Sunday, December 6, 2009

Wild Eyes Back in Marina del Rey!

Sorry to leave you all!

I had planned to write a quick blog before leaving for Ensenada on Thursday, but while I was up in Whittier with my sponsor, Leedy Ying from Shoe City, I got a call from my dad saying that our friend Peter was going to be sailing to Ensenada in his sail boat, Lady K.

Though a bit inconvenient in timing, I made it home in time to pack my bags and head down to the marina. Peter and I had a nice trip down, spending the night at sea on Wednesday. We motor sailed most of the way and got there late Thursday night. I had hardly slept that night so he dropped me off at the hotel with my dad and Zac who had driven down on Thursday afternoon. It was a pretty nice place but I didn't get a whole lot of sleep there.

I had been hoping that Wild Eyes would have already been put in the water so I could spend the night on her, but the ship wasn't even in when we got there. The next morning we got up at 6:00, had some breakfast and headed down to the docks to see if we could see Wild Eys on the ship that had come in late the other night.

Pete Thomas
, Shashi, and Al Scheib, all from the LA Times waited around down on the docks with us as the estimated time for Wild Eyes' launch got put back farther and farther. Eventually, when they did start to move her, we, the three from the LA Times, Lisa Gizara, the photographer and Eric, her boyfriend, Zac and myself all piled into a panga which carried us over to the ship where we could watch Wild Eyes being put in the water.

Once she was lowered off of the ship and in the water, we all piled aboard. We got a few lines and things situated and then gave the engine a try, the first few times it didn't turn over, but we eventually got her going and I moved her over to the dock to wait for my dad who had been enjoying himself for four hours in the customs office.

Things were pretty much ready to go once he got there. Zac was going with Peter in his boat and Pete, Shashi, and Al were coming along with my dad and I. We hoped to be in San Diego around midnight - a bit of a trip, but they all (Pete, Shashi, and Al) seemed up for it, so off we went!

It was quite a nice little trip with a bit of wind so we were able to sail pretty well for awhile. It eventually died off which was quite disappointing. I watched the speed fall, but there wasn't a whole lot I could do about it. When it took a bit longer than we had hoped... all of our passengers headed down below one by one to get out of the cold wind and try to sleep. I don't know how much success they had - remember Wild Eyes is designed for sing;e-handing! My dad and I spent the night up keeping an eye out for pots and kelp.

We got to San Diego about six in the morning. The customs clearance didn't take long to finish up so we fueled up and after our LA Times crew disembarked, headed back out. We were able to sail pretty much the whole way. The one down part was that the auto pilot was down and so I spent another night up hand steerng most of the way.

We got into Marina del Rey at about 7:00 am pretty exhausted and ready to go to sleep immediately. Once in her slip I cleaned her up as best I could. She's a bit of a mess at the moment and is in desperate need of a good wash down. I'm good and ready by now to go take a nap, just wanted to update every one real quick first!



  1. Your autopilot was down?

    Will you be able to carry a spare?

    Can you use a windvane to steer? Or can you only use electronic?

  2. Hi Abby,

    Great to hear that you now have "Wild Eyes" now. I guess you are rearing to go. Wishing you well with all your preparations.

    It was lovely of your Mum to post everyone and let us know how you were getting on.

    Take care. Jan (Auckland, New Zealand)

  3. Abby it is great to hear that Wild eyes and you are back home and setting all in place for your departure,Shame you have to give a good clean down, sleep well,and recharge the batteries.
    Hervey Bay, Queensland Au.

  4. 12-07-09 @ 06:10
    Good Morning Abby,
    Glad to read that you had a safe and successful trip. "Wild Eyes" is home and you are happy!!!!!
    And now for the next step.
    I'm not going to bother you with a lot of questions because the answers will come as you prepare to sail. Take care and pack it tight.
    I'll be following you and enjoying this trip along with you, Thank you.
    Wishing you all the best and Godspeed.
    Michael(74)from Kingwood, WV

  5. How exciting!

    After years of anticipation, it must finally feel as though this is going to happen. I'm looking forward to following your progress. If nothing else, your family tends to keep me more consistent in my prayer life. :-)

    Do you have a departure date yet? I know I'm not alone in hoping to be there to help send you off.

