Abby Sunderland set off on a voyage last January, determined to sail around the world. She did it for a book deal, a reality show deal, and ultimately, for money for her broke family. She was also trying to set the world record for the youngest person to sail around the world.
Abby ended up having to be rescued by a fishing boat after an international search in the Indian Ocean after a storm damaged her boat. The boat, Wild Eyes, had to be left there when Abby was rescued.
But should she have been allowed to go? In my opinion, absolutely not.
Parents would never hand over car keys to a 16 year old, and let them drive cross country with nothing but a cell phone. Sure, they know how to use a car just like Abby knows how to take care of her boat. But to let them go alone? That’s incredibly irresponsible. In fact, many people have suggested that it was child endangerment to let her go, and protective services should be involved. Personally, I think that it has raised enough attention and gotten enough criticism that if it were a child welfare issue, the authorities are probably already involved.
As for the money issue: there are plenty of ways to make money. Letting your child go globe-trotting in dangerous seas around the world is not a valid option. She is 16; a child. And alone.
Her father asserts she wanted to do it, that it was her dream. My 5 year old asks if she can drive. Do I let her? No. Because I am the parent, and my job is to protect her. When the time comes, she will be able to do what she wants. But children need parents – children aren’t thinking like adults think. They are excited, and don’t fully realize the risks involved with their plans. Ask the parent of any teenager, and I assure you that their child has done something incredibly risky or ridiculously stupid that they didn’t think through before they decided it was a good idea.
A world record is a high aspiration, and admirable. But to risk your child’s safety to let them try to break the record? It’s not worth it.
Abby Sunderland is an expert sailor. That is an absolute truth. But she is also 16 years old, and 16 year olds shouldn’t be sailing around the world alone.
I realize that not everyone agrees with this assessment. Many defend Abby’s parents, saying that too many kids these days just sit in front of the television. But Abby could sail locally and still come home at night like other teens.
The truth is, parents make mistakes. In my opinion, this was a big one. Luckily, Abby came out of it perfectly fine, and the Sunderlands can breathe a sigh of relief, whether it was truly a mistake for them to let her go or not.
And Abby’s safety is, by far, the most important factor in the situation.