinking, or driving, or having any real responsibilities at all should be going up.

    But, the only way to learn about the real world and consequences is to engage.
    We can’t simultaneously complain they don’t know enough and then stop them from learning anything. That’s self-perpetuating.
    This is a judgment call. Unless there’s something I don’t know, some kind of coercion or parental profit motive, I think you have to let parents make the call. The alternative is someone else does, and that’s got huge problems all by itself. The cure is worse than the disease.
    I do think we’ve made little kids too fearful and dependent, but that’s a different discussion.

  46. 46
    kay says:

    @Tyro:

    Oh, I agree. If it wasn’t movies it would be books. My point was they live in their heads a lot. They have a sort of ongoing narrative that doesn’t really gibe with reality, so it can be helpful to find out where they’re getting it.

  47. 47
    Tyro says:

    She is sailing AROUND THE WORLD. Even at world record pace it will take 4 months, it is going to be “storm season” somewhere along the path.

    The southern Indian Ocean between South Africa and Australia is perhaps the most dangerous (or at least most difficult) sailing route in the world during storm season. It’s even more difficult going westbound as opposed to eastbound, where she was headed, but still.

  48. 48
    bemused says:

    @JR (not the other JR):
    God will provide. If not, they can only blame themselves for not praying hard enough.

  49. 49
    chopper says:

    @Amanda in the South Bay:

    yeah, that’s exactly what i said.

  50. 50
    chopper says:

    @kay:

    it isn’t a choice between not learning anything about the real world vs sailing around the world by yourself.

    previous generations’ 16-year-olds understood a bit more about cause and effect than the current one’s without necessarily needing dangerous sports or the like.

    my point might be getting lost here, but i’m generally saying that 16 year olds today don’t seem to grasp as much about the real world as they should. this kid aside, i wouldn’t trust the average 16 year old kid to do nearly anything requiring actual responsibility of any sort.

  51. 51
    tavella says:

    @TomG: I’m much more concerned about governments and their restrictions on us than I am about parents and their decisions about their young children.

    I’m with renato here; the parents are apparently making decisions not on wary judgement of her skills, the dangers, and her desires, but on “god will keep her safe.” So I’m going with idiots.

  52. 52
    60th Street says:

    Clearly, this girl’s -gnash- dismal failure is the result of pageant-momism on crack, blinding Jebus frenzy, too much Wii and overprivileged suburban teenaged arrogance!

    We all know it’s -scoff- utterly unpossible, but imagine if a 16 year old -spit- girl actually achieved such a feat! The world would devolve into a disgusting hero-worshipping orgy and nothing important would get done!

    Thank goodness that’ll never happen!

    Nice try little media-obsessed, narcissistic rich girl. Now go hit the mall, or whatever it is kids like you do these days. I’m done with you! There are oily birds whose very existence hinges on my every keystroke.

  53. 53
    Mnemosyne says:

    I have to admit, I do love that people are still convinced despite all of the available evidence that her parents essentially set her out in a leaky rowboat and waved goodbye.

    You know how we know she’s alive? Because of all of the safety equipment that was installed on the boat. Do you know why rescuers are on their way right now? Because she used the safety equipment in a timely manner.

    And yet people are still 100% convinced that her mast broke in high seas because she’s 16 and clearly irresponsible. After all, if I don’t know any responsible 16-year-olds, they must not exist!

  54. 54
    randiego says:

    When she originally set-off from California, there was a mishap with her mast or something, and she had to be rescued by the coast guard.

    When the coast guard found out who she was and what she was doing, they inspected her boat and tested her seamanship skills. They were found incredibly lacking, and the family was warned very loudly that their daughter wasn’t qualified to do what she was doing, that the boat was missing critical equipment and was not sea-worthy.

    She went anyway.

  55. 55
    Corner Stone says:

    @chopper:

    it isn’t a choice between not learning anything about the real world vs sailing around the world by yourself

    Agreed. It doesn’t have to be stay home and watch netflix with me all weekend vs WELCOME TO THE THUNDERDOME BEESCHAY!
    There’s a lot of life to be lived that doesn’t represent the ultimate risk as a significant factor.

  56. 56
    Corner Stone says:

    Who would’ve guessed that telling a 16 year old “No” on a matter of actual life and death would be controversial?

