momlogic: How is Abby doing?
Marianne Sunderland: She's got a steep learning curve. We've had a couple of technical problems we're having to troubleshoot with the electricians. Here this 16-year-old is, working with 50-something-year-old electrical engineers, telling her how to pull wires, etc.! She's got an incredible support team. They are good with her. They know she is tired, they know she is young and they keep encouraging her.
ml: As a mom, how do you keep yourself from growing sick with worry?
MS: Sometimes I wake up during the night and I think about what could happen and think of her out there alone on the ocean. I start to get nervous. But I believe that God controls the wind and the waves and whatever comes to her.
I hated watching Zac [Abby's brother, who successfully completed his own solo circumnavigation] be uncomfortable and go through struggles, but he learned from those and was able to use the skills he gained later when he really hit bad weather or any sort of trouble.
I keep telling Abby she's encountering any glitches or problems for a reason, and it prepares her for the next thing. I said, "When weather is rough, or you've got an autopilot glitch later on, you are going to know this boat like the back of your hand."
ml: Do you think people are more critical of Abby sailing solo than they were of Zac, simply because she's a girl?
MS: I think that for some, there is a bit of a gender bias. Some people are more critical because she is a girl. And her route is more dangerous. But Zac got a lot of flak, too. I don't really see that as a major issue.
ml: What would you say to other moms who are maybe too worried or nervous to let their kids follow their dreams?
MS: Look at your own life. Think about your kid in the future, when they are in their late 30s or early 40s and have followed someone else's plan their entire time on the planet. They went to school, got a degree, got married, got a house. Maybe they're successful, but they're not really fulfilled. In the long run, they are going to be their own person. I think you have to remember that.
Believe me, I understand protectiveness. When Abby was here, we didn't let her walk her dogs by herself! So why are we letting her go around the world by herself when we wouldn't even let her go around the block by herself? She's not stopping anywhere!
I also think every kid is different, and every parent is different. Some are more prone to trouble than others. But Abby is a good kid, and I trust her completely.
I understand that need to protect, but you've got to let go at a certain point.
Our thoughts go out to Abby's family in this difficult time, and we hope that she is found safe and reunited with her family soon. We will keep you posted as this story develops.