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Should Abby's Parents Have Let Her Sail?

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When Abby Sunderland went missing at sea yesterday, the blogosphere started buzzing with questions ... and judgment (especially for Abby's parents).

Abby Sunderland

Should Abby's parents have let their 16-year-old daughter sail solo in the first place?

When we spoke with Abby's mom earlier this year, she said, "I ... 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."

Abby's story has drawn comparisons to that of Jessica Dubroff, the 7-year-old pilot trainee who died attempting to become the youngest person to fly an airplane across the United States.

Are we pushing our kids too far, too fast?

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61 comments so far | Post a comment now
Ro June 15, 2010, 4:40 AM

I see no problem with Abby sailing around the world but
“ALONE” is totally irresponsible on her parent’s part. No matter what sailing experience she has she has absolutely NO control of the weather & with all the piracy on the ocean lately, I could never let my 16 year old daughter or son either sail ALONE!!

Helen June 15, 2010, 4:49 AM

Parents are supposed to be setting the boundaries, and though Abby is probably an amazing sailor, it was irresponsible for her parents to let her do this. The time of year, bad weather, the TIME AND COST OF SEARCHING FOR HER WHEN LOST, was not adequately taken into account. Abby was very lucky that a French fishing vessel went a day out of their way (who’s paying for that?) to rescue her, and she didn’t get picked up by pirates… Thankfully she’s safe, and now she’s famous, which is probably the real reason for this “stunt”…

MARYANN June 15, 2010, 5:30 AM

if you seen Larry King the other nite, the dad was after a T.V show , he should go to jail for a little while !!!!!

faye June 15, 2010, 5:35 AM

i am so totally surprised at how many people agree with her parents. she is still a child and needs to be supervised in any dangerous situation. i would never dream of allowing my child to do something like that alone. these parents should not have ever had children. there is too many people out there who want to be friends with their kids and not is our job to protect our children and teach them to grow up to be responsible adults, and not to give in to any whim they may have. i wonder how they would feel had she died out there alone. there is no justification for their actions.

MARYANN June 15, 2010, 5:53 AM

when I was growing up in the 70’s, my dad and mom were very CrAzY !!!we lived up a country road, no one ells around but us.. so they could do as they pleased,( I GUESS)my dad would get drunk ,he would give us kids a head start,. then he would get his gun’s and hunt us all nite, my mom would leave ( go to the bar’s to party )he would shoot at us ( thank,God he missed us ) but anyway,to much to write,I’ll just say this , the movies ” THE BURNING BED and MOMMY DEAREST ” they don’t hold a candle to my life as a child . u need to ? thing’s….

Kathy Owen June 15, 2010, 6:24 AM

To many things could of happened to her out there by herself. Its dangerous enough if an adult went by himself.
Its scary enough letting your kids go to a dance by themselfs or away to camp. But out in the hugh ocean. What are they thinking ??

Carolyn June 15, 2010, 6:36 AM

I can’t stop thinking of balloon boy! The parents act so saintly but signed for a reality show. Not only did she have the ocean to deal with, she also could have been targeted by pirates and never seen again. They could’ve taken her boat and painted it and it could’ve of ended up anywhere.

in2motion June 15, 2010, 6:44 AM

I completely agree with anon & I applaud the bravery of both Abby & her parents. I do not think they were in it for publicity, but simply to follow a dream. We should all have such goals!
The ocean is certainly unpredictable, but is a large city really any different with crazy drivers & high crime rates? I’d rather be somewhere familiar, than looking over my shoulder every day as I do now.
Anon writes: It doesn’t sound to me like anyone was being pushed, it sounds like Abby had a dream and set out to do something she wanted, something that most adults would be scared to even try! She was obviously capable of handling herself in the situation and I think it is great that her parents were supportive. At 16 she is old enough to understand the possible consequences and her parents were right to let her go.

DeeDee June 15, 2010, 6:51 AM

Of course I think she should have been allowed to go. My hope for her is that this will not be her last try. Her brother did it successfully, and her parents are sailors as well. She comes from a family of sailors. I am proud for what she did accomplish. Things do happen. If she had reached her goal people would have a very positive outlook not negative. Could it be that because she is a girl that people are so concerned. To not reach for the stars while your young would be the crime. No her parents are not criminals they are parents who are willing to let their children dream and I mean dream big, and go out there and make their dreams come true. I respect their parents. I sometimes have a problem letting mine go out the front door. That’s holding them back I know. So these parents are encouraging for parents like myself to let my children fly. To be there when they need me, but not by cutting off their will to explore that is sufficating to them. Even if something had gone wrong that is the chance you take when you take flight solo. But why put fear in a child about what could go wrong all the time, why can’t we focus on what went right. SHE WAS FOUND! You are a heroic together family, and you all are a breath of fresh air.


