Monday, June 13, 2011

One Year Ago Today...

A year ago today I was standing on the bridge of the french fishing ship Ile de la Reunion staring out into the pitch black night, mind spinning out of control. Everything that had happened...I just couldn't believe it. I wasn't sure where the ship was taking me, but at the time it was the least of my worries.

Earlier in the day I had sent a blog home to my mom to post. It started off with a bad attempt at humor, saying "its been a crazy few days out here, the long and the short of it is, one long wave and one short, meaning a two inch stub of a mast." It wasn't funny, but at the time my choices were pretty limited, cry, or cry, or make a lame joke and pretend its funny. I went with the third option.

On board the ship of scruffy fishermen, I was left to myself mostly. Several of them spoke pretty good English, but I didn't want to talk. My mind was drifting through all the memories of my trip, my team, my boat, my family... standing there in the dark for hours, thinking back to the terror of tying myself onto a broken stanchion with my saw in hand and working on sawing away my mast hoping I didn't fall off the pitching deck.

Thinking about being below deck, I remember all the water inside, it was a wreck. My head was throbbing, a constant reminder of the night Wild Eyes rolled. I couldn't close my eyes at night because everytime I did it took me right back there and all I could feel was myself falling up the side of my boat. All I could see was black, and all I could hear was silence...

When I had been on Wild Eyes, I worked hard to control my thoughts, never let them go too far, but now I didn't care. Zoning out as I stared into the dark, my mind was so far from where I was. I think I was worrying about what the fishermen on board were thinking as they probably weren't quite sure what I was doing just standing and staring. It wasn't just the bad things I kept going back to, in fact, it was almost more so the great times. All those amazing days racing along surfing down giant swells making record speeds. Sitting on deck with Charlie my stuffed pelican, watching the sun set, icy wind hitting you in the face, feet and hands numb from the cold, but an amazing sight that I got to see almost every night.

The worst thing to think about was all those great times, they were all gone now and my trip was over, no more sunsets on Wild Eyes, no more surfing, no more world adventures. It was hard. But then again, just a day before I had sat wondering if I would be rescued... I didn't think I would be. I had come so close to death more than once during my trip.

The fact that I was rescued from the middle of nowhere... it was crazy really. Just last week, I learned about a friend of mine that I met in Rhode Island when we bought Wild Eyes. He left on a solo sail, got into a storm along the way, and no one has heard from him since... ocean sailing is a dangerous thing, but so is life. With all the prayer and expert SAR crews, I have been given something that not everyone gets, a second chance.

I could have easily died out there, just like so many others have, but I didn't. In one of the most remote places on earth I was rescued. Something through all of this that I learned, is that we all get hit by our own rogue waves in life. It's what we do with them that matters. You can take something that looks like a disaster and turn it into something great.

You may support me, you may not, but as long as I live, I know I am going to take every opportunity that comes my way, chase every dream, and do all that I can to help others follow their dreams.



  1. Your life was obviously spared because you have many more things to accomplish!

  2. Lovely post Abby- you are so right - we are all hit by rogue waves in life but it is how we come out on the other side that matters- you have a lot of wisdom for someone so young - good for you! Cant' wait to hear what else you do with your amazing life
    Lisa McGee aka Nenaghgal

  3. So does this mean you have the go to try again?

  4. You are wise beyond your years, Abby! You'll go far.

    Bless you,

  5. Abby, you will be out there again one day, back on the water. You will know so much more than you did before your first trip, and you will finish it and have overcome the fear of not making it.

    I'm still waiting for that very blog post saying "I will try again". So until then, grab everything you can that life offers you!

    You have a whole bunch of people standing behind you, supporting you, never forget that ;)

  6. Well said Abby and I support you.

  7. Perfect Abby, just perfect. God bless.....

  8. Abby,you've done what people only dare to do,you followed your dream.I respect that more than you know. I was one of the ones that prayed for your safe return and was over joyed when the news came that you were safe.I don't consider your trip a failure just a pause in the trip.The next time you go it will complete the circle.
    Keep following your dreams and good luck to you in all your endeavors.
    Btw I read your book and was very impressed how you handled yourself in all the situations.It was finally good to get the other side of the story and not the one that the media had decided to tell.
    Fair winds Abby
    Gary Harris

  9. Support and admire you? Yes we do!
    How did you get so wise Abby? You have shown us that everything DOES happen for a reason. We just need to stop and listen... ♥

    Continued blessings,
    WA St.

