As my regular readers know, I have been following a series of 'round the world sailors on their voyages. The first was Zac Sunderland who briefly held the title of "youngest sailor, solo circumnavigation". Mike Perham of the UK relieved him of that title a short time later.
A few weeks ago, Jessica Watson of Australia took the big prize with "youngest sailor, solo circumnavigation, non-assisted, non-stop".
Zac's sister, Abby Sunderland had set out a few months ago with the objective of relieving Miss Watson of that title. The "non-assisted" and "non-stop" portion of that quest died in South Africa when she was forced to stop for repairs. She left South Africa intent on acquiring the "youngest sailor, solo circumnavigation" title.
We have learned today that Miss Sunderland is now missing in the southern Indian Ocean. The two most recent communications have been from emergency beacons. One beacon can only be activated manually, so we know that she is still alive. Fortunately, a third beacon that broadcasts in the event that her boat goes 15 feet below the water's surface has remained silent.
Search and rescue attempts are under way. Fortunately, she is well equipped with safety gear and adrift in a boat meant to survive in the open ocean. Unfortunately, the Indian Ocean is a large, empty, and dangerous place.
This report from ABC suggests in its title the unnecessarily pessimistic idea that she is lost at sea. There are boats that are currently 40 hours from her location. She has enough food and water to easily last that long. She is in a boat that is designed to stay afloat in spite of major hull damage.
I suppose it would have been too much to ask for an expression of hope from the media instead of foreboding of disaster.
Miss Sunderland's family knew the risks when she left. From an earlier report on her journey:
"Could there be a tragedy?" MaryAnne Sunderland said. "Yeah, there could be. But there could be a tragedy on the way home tonight, you know, or driving with her friends in a car at 16. You minimize the risks."
I can appreciate the perspective expressed by Jesse Martin, another former "youngest sailor, solo circumnavigation".
"If I never came back it would not have been a tragedy ... a tragedy would be someone who dies at 80 and spent 80 years not being satisfied," Martin said in the documentary. "I was out there doing what I wanted."
How one spends...and potentially expends...one's life matters.
Miss Watson's perspective is also right on the mark.
"I am actually going to disagree with what our prime minister just said," Jessica told the crowd of well-wishers. "I don't consider myself a hero. I am an ordinary girl who believed in a dream. You don't have to be someone special to achieve something amazing. You just have to have a dream, believe in it and work hard."
I will add only that it is truly sad that we have arrived at a point where children are so protected, so cloistered, that they not only fail to dare to dream big dreams, they don't even know that such big dreams exist. In a world that gives a ribbon to everyone for participating, we often forget that there are much loftier goals out there that few will attempt and even fewer will conquer.
Zac and Jesse and Jessica and Mike and even young Abby are a refreshing revolt against the idea that safety and mediocrity are more desirable than seeking to master large goals and coming up short.
I dearly hope that Abby will be rescued from whatever trouble that has cut her trip short. I also hope that, after some rest and recuperation, she makes another attempt. Of course by then she won't be able to include "youngest" in her list of sailing accomplishments. That is only one category with so many, many more remaining.
Abby is fine. Her boat is afloat, but the rigging is down. Rescuers will be there in about a day.