It’s good to see that 16 year old Abby Sunderland has been rescued by a French fishing vessel. She was attempting to set a world record by sailing around the world solo.
A lot of people have been commenting about how reckless, negligent, etc.. her parents were for letting someone so young attempt such a dangerous voyage. The claim is that a sixteen year old is simply incapable of comprehending the risks and the dangers involved.
I understand this concern, but I don’t share it.
Our society has become incapable of understanding risks. We tolerate the thousands who die in automobile accidents, yet when one person tries (and fails) to put a bomb in their shoes, forever after we all are forced to take off our shoes at airports. We let kids drive at 16, but they can’t vote until their are 18, and we mostly hold off drinking until age 21. And at each age, there are kids who take these new possibilities and handle then responsibly, and there are those who never become responsible at any age.
Abby comes from a family full of experienced sailors. Her brother made a similar journey at age 17. While I do not fully comprehend the compulsion that would cause someone to embark upon such an adventure, neither is it completely mystifying to me. Such a endeavor cannot help but be profoundly empowering, pushing one’s self to the limits of their endurance, resourcefulness and skill.
I’m perfectly willing to accept that Abby and her parents are better judges of what she is capable of doing than we are. By all accounts, she was well equipped, well trained, and if you take the time to read her blog, emotionally mature enough to handle a journey which would certainly cause me to question my own training and maturity at age 46.
To Abby: condolences on the loss of Wild Eyes, but it is good to hear that you are safe. Even though your record setting attempt has ended, I am sure that further adventures await you, no matter what directions you choose for yourself.
Bon voyage, and God’s speed.