  10. I'm proud of you Abby. My brother told me about you just after you began your voyage, and we both tracked your progress faithfully. I have kept you in my prayers, and I admire you and your family very much. Thank you for sharing this blog, it is a bittersweet anniversary for you. Love and hugs, Aleta

  11. Kinda crazy how fast time flies after those life changing events isn't it?

  12. You survived. You have a purpose. Chase your dreams. Let life take you on the adventure it is.

  13. Wonderful heartfelt blog Abby.

    "It's better to burn out than to fade away"...Neil Young.

    GO ABBY GO !!!

  14. Very well said, good for you.

  15. Abby I see it a bit different then some. I so support you in whatever you choose. But, you went through a life changing event. I am not so certain that the be all end all HAS to be going back out again to finish what you started. Because, I believe in going with the flow. That flow taught you many things & I hope that you will only try the same voyage again if you really want & need to. You have not failed. We bend so that we don't break. Things, plans can change. You are allowed to change your course. Like I said, I support you no matter what path you choose. If it happens to differ from the original intent, so be it.

  16. There's lots to learn from you! Sail on...... we'll look forward to what you teach us :-D

  17. Sounds like you learned a perfect lesson! More of us need to follow it. My daughter and I followed yor trip, prayed when you were lost, and loved reading your book. You have touched so many people these last few years and we are honored to be part of them.

    I don't know if you'll do any more book signings in the fall, but we'll be moving to Fort Irwin in August. My daughter would love to get her booked signed if you have an event.

    Hugs and Best Wishes!

  18. Abby you're a genius!
    ant you very much. from Argentina. I can not believe it happened a year. many successes. ale

  19. And it's been quite a year, has it not? I remember I was getting ready for my high school graduation when I heard what had happened, and was checking for news updates on my iPod instead of listening to the droning speeches. But hey, look at how far you've come in just another year! Been all over the country, got a few kittens, started driving, started flying, continued sailing, wrote a book, signed thousands of them, and became an amazing inspiration to the entire world, just to name a few. :)

  20. Abby:
    GO GIRL GO!!!!!!!!!!

    As usual, you hit the nail on the head. As the song states,
    "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
    A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
    A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
    A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
    A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
    A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
    A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
    A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace."
    KJV, Ecclesiastes 3:1 and Pete Seeger, "Turn, Turn, Turn"

    You have seen rare beauty that most of us will never see, you have been alone but surrounded by unseen friends, and you have been with friends but yet alone. You have made many new friends that you never dreamed of seeing before the trip. Across all of this, you have been unsinkable!

    Continue to just be Abby and to experience all that life has to offer.

    Thank you for sharing the adventure and thank your parents for allowing us to share in your life.

    And, remember:
    "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

    Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

    With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."

    GO GIRL GO!!!!!!!!!!!!

    John R Willis

  21. Abby, Your blog was a heartwarming tale for sure. Everyone is right, you did not fail us, or yourself. You were choosen to be saved as God knew he had a great person. YOu. More people are supporting you than you can imagine, Abby. With love and prays to help you the rest of your journeys. Good luck, God speed.
    Dee Thompson, Santa Clarita, Ca.

  22. I followed your entire adventure. I read your book (twice). I stayed up all night waiting for news when you weren't heard from in the middle of nowhere and will follow you again on your next adventure. You are such an inspiration to so many people you probably can't imagine. Live your amazing life to it's fullest. There are people that don't know a sailboat from a cruise ship but they do know your name. Keep the fire burning. We will all be there with you the next time.

    Love and hugs from Florida

  23. Thanks Abby,
    Made me cry.
    Remembered years ago when the sea tried to take
    my life. I was saved.
    Maybe one day I will go out on the water again,
    maybe not. The courage of you Abby, Jessica Watson and many more confident sailors, just gives me the courage to keep standing and encouraging others.
    Thank you.
    God bless you always.
    Love ♥

  24. Can you believe an entire year has passed?

  25. Hi Abby
    Cann't believe a year has passed so quickly! Good luck with your book, I'll be in Barnes and Noble asap. Best wishes

  26. Abby~ I appreciate this post. Especially this line as it is all too true: "...we all get hit by our own rogue waves in life." It is just what we actually do with them...that counts. Sometimes one is dealt things that you just do not anticipate in life.
    louvregirl (hugs to you dear one)

  27. Hello Abby,

    One year ago ... And since you have been sharing your experience with us through additional doings: book, dvd, lectures,etc.

    One year ago you used one of your 9 lives ...Which really means that you will be active and adventurous for some ... 128 more years! :-D

    Take Care, Be Safe!

