Saturday, June 26, 2010

Abby Arrives in La Reunion

Abby is met by her brother Zac. Photo Lionel Cironneau / AP

Abby arrived safely on La Reunion yesterday evening (PDT). She met with Zac who brought her a backpack with some clothes, a hairbrush (!), and a few personal belongings. She was thrilled to see some familiar faces and have met another milestone in her long voyage home.

Abby still has a long trip ahead of her and will blog again as soon as possible.

Once Abby arrives back in Southern California, there will be a press conference on Tuesday June 29 at 10am. Press accreditation is required for members of the media. This will be given by email and you will be required to show identification with company logo at the door.To obtain accreditation please email with details of your organisation.

For more information please phone (USA) 310.776.7557.

Australian media enquiries please call 0413.749.830.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Abby to Arrive at Reunion Island

At approximately 8am on Saturday, June 26 (9pm Friday June 25 Los Angeles) Abby will arrive in Reunion Island where Zac and some of the support team are waiting. International media will be there to greet her and she will do a short press conference on arrival.

We’ve spoken to her briefly over the past week and she is looking forward to seeing everyone again. She is looking forward to blogging again and is already looking to future plans and goals.

She will then travel back to LA where she will do a press conference on Tuesday June 29 at 10am. Press accreditation is required for members of the media. This will be given by email and you will be required to show identification with company logo at the door.

To obtain accreditation please email with details of your organisation. For more information please phone (USA) 310.776.7557.
Australian media enquiries please call 0413.749.830.

Thank you again for the many messages of support we have received.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Abby is Almost Here

Many people have been asking where Abby is and we are excited to report that she is expected to arrive at Reunion Island sometime around June 24-25. She should be back in the USA a few days later. We have spoken to Abby and she is in good health and spirits. She is so thankful to everyone who has expressed concern for her safety and humbled by the great support from all over the world. Abby has asked us to again pass on her gratitude to all those who played a part in assisting her and she is looking forward to doing this personally very soon.

We’ll let you know further updates as we know more information. Stay tuned.

Media / publicity enquiries – Please contact Lyall Mercer:
USA: 310-776-7557 (Int: 1-310-776-7557)
Australia: 0413-749-830 (Int: 61-413-749-830)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Family Post

Our family would like to thank everyone for their wonderful support and encouragement over the past week. As you can imagine it has been an exhausting time with so many mixed emotions and we are now eagerly looking forward to Abby’s return.

We will not be issuing any further public or private statements. To assist us to manage the publicity Abby’s trip has created we have appointed a public relations consultant / manager to act on our behalf and request that from this point, all media enquiries be directed to him. This will enable us to return to our primary role – parents to our children and in particular at this moment, a supportive mom and dad to Abby.

We would ask that you respect our family’s request for privacy at this time. Our focus is on both Abby and our new baby who is expected to arrive into the world at anytime. The next couple of weeks will be very exciting for us.

We will continue to update our blog with Abby’s progress and in due course Abby will be available to tell her story.

Thank You,
Laurence & Marianne Sunderland

Media / publicity enquiries – Please contact Lyall Mercer:
USA: 310-776-7557 (Int: 1-310-776-7557)
Australia: 0413-749-830 (Int: 61-413-749-830)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Clarifying Misinformation

There has been so much written in the media that is either incorrect or out of context. We’d like to clear up a few points:

The Australian government has never asked us to contribute anything towards the recovery costs and has no intention of doing so. Australia – like the USA and other countries with significant coastlines, are part of the international agreement to assist those who need help within their search and rescue territories. All of these nations do this for citizens of all countries and this is funded by the respective governments. Australia has a robust media and each time there is a rescue – irrespective of the nationality of the person concerned – the media alone tends to make this an issue which in turn stirs up some emotions. We value and appreciate the Australian government and volunteer organisations – as we do the French authorities - who assisted Abby.

We were approached by Magnetic Entertainment last year before Abby departed to shop a reality TV show based on our family. Abby's trip was already sponsored. Their idea was to do an inspiring show about Zac and Abby’s adventures, what our family was like and what made them as strong and independent as they are. The show was shopped and not sold. All rights were returned to us. There is no reality TV show or documentary in the works and we are not pursuing one. It is sad and ironic that some of the media - who are sensationalizing and twisting Abby’s story for profit - accuse us of doing the same thing. We can assure you that our priority is the protection of our children, something all parents will understand.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Aboard the Ile de la Reunion

Everything is going well out here. I'm still getting used to walking around on board and it takes both hands to keep myself from falling up and down the narrow halls. I'm still having trouble typing on this key pad but I've got a few more days to get the hang of it.

