Back in  late February, my friend, Connie emailed me with suggestion for some good reading:  Abby’s Blog over on Blogspot.  Abby is a 16 year old girl who was trying to be the youngest to sail solo around the world in her sailboat, “Wild Eyes”.  She was keeping a blog so that all of us internet junkies could follow her adventures.  At the time when I joined Abby on her journey, she already had stopped for repairs in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, but that would not compromise her goal to circumnavigate the earth because she had not gone below the equator at that time.  I began reading her adventure just before she sailed over the equator toward Cape Horn. 

It didn’t take long to get caught up in the drama of her story.  Some days it was mundane and routine, but other days there was wild wind.  Once she was knocked about by a rogue wave. When the Tsunami hit off the coast of Chile, there was concern, but she felt next to nothing.  She sailed around Cape Horn, then was on to Africa. 

However, between Cape Horn and Africa, she ran into hassles with the auto pilot.  She had two and only her back-up was working.  When that one gave her trouble, there were phone calls with her team as they guided her through the repair process.  I was so impressed with her abilities as she took care of the problems at hand.  Finally, after a few days of working with this, her team decided for safety reasons she should stop at Capetown, South Africa for repairs.  So much for the “solo attempt”.  Stopping ended that dream, but not the dream to finish – despite the stop.  Abby pressed on after a week or so.

This next part of her trip was dicey.  The Southern and Indian Oceans are rather stormy and cold this time of year.   With her delays due to repairs, the timing for sailing these oceans was changed negatively.  The conditions would clearly be less than optimum – though still doable.  And – she did run into storms – and high seas with winds up to 60 knots.  Wow – it was like “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”!  Each day I looked for her blog – hoping for an entry – wondering what had happened since her last entry.  It was a “Soap Opera” out at sea!  I couldn’t help but worry – wondering how dangerous this really was.  Yet, clearly, Abby was up to the tasks she had before her.   I continually marveled at her strength, courage, resourcefulness and maturity – more than most adults who claim to be “mature”!  I also asked myself what was *I* doing at age 16? 

Then it happened.  On June 10th, not long after being cut off while talking to her parents, her emergency GPS beacon went off, letting everyone know that she was in distress.  A few hours later, a Qantas plane flew over and was able to communicate with her as she waited for a fishing vessel to rescue her a few days later.  “Wild Eyes” mast had broken off in a wild storm, but she was safe – still aboard her beloved boat.  “Wild Eyes” had  weathered the storm in tact, and would keep Abby safe until her rescue.  As I type now, she is headed to Reunion Island, where she will fly home to California.  Sadly, I don’t think that “Wild Eyes” can be saved.  Who knows where she is now….  

Prior to the rescue, when things were going well, the mainstream media didn’t pay much attention to Abby’s journey.  Abby had quite a following on her blog, but that was about it.  But after her emergency, after things went down hill, the media came onto the scene – like flies to fly paper – and had a field day over the wisdom of a 16 year old girl being out at sea alone.  There was criticism of her parents for allowing her to do this, and it was said a few times that it bordered on “child abuse”.  There were allegations that she was being forced to do this.  However, the long term readers of Abby’s Blog knew this was not the truth.  I could feel her own enthusiasm for this venture which could never have been forced over the long haul.

Then there was the cost of the rescue efforts, and who pays for them, and who puts their own life in jeopardy to save another person’s life.  I gather that the Australian government accepted the task so all is well there, but it does bring to mind the possible consequences for these adventures gone awry.  Extraordinary measures are always taken to save human life, as it’s value is priceless.  Yet – we need not take the cost of them – and the effort it takes – for granted, either.  It is something to think about.

I’m sad that Abby’s adventure is over – and that she was unable to do it.  With the media frenzy, I am finding myself defending Abby – and her parents – for their decision to allow her to do this.  I experienced her maturity first hand from her numerous blog posts.  Yet – I cannot help but realize the potential that this endeavor could have for tragedy.  And – Abby WAS close to tragedy herself.  Abby was clearly qualified for this, maybe more than most adults.  However, some other 16 year old might not be.  What if someone younger tries this in order to beat the existing age record.  The bottom line is:  when is “young”, too young?  Can we trust people who choose to do this to know they are competent enough?  I’m not sure….

There has been talk that Abby might try again.  I don’t know what I think about this, as I personally am not a risk taker, and there is a part of me that says – don’t tempt fate a second time.  But, Abby is a risk taker, and maybe we all can learn from Abby.  She is a person who thrives pushing her own potential to the limit no matter what she does.  Her personality is based on “adventure” and “possibilities”.  She will never sit at a desk and be content!

Whatever the case, Abby says she will continue to blog, and I hope that she finds something to do that makes her feel energized.  I hope that the “failure” of this trip doesn’t get her down, and she is ultimately able to see this as a success – just not the success that she’d hoped for and expected.  I pray that the media frenzy (and criticism) doesn’t intimidate her into censoring herself in her blog – and in her life’s ambitions. 

I think we need more people like Abby in this world.  I have often wondered if we pamper ourselves too much – as we do our children.  We choose the easy way because it’s safe and comfy.  We worry – maybe too much – about “safety”.  Instead of focusing on “life’s possibilities”, we remind ourselves and our kids of “life’s limitations”.   We fear allowing ourselves (and children) to “go for it” – to explore – to take a few chances.  We want to protect them in a bubble so no harm will come to them.  Granted — circumnavigating the world in a sailboat is “over the top” for most people – adults or teens, and I’m not encouraging anyone to do THIS specific thing.  But – to me the lesson is to make sure we don’t thwart our human potential and spirit of adventure.  I often wonder what things are not being accomplished because we are way too often in “over protective” mode.

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