  28. Wonderful Blog Abby, you are an inspiration to so many. I have often wondered as you probably have so many times - 'where is Wild Eyes now'. You were saved because there are so many things you will have to do in your lifetime, especially to inspire all the young people in the world.

  29. top notch, you are, Young Lady,,,

  30. you are amazing! i love your positive attitude. i think your family would get along so well with bethany hamilton and her family. she's the girl who was attacked by a shark, but has kept a positive attitude after the accident, and went back to the water 3 weeks later! both you and her are great role models

  31. So, Abby Sunderland, you have met death. Not very impressive, is he? Having seen his face many times, I tend to recognize that he is a lackey because he is unable to take whomever he pleases, when he pleases, but must attain permission. In meeting him, realize he has a master, and that courage and faith causes him to flee like a coward from a hard fight. It's important that you faced him. It's more important that in doing so, you realize he has no power over you until his appointed time, and you must follow your courage.

  32. I tell my grandchildren. . . . follow your dreams and aim
    high. . . . . . . . just like Abby. . .
    JR - Walnut Creek, CA

  33. hi abby
    i started following your trip just a little bit after you started, but i've never posted anything on here before.
    i FINALLY! got a hold of your book and i just finished it about 30 mins ago.
    i think youre incredible and a huge inspiration. im happy, and jealous:), of all you have accomplished.
    i just wanted to say that and let you know that your story means a lot to me and i think people can take a lot from it. :)


  35. Abby – I think I’m going to dig a little bit deeper here and say that I believe you were experiencing grief. The kind of grief that comes after the death of someone you love comes to pass. Very few people in the world can understand the bond a sailor has with his or her boat. It’s a material thing, yes? But it’s beyond that. It’s so much MORE than that. You were running down those waves with a friend- you put blood, sweat and tears (literally) into her and she was helping you achieve your dreams. All of a sudden, because of no fault of yours OR hers, you just had to step off her and say goodbye, only to never lay eyes on her again.
    Standing there staring into the darkness unable to speak? That’s grief. And who cares what any of those fisherman thought, you were allowed THAT moment in time.
    Yes there will be more boats in your future, and now even planes! But as far as Wild Eyes goes-you still have a piece of her on your wrist right? From one of her sheets? Cherish it. Keep it forever Abby.
    Thank you for sharing your passion with the world. We support you and delight in your experiences and wisdom.
    Fair winds and following seas girl! ;0) - stephanie

  36. It's really moving, touching, emotional... while I was reading it, I almost began crying, and my eyes are still filled with tears. Not only for the perfect manner to explain, but especially because you always find the way to improve what happens to you in something better and never lose the desire of dreaming. And the best consideration for your words is that we'll be forever dreamers like you, Abby, forever & ever. You'll never be alone.

  37. Just finished your book and I really enjoyed it. Made me think different about your family (better).

  38. Hi Abby,

    So well written. I could feel that I was with you out there. The way you handled the situation was great work. I wish you all the best best in the future.
    Ingrid Petersson, Sweden

  39. Hey there Abby,
    I got that the blog was up, but what was the story about the Kittens. You started to talk about. It was like more of your happenings to tell us about. What more have you been up too. Where next.
    Dee, Santa Clarita, Ca.

  40. Facing a rogue wave of my own. Thanks for the insight and inspiration. Hope to hear more from you.

  41. Hi Abby the 13th has good and bad fo you have fun Scotty M. SD CA.

  42. Hi Abby ... You Are A LEGEND ... A REAL LEGEND ..... It took Real Courage and Such A Positive Will To Survive to get through what You Did. I had tears in my eyes as I read this Blog, Abby: Thinking back to that terrible few days. You may think your Thinking On That Day (that you sent the Blog to your mum) was Lame Thinking ... but I believe you made the Right Choice of The 3 Options. It gave you The Courage to Carry On because You Showed You Still Had A Sense Of Humour in a way. You Proved not only to yourself that You had The Will To Win, But You Also Showed Others . . . . . You WILL Try Again ... and This Time ... You CAN And WILL SUCCEED ... And Remember Abby ... Your Voyage Never Ended...It was Just That You POSTPONED The COMPLETION Of It ..... This is A Beautiful Blog Abby... So Well Composed. It helps to show everyone how things really were on those days after you were Rescued. And Remember, Abby, Don't Worry About Those Who DON'T Support You. They Are Not Important. We Who DO SUPPORT You And Love You, Abby, Far Outweigh The Critics ...Whether It Be by Numbers, is not Important ... But The Actual Support and Love, I am Sure Far Outweighs The Level Of Criticism ................. One Day...When you Feel You Are Ready ..... You Will SET SAIL AGAIN on A Solo Unassisted Circumnavigation ... and This Time ... You CAN And WILL SUCCEED. And We Will ALL BE WITH YOU ... All The Way ........... Signed: your Blogger Friend ... YOU-CAN-DO-IT-TOO ....... aka..NEVIE_JOHN ..TWITTER Name ......... aka..Neville Madden .. Facebook ....... xx