Everyone on board has been really friendly. They have come a long way out of their way to help me and I am so thankful that they did. My mom has told me about all that the different rescue groups did to help find me. So thank you to all of you. I had only hoped that a ship would pass by me within a few weeks. I am really in awe. Thank you to everyone involved.

The captain is a big, friendly, bald guy with a big beard. He speaks English pretty well and he says, "Is no good to worry about the boat. Is just a boat, you is safe. You should not think about the past." Which is true, but its hard to keep my mind off everything that's happened.

Everyone in the bridge has been fending off the press and I'm very grateful for that. I really don't want to start doing interviews quite yet.

I have started writing. At first I decided that I wasn't going to write a book. But then I started to think about all the good times Wild Eyes and I have had together. All that's left of the voyage of Wild Eyes are my memories, eventually they will get fuzzy and I won't remember all the details. I don't want that to happen. Wild Eyes and my trip have been the best thing I have ever done or been through and I don't ever want to forget all the great times we have had together, or the bad ones for that matter.

The story of Wild Eyes is over, but my story is still going. I'm still out on the ocean headed to a little island called Kerguelen and then will be on another boat for ten days up to an island near Madagascar. From there I will eventually make it home.

So, on goes my adventure!


A note from our blog moderator: Please be patient with as we go through over 12,000 comments that have come in during the last 3 days. We are getting through them as quickly as we can.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Note from Abby

Hey everyone,
Sorry I haven't written in so long as you probably already know I had a pretty rough couple of days. I can't write much now as I am typing on a french key pad as well as trying to stay seated in a bouncy fishing boat.

The long and the short of it is, well, one long wave, and one short mast (short meaning two inch stub.) I'll write a more detailed blog later, just wanted to let every one know I am safe and sound on a great big fishing boat headed I am not exactly sure where.

Crazy is the word that really describes everything that has happened best.

Within a few minutes of being on board the fishing boat, I was already getting calls from the press. I don't know how they got the number but it seems everybody is eager to pounce on my story now that something bad has happened.

There are plenty of things people can think of to blame for my situation; my age, the time of year and many more. The truth is, I was in a storm and you don't sail through the Indian Ocean without getting in at least one storm. It wasn't the time of year it was just a Southern Ocean storm. Storms are part of the deal when you set out to sail around the world.

As for age, since when does age create gigantic waves and storms?

I keep hitting the wrong keys and am still trying to get over the fact that I will never see my Wild Eyes again. So Ill write more later.


Abby Safe on Board Ile de la Reunion

Abby was safely transferred to the French fishing vessel Ile de la Reunion in the early hours of our morning. Fortunately, the weather had calmed down enough that a dinghy was able to be dispatched for Abby to climb into and to bring her close to the 100' steel vessel.

We were able to speak to Abby very briefly once the transfer was complete. She sounded tired but good. She had a good sense of humor but was clearly in the early stages of coming to grips with everything.

We don't have much more info at this time. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Rescue Coordination Center is working with other ships in the area to determine another transfer to a vessel that will either bring her north of Mauritius to the island of La Reunion or east to Perth, Australia. Either way, it will likely be several weeks before Abby is back home in California.

We would like to give our immeasurable thanks to all of those involved in Abby's successful rescue. Especially to the authorities, both national and international, that have worked together to successfully conduct this rescue. These include MAMSA RCC Australia, Maritime RCC La Reunion, Qantas, WA Police, Fire and Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia, Defence and the three ships which are responding. Their professionalism and the great value that they placed on Abby's life has been a gift to us that we can never repay. Thank you for caring for our daughter as if she were your own, for answering all of our many questions cheerfully and completely and for going above and beyond our wildest expectations to keep Abby safe. Thanks also to Congressman Elton Gallegly! Congressman Gallegly had offered his help to us some time ago. Thursday, when things looked bleak, a call to Congressman Gallegly resulted in his staff engaging three agencies in minutes. In less than 5 minutes the State Department, with location coordinates in hand, was in full swing with our country’s friends. Thank you Mr. Gallegly! Your concern for Abby is greatly appreciated.

We are not certain what will happen to Wild Eyes at this time. It is highly unlikely that she will be able to be saved. As we told Abby this morning, she is the most valuable piece of 'equipment' on that boat. The loss of Wild Eyes will be felt deeply by Abby who poured so much blood, sweat and tears into her and who has been, in a sense, one with her for many months now.