  57. 57
    EconWatcher says:

    My problem is, even the most mature 16 year old has very little understanding of what mortality means. Teenagers think they’re immortal, almost without exception, no matter how smart, skilled, or mature for their age. You shouldn’t let them do things that have a high risk of death, because they just aren’t going to factor that in properly in making the decision. For that reason, my kid would sail around the world over my dead body when she reaches that age.

    True, she can tell me to pound sound when she’s 18 if she’s not living under my roof any more, and she probably won’t have too much more appreciation of the risk at that age. But I’m going to try to keep her alive and safe when it’s in my power to do so.

    The comparison to soldiers is interesting. I think we’ve drafted 18 year olds and sent them to war in the past in part precisely because they fear death less than older people (of course, they’re also at their physical peak). If we wanted mature judgment in soldiers, we’d set the minimum draft age higher. What we actually wanted was heedless risk-takers (in enlisted men). That’s nothing to be proud of, but I think it’s the case.

  58. 58
    Corner Stone says:

    Not to pull a trick out of the BoB Hat, but as I thought about this this morning I was reminded a little of Capt Sully.

  59. 59
    Corner Stone says:

    @Face:

    Most people probably thought Phelps couldn’t win 8 medals, well, because, nobody had.

    I’ve seen others use the Olympic training analogy also.
    I just don’t get how training to swim in a big pool with thousands of people an arms length away, in an event that I can’t recall anyone ever dying or going missing, somehow equates to sailing round the world by yourself.

  60. 60
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Who would’ve guessed that telling a 16 year old “No” on a matter of actual life and death would be controversial?

    Actually, the controversy is that her parents told her “Yes.” If they had said “No,” there wouldn’t even be a story.

  61. 61
    Mnemosyne says:

    @randiego:

    It’s pretty amazing that she was able to sail solo from California to South Africa on that substandard equipment with no sailing skills, don’t you think? I guess sailing solo around the world really is easy-peasy and any idiot can do it.

  62. 62
    Kyle says:

    @eemom:

    Dear Jesus, please let somebody important say something really, REALLY stupid today.

    You just did. Get lost.

  63. 63
    Corner Stone says:

    I’M CAPSLOCK JESUS AND I DONE SAVED NOTHER MEMBER OF MY BLESST FLOCK!

  64. 64
    kay says:

    @chopper:

    Right, and I wasn’t slamming you. But we can’t really say “16 year olds are poor drivers, so we should wait until they’re 18”.

    They’re probably not going to get better unless they’re driving.

    “18” is a legal construct. It’s useful, because there has to be a number, and there’s science behind the idea that teenagers don’t have a real gut grasp of the consequences of the actions they take. But it’s fluid, outside a courtroom. It depends. I think families can play within a judgment range there, and this family did.

  65. 65
    kay says:

    @chopper:

    As sort of a practical example, we changed the rules here where a 16 year old has to have a driving permit through a winter.

    They can’t go solo without experiencing winter driving under supervision. That’s a good compromise, between autonomy and other people’s safety.

  66. 66
    eemom says:

    @Kyle:

    Glad I’m “important” to you, pea brain.

  67. 67
    Bupalos says:

    Wow you guys are harsh. If the 16 year old had done something wrong, or something different from what 36 y/o adventurers do, you’d have a better point about all this risk/brain/immaturity stuff. But she didn’t. She apparently did everything exactly right. And by training and temperament, it seems to me she’s beyond most 25 year olds that try this kind of stuff.

    As long as the family and/or fans and/or Jesus pays the cost of rescue, I’ve got no problem at all with this and I hope she goes out again. Rich people in this country tend to waste their money in lazy, damaging ways. At least this rich girl wasn’t doing any harm and was inspiring to a lot of people. You people do realize that it’s the safety cranks of this world (and cable news) that have emptied America’s streets of children and turned them into Hostess Ho-Ho TV zombies.

    Who new BJ was so full of cranky old farts?

  68. 68
    debbie says:

    @Hawes:

    I also think an unfully formed prefrontal cortex is responsible for all stupid teen thinking, including teen suicide. Yet you never hear “experts” talk about that.

