16 Year Old Feared Lost at Sea is Found Alive in Indian Ocean

by Marinka on June 11, 2010

This is the headline that I saw this morning.  Of course, it’s about Abby Sunderland, who is attempting to be the youngest person to sail around the world all by herself and without touching land and without assistance.

It all sounds very draining.  I sort of suspect she’s doing it to get out of going to school.  Also, the person who holds the world record now did the same thing when she was seventeen.  Which leads me to the conclusion that when our children have their babies, they will place them on a boat immediately in the quest of that world record.

Before I read the headline, though, I read Loralee’s post about it.  And you should too, because she reminds us that had Abby been lost at sea, as had been feared, the parents’ life would have been destroyed.  And how those hours of waiting to hear if their daughter was dead or alive was no time to pass judgment on them as parents.

Fortunately, Abby is alive and well so we are now free to judge.


What parent in their right mind allows his or her 16 year old daughter to sail around the fucking world by herself?

How does that even come up in conversation?

“Pass the bagel, mom.  Hey, I was thinking of going on a little sail.”


“You know, around the world.”

“That sounds nice dear.  With friends and a crew?”

“No, alone.”

“Let me discuss this with your father.  It’s a very important decision, you know.”

“Yeah, mom, but hurry.  There’s a world record at stake and I’m not getting any younger, you know.”

Look, if you’ve been reading this blog for more than three seconds, you know that I’m a total pain-in-the-ass helicopter mom who is driving her kids insane.  And I’m okay with that.  That’s a parenting choice that I made.  And I should totally extend the same courtesy to other parents, including Abby’s.  But I can’t.

Because I’m judgmental.

I read a comment from Abby’s mother, quoted in The New York Post:

Could there be a tragedy?  Yeah, there could be.  But there could be a tragedy on the way home tonight, you know, or driving with her friends in a car at 16.  You minimize the risks.

You minimize the risks?! How, by not packing her boat with explosives?

I know nothing about sailing (except that I get sea sick.  Hope Abby has sea bands), but aren’t we worried about pirates?  Or is she using the No-Pirate Lane?

But I’m here to learn.  Tell me how a parent comes to a decision that this is okay for their family.

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June 11, 2010 at 9:52 am

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Scary Mommy
June 11, 2010 at 9:43 am

Could not freaking agree more. Read Loralee’s post & then read that she was found. My thought? NOW I get to judge.


June 11, 2010 at 12:03 pm

LOL! I know people have VERY strong emotions but honestly after the gazillionth comment of fugly I had to say something. Not a choice I’d make for my kid…but I tend to hover, too.


PsychMamma June 11, 2010 at 10:23 am

I’m torn. I don’t think I could do it as a parent – too helicopter-y, I confess. On the other hand, 16 has, for most of history, been considered adults. 16yo’s forged trails through the wilderness in wagon trails, and manned ships travelling around the world. Again, I’d be OK with it AT ALL, but part of me thinks: ” better that than pregnant & on drugs here at home.” I can only assume that she must be a very capable and responsible teen, or her parents would NOT have allowed it. On the other hand, SHARKS!! In the water!! OMG!! Wait – that’s MY phobia…. On the other hand (how many hands do we get here?), I would guess she IS actually at greater risk travelling in a car, here in the States.

See? Torn. I guess I just end up thinking that, her parents KNOW her and her capabilities. I don’t. I’m a little in awe of their ability to trust and grant responsibility. It took some parental “letting go” that I know would be hard for me to do, but I know I wished my parents had done it more when I was that age.

On the other hand, it might have been bad if they had…..


Jane June 11, 2010 at 10:37 am

I KNOW WTF!!!!!! The whole Pirate thing was on my mind too!!!!
“No Pirate Lane” Ha
Pirates + 16 year old blonde girl on a boat alone = you figure it out!!!!!
Again WTF!!!!!!!


Amy B. June 11, 2010 at 10:38 am

As someone who grew up having her dreams crushed by the adults in her life, I can say that I will do my very best to support the dreams of my children, even if it means I suffer and stress at times.


June 11, 2010 at 10:40 am

i’m a “helicopter” mom, too. that is great news that she is safe. didn’t some australian girl just complete this sailing trip? i think i read about another young girl who has plans to sail away. i’m assuming they want to get in the record books, write books about their experiences at sea, guest spots on morning shows, motivational speaking circuit, etc. i guess it’s one way to make money. i would never let my son sail around the world alone. i still have issues with playdates. take care, Marinka.


June 11, 2010 at 10:50 am

i couldn’t believe that parents of a 16 year old would allow this. at 18, that’s one thing. but 16? not on your life.

like kiki, i believe that, for the kids it’s about a goal but for the parents…it’s about fame and money.


MarathonMom June 11, 2010 at 11:05 am

Yeah, I read that and was really disgusted because this mother totally taught her kids that every thing is about them! How sad in today’s society. I mean, not to brag, but my kids are down in Juarez and Matamoros fighting the Mexican Drug Cartel this summer. They are only 7 and 10, but it’s a once in a lifetime experience that it’s going to knock the socks off a college scholarship essay about some floaty in a boaty.


Alias Mother June 11, 2010 at 11:07 am

I’m with Amy, above. Look, this isn’t like a random 16 yo said one day, “hmmmm, instead of going to the mall I think I’ll sail around the world…” She’s trained her whole life for this. This is her dream. This is her passion. She’s an elite athlete. Would you say that the parents of an elite 16 yo gymnast should tell their kid to skip the Olympics and go play Wii instead because gymnastics is bad for a kid’s body? Or would you support their decision to sacrifice their finances and her future knees to make her dream come true?

