As editor of a small regional magazine, I began following the sailing Sunderland family when Zac was nearing the end of his record-breaking trip circumnavigating the globe. It wasn’t long after he returned that word reached my desk that his sister, Abby, would be attempting her own record-breaking journey.
After following Zac, and having had a few email exchanges with Marianne Sunderland, mom of the two teenaged sailors, I wasn’t surprised to hear about Abby’s planned trip. I made arrangements to cover the second journey. Little did any of us suspect that this journey would become a harrowing adventure, which even Ernest Hemmingway didn’t dream up.
Unsinkable: A Young Woman’s Courageous Battle on the High Seasis Abby’s story of her dream of sailing solo around the world and of her determination to continue in spite of in spite of vicious storms, equipment breakdowns, and no shortage of naysayers.
Abby’s story begins almost at birth. Beginning when she was five months old, the Sunderlands spent several years living aboard their sailboat, Amazing Grace. Sailing was as natural for her as walking. By the time she was thirteen, Abby was helping as crewmember when her father sailed boats he had repaired as part of his business. It was this experience that prompted her desire to sail around the world.
Abby began her trip with the months of training, specialists in the fields of weather, equipment, navigation, even sports psychologists, plus the equipment that was specifically selected for her trip. The Sunderlands made every effort to control all the possible situations that Abby might encounter.
Laurance and Marianne Sunderland were often portrayed as abusive parents for consenting to allow Abby to set out on her dream trip. They were accused of using their children to gain wealth and fame. The media took little notice of Abby’s background and preparation for sailing. It appeared that the primary concern was allowing a daughter, as opposed to a son, to strike without an adult. Zac’s trip didn’t garner the same scrutiny and no press until he nearly completed his voyage.
Collaborator Lynn Vincent tells Abby’s story with her words and emotions. Ms. Vincent weaves all the various viewpoints through Abby’s words and her words as the narrator. While I found the switch in storyteller a little confusing at first, but soon settled into the flow of the story.
Unsinkable tackles the negatives aspects of sending a young person out on this type of adventure. There are times, as you are reading, that Laurance does appear pushy, while Marianne tempers his drive. The reader also finds out about the unscrupulous people who attempt to thwart or take advantage of every moneymaking opportunity, even at the expense of a young girl’s life.
I learned not only about what the entire Sunderland family experienced throughout Abby’s ordeal, I also learned about sailing. It’s more than just a Sunday afternoon jaunts so many of us experience.
This is a book to be read by young people. Older children and teens will learn that dreams aren’t handed to them on a platter. They will also learn about hard work and training are part of the price for fulfilling a dream. While few other young people will want to take on sailing around the world, all can learn that while dreams don’t come true easily, but they can be fulfilled. As Abby states, “ I have also learned that not succeeding isn’t necessarily the same thing as failure.” It is no surprise that she plans to attempt her solo trip again.
Unsinkable: A Young Woman’s Courageous Battle on the High Seas
Available on Kindle
DVD Documentary – Wild Eyes: The Abby Sunderland Story