Godspeed Abby as you make your way home! We love you!!!

Mom, Dad, kids and the rest of Team Abby

Friday, June 11, 2010

Photo and Flyover Update

Wild Eyes dismasted in the Southern Indian Ocean
Photo courtesy of Australian Search & Rescue

'Abby Sunderland was in great spirits after being spotted' say rescue members.

SEARCH and rescue crew members have described how stricken 16-year-old yachtswoman Abby Sunderland remained “in good spirits” after being spotted from the air yesterday.

A crew of 11 SES and FESA volunteers that were on board the 'spotter' airbus returned to Perth just after 7:30pm last night after successfully locating the troubled vessel in the Indian Ocean.

FESA taskforce leader Will Blackshaw said the crew had a very brief period of contact with the young sailor, but said she remained positive despite the setback.

"Abby is in very good spirits," he said.

"She's obviously keen to have some assistance, but she is in very good spirits.

"The window of opportunity to speak to her was very short, so we had very brief, direct conversations about her health, the condition of the vessel, and her communications.

"The seas are very rough indeed, and there is a lot of wind, and she is obviously going to have a very uncomfortable night of sleep.

"He said the plane was conducting its first pass of the area and had been searching for Abby for only 10 minutes when she was spotted from the air.

"It was a very happy moment for all of the people on board the plane," he said.

"However, it was a very serious moment as well, and we were all concentrating on the job at task which was to make contact with Abby.

"The crew then made radio contact with the young sailor, with the first words conveyed being "This is Abby".

Mr Blackshaw said the crew instructed Abby to activate two further EPIRB devices tomorrow afternoon to ensure a continuous signal for rescue crews to spot her.

FESA spokesman Chris Lawson confirmed a second, smaller plane would leave Perth Airport early this morning to conduct another sighting and ensure Abby was okay.SES volunteer Michael Wood, who spotted Abby's vessel from the airbus, said he had been excited to locate the boat.

"Because I was at the front of the plane, I just happened to spot Abby as she came into the field of view," he said.

"It was very nervy at first, but very exciting that positive contact had been made."

We're all mindful that Abby's got a number of hours left so we've all got our fingers crossed."

Sgt Mike Wear, from WA Water Police, said Abby sounded "very upbeat and very strong" during the brief contact.

"It certainly was a very emotional event to be able to speak to the young girl Abby today and see her in that predicament out there," he said.

"It was just a very small dot on the ocean – she was on the back deck (and) she was very hard to see.

Earlier today, Qantas refused to comment on how much the trip had cost the company or whether they would seek reimbursement for the flight.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Abby is Fine!

We have just heard from the Australian Search and Rescue. The plane arrived on the scene moments ago. Wild Eyes is upright but her rigging is down. The weather conditions are abating. Radio communication was made and Abby reports that she is fine!

We don't know much else right now. The French fishing vessel that was diverted to her location will be there in a little over 24 hours. Where they will take her or how long it will take we don't know.

More updates as news comes in.

Laurence & Marianne

Update on Abby

We spoke with Abby early this morning and learned that she had had a very rough day with winds up to 60 knots and seas 20-25 feet. She had been knocked down several times but was handling things well. The wind had subsided to around 35 knots which she and Wild Eyes are quite comfortable with.

We were helping her troubleshoot her engine that she was trying to start to charge her systems. Satellite phone reception was patchy. She was able to get the water out of the engine and start her up. We were waiting to hear back from her when American Search & Rescue authorities called to report having received a signal from her emergency beacon (EPIRB). We initially thought that the signal was sent automatically from her water-activated EPIRB and that it had been activated during one of her knockdowns. As we pulled the paperwork from her EPIRB registration, we learned that the signal had come from her manually activated EPIRB.

We were referred to Australian Search & Rescue and while we were on the phone with them another signal came in from her handheld PLB (Personal Locator Beacon). Her water-activated EPIRB has not been activated so we are hopeful that the boat is still upright.

We are working closely with American, French and Australian Search & Rescue authorities to coordinate several ships in the area to divert to her location. There are several ships in her area, the earliest possible contact is 40 hours. We are actively seeking out some sort of air rescue but this is difficult due to the remoteness of her location. Australian Search & Rescue have arranged to have a Quantas Airbus fly over her location at first light (she is 11 hours later). They will not be able to help her other than to talk via marine radio if they are able to get close enough. Hopefully, they will be able to assess her situation and report back to us.

