Over the weekend, 16-year-old Abby Sunderland was plucked from the Indian Ocean by a French fishing vessel after she activated two emergency beacons indicating her ill-fated attempt to sail around the world alone as the youngest person — was over.  The caustic, and nearly fatal, irresponsibility of Abby’s parents — Laurence and Marianne Sunderland — earn them year’s award for Worst Parents Ever.

The human brain isn’t finished growing and developing before the age of 26.  For some reason, we allow teenagers to drive cars at 16 and vote at 18 and even drink alcohol at 21 — even though their brains are not yet adept enough at handling those adaptations.

We should keep all children at home, and under compressive wraps until, at least, their 27th birthday in order to preserve the order and cogency of the world.

The fact that Abby’s parents pressed her into this harebrained adventure during her 16th year — reading the press reports of the solo journey strongly indicate it was never really Abby’s solo want to circumnavigate the world alone, but rather her pushy parent’s shared wish to touch fame again — doesn’t begin to testify to her abject failure as a sailor or the immoral temerity of her rotten parents:

After expressing relief that their daughter had been found safe, Sunderland’s parents on Friday rejected criticism of their child’s attempt to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

“The fact is whether a teenager, or a young adult or a middle-aged person, there have been many rescues that have taken place,” father Laurence Sunderland told NBC television’s Today program.

He cited the example of French yachtswoman Isabelle Autissier, rescued from her capsized yacht in the southern Pacific Ocean in 1999 during the solo round-the-world race.

“Do we say that she shouldn’t go out there and sail or that nobody should go out and sail because you face hard knocks and sometimes people need to be rescued? I don’t think so,” Sunderland said.

Yes, Mr. Sunderland, we tell our children they should not willfully engage in dangerous acts that, more likely than not, will kill them — and we don’t use our daughters to avenge our sons.  If Abby were 17, she would not have taken the trip, because she would’ve been too old to win back the failed family record:

Zac Sunderland, Abby’s brother, held the record for a little more than a month last year until Briton Mike Perham completed his own journey. The record changed hands again last month, when 16-year-old Australian Jessica Watson completed her own around-the-world voyage.

Our covenant with our children is that we will protect them from harm, not willfully give them up to the sea.

Did Mr. Sunderland come to the rescue of his daughter?


A stranger had to step into the Sunderland Parental Void and set the Abby’s world right — even though it almost killed him:

The Australian group said the French ship Ile De La Reunion brought Sunderland on board from her stricken craft Saturday afternoon at the site (about 2:45 a.m. PDT).

French authorities called it a “delicate operation” and at one point the fishing boat’s captain fell into the ocean. “He was fished out in difficult conditions” and is in good health, said a statement from the French territory of Reunion Island.

Laurence Sunderland said the crew used its dinghy to retrieve his daughter. “We are just ecstatic that she is alive and well and survived the ordeal.”

If that fishing boat captain had died trying to save Abby — when Laurence Sunderland could have proactively saved his own daughter from his own misguided want for celebrity — would Laurence Sunderland weep for that man, or just subsume that was the “way of the world” while wholly ignoring the fact that irresponsible parents frequently need to be saved from their own misjudgments and errors by the good acts of better people?

Mother Marianne Sunderland meanwhile said the family had sought to minimize the risks of the voyage by having a comprehensive support team in place.

But she doubted whether her daughter would ever attempt such a hazardous record attempt again.

“I am definitely having a bit of a knee jerk reaction,” she told CNN. “I don’t want anyone going anywhere. (Abby) loves sailing. I don’t think she will attempt anything of this magnitude again.

Marianne’s knee jerk reaction is laughable in the aftermath.

At least Abby seems to have found the value in her life when her parents did not — she’s not going to tempt death a second time — because Abby now knows what her parents should have earned all along:  Life is sinkable and tender and oftentimes absorbable, and it takes the effort of all of us pulling together in sync to keep each of us safe and humble and trembling in nature’s wake.

Let’s hope Abby’s children won’t suffer her fate — or the meddlesome hubris of their grandparents — and that they will instead be treated like something to be wanted and wished upon and not something to be skipped along the surface of the sea like a stone in search of meaning.


  1. That’s pretty kooky, David. I thought for sure that it was Abby’s want that propelled her to try to go around the world. That is some bad, bad parenting right there.

    1. Even if it were Abby’s want — it is the parent’s duty to tell her “no” — and to not encourage the wages of death in their sin.

  2. This is only one more example of bad parenting that unjustly gets rewarded by necessary publicity. It seem to me that there ought to be powerful disincentives that will act to prevent this kind of idiocy. A mandatory charge of reckless endangerment and requisite fines, should be effected in a case like this!

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