She’s trained, she’s prepared, she’s tough, and she’s shown how smart and capable she is. Why would you want to squash that?

So, yeah. I’d let my kid do it if all the necessary qualifications were met.


Marinka June 11, 2010 at 11:11 am

Thank God that my daughter was not gymnastically inclined because HELL YES I’d tell her to sit out the Olympics in gymnastics because it destroys bodies.

I do see your point, but I don’t agree with it.
What she is doing is extreme and is really dangerous. The kind of dangerous where, for me, the risks outweigh the benefits by so much, it’s not even a serious question.

This may be her dream, but she’s 16. I’m not sure that letting a 16 follow her dreams is the smartest thing.


Alias Mother June 11, 2010 at 12:38 pm

But what about 18? Would you be okay with 18? What magical thing happens at 18 that makes a kid prepared that they don’t have at 16? If she’s prepared, she’s prepared.

Are you arguing that you know if she’s prepared better than her parents? Are you arguing that you love your kids more? Or are you arguing that you see nothing wrong with denying your kid a chance at an amazing, rich, unique, unbelievable life experience because you would be worried about them?

I mean, I understand the instinctive parental fear to protect, protect, protect, but isn’t too much protection its own kind of harmful?


Marinka June 11, 2010 at 1:07 pm

I would not be okay with this type of lunacy at any age where I had input on my child’s actions, so no to 18. I get the argument that 18 vs. 16 is arbitrary. But when dealing with a developing teenage brain, every month counts. I assume we’re not okay with a 14 year old doing this, and yet that’s exactly where we’re heading. At 18, she could do this on her own, and I could sympathize with her parents in the “KIDS TODAY!” type of way. To know that they willingly allowed this to happen is what is so inconceivable.

I’m not sure what alarms me more–where we as a society are going in trying to lower the age where children do insane things or the fact that a parent would think that it’s a good idea to permit their child do that.

I am certain that the parents love their daughter, but I don’t understand that kind of love that exposes her to such incredible danger. And yes, YES! I “see nothing wrong with denying [my] kid a chance at an amazing, rich, unique, unbelievable life experience because [I] would be worried about them.” As a matter of fact, I see it as a badge of parenthood.

I fully concede that I am overprotective and that the overorotectiveness has its own dangers. But there has got to be some middle ground between my helicoptering and their “see you when you’ve sailed around the world!” that’s acceptable.


Eva Gallant June 12, 2010 at 6:05 pm

So glad you spoke up. I feel bad that the Sunderlands are being bashed as parents. They have obviously raised exceptional children. I hardly feel that Abby decided to do this “just to get out of school!”


Meaghan June 11, 2010 at 12:11 pm

If you think that is bad, you should check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4c_wI6kQyE. How is this stuff allowed to happen?!


christy June 11, 2010 at 12:55 pm

I’ve been reading Abby’s blog since it was a blog of note earlier this year and I have been sickened the whole time. I’m a glutton for punishment because I kept tuning in, and thinking that this could happen – as I’m sure many other people did. This girls brother did the same thing last year – when he was 16 or 17 – the whole family is crazy! So yesterday when I saw that she had gone missing I seriously couldn’t sleep – every time I was up nursing my baby I had my iPhone on and I kept checking the news and her blog and was so relieved to see that tragedy didn’t strike. But it COULD have. What the hell kind of parents let their CHILD who can’t even vote do something like this? I hope they pass laws against it. A kid in the Netherlands wanted to do this, and the state put him/her in protective care b/c the parents were considering it, I think. Un-fucking believable!


Heather, Queen of Shake Shake June 11, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Yeah, I was going to defend the parents, but shit, Marinka, I know your profession and ain’t no way IN HELL I’m going to try to out argue you. You would verbally kick my ass, of course.

I will say this, though. I am somehow able to withhold judgment against the parents, even now. It’s probably due to my Swami training, but I also think it has some to do with having a kid with special abilities and our experience of going outside the typical age-bracket in how he expressed his abilities.

I truly don’t know if I’d let my boys do something as dangerous as that. I’d have to say this specific situation is an extreme individual decision, and obviously this girl had special abilities too. I think it’s a great risk simply getting out of bed in every morning.


Marinka June 12, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Which is why I try to stay in bed as long as possible.


anna see June 11, 2010 at 2:18 pm

i’m torn between feeling like my kids are losers b/c they can’t (won’t) even get their own beverages and feeling grateful they don’t have around the world aspirations.


Marinka June 12, 2010 at 2:36 pm



Jess June 11, 2010 at 3:11 pm

i’m so glad i found your blog, you always make me laugh! so true what you said here!


Maggie June 11, 2010 at 3:59 pm

I couldn’t imagine even considering the thought of letting my child do this. I don’t see myself as a helicopter mom, but damn close to it. All i kept thinking about was pirates!!!! She was damn lucky that she didn’t get sighted by them instead of a rescue plane. I don’t care how trained, or mature she is…SHE IS 16!!! My kid at 14 can drive his go-kart like a champ and has been since he was 5…does that mean I hand him the keys to the car and let him drive across the country???? Ummm.No. She might have a passion and talent for sailing it doesn’t mean you let her do this extreme and dangerous adventure.