Abby has all of the equipment on board to survive a crisis situation like this. She has a dry suit, survival suit, life raft, and ditch bag with emergency supplies. If she can keep warm and hang on, help will be there as soon as possible. Wild Eyes is designed for travel in the Southern Ocean and is equipped with 5 air-tight bulkheads to keep her buoyant in the event of major hull damage. It is built to Category 0 standards and is designed to self-right in the event of capsize.

Thank you for all of your kind emails and calls. We appreciate your prayers and support.

We will update as soon as there is some news.

Laurence, Marianne and Team Abby

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Rough Few Days

The last few days have pretty busy out here. I've been in some rough weather for awhile with winds steady at 40-45 knots with higher gusts. With that front passing, the conditions were lighter today. It was a nice day today with some lighter winds which gave me a chance to patch everything up. Wild Eyes was great through everything but after a day with over 50 knots at times, I had quite a bit of work to do.

For most of the day today I had about 20 knots. I had been hoping to get some lighter winds so I could patch up one of my sails. It was still a bit windy out but with more rough weather tomorrow I wasn't sure when my next chance to fix it would be. I managed to take it down, take care of the tear and get it back up in a couple of hours. It wasn't the most fun job I have done out here. With the seas still huge, Wild Eyes was rolling around like crazy. Of course not even half and hour after I got the sail back up the wind dropped from 20 to 10 knots!

My Thrane & Thrane (Internet) system is down again so I am not able to send in my blog. The problem seems a bit more serious than the last few times I have had trouble with it. There is something wrong with the terminal at the back. It is possible that water got inside of it because it has a rough ride back there the past few days with waves crashing right over it. Unfortunately, if that is the problem I probably won't be able to fix it. At least I still have my Iridium phones so I can still call in to my mom and read her my bog for her to post.

The wind is beginning to pick up. It is back up to 20 knots and I am expecting that by midnight tonight I could have 35-50 knots with gusts to 60 so I am off to sleep before it really picks up.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Update from the Middle of the Indian Ocean

I meant to blog yesterday, but I was having some problems with my Thrane & Thrane again. As you can tell from this blog, I was able to play around with it and get it going again.

Everything has been going well out here. I have been enjoying some nice moderate 20-25 knot winds out of the SW. Surfing down 20 foot waves has been very nice really. The wind is beginning to die down tonight, it will probably be pretty uncomfortable for a little while. After the wind dies, the waves stay pretty big for awhile and without the wind you end up just rolling gunwal to gunwal. It definitely makes for a bad night of sleep, but the wind won't be down for long.

I'm almost half way across the Indian Ocean! It really doesn't feel like it. I keep looking at my charts and there never seems to be a big difference from the last time I checked, but I am ticking off the miles slowly but surely. The weather looks like it could pick up a lot in the next few days. I could have winds up to 60 knots, so I'm getting things all tied down and ready for some big winds.

Well, it's getting late over here so I should go, but I'll try and write again tomorrow.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Repairs Going Well and the Heater!

The calm before the storm

I've had another quiet day out here with no more then 12 knots all day. I'm still managing to make decent speeds, around 6-7 knots. I've been able to get my heater working today and though I haven't gotten very far, I'm beginning to sort out everything in the back that got wet.

The wind should be picking up over the night and I am looking forward to another biggish blow soon. Wild Eyes is doing very well and I am finally getting ahead with all the repairs. My two auto pilots seem to be working well - it's such a relief to have reliable pilots.

I am having a little trouble writing my book. It's so hard to start a story when so much has already happened. But now that things are working better I will have a lot more time to work on it. Well, today's blog inst much of a thriller, but that's all that's going on aboard the good ship Wild Eyes at the moment.

I meant to get some new pictures today but got kinda busy working on things so I'll try and get some more up soon.

A little bit of the sun

Friday, June 4, 2010

Drying Out

Things have been going pretty well out here recently. I've had some lighter weather lately and though moving slowly can be a pain, I have quite a bit of work to do so having some calm weather is a big help. Everything down below is wet. It's hard enough to dry things soaked in salt water at the best of times, but when it's cold, grey and windy it's pretty much impossible.

It's been a little warmer now that I am out of the last cold front and it looks like I will be able to get my heater working again. The condensation is really bad down below, so bad that it's like it's raining down here. I keep drying off the walls and cabin roof but it comes back up pretty fast.

