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'Unsinkable- A Young Woman's Courageous Battle on the High Seas

by Zeke Barlow, VCStar/Sail-World Cruising on 23 Apr 2011
Unsinkable - and Abby’s yacht was designed just like that SW
While 15-year-old Dutch sailor Laura Dekker is still amble-sailing her way around the world, 16-year-old American sailor Abby Sunderland, who had to be rescued from the South Indian Ocean in her non-stop attempt has written a book about her attempt at the 'youngest' record. Just released, it's called 'Unsinkable: A Young Woman's Courageous Battle on the High Seas.'

The book on her epic voyage was cowritten with Lynn Vincent, who collaborated with Sarah Palin on her autobiography.

The book is an account of what happened during Abby's four months at sea — which ended after a wave snapped her mast and an international rescue operation ensued — as well as a defense of the family's decision to let the teen sail away in the first place.

Even as Abby's fate at sea was uncertain, the criticism of the Sunderlands for allowing their daughter to undertake such an expedition reached a fever pitch, with dial-a-quote psychologists and fair-weather sailors alternately condemning them and applauding their sense of adventure.

David Yamamoto/Special to the Star Thousand Oaks sailor Abby Sunderland, 17, who attempted to claim the record for the youngest person to sail around the world last year, poses for a portrait Thursday at her home in Thousand Oaks. Sunderland has a book coming out Tuesday about her attempt to sail around the world.
'Not everyone understands the full story,' Abby said from her home, where her six younger brothers and sisters as well as two new kittens run about the house. 'This book is the full story. Anyone who honestly wants to know about my trip, they can read this book and see the story from start to finish.'

Abby had planned to write a book about her voyage and make a documentary as well. She shot video and wrote in her journal daily as she rounded Cape Horn and dealt with mechanical problems in South Africa, which ultimately jettisoned her bid of sailing nonstop.

But on June 9, 2010, after a few days of surfing monster waves in the Indian Ocean, a rogue wave crashed over her bow and snapped her mast, sending the boat rolling. Her notebooks and videotapes that chronicled the trip were soaked and ruined. She activated an emergency beacon that sent out a distress signal, which in turn triggered a storm of media coverage. It seemed everyone wanted to weigh in on the Sunderlands' parenting skills — whether over Abby's trip or that of her older brother, Zac, who had earlier sailed around the world alone.

Laurence Sunderland is quick to point out that Abby's boat was equipped to handle the rough conditions his daughter encountered. Her boat was 130 percent buoyant, making it virtually impossible to sink. She already had sailed successfully through some of the most treacherous spots on the globe and handled herself beautifully, he said. A rogue wave would have done the same thing to any sailor, regardless of their age or gender. When she was faced with a rescue situation, she handled the situation calmly and appropriately, he said.

'It's horrible when people have the wrong information and they go off half-cocked,' he said.

Marianne Sunderland, who home-schools her eight kids, said the critiques hurt at times.

'I'm not cavalier about it,' she said. 'I feel like we made a decision based on fact and what we thought was our best judgment. Abby was thriving out there.'

The book talks about how the family alternately avoided the media and embraced it.

When they were escorted out a back door of LAX upon Abby's return to avoid the media waiting for them, they also had a crew from the 'Today' show in tow.

The book tells of the many TV producers and Hollywood types who were trying to get the family to sell their story to them, including one person who was gambling on Abby dying and wanted to own the story. It also talks a lot about Abby's faith in God and how people around the world were praying for her rescue.

Abby said she avoided reading most of the coverage of her trip because it was hurtful or just untrue. Although she's doing a host of interviews to promote her book these days, she's looking toward her next adventure.

She's going to finish high school then try to get around the world in a different way, either backpacking with friends or hitchhiking. Afterward, she's planning on college, where she wants to study sociology because she's interested in finding out why people do the things they do.

As to figuring out why she likes to do the things she does, be it flying or sailing or whatever other adventure awaits, she thinks she's got a pretty good idea.

'I kind of have a thing of wanting to do something out of the ordinary,' she said. 'I don't think I ever want my life to be completely normal.'

Check out your local marine book outlet for a copy, or go to!Amazon to buy it online
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