Those awesome teenage girls

     It's dramatic. Courageous. Suspenseful. True. We are approaching a remarkable moment in sailing history, when the three current contenders for youngest solo circumnavigator are all teenage girls.

     In order to claim the title, they each will sail 24,000 miles -- crossing all 360 degrees of longitude and the equator at least once  -- unassisted.

     The first cruiser, 16 year-old Australian Jessica Watson, departed in October on a borrowed 34-foot sloop.She is nearing the equator. Last time I checked her blog at jessicawatsom.com.au, she was baking bread in the doldrums and weathering a lightning storm in her bunk, eating chocolate cookies. When she is able, she does her schoolwork, makes lesson plans to teach long distance and bemoans her lack of fishing skill. She seems quite patient, which is good because she has another nonstop seven months or so at sea. 

     Meanwhile, Southern Californian  Abby Sunderland is readying her 40-foot open to attempt a similar feat. Abby has been planning her  voyage since she was thirteen, around the time her older brother Zac was getting ready for his record-setting non-stop voyage. She'll probably depart next month, heading south to Cape Horn as well. After that her route and Jessica's will be the same for several more months. Abby just turned 16 so is a few months younger than Watson. She reports at soloround.blogspot.com that her Aussie counterpart sent her an encouraging email. 

     Laura Dekker, a Dutch 14 year-old, has also announced plans to take a 27-foot boat on a solo circumnavigation (though her trip would not be nonstop). The Dutch courts said no. Last summer, after she crossed the North Sea alone, she was detained in England and eventually made a ward of the state, forbidden to attempt this feat until she is older. The court will revisit its decision next July, so she might yet set sail while Watson and Sunderland are still at sea.