  69. 69
    suzanne says:

    Goodness, in my view, the only reason her age is a factor in this discussion is because her parents could and should have stopped her. Maybe this girl’s more mature than I am. She’s certainly more skilled in this specific arena. But this was a stupid-ass thing to do for anyone of any age. I’d be far more inclined to see the heroism and maturity if she’s said she wanted to risk her life actually doing good for the world. The fact that she’s willing to risk her life to do something merely for the sake of doing something indicates that she in fact doesn’t have all this amazing maturity that some people are convinced that she has. But this indicates that her parents, who are ostensibly adults, are just as immature as this girl is. Thrill-seeking and attention-seeking are not signs of maturity, no matter what age you are.

  70. 70
    Tsulagi says:

    Go Abby!

    If I were one of her parents I’d be worried shitless during her solo voyage, but I’d also be very proud. Proud she was motivated and dedicated to put in the years of prep work necessary before she cast off her lines to do something important to her. Part of being a parent is letting your kids grow.

    Sure not going to judge her or her parents as to whether she is mature enough for this sail. Don’t know her to make that call. I’ve known adults I wouldn’t trust to be mature enough handling matches. Just because her age is 16 doesn’t mean she isn’t fit for this.

  71. 71
    Joe Bauers says:

    @matt: “All you parents who allow your children to be driven around in cars should have your kids taken away from you. You reckless and irresponsible car parents kill 4 of your kids a day! You should all be in jail!”

    That would be an awesome point, if the relative safety of driving a car and that of sailing alone through the Indian Ocean in winter thousands of miles from shore were roughly the same, and if the utility/necessity of driving in 2010 America and that of sailing alone through the Indian Ocean in winter thousands of miles from shore were roughly the same.

  72. 72
    Lit3Bolt says:

    @TomG:

    Not that I mind the celebration of youth culture and achievement for mere achievement’s sake (like the time I drank an entire bottle of gin at age 16 to prove to the world that I could), but the fact she’s a mini celebrity for no reason other than putting her life into danger and needed people to be the good samaritans and pull her bacon out of the water rankles me. Also, I’m glad my snark went over your head, because it reinforces my point that I am indeed a failure.

  73. 73
    malraux says:

    So what’s the death rate for solo circumnavigation? 1 in 10, 100, 1000? What should the cutoff be for parents to say “that’s too dangerous?” Is the former greater than the latter?

  74. 74
    chopper says:

    @kay:

    yes, a 16 year old won’t get better without driving, but my 16-year-old is going to become a better driver by driving around the neighborhood during the day when the weather is good, not driving across the country by herself during the middle of a nasty icy winter.

    if i let my kid do that i’d consider myself a pretty bad parent even if she was a good driver.

  75. 75
    Mnemosyne says:

    @chopper:

    yes, a 16 year old won’t get better without driving, but my 16-year-old is going to become a better driver by driving around the neighborhood during the day when the weather is good, not driving across the country by herself during the middle of a nasty icy winter.

    So at what point would you concede that your child is ready to drive that far at that kind of weather? If s/he has been driving for 8 years and feels like s/he is finally ready to go solo, would you agree? And is your decision based solely on the date your child was born, or would you take his/her maturity level and skill into account when making the decision?

    I keep having to point out that it’s not like this kid bounded onto a boat with zero sailing experience and blithely set out on the open ocean, only navigating her way from California to South Africa and then to the Indian Ocean by sheer luck. She has sailing experience. She has solo sailing experience. She has a very involved family who equipped her boat with so much safety equipment that some sailors have scoffed at it not being “real” sailing. The fact that she is safely sitting on her boat with plenty of food waiting for a fishing boat to pick her up tomorrow is not some weird fluke — they designed her boat for her to be able to do that in case of an accident.

  76. 76
    Peter J says:

    Abby Sunderland wasn’t sailing around the world to prove that it can be done, she wasn’t setting a new speed record either.

    Her start had been delayed so long that experts warned about the weather in the Indian Ocean, and obviously they were proven right, but instead of trying again in a couple of months, she went ahead anyway, because if she weren’t able to become the youngest, then it wouldn’t matter.

    So, if she got a 15 year old sibling, would it be ok if that sibling decided that he/she wanted to do it? 14? 13? 12?

  77. 77
    Stefan says:

    Because the Army doesn’t put 18-year-olds in charge of making life and death decisions ON THEIR OWN. They have sargeants and officers making the decisions while the 18-year-olds follow orders.