    On an almost unrelated note, after a months-long dry spell, you inspired me to write a new song this last week, called "Wild Eyes". Let me know the next time you're in Whittier, since you were only a couple of miles fom my home, and my wife and I would be glad to buy you a dinner (I'd suggest Jack's at Whittier & Painter or Scotty's at Whittier & Laurel) and play the song for you & yours.

    Again, looking forward to your tales.

    Still praying Numbers 6:24-26
    Mouse in Whittier

    Buy "Death and Coffee" here!

  6. Hi Abbey,
    When I first read of your intentions, I was somewhat concerned about how serious, prepared and dedicated you really were......well not anymore!
    God Bless you young lady or should I say Captain.
    I will follow and pray for you just as I did for your brother as I am sure many others will do as well.
    Go get 'um Abbey!

  7. At least have her do a reasonable shakedown sail. As late as you are in the season a couple of weeks of shakedown sailing "alone" won't hurt her timing to much, though your already outside your real window but it could be the thing that saves her life. Have her sail Guadalupe Is. that wouldn't take much time in that boat, and it's close enough where if the boat has problems she can be rescued. The southern ocean offers no rescue and with the number of burgs this year it'll be dangerous. I've been their alone, this isn't the fun trip Zach did, and think of all the problems he had and no dad to fix things.

    This is not a good idea

  8. I don't believe I've read anywhere on your site or her blog that you've had extensive experience actually singlehanding this boat in challening conditions (other than light winds, like on the trip up from Ensenada). It seems, to me anyway, an extremely poor decision not to get some serious experience singlehanding this boat before departing.

    At some point, "dreams" about "setting a record" absolutely must give way to prudent preparation and choices about seamanship if this undertaking is not to appear as a teeenager's stunt. Otherwise, you risk portraying the world of sailing and sailors in a very bad light, as foolish risk-takers who would rely on others to rescue them from their bad decisions.

    For a serious undertaking such as this one, at this point, prudent seamanship and understanding self-sufficiency at sea is the name of the game. Get it right, or don't go. It's as simple as that.


  10. I too, share the concerns echoed by other commentators re: the actual readiness of Abby and her vessel for this journey AT THIS TIME.

    It is not that anyone could ever wish something bad to occur...rather, it is a desire to not see something bad happen to this young lady.

    Talk of records to be broken and departure dates which are set to coincide with achieving records...utter foolishness as the primary guiding principle for a long, solo sea journey to be undertaken by ANY young sailor! Far more important (and responsible) is that Abby have ample time on her new boat to truly prepare for a journey such as this. The shakedown cruises suggested by another poster are absolutely essential...anything less is utterly irresponsible! Her father and brother should know this better than anyone.

  11. I think it's fantastic when kids get off the couch and break the mould of teenage existence. It shows how much more of life there is to reach out and grab if you have the guts to do undertaking like this needs to be meticulously planned and executed. Stop for a moment and think about the amount of experience you have had sailing Wild Eyes in rough conditions BY YOURSELF, the amount of time repairing autopilots and electrical systems BY YOURSELF, the experience with emergency repairs and jury rigging systems. Have you wondered why Dame Elen sailed her little Corribee around Britain before attempting anything like this?

    Seriously girl, do it, but go safely, when you are ready.....when the boat is ready, and when the weather is right. Don't get too caught up in the battle to be the youngest!

  12. oh, come on you people posting warnings to this young lady... really, don't you think she has not thought of these elements before today?, and what of her Father? - and did any of you notice that her brother has actually done the same thing? - you think he is keeping quiet on his gained expertise and experience? Certainly the whole project has the word 'risk' written all over it, thats the point! - but we must assume they are putting some proper thought behind it. Rather than sit on your backsides throwing your uninformed warnings around, why don't you pass on some useful tips. I'm sure if you researched up a bit you could find something tangible that she might actually benefit from.

  13. It's good to see the postings here that express a sense of caution. Congratulations to Abby or her Mom, or whomever runs the Web site for posting these comments so that the Web site is balanced.

    There are plenty of people cheering you on.

    There are also those (some with a lot of experience in sailing) who are suggesting some shake-down sails prior to departure -- and who are made a bit nervous by the tight window in regards to Cape Horn. (Summer in the Southern Hemisphere ends Feb. 28. If Abby spends the remainder of this month prepping the boat for departure, she'll have just 2 months to make it around Cape Horn before the onset of Fall weather in the Southern Hemisphere. Cape Horn is nasty enough during Summer. So rounding during Fall adds some danger.)

