Abby visited by Child Protective Services before she sailed

abby-sunderland-pete-thomas.jpgA representative, presumably from Ventura County, met with Abby Sunderland at home for two hours before she sailed from Marina del Rey on her attempt to circle the world. The interview was to "make sure the high school junior was not being coerced into making the voyage," says Pete Thomas, the outdoors blogger, who was told of the visit by Abby's mother. Thomas himself sailed at night with Abby on Wild Eyes before she left, and helped deliver the boat from Ensenada to Marina del Rey. In a post today he tries to clarify some perceptions of the 16-year-old and the Sunderland family. Foremost, he suggests, is that Abby is too accomplished of a sailor for her quest to be considered child endangerment, and the adventure also fits the family values of the Sunderlands, who encourage their kids to pursue their goals. Thomas:

Abby is not the first global sailor to have been stopped by foul weather, nor will she be the last....

People have argued that Abby was sailing too late in the season, increasing her chances of encountering strong Southern Ocean storms. I agree. She was supposed to start last November, but because of numerous delays caused by boat issues she didn't start till Jan. 23. An unplanned stop in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and another in Cape Town, South Africa, delayed her trip further. It might have been a blessing that Wild Eyes was rolled and lost its mast, because the storms Abby was sure to encounter as she sailed closer to Australia could have been deadly....

I have no doubt that Abby will eventually sail around the world or take part in some great sailing adventure. Mother Nature knocked her down and out -- literally and figuratively -- but this will inspire a fiercely determined mariner to try again at some point in her life. However, she'll have to raise the money herself as her middle-class parents have five other kids and a sixth on the way, and the Adventures of Zac and Abby have been costly.

I interviewed Abby a week after she left Cape Town. Here's what she said: "I know that bad weather is something I will run into during this leg, but that's to be expected during any circumnavigation. I am not daunted by it; I know what my boat can handle and I know what I can handle. I'm going to be as careful as possible but there's no point in getting scared because it's not going to do anything to help if I run into bad weather."

Thomas also concurs with reports that talks on a reality series fell apart: "There was supposed to have been a documentary about Zac's journey, too, but there was a falling out there as well...Either the Sunderlands are difficult to work with or they align themselves with the wrong kind of people, who expect too large a share of any proceeds. I have not figured this one out."

Oh by the way: Thomas points out that Australia's Jessica Watson recently completed a successful solo-circumnavigation of the planet in a 34-foot pink sailboat — and turned 17 just after before reaching home. "She is the youngest person to have sailed around the world, although purists have said she didn't log enough nautical miles or sail far enough north of the equator during her Southern Ocean crossing for a proper circumnavigation."

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