    Well that’s just nonsense. The Army gives them weapons — of course those 18 year olds make life and death decisions on their own. An 18 year old behind the trigger of a heavy caliber machine gun mounted on the back of a Humvee and caught in an ambush on a Baghdad street is going to be making a life and death decision every time he pulls the trigger and rakes the neighboring houses full of people with gunfire, and he isn’t going to wait to ask his sergeant for permission before he fires if he thinks his life is at stake.

  78. 78
    chopper says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    So at what point would you concede that your child is ready to drive that far at that kind of weather? If s/he has been driving for 8 years and feels like s/he is finally ready to go solo, would you agree?

    not to go solo across the country at 16, no.

  79. 79
    malraux says:

    @Peter J: I could maybe, plausibly, see a hypothetical 15 year old giving this a shot, but that would a very very rare individual. Younger than that, no. The cognitive development at that point will preclude the sorts of planning necessary.

  80. 80
    Corner Stone says:

    @suzanne:

    The fact that she’s willing to risk her life to do something merely for the sake of doing something indicates that she in fact doesn’t have all this amazing maturity that some people are convinced that she has. But this indicates that her parents, who are ostensibly adults, are just as immature as this girl is. Thrill-seeking and attention-seeking are not signs of maturity, no matter what age you are.

    And that’s what I found odd as well. I guess definitions vary, and people take their own notion on what it means to them but to me “maturity” means taking care of your responsibilities. IMO, actions of the parents don’t match up to at least that one definition that makes sense to me. IMO.
    And attempts at record breaking have always been the hallmark of insecurity and childishness, at least to me.
    Sure, somebody’s always “the first” to do whatever achievement we talk about but I’m not always sure being the first in some categories makes a lot of sense.

  81. 81
    Mnemosyne says:

    @chopper:

    And just to be clear, your child’s skill and maturity level would not come into your decision at all and you would base it solely on his/her birthdate, correct?

  82. 82
    malraux says:

    @chopper: At the extreme end, at age 16 I was a junior in HS, lived away from home, and had been a licensed driver for 2 years. I’m not sure why a cross country trip would have been beyond me at that point. Especially now with the proliferation of cell phones.

  83. 83
    chopper says:

    @malraux:

    yeah, and if you had broken down would you have been stranded in an unsafe environment 2 full days away from help?

    if its the middle of winter storm season and there’s a good chance my kid, driving across the country by herself, will be stuck in her car for a few days before help arrives in dangerous conditions if the car breaks down for any reason, you can see why i’d be loathe to let her go on a cross-country trip by herself.

    as much as i’m making the driving comparison, it has its limits. you break down on the interstate you’re a phone call away from help. your boat breaks down in the edge of the southern ocean during storm season and you’re a few days from help at best, its a lot worse.

  84. 84
    chopper says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    nice false choice. but no, not solely on her birthdate. but knowing 16 year old kids, i’m not envisioning even my own kid being responsible enough that i’d let her go on a trip by herself under the sort of conditions these parents did.

    the fact that the parents and their community were holding vigils and praying like mad that she was still alive kinda shows that even they realized that it was a real fuckin dangerous situation, and they’re the ones who thought she could handle it.

    i understand the ‘hey, maybe your kid will be some super-responsible kid who can handle anything!’. i’m saying ‘given the way kids are these days, not likely.’

  85. 85
    Tsulagi says:

    Just a few quick observations…

    @Mnemosyne: Good to see you can be right about some things. ;)

    @suzanne:

    The fact that she’s willing to risk her life to do something merely for the sake of doing something indicates that she in fact doesn’t have all this amazing maturity that some people are convinced that she has. But this indicates that her parents, who are ostensibly adults, are just as immature as this girl is.

    On balance…bullshit conclusions. You take a risk walking across a street. Especially in some cities. Some people stress trying to eliminate all risk in their life; some don’t. Different strokes where you draw the line.

  86. 86
    Punchy says:

    And yet people are still 100% convinced that her mast broke in high seas because she’s 16 and clearly irresponsible. After all, if I don’t know any responsible 16-year-olds, they must not exist!

    THIS. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  87. 87
    Mnemosyne says:

    @chopper:

    but knowing 16 year old kids, i’m not envisioning even my own kid being responsible enough that i’d let her go on a trip by herself under the sort of conditions these parents did.

    Ah, so if your perfect little snowflake isn’t mature enough to make that kind of trip, that proves that no 16-year-old anywhere is mature enough to do it. Got it.

    the fact that the parents and their community were holding vigils and praying like mad that she was still alive kinda shows that even they realized that it was a real fuckin dangerous situation, and they’re the ones who thought she could handle it.