    When Abby gets a chance, I'd be interested to see what the deal is on the automatic steering. I know that with Mike Perham's Open 50 he wasn't able to use wind vane self steering (as Zac did) because his boat was too fast. And his steering system was too heavy and complex to carry a spare. Is an Open 40 the same? Or can it be steered with a wind vane? And can extra electronic steering controls be carried and plugged in?

    Also, in the name of safety, will repeat again my suggestion that she cut off the end of the boom (and reduce the sail area accordingly) so that the boom could jybe across without hitting the running backstays. I'd suggest continuing to use the running backs, for the saftey they provide to the mast.

    By reducing boom and sail size, and retaining the support of the running backstays, it increases the chance of making it through the Southern Ocean without losing the mast.

    Meanwhile, 17-year-old Jessica Watson is probably about 4 weeks away from rounding Cape Horn in her 34-foot Sparkman & Stephens yacht. You might enjoy following her Web site blog She posts a blog just about every day, and usually receives more than 250 responses. People from around the world are watching her progress.

    Enough hand wringing for now.

    Everyone who has suggested caution is doing so in a protective manner. We admire your courage. We just want to make sure you take whatever precautions you can to help ensure you enjoy a safe passage.

    -- Grant Fjermedal, Seattle

  14. 1. You have upto end-March to round the Cape when summer ends.

    2. Abby's been training on an Open 50 the last few months of summer.

    3. The boat took a 10 day beating from RI to FL and another 4 day beating from Ensenada to MDR. And that's "as is". It's still floating and has yet to be prepared.

    If it breaks between MDR and Cape Horn, just pull over and repair it. So it will be assited with stops. Big Deal. But the idea that the rotten fruit needs to be shaken from the tree just because you're rounding the Cape and somehow it's supposed to magically disintegrate then and there is well, nonsense.

  15. It seems that the Anonymous "Nay Sayers" have started slithering out from under their various rocks again. Are they perhaps the same ones that were so desperately opposed to Zacs historic achievement? I suggest you people get your own life.

    Abby, don't let these creeps put you off your stride. You can do it!!

    all the best

  16. I'll keep my eyes peeled for Wild Eyes around the marina! I don't envy long sails without an autotiller: couldn't live without mine.

    Sad to see the neighsayers chiming in right now. We have to acknowledge that their hearts are probably in the right place, that they're concerned for your wellbeing - but I think they're missing the big picture. You can do it, Abby!

  17. Abby -- Congrats on getting Wild Eyes home! Now more preparation work... In reference to some of the concerns expressed here, I have faith that you and your family will make the right decisions for your adventure, that clear mindset was proven time and again with Zac's adventure and I fully expect it with yours. I know nothing about sailing and can't armchair anything you're doing, but I know that you and your family will do the right thing. Take good care, get good rest, enjoy some holiday time with your family, and all my best wishes to you. Peace, Your Oklahoma Well-Wisher

  18. Dan- though I understand your standing up for Abby, and all you other anon's with limited sailing experience, but treaining in an Open 50 with a crew is not sailing your own Open 40. Sailing on the East Coast and up from Mex. with a fully crewed boat (her blog states she had someone with her), is not the same as sailing "alone". I don't believe anyone is discouraging Abby, we are simply saying be prudent do "the right thing" take a solo shakedown. What is a couple of hundred miles shakedown against a 27 thousand mile around the world trip? Jessica Watson did it -remember she got hit by that tanker? Scarey, but that probably did more to help her than having a perfect sail. It taught her to keep her eyes open. When things go wrong "out there" they go wrong in a hurry. At least but the boat to the test now. Go out this week in a storm that is an excellent way to test the boat. As the storms down there will be much, much worse.