  43. Your description of looking at sunset from a deck made a big impression, cause even trying to imagine it is tremendous.
    Don't forget that we, office rats, are watching you and enjoy what you do, instead of living our lives.

  44. Abby, you are inspiration...I'm at a loss for words, except the usual...Keep on truckin' girl!

  45. Rod Serling may be interested in your description of what may be called ' The dark night of the soul' where , as you stood in the dark for hours confronting the reality of all that was lost and where you'd go from there; you nonetheless came thru that darkness. Those experienced rescue-sailors may have felt your incursion into the Twilight Zone and honored your lonely space. Still you looked very alive at Kerguelen Island as if triumph was the reality. I'll be interested how deep your courage shines and how far into the wave of youth you envision the future. If you should die eventually in your quest, say what shall we feel of it? I think you are saying Abby Sunderland's Star is yet to appear .You have not been scared away. You thought the worst thing was that the great times were gone now with Wild Eyes and Charlie your Pelican. Your Second Chance should continue to whatever greatness you might envision in the way of a soul in search of the promise of abundant life. In a way you are like a ghost returned to earth and a mystery of what is to come in your personal encounter with The Twilight Zone.

  46. I try to stop by every once in a while to catch up on how you are doing. I was both surprised, and pleased to see you finally share those last few hours aboard the Wild Eyes. Your strength, determination and courage are a true testimony to today's youth and to your own spirit and soul! You are one in a million - a star!

  47. Hi Abby,
    I was one of many who followed your trip from January 23rd 2010 till the roage wave hit you.I use to check on you 7 or 8 times a day and I'm the one who told you how to cook the the squid when they were jumping on your boat.
    Abby you gave us all a hella of ride and we enjoyed every minute.
    As I was reading your blog and all the comments I got tears in my eyes for all you been through.
    God Bless you and keep up the good work.
    Libby Di Bernardo San Pedro Ca.
    PS I'm still wearing your T shirts.

  48. Hello,i had started following your adventure just before you set off, and eagerly looked forward to the posts from out on the water. Late one night, had just gone to bed and was about to turn off the tv and saw a scroll across the bottom of the news channel that your boat had sent out emergency beacons and people were starting to look for you. I rejoiced when word came through that you'd been found. Your young life has been an exciting one, you have done things and seen things that many will never. The fact that you were rescued, you didn't perish, only just means that God has many more wonderful plans for you.

    Thanks for sharing that memory with us. Thanks for the inspiration you give to others!


  49. I know you have done incredible things, and looks may be skin deep, but oh my gosh, you are pretty.

  50. In this post, you reveal that you have the heart of a sailor, and more generally, the spirit of a lone traveler; you belong on the open water, and your path, in the past, present, and future, is a unique one. There will continue to be people you encounter who aren't comfortable with that, people who don't understand, people who just wish you would be more traditional and close-by and safe. But those of us who have walked a mile in your shoes and traveled well off the beaten path, those of us who have had the kind of deeply rewarding and harrowing experiences like you describe, we know right where you're coming from. The fact you're deeply affected by and fully acknowledge the good and the bad indicates that you have a kind of emotional maturity that many adults don't have; this unteachable insight is part of the reason you are alive today, and is something to embrace and be proud of. It will serve you well in all of your adventures in life.

  51. Your feelings are surely an inspiration to all who have the privilege of reading this blog Abby.

  52. As always, I wish you all the best in whatever you do. You are born to be famous.

    East Malaysian

  53. what a difference a year makes you are sailing along then on a fishing vessel but you are a trooper and what ever life deals you you will work it all out thank you for keepin us posted psr927 gods speed

  54. YOU GO GIRL!!!!
    You have become such a strong woman as a result of all this. I just can't believe how fast a year really goes and look at all that you have accomplished!
    Love to you and your family

  55. Great job! Your writing is exceptional.

  56. I am quite certain you have many, many more supporters than detractors... i pity those who refuse to give an amazing young person respect, for "they live in the dim twilight that knows not victory or defeat" God bless & keep you...
    old guy in n.c.