    And the parents and neighbors who pray like mad after a kid is paralyzed in a high school football game realize that playing football was a really dangerous situation and they’re the ones who thought their kid could handle it. I’m assuming you also declare them to be idiots who let their kids get into a dangerous situation without thinking about it.

  88. 88
    Corner Stone says:

    @Punchy:

    And yet people are still 100% convinced that her mast broke in high seas because she’s 16 and clearly irresponsible.

    Clearly her age didn’t break the mast. 60knot winds and 30ft+ swells in her environment did. What some reports have called “mountainous seas”.
    And it’s funny but at least IMO, that kind of shows it may have been a poor decision to allow this trip.

  89. 89
    Corner Stone says:

    The Indian Ocean doesn’t give a shit whether she’s 16 or 60. A young person or the saltiest of all the seadogs. If she’s in something that would make a French professional racer blush, or in the raft Tom Hanks crafted in Cast Away.

  90. 90
    Punchy says:

    but knowing 16 year old kids, i’m not envisioning even my own kid being responsible enough that i’d let her go on a trip by herself under the sort of conditions these parents did.

    Shorter: Because my kid cant, NOBODEE KAN! DAMMIT!

  91. 91
    swalker says:

    My husband is a high school teacher. We were talking about this very thing yesterday, because there was a brief ‘fad’ at his school of flinging pennies down a crowded hallway using rubber bands. Sure enough, one kid is now hurt enough for eye surgery. It’s easy to call the penny throwers stupid, but my husband says the thing about the brain appears to be right, kids that age often seem unable to think things through.

  92. 92
    kay says:

    @chopper:

    but my 16-year-old is going to become a better driver by driving around the neighborhood during the day when the weather is good, not driving across the country by herself during the middle of a nasty icy winter.

    Ah, but her parents might tell you she started in a Sunfish at 6 with her father yelling directions from the pier, and had ten years of increasing difficulty factored in.

    I’m a little wary of these parents, by the way. I think there’s something fucked up going on with ” reality celebrity” in this country, and how that is its own pursuit, and I wonder a little about the marketing aspects of this, but I don’t know.

  93. 93
    Tsulagi says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Clearly her age didn’t break the mast. 60knot winds and 30ft+ swells in her environment did. What some reports have called “mountainous seas”.

    Given it can be way, way worse in the Roaring Forties, I’d say her weather routing and planning was pretty good.

    @Corner Stone:

    If she’s in something that would make a French professional racer blush…

    Nah, not even close. There’s one crazyass French woman, Isabelle Autissier, who during round the world sailing races would head toward hurricanes or typhoons at sea to use them as a speed slingshot. She wanted to win in a male dominated sport. Clearly she was an immature adult.

  94. 94
    Mnemosyne says:

    @swalker:

    How many of the penny-throwers were girls?

    I hate to bring out the gender card, but it’s not just an old wives’ tale that girls mature earlier than boys, and that extends to their brains.

  95. 95
    Corner Stone says:

    @Tsulagi:

    She wanted to win in a male dominated sport. Clearly she was an immature adult.

    Let’s not confuse the issue. Just because this adult racer makes decisions some of us would disagree with, it doesn’t follow that parents of a 16 year old somehow made the right decision because we disagree with it also.

    And as you say, she is an adult.

  96. 96
    Tsulagi says:

    @Corner Stone:

    it doesn’t follow that parents of a 16 year old somehow made the right decision because we disagree with it also.

    Nor does it necessarily follow the parents made the wrong decision. It’s not a black/white, one size fits all world.

  97. 97
    Aged Cheddar says:

    Stupid is as stupid does.

    I see an expedition to Kilimanjaro in her future, or something equally “self actualizing, newsworthy, or significant.”

    Fame seeking is its own reward, for those who survive… an unmarked grave too often awaits those who do not.

  98. 98
    malraux says:

    Is it a teenager’s parent’s responsibility to eliminate risks or to help minimize the risks in a given undertaking? I’d argue its much more about the later than the former.

  99. 99
    Corner Stone says:

    Obviously her father has his head screwed on right:

    Her father rejected criticism that it was far too dangerous to allow a 16-year-old to sail around the world by herself.

