Laurence Sunderland has been getting a lot of flack lately. The father of Abby Sunderland, who was rescued last Saturday from her broken boat, adrift in the middle of the middle of the Indian Ocean, has been called a bad parent and worse. Still, he has persisted in his defense of Abby's sailing ability.
Laurence, himself a master sailor and experienced yachtsman, has decades of experience on the water. The entire family is both familiar with the rough conditions inherent to being at sea and the skill needed to travel safely. His oldest son, Zac, was briefly a world record holder as the youngest sailor to complete a solo circumnavigation of the world.
This, too, was Abby Sunderland's goal. However, high winds and rough waters in the Indian Ocean left her stranded after her mast broke and, on the way down, crushed her radio transmitter. The thought of a 16-year-old girl, barely old enough to drive, yet adrift at sea was a frightening one and the boating accident prompted a lot public outcry against the father who allowed his child to undertake such a risk.
Still, Abby's predicament was less due to her sailing ability then the unpredictability of sailing conditions. In addition to her father, and Abby herself, her sailing instructor has vouched for the young woman's skill. In the end, with Abby rescued and en route to California, most can agree that the situation will have a happy ending.
Whether or not Abby's skill was up to the challenge of sailing around the world, and it seems as if it was, the whole ordeal shows that many ideas are not labeled as bad until they fail. With a less experienced boater, a sudden change in circumstance could lead to a more catastrophic boating accident and a less than happy ending.
For parents loaning their children the boat for the weekend, even if it's not to travel around the world in, it is important to encourage responsible boating and safe practice on the water. Summer is here, and that means people will be at the beach and on the water.
Boating accidents will happen, but you can help make another happy ending possible.
- Teenage Sailor Is Rescued From Her Damaged Boat (New York Times)