ShallowGal June 11, 2010 at 4:14 pm

I have NEVER been accused of being a helicopter mom, I give my kids a huge amount of freedom and responsibility. But I don’t let them go to the fucking MALL by themselves, let alone sail around the world.


Ann's Rants June 11, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Like you, I cannot get passed the absurdity of the conversation. Isn’t this supposed to be a parent’s best cliche?

“Oh and I suppose if Cammy told you to go sail around the world in a dinghy you would do that too?”


Ann's Rants June 11, 2010 at 4:42 pm

“ALONE in a dinghy” that is.


Aunt Becky
June 11, 2010 at 4:42 pm

My parents were pretty much the “don’t smoke pot…IN THE HOUSE” kind of parents, so you know, there’s that, but even they probably would have had issue with doing something like this. Mostly because it’s kinda…dangerous. And 16 year olds aren’t exactly known to be smart. Unless they’re me. Because I was brilliant.


June 11, 2010 at 5:32 pm

What is missing from this excellent discussion, I think, is the element of place. Marinka, you grew up in Leningrad and now live in NYC, so you understand the danger of the larger world. However, this family lives in Thousand Oaks, CA, a soulless suburb of Los Angeles. No doubt the mother, like mothers in Mexico who send their children to the US for a better life, understood the dangers invovled, but probably thought, “At least she’ll get out of here.”

On a personal note, this summer our 10-year-old neice from Chicago is coming to visit us in Los Angeles, alone, and I could not believe the amount of discussion that surrounded her travelling arrangements. That is, until I saw this discussion. Now I realize we got off easy.


Kate Coveny Hood
June 11, 2010 at 6:54 pm

I have to agree with you. And I don’t think there are any serious points that I could make that haven’t been touched upon above…

I just just know that I couldn’t do that or let my children do that at ANY age (do 70 year old women have legal authority over their thirty-something offspring when a condition of dumbassedness has been established?)

Forget about pirates – I would be curled in a fetal position thinking every bump I felt was a great white looking for a snack. And that would definitely complicate the logistics of pushing off from the dock (or whatever it is you do in sailor-speak – I wouldn’t know since my phobia of sharks has pretty much sealed my fate as a life long land lubber).

So yeah – what were they thinking??


Jeanne June 11, 2010 at 7:48 pm

I love that, after all this time, you still say “fuck” on your blog.

As far as letting a sixteen-year-old try such a dangerous stunt–wait until yours are sixteen. You’ll be ready to send them onto the ocean without a boat.


Marinka June 12, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Ha! I’ll definitely keep that in mind.


Michaela June 11, 2010 at 7:56 pm

In Australia it’s big news about the sixteen year old who only arrived home after ‘record breaking’ solo around the world sailing trip. There is no record to be broken. Jesse Martin completed the journey and the record was removed from whatever list world records are listed on.


Maggie May June 11, 2010 at 9:11 pm

I think we have no idea what that kid is like, and that if she is from a family that is extremely exceptional in ways I might not even understand, then it might make sense for her to do something that I don’t understand at that age. We don’t know, like you said, what the mindset is. My boss grew up in Africa and is disgusted with American parents. She raised her four children there until she moved here with her husband when they were teens. We have had fascinating discussions in which she talked about the great dangers she sees in the overprotective ways we ( obviously meaning a certain socioeconomic group as a whole, via her own experience ) are raising our children. My mother’s brother drowned in a lake at 15 and no one ‘let’ him play in that lake. He went there on his own violition after being told not to, because he was a young man. As a result my mom was a helicopter mom and it did no good. My sister and I were both abused by adults, despite our overprotective mother, and we did very dangerous things because we were determined to. Especially me. I was determined to be my own person. I broke both my legs and my arm along the way, as well as a whole bunch of other close calls.

What we can control is mostly the inner resources and integrity of our children, NOT the world they live in or even, what they do . And if we control a young adult who absolutely hates us for doing it, an exceptional young adult, then the resulting effects might be just as dangerous. My mother could never face that.

I am a mother who will not let her son smoke pot or drink and who pulled him out of his school and put him in another because he did. But. He is not exceptionally mature or driven to be adult, but instead was torn up by experiences with his dad. We have to judge our children as individuals not as a theory.

These factors can all be considered as a whole, which is how what this young girl’s family’s choice needs to be considered. Unless we know what they are like, how they arrived at their decision, what the girl is like, how she has been since childhood, etc, we cannot really know what we are judging. Some young people have exceptional drive for individuality and most of all independence and freedom, and some even have the intelligence and old souls to back it up.


Marinka June 12, 2010 at 2:41 pm

I don’t disagree with any of it, but I also disagree that as parents we can’t (and shouldn’t minimize the risks). Of course tragedy can occur in the “safest” of environments, but there is no scenario in which a 16 year old sails around the world by herself that is even marginally safe.


Dana June 12, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Hey MaggieMay… I couldn’t agree with you more! And then I have something to add…
I come from a community of sisters who do shit at ages no one expected to ever have happen… so who are any of we to say that at 16 that girl couldn’t do it? Seriously? I’ve seen younger kids even in good ‘ole Canada do better things, bigger things than that… I say…
Hats off to the Parents with the Balls to trust their kids a little, trust their God a lot, and do what the rest of the world will surely say is wrong.


SubWife June 13, 2010 at 2:48 am

Trust God? I just can’t agree with that. I wouldn’t jump out the 20th floor of the building, in attempt to prove that “hell, I have the guts to do it”, trusting that God would save me.