  57. Abby the world is a much better place with you in it that is why you made it dear.

  58. My mind has been drawn back several times, really!
    Really, what a powerful resource from your experience a how I and so many were/can draw from, and stiill!
    Reticently, though there is not much I can say,
    having only found your blog a time or two before February 2010; I mentioned the Blogs of note for that day's post neer a fulcrum point; that is to say, nice to see you in there with Plato and Sacrates and Aristotle!
    My reiteration is to add thanks too for the update for a year reminding!

  59. Hey Abby,
    Great blog - not only well written but thought provoking as well. All the best now and always,

  60. Dear Abby, I read your post several times. I admire you, brave girl! You look so tender, but have such a strong character! The story of your solo sailing on "Wild Eyes", astounded me and last year I posted a material for you in my blog ! I'm sorry, but we didn't know much about you in Bulgaria until the moment of the wreck. I felt so happy and relieved when you were rescued "in the middle of nowhere", that I decided to share with more people what I succeeded to learn about you in Internet. I really do hope that the information I used was a true one. If you find some minutes to have a look here -

    and if there's something to be corrected, please, tell me, I would highly appreciate it!
    I'm very happy now, because I'm a proud owner of your book and I'm so eager to read it and see everything that you saw, feel everything that you felt, follow your trip with you... -

    You were given a second chance, yes, and I'm sure you'll use it to continue following and fighting for your beautiful dreams and helping others to follow theirs, as you want. They say that every single person has a mission on the Earth. I think that one of your missions is to inspire people!:) Be healthy and very happy, dear Abby! Give my best regards to your remarkable family!

  61. Hey gorgeous, it's been a month now since your last post. We're all missing you.

  62. Hello Abby! The last time I was here was about a year ago or so. I was following your trip and despite all the naysayers I was for it as dangerous as it was. I think everyone knew that it was a dangerous adventure but like you said life is dangerous. A risk just getting on the freeway!

    Honestly when I heard of the news I was certainly pulling for you and it was like a miracle that you were saved. I mean you were in the middle of nowhere. I've been scared sailing but nothing like that. I can't imagine what that must have been like.

    But God has brought you here for a reason. And I like your attitude in that it's our decision on how we take those "rogue waves" in life. I've gone through several myself with the loss of a young child being the worst of them. But God has a purpose for it all.

    I would love to sail around the world but my wife won't even let me sail to Hawaii! Regardless I love your attitude on life and it's awesome to hear your maturity!

    Many more blessings!

  63. Abby, you are the best!

  64. I Hope my two daughters are as couragous in there life journeys as you were on yours on Wild Eyes

  65. Abby- I started crying when i read your next to last paragraph. I have been hit by a rogue wave of life and your comment i think is really going to help me. If you hadn't gone through what you did with losing Wild Eyes, I wouldn't have been comforted by your comment. Blessings on you in Jesus. Thanks.

  66. it doesnt matter if you never try again. And it doesnt matter if you do. What matters is the person you are. You dont have to prove anything to anyone anymore, Abby. You walk among those who dont know, but once in awhile you will meet those who do - and when you do, enjoy the time together - its rare. Only the ones who have stared at death in some circumstance of life and won - this time - understand.

    And then its back to another adventure, but with renewed confidence, because it is familiar. Safe travels, Abby... ;)

  67. Hi Abby. I followed your adventure last year. I can't believe that it's been more than a year since you were rescued by the Ile de la Reunion. Time passes quickly.

    Your adventure was amazing. It was candy every day for me. I was transfixed by your bravado; I got my fix by reading your blog.

    Many of us lived vicariously through you. Few of us will ever experience anything close to what you experienced. I'm still amazed that a woman your age accomplished so much.

    Thank you for telling your story.

    Jim, La Canada, California

  68. Your description of looking at sunset from a deck made a big impression, cause even trying to imagine it is tremendous.
    Don't forget that we, office rats, are watching you and enjoy what you do, instead of living our lives.

  69. Beautifully written and read by me at the right time. Thank you.

  70. It has been a while since I read your blog and I continue to be so impressed with your level of mature life understandings and fearless courage. I will show your post to my 13 year old daughter who is a national class runner and suffered a really bad bout of illness this year endangering her Olympic dreams. She has become interested in such stories as yours and Bethany Hamilton. Thanks for being an inspiration for growing young women.

    A Proud Dad