  19. 12-08-09 @13:32
    Hi Abby,
    Well here we go again, you have people in favor of you making the journey and then you have people that are against you making the journey. Myself, I would like to see you go for it. I have faith in you plus the fact that your Mother and Father know you and are very familiar with your sailing ability. Your brother has also made the trip, I’m sure there has been many discussions as to what it’s like out there. But you are the one that will be taking the risk, you will be the one to make the final decision. I suggest that you give it plenty of thought, and be 100% honest with yourself and then decide what you think is best to do. I know you have dreamed about this for a long time and you have gone through a lot in the preparation of the boat. You are not obligated to any one person to make this trip, except yourself.
    Whatever you decide to do I’m still behind you 100%.
    Good luck to you Abby, and may God bless and guide you.
    Looking forward to your next blog, if you have time for one. LOL……
    Michael(74)from Kingwood, WV

  20. I don't see my post coming through, though after many hours, so I'll try to write another one.
    I am not a "nay sayer", but am wondering. If I don't question Abby's ability (nor her family and team's judgement), it just seems, from the blog and the news, that Wild Eyes is not actually ready? Several parts don't work, others need to be checked, spare ones to be taken, and so on...
    Of course there is always a risk, and to live is to take some. I meant that it is all right to go for such an adventure, as far as you are ready for it, you AND the boat, and its supplies. I know the window is tight, but I think Abby just can't go with a non-ready yacht, or with a broken leg, or a bad disease. And if Wild Eyes could not be ready in time, it would be wiser to postpone the journey.
    After all, the achievement is the solo circumnavigation itself; the age point (16 and 8 months, 16 and 5 months, 17 and 6 months) looks derisory.

  21. Hey, I saw Wild Eyes this morning (and tweeted a pic of her) on my morning walk after I commented earlier! I walk by there most mornings before heading in to work, so she'll get my well-wishes regularly before the two of you set off on the record-setting adventure.

    She's quite eye-catching - I wasn't even consciously looking for her but MAN - that red/orange/yellow sure does pop!

  22. Where has Abby even mentioned to "shake down" or not to "shake down" the vessel after it's be fitted out?

    Someone makes the suggestion to "shake down" the vessel as though Abby's said she has no intention of doing so, then others jump on the band wagon insisting that she must do a "shake down".

    Can someone point out where it's been said that she refuses to do this?

    I am missing something?

  23. I'm interested to know what the problem(s) are with these autopilots. If I remember Mike's sounded more like software failures. What was the problem with 'Wild Eye's'? Quickly checking the specs. for 'Wild Eye's':

    2 Below Deck Rudder Mounted Hydraulic Auto Pilots (B&G and CourseMaster) Control Heads (with windvane mode)

    For Grant :-) seems to have a windvane mode.

    What exactly fails when it comes to these contraptions? The hardware or the software?

    Going back to the over-engineered 'Anasazi Girl' (same 2001 JMV/Finot Open 40 @ 5 times the price) checking those specs.:

    2 Autohelm 6000 series Gyro linear drive auto pilots

    These seem to have served that boat well throughout her Southern Ocean sailings. Think it is Raymarine, Zac's old friends :-)

    Ah yes, "B&G" rang a bell, that is indeed the second one Mike Perham installed in the Canaries. I think he had more trouble thereafter with it as well

    "Mike, who set out on his circumnavigation bid last November, has been plagued with problems concerning his French NKE auto pilot. The young yachtsman was forced to stop in Portugal and then the Cape Verdes to fix the device, putting paid to his attempt to sail around the world non-stop. He is now having a brand new B&G auto-pilot flown out from the UK."

    Think you need to steer clear of B&G.

  24. ...what Grant said (see Grant Fjermedal long post above)!!!
    Seriously! - there speaks an experienced voice. Without replacing the rig, the runners need to stay, but to shorten the boom so it will jibe inside the runners would give a HUGE safety margin over what Wild Eyes is now. The only potential issues here is that this will move the center of effort (CE) of the rig forwards, and possibly induce lee helm. Probably means balancing the rig (which is going to be ciritical to keep your autohelm happy) will require smaller headsails..this is also a good thing. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO THIS AT BREAKNECK SPEED!...oh..and do a shakedown (I hope it is in the plan anyway...but just reinforcing the sentiment). It could make all the diff between getting there unassisted or not.

  25. Steve Ward-
    This is a very interesting debate and I commend the family for allowing it. There seems to be to sides; those claiming sailings experience and recommending caution, and those with little experience trusting in the family’s experience.
    What it sounds like is there are many people on both sides that care a great deal what happens to Abby. I think it would be wonderful if the family lay out it plans for Abby's training and maybe a little resume of experience, and answer the questions posed her.

    In essence this is a publicly funded trip as the sponsor is looking to capitalize on helping Abby, that's great it's the American way, but I also think there is an obligation to keep us informed.