Dana June 13, 2010 at 7:39 am

LOL! I would hope you wouldn’t! But then there is a great difference between jumping off 20 floors up just to prove you have the guts… and doing what this brave and fascinating 16 year old is doing. Now if you were to say that you bungee jumped from the time you were born (as said 16 year old has sailed that long), if you were to have been professionally trained (as said 16 year old has been), etc. etc. Then why wouldn’t you push the limit?

This I say with all heart and love and sincerity… I work in Addictions and Mental Health, believe me or not, the trend moving forward is kids, and young adults who have been ‘helicopter parented’ that are ending up unable to care for self, unable to pull their proverbial shit together. If said young woman makes it… whether you cheer her on or clap for her or not, she will be filled with such an amazing sense of accomplishment and self-surety, along side a sense of vast humility and respect that I sincerely believe there will be nothing stopping her, all her dreams and goals will be easily attained. Who are any of us to deny her that?


SubWife June 13, 2010 at 10:37 am

There must be some middle ground between being a helicopter parent and allowing your kid to sail places all by herself where the nearest ship is more than 24 hours away. And yeah, if the girl makes – yay, huge boost in self esteem, and if she doesn’t – she could be dead. This is so not a decision any 16 year old should be making – they are all invincible at that age,right?

Wendy June 11, 2010 at 9:38 pm

I’m definitely in the helicopter family, although trying to get better. But my kids are still pretty little. When I was about nine or so we lived in the country and I remember my mom letting me go down to the river by myself and out walking in the woods and all that stuff. Now it just seems crazy.

I’m sure free-range parents would think I’m a total control-freak nut. Here’s a link about free range parenting if you’ve not seen it. Definitely not for me, but I try not to judge (too much). http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/


June 11, 2010 at 10:02 pm

I was so NOT a helicopter parent, but there is no way in hell I would let my 16-year-old daughter attempt something like this. Absolutely out of the question.

In retrospect, I am glad that when she was 16 she barely had the ambition to get off the couch. At least I knew she wasn’t going to be kidnapped by pirates or eaten by sharks.


June 11, 2010 at 10:05 pm

I can say this with the most sincere and honest face / expression – my kids will NEVER be sailing a boat without me or any other adult on board! NOT ever – not happening – don’t care if they call me the meanest mom on the planet – not happening!


anymommy June 11, 2010 at 11:33 pm

“Which leads me to the conclusion that when our children have their babies, they will place them on a boat immediately in the quest of that world record.”

I have a nearly three year old that I’m willing to put on a boat by himself headed for Australia right now. So, all Abby’s efforts, insane or not, are in vain. If he lives. But, as long as he has enough water and can keep up his constant whining, no shark, pirate or other entity with ears will want to touch him.


elenka June 12, 2010 at 7:04 am

I’m glad you said what you said about the situation. I’ve been thinking what you said since I heard about this. Yes, it’s true, we don’t know her or her family, but we know what she/they did and in my opinion, it was irresponsible. As a matter of fact, I think it’s irresponsible at any age. Fighting the ocean? Guess who’s going to win? No way…no how.


Eva Gallant June 12, 2010 at 8:21 am

I have to say I have been reading Abby’s blog nearly since she left on her voyage. She proved herself to be very capable of this trip, making repairs to her the equipment on board, climbing the mast to detangle the sail, you wouldnot believe all the challenges she met and overcame with skill, determination, and grit. I believe her parents made the correct decision and allowing this trip. Most kids today are either doing drups, having promiscuouse sex, giving their parents grief, or sitting on their fat asses playing video games!
I applaud Abby for having higher aspirations that those activities; she proved herself capable of the task; she didn’t fail, her vessel did. I don’t know if I could have had the courage of her parents to trust her to take on this trip, but for them and her, I believe they did the right thing. I encourage others to go to AbbySunderland.com and read Abby’s blog from day one and see how you feel. This is one exceptional young woman–strong, capable, and disciplined. I would be proud to have her as a daughter! Her parents are amazing people to have raised the likes of Abby and her brother Zack!


Marinka June 12, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Of course Abby is extraordinary, driven and talented. It doesn’t make what she is doing any less dangerous and her parents (in my opinion) irresponsible.

I’m not convinced that most 16 year olds today are doing drugs and having promiscuous sex (my favorite kind!) ((kidding)) (((does it look like I’m hugging the word ‘kidding’ now?))), but even if they are, why is the antidote to it a solo sail around the world? Can’t it be something like working in a soup kitchen?


SubWife June 13, 2010 at 2:56 am

What exactly did she achieve or would’ve achieved had she succeeded? I just don’t get that. If she had, like Marinka said, helped feed poor in the soup kitchen, built homes for homeless, visited sick in the hospital – I could understand. If she risked her life to save someone, i would call her a hero. Risking your life just to prove that you can do something – that just recklessness, especially on behalf of parents for allowing this.


dusty earth mother June 12, 2010 at 9:24 am

Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t comment right now because my 4 and 5 year-olds are sailing across the Hudson in the “Plastiki”, a boat made completely of recycled plastic water bottles. So not only am I a mom who believes in letting her children follow their dreams, I also save the planet at the same time. How awesome am I?

On a more serious note, these.parents.are.psycho. End of story.


Marinka June 12, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Why did you wait until they were so old to start the sail?