At the moment almost all of my equipment is working. Things have been a little dryer outside, other then the occasional shower so I have been able to repair the leak under the throttle. The weather should be picking up again soon so I'll see how well it works! I love lots of wind and big seas, but it is very nice to have a day every now and then to get things all back together.

There will be a short story on ABC tonight on the 2020 show. ABC has been great to work with both with Good Morning America and now 20/20. It is scheduled to be on at 10pm Eastern time.

Also, we should have a link up on the homepage of my web site tonight to buy a commemorative T-shirt of my trip. We are trying to raise some money to cover my communication costs. Sat West has been great by offering us my Iridium sat phone minutes at a lower rate and GMPCS has given us a partial sponsorship of my Inmarsat minutes but it is still adding up fast!


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Drastic Change

It's amazing what a drastic change has taken place in such a short time out here. By night time the same day I posted all the pictures of flat seas and sun, I had 20 knots and was racing along. By the next morning I had 25-30 knots and some pretty big seas. By last night I had 35 knots gusting up to 45knots, some pretty gnarly squalls, and 25 foot seas.

It's been a great ride out here, though not all fun and easy. Last night I had quite a bit of sail up (triple reefed main and full genoa), the auto pilot was handling it very well and I was pretty happy with how things were going. Wild Eyes was heeled over pretty far but the wind seemed steady and so I finished up my work and went to bed. I could feel the wind building a little, but as the auto pilot was still doing very well I didn't get overly worried about it.

Well, I got into my first squall of the night not long after I went to bed. The pilot went into standby and I went to jump out the companionway, but right as I was at the door I heard rushing water. Not water rushing along the hull but water rushing into the boat. I had water pouring into the back compartment and I had no idea where it was coming from. I grabbed a flash light and dived into the back getting soaked in the icy water. It was pouring in from the cock pit, but I still couldn't tell where exactly.

I climbed over to where it seemed the main stream was coming from and got a closer look. It was coming through at the throttle mounting - the throttle that is mounted on the wall of the cockpit was under water because of how heeled over I was when I gybed. Having found the leak, I shut off the hatches to the back compartment. I was extremely relieved to have found that the leak was above the water line and as long as I could get the boat back under control I could sort it out.

I think when things like this happen you go into mild shock. After the initial horror of seeing water pouring into your boat, your mind just goes into a survival mode and you don't give fear or any new problems a thought. It's so important to be focused on dealing with the problem at hand that fear becomes dangerous, it makes you hesitant to deal with things and knocks your confidence.

Back outside, it was pouring buckets of rain. I hadn't bothered to get my foul weather gear on. I didn't have time to. I didn't notice the cold. Wild Eyes was nearly flat on her side and the running back stay was stuck the wrong side of the boom. I clipped onto the boom and climbed onto the end. I would rather not have done that, but under the circumstances there was no other choice. I just hoped that things would stay stable enough while I was out there. At the end of the boom I was holding on as the big swells rolled the boat all over the place. It was steady for a minute and I let go and grabbed the back stay and worked it loose. I got off the boom as quickly as possible and hurried to get things sorted out.

Once I was back on track with less sail up, things seemed to be going better. I had the boat under control and didn't hear the water in the back any more. I was still dreading going back there to see what damage had been done, but extremely glad to have it stopped temporarily.

There was quite a bit of water back there and in a hurry to get it all out before it reached any electronics higher up I got back there with a bucket to give my little bilge pump a hand. My diesel heater was soaked, the water had been spraying almost directly on it. Luckily nothing else seemed to be damaged and I have plenty of warm clothes!

I must say I wasn't the happiest person in the world at that moment. I was soaked and beginning to really feel cold, in fact, I couldn't stop shivering. I made my way up front and pulled out some dry clothes. Still shivering pretty badly I came back out and gave everything a good look over. Pretty much every thing down below is wet. I was thinking of going back to bed, but the sun was just beginning to come up and I was able to get my first glimpse of the swells that had been building over night - they were amazing!

Forgetting about the cold, I went back outside with my foul weather gear on this time. It's really an amazing sight these walls of water that look like they're just going to dump on you and then all of a sudden you pick up some speed and you go racing down at thrilling speeds.

Well that just about made up for the trouble during the night. Later when I was talking to my mom, I was told I did 237 miles is one day! Okay, so I am shooting for 250 miles but 237 is close enough for now and I can safely say that after hearing that, my day went from ranking pretty low with some of the least pleasant times I have had at sea, to one of the better times of my trip!