According to ABC News, Abby Sunderland is “in good spirits” today after a ferocious Indian Ocean storm crippled her boat. This was according to a rescue team that made contact at dawn with the distressed sailor.
“Abby is in very good spirits,” said Will Blackshaw, leader of an airborne crew from Australia that made brief radio contact with Sunderland about 2 a.m. ET. “She’s obviously keen to have some assistance, but she is in very good spirits.”
“The rescue team’s report was posted to a blog tracking Abby’s attempt to become the youngest sailor to achieve a solo circumnavigation of the globe. The post included a picture of Abby’s boat, Wild Eyes, with the mast broken off,” said the ABC story.
16-year-old Abby Sunderland was reported missing at sea after her Emergency Positioning Beacon (EPIRB) had alerted authorities that she was in distress approximately 1,700 miles south east of Madagascar in the Southern Indian Ocean.
Abby was in a patchy communication with her family yesterday when communications were suddenly cut off. Search and rescue efforts were immediately launched to locate the teen in distress.
Trained spotters left Perth, Australia, today on board a Qantas Airbus A330 to help located Abby. The plane followed a course to the position that her EPIRB was constantly transmitting and upon arrival to the incident observers were able to spot Abby’s boat, Wild Eyes, in an upright position. They were also able to make contact with her via marine VHF radio.
Team Abby wrote in this morning’s blog, “We have just heard from the Australian Search and Rescue. The plane arrived on the scene moments ago. Wild Eyes is upright but her rigging is down. The weather conditions are abating. Radio communication was made and Abby reports that she is fine!”
The rigging on a sailboat are the mast and boom that hold the form of the sails along with the stays and shrouds or wire cables that extend from the top of the mast to the deck of the boat to keep it upright. When the trained observers got to the scene this morning they reported that the 40 foot sailboat’s mast had been broken.
Concerns were brought up late last night by nautical experts that the boat might have lost its keel and overturned in the stormy waters, which would have placed a greater risk on the young sailor’s safety.
The waters in this area have a reputation for being rough on sailors. Last year when Abby’s brother, Zac, was solo sailing in these seas he said that it was so rough that a knock down resulted in the snapping of his forward stay and he almost lost his rigging.
Team Abby also wrote that Abby awaiting a “French fishing vessel that was diverted to her location will be there in a little over 24 hours.”
Laurence and Marianne Sunderland, Abby’s parents, also wrote on Abby’s blog, “We spoke with Abby early this morning and learned that she had had a very rough day with winds up to 60 knots and seas 20-25 feet. She had been knocked down several times but was handling things well. The wind had subsided to around 35 knots which she and Wild Eyes are quite comfortable with.
“We were helping her troubleshoot her engine that she was trying to start to charge her systems. Satellite phone reception was patchy. She was able to get the water out of the engine and start her up. We were waiting to hear back from her when American Search & Rescue authorities called to report having received a signal from her emergency beacon (EPIRB). We initially thought that the signal was sent automatically from her water-activated EPIRB and that it had been activated during one of her knockdowns. As we pulled the paperwork from her EPIRB registration, we learned that the signal had come from her manually activated EPIRB.
“We were referred to Australian Search & Rescue and while we were on the phone with them another signal came in from her handheld PLB (Personal Locator Beacon). Her water-activated EPIRB has not been activated so we are hopeful that the boat is still upright.
“We are working closely with American, French and Australian Search & Rescue authorities to coordinate several ships in the area to divert to her location. There are several ships in her area; the earliest possible contact is 40 hours. We are actively seeking out some sort of air rescue but this is difficult due to the remoteness of her location. Australian Search & Rescue have arranged to have a Quantas Airbus fly over her location at first light (she is 11 hours later). They will not be able to help her other than to talk via marine radio if they are able to get close enough. Hopefully, they will be able to assess her situation and report back to us.
“Abby has all of the equipment on board to survive a crisis situation like this. She has a dry suit, survival suit, life raft, and ditch bag with emergency supplies. If she can keep warm and hang on, help will be there as soon as possible. Wild Eyes is designed for travel in the Southern Ocean and is equipped with 5 air-tight bulkheads to keep her buoyant in the event of major hull damage. It is built to Category 0 standards and is designed to self-right in the event of capsize.
“Thank you for all of your kind emails and calls. We appreciate your prayers and support.”
Her parents defended their decision to allow the Thousand Oaks (California) teen to sail by herself around the world, saying their daughter was prepared.
Speaking on morning TV news programs, they said that Abby’s journey was no more dangerous than other activities that teenagers do and that she proved to them that she was up to the challenge.
“Let’s face it, life is dangerous. How many teenagers die in car accident[s]?” Abby Sunderland’s father, Laurence Sunderland, told “Good Morning America.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that Laurence Sunderland said that critics have never met Abby and that if they did they would realize she was capable of sailing solo for this trip. He said it was a difficult decision to allow Abby to attempt to circumnavigate the globe but that he and his wife agreed to do it after much training.
“This wasn’t an easy decision make. It was done very carefully,” he said. For more information, go to: www.abbysunderland.com. You can also follow her voyage by going to her blog which is located at: http://soloround.blogspot.com
Assist News Service
Tony Ashlin is a Christian radio producer, eRumor investigator for www.truthorfiction.com and a sailor who volunteers his spare time as a recreational boating safety educator for the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. For many years, he produced “Window on the World,” a syndicated radio program with Bruce Sonnenberg and Dan Wooding that was run on some 400 US radio stations.