June 12, 2010 at 9:38 am

If my parents had let me follow my dreams at 16, I would have moved to England and tried to marry George Michael.

I don’t know much about this story, but my gut says any parent who agrees to such a thing is not shy of attention.


brian June 12, 2010 at 10:00 am

i am glad she is home safe now. it does amaze me the interest her quest generated and the enthusiasm until this happened…i hate to imagine where i would have ended up..

congrats on teh goddess award!


June 12, 2010 at 10:42 am

Fame-whores. No one with any sense of protecting their kids would let them do this, especially since 18 is right around the corner and they would have no choice at that point.
Reminds me of Dina Lohan. Helping their her kid get in the spotlight, even with risk. Stupid parenting. I’m all for letting go and letting your kids grow up, but this is not an example of that.


SubWife June 13, 2010 at 2:59 am

18 IS just around the corner, but the record! the record! They must beat the record! don’t you get that? (being sarcastic)


June 12, 2010 at 11:14 am

I drive my kid to school so he doesn’t have to wait at the bus stop by himself. I can’t imagine an age when I would be ok with him sailing around the world.


Nicole June 12, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Yea, obviously the parents are stupid. But then again, they are growing in numbers so why should we be surprised?! Our society is turning lazy, careless, stupid and ignorant. Scary to think about it.


Alias Mother June 13, 2010 at 10:20 am

Wait, wait, wait. I’m willing to hear the other side on this, but this comment makes no sense at all. “Lazy, careless, stupid, and ignorant”???? We can debate the stupid because of the judgment factor, but what this family and girl are doing are the exact opposite of the other three! She’s trained for the last 16 years, spent who knows how long finding, equipping, and prepping to be as safe as possible, and knows more about sailing–and the world–than 99.99% of us ever will.

I’d say the lazy, careless, and ignorant label belongs better to the folks who are proud that their 16 year olds never leave the couch.


Sahm June 14, 2010 at 2:59 pm

I agree that she’s probably more capable on a boat than any of us. But “trained for the last 16 years”? Come on. I’m pretty sure she spent at least the first five years learning to walk and talk.


Roshni June 15, 2010 at 12:47 pm

was she also trained to tackle pirates and great whites? And, also to repair a mast when it gets broken in midwater?! Jeez!!!!!


June 12, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Marinka, I wholeheartedly agree and I’m not really a helicopter mom. I think Wendi hit the nail on the head: the parents are seeking attention too.
16 is way too young to be sailing ALONE around the world! This isn’t about going down to the town’s lake unsupervised or even taking a plane trip alone (I was doing that at age 7) this is a young girl sailing by herself in waters that include pirates, sharks, kid touchers (i’m sure), and god knows what else! Completely ridiculous!


Maggie May June 12, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Why is it that most of the people who agree she should NOT be doing this speak in name calling and snappy remarks? I’ll draw my own conclusions.

It isn’t a discussion then, just a gang bang. They suck! Crazy! Ridiculous! Fame whores!

Easy judgements which means there hasn’t been any thought put into considering the alternatives.

Henry Granju just died of drug overdose practically in his own back yard and his mom is being villified by some for that as well. No matter what parents do there is a culture that wants to blame them for what happens.

I agree with a commenter who said at least she isn’t using drugs sleeping around getting knocked up sitting on her fat lazy ass playing video games like MANY well cared for teenagers I meet through my boys.


Dana June 13, 2010 at 7:28 am

Bravo! Couldn’t agree with you more Maggie!


June 13, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Maggie, I agree with with you that every kid is different—from a different family, background, culture, belief system, etc. But I am concerned about this whole sending your kid around the world alone on a boat thing or climbing the highest mountain in the world, or flying a plane alone, or pretty much any other outlandish stunt and I DO question the motives. We have become a fifteen minutes of fame culture and I do worry about parents letting their kids do extemely dangerous things for what seems to be a few minutes of fame.

Certainly, horrible tragedies can happen no matter what age you are or how adventurous. My husband’s best friend died in an avalanche while climbing Mt. Rainier and only a week later my husband’s mom died of complications from MS while sleeping on her sofa. Both, to me, where equally tragic. And that is life.

I do I agree that there is no way I could know the inner workings of the family dynamic and what brought them to the conclusion about why they decided to let their children do these things but I can’t help but be a little skeptical and concerned. And I fully acknowledge that that may be more of a reflection on me than anything else.


Tristachio June 15, 2010 at 10:32 am


If my boyfriends parents held him back from flying a plane alone when he was 14 he never would have attained his dream of becoming a professional pilot. It’s led him to teaching other kids how to safely attain their dream of flying and manning bush planes to help save people in areas others can’t get them.

I think each parent should be willing to help their child attain their dreams –with a reasonable amount of safety — but if a child gets held back the world could potentially miss out on the great things they can later to go on to achieve. I’d rather be known as the person who helped launch someone great then the person who held them back.


June 15, 2010 at 10:47 am


They didn’t let him fly try to be the world’s youngest kid to fly around the world alone in hopes of acheiving fifteen minutes of fame. It is THAT which I question. Flying alone after taking flying lessons is the normal pattern of flight school. But I do have to say, if your boyfriend was truly driven to be a pilot I don’t think it is fair to say the he would “never” have been a pilot if his parents didn’t give him flying lessons as a kid. My husband’s brother is a pilot and wanted to be since he was a child. His parents encouraged his dream but did not have the means to give him expensive flying lessons and perhaps didn’t even think it was their responsibility to give him those lessons. So, after he put himself through college, he then put himself through flight school and is now a pilot for a major airline. All parents feel differently about what they should give their kids and what their kids should do on their own as adults but that doesn’t mean they are squashing a dream.


