Crazy, courageous, or something else, teens are casting off on a global sailing adventure. With the circumstance of Abby Sunderland, teen world circumnavigation is getting lots of press. But this is not something new with the likes of Robin Lee Graham, who as a teenager set out to sail around the world alone, of 1965, and Tania Aebi who embarked on the same venture at 18 years of age in May, 1985. Both achieved their goals and have excellent books (“Dove”, Graham), (“Maiden Voyage”, Abei) of their story.
I particularly was caught up in Robin’s voyage as I was a teen as well and was up dated frequently by National Geographic Magazine who covered the story. He was sixteen when he headed west from Southern California in his 24-foot sloop called Dove. Unlike the record breaking non stop teen sailors of today, Robin was out to sea for 1738 days. He stopped to explore, repair; took his time. He met the woman he would marry and did so along the way.
Tanei, on the other hand, left from New York City Harbor heading towards Bermuda. She had hardly any sailing or navigation experience and was not properly prepared for the voyage, but through her determination and common sense, she sailed back into New York City over 2 years later. I have met Tanei a number of times a various boat shows where she and I both had booths selling our wares: her book and my Learn To Sail cdrom.
The recent press of the search and rescue of Abby Sunderland has brought critics out of the woodwork creating a controversy of the safety of teen world solo sailing. They question the parents’ responsiblity and judgement in letting them go, some even to the extent of questioning wheather they love the kid or notoriety more!
Are they forgetting about Robin Lee Graham who was just 16 when he set sail?
And how about Tania Aebi, who with little experience, no GPS (same with Graham) and a boat that had factory defects that could have put her in treacherous situations?
Right now Abby Sunderland, sure defends her right to sail at a young age. After all, her brother successfully did!
From her blog:
“There are plenty of things people can think of to blame for my situation; my age, the time of year and many more. The truth is, I was in a storm and you don’t sail through the Indian Ocean without getting in at least one storm. It wasn’t the time of year it was just a Southern Ocean storm. Storms are part of the deal when you set out to sail around the world.”
Looking around I found that Robin Lee Graham, was the 1st recorded to set out..following:
Tania Aebi, Age 18, Completion: 892 Days
Brian Caldwell, Hawaii, US, Age 19 Completion: 477 Days,
David Dicks, Australia, Age 17 Completion: 265 Days
Jesse Martin, Australia, Age 17 Completion: 327 Days
Zac Sunderland (Abby’s Brother), California, US, Age 17 Completion: 327 Days
Michael Perham, England, Age 16 Completion: 284 Days
Jessica Watson, Australia, Age 16 Completion: 210 Days
The young will keep sailing!