Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

News

Teen Sailor's Voyage Was OK'd By Child Protective Services

Stories like these are only possible with your help!
Your donation today keeps LAist independent, ready to meet the needs of our city, and paywall free. Thank you for your partnership, we can't do this without you.

Abby Sunderland's unsuccessful attempt to circumnavigate the globe solo aboard her sailbot, Wild Eyes, and her Indian Ocean rescue have raised criticism among the public that her parents had ulterior motives for their 16-year-old daughter's voyage, and that they were foolishly endangering their child by allowing her to pursue her ambitious goal.

Former LA Times journalist and current outdoors blogger Pete Thomas has recently published a post revealing his insider knowledge of the Sunderland children, Abby, and Zac, who completed the same journey albeit on a different, warmer route, himself at 17 in July 2009.

Thomas points out that the Sunderlands were vetted prior to Abby's departure:

This might not have been reported but a representative from child protective services interviewed Abby for nearly two hours at her home before her Jan. 23 departure from Marina del Rey. Marianne Sunderland, Abby's mom, told me this in the weeks after Abby's departure. The interview was to make sure the high school junior was not being coerced into making this voyage.
Support for LAist comes from

To counter allegations that the Sunderlands are looking to exploit their children, Thomas says that there "is no reality series or documentary forthcoming regarding Abby's saga," though there is footage of Zac that is being held while a dispute is settled. Further, to those who say it was reckless of the Sunderlands to let Abby take this trip, Thomas points out:

As for child endangerment, the same charges could be leveled at any parent placing their child in a midget racing car or on a motocross track or a bucking bronco, encouraging careers along those lines. Those are high-risk sports guaranteed to produce serious injuries and occasional deaths.

(One might also go so far as to say that any parent who allows their high schooler to drive off in a car and attend a party on a Saturday night are also endangering their child, though Thomas does not make this point.)Abby Sunderland is not alone in her wish to make this remarkable ocean voyage while she is in her teen years. After Zac's return home to Southern California last year, a 17-year-old Australian girl completed the trip, and right now a 14-year-old Dutch girl is waiting to hear if authorities in her homeland will allow her to set sail.

No matter how old a ship captain is, they will still have to face the elements: "Abby is not the first global sailor to have been stopped by foul weather, nor will she be the last," remarks Thomas. Perhaps the Sunderlands should have consulted a weather balloon?

(h/t LA Observed)