Tristachio June 15, 2010 at 11:47 am


I do agree that the whole “Being the youngest to do such n’ such solo” is suspicious when combined with the fact the father tried to sign them up for some type of reality show. It would be sad if her trying to achieve this was pushed upon her by hers parents for a fame they could coast off of. Like you said it, “We’re a fifteen minutes of fame culture”.

And you are right, it might not be fair to say he never would have been a pilot if his parents held him back but it was a great, stable launching ground that his parents had his back. And kudos to your brother-in-law for being able to achieve it all on his own!

But as you said, every parents feels differently and I know all parents (unless they are truly terrible people) don’t intentionally squash a childs dream but there should be such safety things put in place so the child can achieve their dream.

I guess there are varying factors to everything but I think she should be able to do this trip for the right reasons, done the right way. (i.e rescue and support closer then a day away etc..).

Sandi June 12, 2010 at 3:15 pm

I feel like I have to jump in here and declare myself on the side of Abby’s parents. As the mother of fifteen fucking children, I am here to tell you that every child is different. Every child matures at a different rate and age. 18 is not a magic number or a magic age. I have kids that aren’t smart enough to hang their towels on the rack at 18 and I have a thirteen year old that can run this entire house in my absence and “mother” her siblings like a pro.

I took a lot of heat “shipping” my kids off to college prep school at 14. I take a lot of heat for blogging about the things I blog about, and “collecting children,” and standing up to bullies, and a hundred other things, and I am here to tell you, IT SUCKS!

Why do you all want to waste your time bashing this family? They have already given Abby their blessing and support. What all the naysayers are doing is wasting their breath and hurting the Sutherlands.

I am hear to shout to the WORLD I support the Abby Sutherlands and the Jordan Romeros and all the other amazing kids out there, that know what they want, and go after it. And hats off to all the parents that support their dreams!

Last but not least, I know and love many of you that have shared a difference of opinion here and I want you all to know that I still love you and hope you do not take offense to anything I have said, but I couldn’t sit quiet any longer.


Marinka June 12, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Yes, every child is different, but all children are the same in that they should not be sailing around the world by themselves. Not at 14, 16, 18, 21, or as long as their parents have a fighting breath in their bodies. (I assume we all understand that this is my opinion).

I am not bashing this family. (Oh, you mean the part where I said that they were out of their fucking mind or something?) And I’d like to think, especially after reading Loralee’s post that if things had a different and tragic ending that I would not have posted what I did. But also, I didn’t post this on their family website or on Abby’s blog, I posted it on my own site. I doubt very much that I, or others commenting are hurting the Sunderland. They are public figures now, and this is part of the discussion.

And I’m glad that you said what you did, Sandi. You know how I feel about you.


Holly June 12, 2010 at 3:33 pm

I think it’s freakin’ AWESOME! Truth be told, I was WAY more mature at 16 than I am now. I also didn’t drink Rum like water and though I hate to admit it, I guess it clouds my judgment.

The 16 year old me (that was also in way better pirate butt kicking shape) would be all level headed, see pirates and think one step at a time

The 28 (am I 28? 27? hmmm) would be drunk on dark and stormies getting my tan on wondering why this boat is trailing behind me. Must be here to join my party? Must go down and get more rum for the guests.

See, I think I would of been better off at 16. No way would my parents let me go now, but at 16, I think they would of…


rachel June 12, 2010 at 3:50 pm

I get that sailing around the world alone is dangerous. But I don’t see how it was any more dangerous for Abby alone at 16 than it would have been for Abby (or some other young equally-experienced sailor-woman) alone at 25. Abby’s probably dedicated most of her young life to achieving this goal and I assume she’s exceptionally trained and capable. I think, then, it’s more of a question of whether her parents should have “let” her devote a large part of her childhood and adolescence in this pursuit, because once the decision is made to do that, it doesn’t make much sense that they would then not allow a solo voyage that, if successfully completed just two years later, we’d all be celebrating.

I can’t imagine devoting so much of our time, effort and money toward any one particular interest of one of my children ( then again, none of my kids seem especially inspired or talented. :/ ) but I won’t judge the Sunderlands for encouraging their daughter.

It does make me think about a bigger picture here, about why so many of us, as mothers, are so quick to judge the parenting choices of others. I may be a little defensive, though, as I’ve recently been on the receiving end of one of those ‘easy judgements’ that Maggie May mentioned above.


Maggie May June 12, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Bravo Marinka for being such a cool customer. My kids HATE it when I say ‘agree to disagree’ but I think it fits here….


sdl June 12, 2010 at 6:59 pm

What I object to in the parents’ decision to let their 16-year-old attempt to sail around the world isn’t to do with HER safety. I mean, in a million years I wouldn’t be okay with my kid doing that, but I am not a huge risk-taker and I get excited if my 19-year-old isn’t home by midnight.

What I object to is the parents allowing their 16-year-old to put the lives of others at risk if she were to need rescuing. I think people who put their own lives at risk intentionally by mountain climbing or whatever should have to pay for rescue services if they’re required, and had Abby been lost at sea, people would have been out there hunting for her and risking their own lives and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. THAT isn’t right.

