Team Abby

      "Abby Sunderland Feared Lost At Sea!"  the headlines screamed, even though the media appeared to fear it quite a bit more than her home support team did. Her brother Zac had already pointed out that Abby manually activated her EPIRB (emergency beacon) and a second EPIRB -- the one that goes off if it is submerged in 15 feet of water -- had not been activated. 

     As it turned out, when the search plane's crew spoke with her a few hours later, she was safe and unharmed, only dismasted. Wild Eyes' mainmast came down after repeated knockdowns in rough conditions and was dragging the mainsail in the Southern Indian Ocean.

     (To better understand dismasting, I recommend reading Red Sky in Mourning, Tami Ashcraft's account of her harrowing journey after being dismasted and rolled. Crippled and injured, she still made it to Hawaii after 41 days at sea.)

     The quick response of the Australian government, still celebrating the national exultation over the recently-completed circumnavigation of 16 year-old Jessica Watson, shows how small the world is now, how difficult it is to be "lost" -- even on the featureless expanse of the Southern Ocean.

     Although bloggers have been quick to jump in, calling Abby Sunderland "too young" and once again accusing her parents of child endangerment, a closer look at the situation shows she was well-prepared, cool and calm under more stressful physical conditions than most of us will ever experience. 

     Okay, a dismasting is terrible.  When a mainmast crashes onto the deck it devastates dreams right along with the rigging and communications. But a dismasting itself is not fatal. A French ship that was in the area is on its way to her, in accordance with the marine law that requires captains to aid other vessels.

     Abby is probably plenty upset over the setback, but I wouldn't be surprised if she caught a tow to Tasmania, stepped a new mast and continued on to the Pacific leg of her trip. Whether or not she does, I'm still on Team Abby.