    “Sailing and life in general is dangerous. Teenagers drive cars. Does that mean teenagers shouldn’t drive a car?” Laurence Sunderland told the AP. “I think people who hold that opinion have lost their zeal for life. They’re living in a cotton-wool tunnel to make everything safe.”

    From the AP story online

    This gentleman has displayed his keen grasp of fundamental risk assessment. His analogy is spot-on for the situation she faced as well as the attitudes of those who disagreed with his decision.

  100. 100
    Sheila says:

    I once witnessed a scene in a park that provides an excellent metaphor for parenting. A father was teaching his small daughter to ride a bicycle without its training wheels, patiently running alongside and holding the bicycle erect, then letting go at intervals. The child appeared to be doing quite well and I turned my attention to my own even smaller child, whom I was pushing on the swingset. A few minutes later I heard screaming in the direction of the father-daughter pair, and I glanced over to see the child on the bicycle coasting rapidly down a hill, hair blowing back in the wind and a look of pure ecstasy on her face while the father was running madly behind her shouting, “Put on the brakes!” The ultimate challenge of parenthood is knowing when to let go and when to exercise some restraint, and though we all blow it sometimes, it is imperative that we learn from our small mistakes so as not to expand them into mistakes which generate irretrievable results.

  101. 101
    justawriter says:

    Some of the comments remind me of the doctors who claimed that it was physically impossible for a woman to run a marathon because their uterus would flop out, or something equally as stupid. Teenage girls shouldn’t be doing double somersaults on parallel bars or balance beams either, because they can’t comprehend the likelihood of a broken neck or torn up knees either. Guess we should call up the USOC and cancel the next Olympics then.

  102. 102
    JR (not the other JR) says:

    @Corner Stone: I disagree, based on this article: http://latimesblogs.latimes.co.....-debt.html

    To run the family into debt unnecessarily with an 8th kid on the way, does not strike me as level-headed.

  103. 103
    Corner Stone says:

    @JR (not the other JR): You’re just wrong JR. He knows what he’s doing with his kids and his family.
    That much is clear.

  104. 104
    Corner Stone says:

    @JR (not the other JR): And it’s just foolish to think the children were just props on a Reality TV pitch!
    Shame on you for suggesting something so awful.

  105. 105
    McKingford says:

    I think the fact that this girl, and by implication, her parents, thought that sailing through the south Indian Ocean in winter was an acceptable risk is proof positive that they cannot properly conceive risk. As others have said, that sea doesn’t care if you are 16 or 60.

    But the more interesting test is this: the same Jeezus loving parents who thought this was a good (and suitable risk-free) activity would – I’d wager my last dollar – *not* consent to letting this same 16 year old have sex…even though the risks of death from sex are exponentially lower than trying a solo circumnavigation of the world (and especially if you spent $100,000 trying to make the sex as safe as possible).

  106. 106
    Corner Stone says:

    @McKingford:

    even though the risks of death from sex are exponentially lower than trying a solo circumnavigation of the world

    There’s no legit opportunity for a Reality TV sex show starring a 16 year old.
    That’s obviously one of the key goals of this girls’ parents.

  107. 107
    JR (not the other JR) says:

    @Corner Stone: I didn’t know that there actually was a show/documentary pitch. Christ. They’ll at least get a Dateline episode out of this. Possibly a TLC show: Stupid Mates Plus Eight.

  108. 108
    suzanne says:

    @McKingford:

    But the more interesting test is this: the same Jeezus loving parents who thought this was a good (and suitable risk-free) activity would – I’d wager my last dollar – not consent to letting this same 16 year old have sex…even though the risks of death from sex are exponentially lower than trying a solo circumnavigation of the world (and especially if you spent $100,000 trying to make the sex as safe as possible).

    I had the same thought. Furthermore, I am guessing that their justification for not getting her the pill would be “she’s not emotionally mature enough”.

  109. 109
    Corner Stone says:

    @suzanne: You know what’s awesome? I tried this exact same point and was told this by Mnemosyne:

    It depends on the state she lives in. In some states, with her parents’ consent, she could start fucking him at 15.

    For future reference, you should probably note that she’s not the one who would get in legal trouble for having sex with a 25-year-old. He is. So don’t do it.

    This is pretty much the sum of the mentality of those who think this was a good decision.

  110. 110
    Derek says:

    @Stefan:

    Yeah, and how the fuck is that working out? Pretty well, right?

    NO! JESUS! GODDAMNIT!

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