If her parents allowed her to risk her life going to help people in terrible poverty or war, I’d still not quite understand how they could stand the terror of that, but I’d admire them and her so much more.


SubWife June 13, 2010 at 3:15 am

I agree with you 100%. I think they should make her parents pay for the rescue services. To put your life in danger just to prove to the world or herself that she could do it, is reckless and stupid. At any age. But that’s why we have parents that are legally obligated to use their adult judgment to keep us out of acting upon reckless and stupid impulses until we are 18. And if adult chooses to do something this stupid, no, we cannot stop them, but make them pay for rescue efforts if things go south. There’s nothing admirable about putting your life in serious danger to prove some point. So much less if this could put other people’s lives in danger as well.

Someone said before that everyone would’ve applauded her journey if she got to complete it at 18. I wouldn’t have. Even if Abby successfully completed it 25.


Alias Mother June 13, 2010 at 10:28 am

“There’s nothing admirable about putting your life in serious danger to prove some point.”

Things that would not have happened, were there not unadmirable people in the world willing to prove a point (a random sampling):
* The discovery of the North Pole
* The discovery of the South Pole
* The settling of the Americas
* The climbing of Everest
* Any number of inventions, including electricity
* Space travel


I think we can all be grateful these people didn’t have helicopter parents.


Marinka June 13, 2010 at 10:54 am

But these people weren’t proving the point–they set out to further something. You know, like “discovering” a continent. (Although whether we should be grateful that they did or not depends on who you’re asking. But I am! Yay, America!) Abby is doing it because it’s there. It’s a personal challenge.

I’m judgmental, but I’m not a hypocrite. I would also not be ok with my kids trying to uncover a continent or climbing Everest or traveling intergalactically.


The gold digger June 21, 2010 at 10:45 am

They were all adults. It didn’t matter if they had helicopter parents; their parents could not have stopped them.


Slow Panic
June 12, 2010 at 7:53 pm

i had a conversation with my husband about that this morning. what the HELL are those parents thinking. of course i live in small town america and don’t let my kids play in the front yard alone in case some freak drives by and grabs them….


Pseudo June 13, 2010 at 2:10 am

Hmmm As a high school teacher for 15 years…. the whole sail around the world thing is extreme to the max. But. I’ve seen a lot more fucked up kids from helicopter parenting than just about anything else. Love you and your blog Marinka. Always have. But I’m just saying.


Traci June 13, 2010 at 2:24 am

Wow! It really isn’t your job, or anyone else’s for that matter, to judge these people for their decisions. Most kids today CAN’T take care of themselves or take initiative to do anything beyond sitting on their butts. And that is all thanks to this “helicopter parenting” that runs rampant in the US. It is amazing how my parents generation were constantly out on their own at very young ages and doing things that we can’t even trust 20-somethings to do nowadays. Age is just a number of how long you have been alive, NOT how mature, responsible, and talented you are. Her parents are very brave to trust their child this well, but she obviously earned it.

It doesn’t do your child any good to suppress their dreams. They should be encouraged to go after their dreams. By casting judgment on these people, it sounds to me like you are just trying to make yourselves feel better about your own parenting decisions. From my experience, parents who keep their children from going after their dreams (despite the dangers) are just encouraging their kids to be useless slackers who will never be a functioning part of society. But I don’t judge any of you for that, because I’m not that type of person. To each his own so long as it doesn’t harm others. Have some respect and keep your nose out of their lives.


June 14, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Despite the fact that this is my friends blog, which technically means she can judge anyone she wants on it (and in all honest, Marinka said what many of us were thinking), you are missing a key thing here.

If you want to allow/encourage your child to live their dream, as you suggest, there are better ways of doing it, then sending them in a boat by themselves, out to see. At sixteen years old. Maybe they could have gone with her. Maybe they could have trailed her in a second boat. If this were my child? That is what I’d do. Because as a parent, my job is to take care of my kids. They are free to do as they please at 18. But until then? I’d like them to live. There are many things Abby’s parents could have done to keep her safe and help her live her dream.


Marinka June 14, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I think the revelation that her dad signed the whole family up for a reality show shines a real light on the parents’ bravery. Not many people would exploit their kids like that.


June 14, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Yup, that was my suspicion. Just like the dad who schemed the whole kid in the balloon dealio in Colorado. I think this may be a new form of child exploitation that we are witnessing unfold. I think the dude in Colorado got some jail time. If there is indeed a reality show deal then I think these parents need to be investigated for neglet, abuse, and exploitation. Oops, there’s my skepticism again.


Crisanna June 15, 2010 at 12:40 pm

As a twenty-something myself, I agree that a significant part of my generation seems to be lacking in the areas of responsibility, ambition, and maturity – either because of parents who hover too close, or those that allow too much freedom/have too little involvement. Abby’s parents seem to have raised a (mostly) self-sufficient child, and in the process exhibited a great deal of bravery at allowing her to take such an extreme and daring risk.

On that note, you say “to each his own so long as it doesn’t harm others.” Well, the possibility of this harming others became very real when the rescuers were called to act on her behalf. I’m with Issa in not understanding why a boat tailing her could not have been arranged for safety/precaution.

Also, I disagree that what Marinka (and, basically, the rest of the world – including yourself) are doing by participating in the discussion is disrespectful. The family threw out a blanket invitation to have their lives discussed the second they decided to go on public display. People intending to break records typically don’t aspire to become isolated recluses. Isn’t one of the major draws of being a record-breaker achieving the fame that naturally accompanies it? Not to mention the blog, press releases, potential show, etc, they have thus far pursued.