    As important it keeps us interested and positive. I am positive that family can give us information that will satisfy all the nay sayers. Abby certainly comes with a family resume’ and that in itself is a great beginning, so fill us in on the training plans, experience, and plans for the shakedown cruise.

    God bless

  26. Maybe, just MAYBE the family haven't spelt out all the plans because they're all to damn busy implementing them, attending to all the necessary preparations etc.?!

    Thankfully, there are one or two voices of sense & reason here... the ones actually offering direct practical input & advice for the experienced liked of Laurence, Marianne & their offspring to weigh accordingly.

    I'm going back to my role of mostly silent observer, now, and will continue to try NOT to bite back at the trolls!

    Trevor Leslie, UK

  27. Gosh, bottom line, we ALL care about her. That's a GOOD thing! Please folks it can only help her to get everyone's opinion and for us not to take any of them personally.

  28. Abby could have a very exciting adventure combining the thrill of the Southern Ocean's Roaring 40s plus the safety of the Panama Canal.

    My first reaction to her considering the Canal, was that she would have to put up with the Torres Strait in passing between the north of Australia and Papau New Guinea.

    The Torres Strait is risky from a navigational standpoint, as followers of Zac heard about. And worse, it is in Pirate territory. It was beyond the Torres Strait that Zac had his pirate scare, and the risk of pirates continues for hundreds of miles, and resumes to an extent near Madagascar.

    Some people have asked: Why do the Canal when you have a boat that was specifically built for the Southern Ocean?

    The happy middle ground might be to do the journey in the opposite direction as Zac and an retrace the course that Mike Perham used.

    With this route Abby would leave MDR and head directly for the Panama Canal, then head across the Carribbean (where pirates are again a concern, but not nearly as much so as in Torres Strait and beyond.)

    Then Abby would sail down the South Atlantic, between South America and Africa -- avoiding Cape Horn.

    From the Cape of Good Hope off the south end of Africa, Abby heads across the Indian Ocean / Southern Ocean, on a course that takes her south of Australia. This gives her an exciting Indian Ocean / Southern Ocean passage, riding the southern Trade Winds -- so she is going with the wind, which is what her Open 40 was designed to do. Most importantly, she avoids the pirate territory located north of Australia.

    Much of the passage could be done in the lattitudes of the 30s, which should be a bit safer than the more southern lattitudes. But approaching and rounding Australia would certainly take her into the Roaring 40s and perhaps the Ferocious 50s.

    Once around Australia, she starts climbing up the South Pacific, crosses the Equator, and heads for the big welcoming party at Marina Del Rey.

    This seems like it would be a great way to go as it:

    - Minimizes exposure to pirates
    - Avoids Cape Horn
    - Keeps the wind at her back
    - Provides plenty of Southern Ocean sailing

    This course would remove much of the anxiety about the Cape Horn weather window. However, Abby could potenially still be doing a lot of sailing in the Southern Hemisphere's Fall and Winter. (Wikipedia reports that Summer in the Southern Hemisphere ends on March 1, and that Winter begins on June 21.)

    As far as Cape Horn goes, it seems like it is a great passage to avoid. Some people round it when the seas are flat. But it can be a treacherous beast. It is located at 57 degrees south. The waves go crazy because the sea bottom off the end of South America shelves up, and whenever deep ocean waves hit shoals, all kinds of crazy stuff can happen.

    As an armchair adventurer I advised over and over again Mike Perham to not do the winter rounding of Cape Horn he kept saying he was going to do (I wasn't alone in this chorous) and was relieved when he finally decided to do the Panama Canal instead. (In Mike's case he was originally heading for a Summer rounding, but the many delays caused by his cranky autopilot took away his weather window.)

    I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Jessica Watson. I'm hoping she makes it around Cape Horn, and then Cape of Good Hope, and all the way home. (Follow her story at

    But just because Jessica is trying Cape Horn doesn't mean that Abby needs to.

    (If Abby decide to go for the Horn, that would be cool too, especially for us armchair sailors who can watch her progress with her chart location open in one window and the weather maps in another, without having to worry about experiencing the nightmare of a knockdown, a rogue-wave capsizing, or pitchpoling.)

    At the end of this message (if anyone has read this far) I hope it is clear that whichever path Abby takes is fine by this reader. I'd even go further and say if she decided to stay home and read, that would also be great.
    - Grant Fjermedal, Seattle