Actually, what Marinka has done is fostered a heckuva lot of discussion, reflection, and sharing of perspectives. I’m not blessed with children yet, but I like to think that hearing both sides of a discussion from those who are will only help me when it’s time for me to make difficult parenting choices.


Steph June 13, 2010 at 1:16 pm

I really, really try hard to not judge parents for decisions they make. I think I will probably make a million decisions I wouldn’t want to be judged for. This one I just can’t get a handle on. Honest to goodness I just don’t know how I feel about it. I wondered about pirates as well. Also the weather she was sailing in to, the fact she could not break the record after leaving Australia, at that point I wondered why they didn’t pull the plug. Then I thought, maybe it’s really safe? I don’t know. I know nothing about sailing. It seemed like she had a lot of emergency preparedness under her belt. She had a satellite phone, provisions, life boats, etc… So maybe being alone on the ocean isn’t as dangerous as it sounds like it is? Then I read it was a racing boat and I guess that made me really wonder. Presumably since it was mentioned that it was a racing boat that means it wasn’t really the kind of boat you sail around the world in? I just have no idea.

I don’t think I’d let my kids do it but I just have no idea.


Naked Girl in a Dress June 13, 2010 at 2:28 pm

I totally agree with you! I can’t imagine sending your child off on a sailing adventure around the world and comparing the risk to driving in a car with 16 year olds!


wfbdoglover June 13, 2010 at 11:47 pm

It is called extreme sports. If you grew up sailing, you might consider it. My kid races at the age of 13 at 50 mph in a kart.

My new outlook on life is, if it does affect me personally, I’m not going to bitch about it.

Just my two cents worth.


June 14, 2010 at 2:49 am

We also don’t know the future repercussions of the parents letting her do this at such an early age. There is a reason child stars tend to get screwed up, go into rehab, or become religious fanatics. While it is great that this girl is so ambitious, sometimes it is healthier to be told no. Let’s get real. Her doing this is just not that important in the scheme of things. Comparing it to seasoned explorers discovering the North Pole is… well, just silly.


Jen June 14, 2010 at 3:33 pm

“sometimes it is healthier to be told no.”
Wise words indeed.


elenka June 14, 2010 at 6:36 am

This is a place where people can cite their OPINIONS. You did yours and so did motherhoodinnyc. I don’t know that stating your opinion is exactly the same a ‘judging’.
Sometimes dreams become nightmares ………


June 14, 2010 at 1:33 pm

I know this is a five day old discussion. I will say this. I don’t let my eight year old go past our street. In a neighborhood that is possibly the safest in all of Colorado. Maybe it’s my neurosis coming out, maybe it’s just that I was raised in Los Angeles, but anything off of the block, just doesn’t feel safe. She’ll be nine this year. Even if I gave her an extra block a year to ride her bike on, she’ll me like a billion years old before she can sail around the world alone. Then end.

Truly though, I love this post. I FULLY agree with you. I also wonder about people who do things to be the youngest EVER to to do it. Did she even want to do this? Does she even like it? If so great, sail the world. As an adult. How long does a sail around the world take? Let’s for arguments sake (and cause I’m lazy) say six months. If an adult left a teenager alone for six months at home? The adult would be in jail and the kid put in foster care. That’s like neglect. How is it any different to send her to sea for six months?

I’m beyond thrilled that she’s fine. Now? I think the parents need to be publicly bitch slapped for this.


Marinka June 14, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I’m not quite sure why this is allowed to happen, either. Except I think that knowing that there’s a reality TV deal at the end of it make$ everything better.


Noelle June 14, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Jumping in to the conversation a little late here, but…

I think what’s underlying the judgements and opinions of almost every parent is fear. Fear for our own kids, fear about taking (or not taking) risks. Fear can motivate you or stop you in your tracks. We all react differently.

Would I ever let my own daughter make that trip? No way. Even if she was incrediblymature and capable and well-trained, I couldn’t do it. Fear of drowning, sharks, pirates who rape and murder…I could never live with myself knowing I gave her permission to do something with a potentially brutal ending. The alternative, of course, being that I had to live with crushing her dreams.

Life is so precious. Anything can happen, out on the high seas or in our own back yard. We will never, ever know what could or would have happened “if”. All we can do is make what we believe are the right choices for us, for our own families. And thank God that girl is okay.


The Flying Chalupa
June 14, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Ditto. Who in their right mind lets their kid do that? And then the world has to spend the time and money – putting other people at risk – to rescue her. The money should come out of the parents’ pockets. It’s part of the package, right?

And as to your follow up post on this, I am right there on the judgemental bandwagon with you. If you don’t want judgement, get off the blogosphere.

Great post.


Bonddi June 16, 2010 at 11:05 am

I support her parent’s decision. Yes, she could have died, being hit by a car crossing the street to go to school. Yes, pirates could have abducted her, a gang roaming the streets and left her for dead. The risks of life are always there, you just choose not to be overwhelmed by them.


ginalee June 18, 2010 at 2:14 am

I cannot believe everyone is upset about a 16 year old who is obviously capable of sailing around the world or she wouldnt have been allowed…….and we have a president who is running the debt up 1000 fold and is running this country into the ground….how old is he?…who knew best?


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