Just know that your children are pioneers in this technological world we live in now. To be interested in something positive out side of video games, etc. is a great thing. Remember should something “God For Bid” did happen in your children’s quest to accomplish this feat. Don’t fret and let anyone make you as parents feel that it would be your fault in some way. Things happen to children everyday, be it by accident or intentionally and there is no one to blame outside of it just being their time to go. What ever is meant to be will be. We as parents can guide our children, but we must step back after that and again let them fly solo. Good Luck to your family and I’m glad your baby girl is home safely.

christa June 15, 2010, 7:41 AM

no , just like they should not be driving a car with 16 years old . in germany u are not alout to drive intell u are 18 years old , i think 18 is a better age we would have a lot less accidents !

Anonymous June 15, 2010, 8:39 AM

I came from a very liberal family At 16 my aunt hitch hiked From Michigan to California w/ her parents blessing. Yes she was going to experience so many things and have so many stories to tell. And one of those stories is that she was held captive and gang raped by 3 men at knife point for 4 days before being released. Yes we want our kids to live their lives to the fullest but as their parents we cannot risk their safety by allowing them all the privlages of being an adult.

Car June 15, 2010, 9:21 AM

The only reason why this is such a big issue is b/c she ran into problems. If she had completed her journey we would be applauding the parents for believing in their daughter and letting her go.

I think that if the parents trusted her enough to let her go then we should all back off and let them make the decisions in their lives. There are many dangerous things that parents allow their kids to do bc they trust them and the kids are properly trained. (Like driving a car) I think it is a good thing to trust your child and believe in them. It is their decision and I think they made the right one.

Rebecca E. June 15, 2010, 9:34 AM

As the parent of two grown children, I do not think Abby’s parents were wrong to let her go. Only the parent of a child knows more about their childs maturaty and experience than they do. If they felt that she was responsible enough to do this and it was what she wanted to do, then I they were right to let her go. Of course, there are dangers but their are dangers in your own neighborhood everyday and everywhere! At least she isn’t out doing drugs and getting pregnant, shes doing what she has been doing and was raised learning and sailing for her whole life. I’m sure her parents are worried as most would be, but they know her strengths and abilities better than any of us.So,I think they were right to let her try to do this.

elizabeth June 15, 2010, 9:41 AM

i agree that kids these days are more mature than even 10 yrs ago. but, come on there is a limit, SHE IS 16! and to let her go by herself with how insane people are, would you not even be concerned that someone might try to hurt her, or snatch her up and do things to her. we do not live in the 50’s anymore. people these days do not know the meaning of having morals, or respect for someone else, people do whatever they want without caring about the outcome of anything. i would have atleast wanted someone with her.

Kim June 15, 2010, 9:46 AM

Bottomline, 16 is just not old enough to to something like this unsupervised. You can twist it and turn it to make it sound right all you want but it never will be. Its perfectly ok to say no to your children, and this was one of those perfect circumstances when they should have exercized that right. The parents dropped the ball here and if you disagree, you’re either under 18 or you suffered at the hands of parents that were unusually strict and now you spoil your own kids to compensate for your own loss of freedom.

carol June 15, 2010, 9:53 AM

I think it is wrong on the parents part. There are negligent and apparently not the worrying type to let her go .There are so many dangers that the 16 year old probably will come against which i pray not, the storms the waters the pirates not having enough food and water and god knows what else. What if the waves become so strong for her to handle shes really is still just a baby at 16 and all alone on the high seas. I could never let my children go experiened or not she has no control over what mother nature has in store for her and i think we all need to pray that she makes it safely to her destination. May god bless her and keep her safe from any danger that comes her way and bring her back home where she belong safely.

punkrokmom June 15, 2010, 10:18 AM

i think it was wrong for the parents to let their 16 yr old daughter go out on the ocean alone like that. i dont care how much experience or how much she knew. theres always a chance at loosing her at sea or have those pirates come along.. she might’ve been trained in some things but did they prepare her if she was met up with pirates? if it would’ve been me, i wouldnt have left her go. i feel id rather have my daughter alive then loose her to the sea or some pirates.

Tara  June 15, 2010, 10:37 AM

Abby had every right to go if she felt she could handel it. Her brother did the same thing and came home to a hero’s welcome. But oh no, let a girl do it and all of a sudden she is stupid and her parents are these horrible people. This just goes to show that we still think woman are weak and helpless and need men to protect us. If the brother would have had problems we would have never heard anything about it. We need to stop telling woman how helpless they are and allow them to be what ever they want.

Arabella June 15, 2010, 11:20 AM

How much did Abby’s rescue cost? The Sunderlands should reimburse every cent of that, for the journey was, to them, a frivolous adventure.

I am also concerned that Abby doesn’t get enough parental attention within a family so big — and getting bigger.

These people must start exercising responsibility.

Tristan's Mommy June 15, 2010, 12:13 PM

Oh good grief. Here we go with the drama about how “most” kids are doing drugs or being hoodlums but we’re repressing the ONE teen in America who’s been allowed to follow her dream.

People, please. Most kids today get too much of what they want without boundaries firmly set in place. This seems to be a prime example. I don’t care HOW experienced this girl was at sailing or if this was her life’s dream. At MINIMUM her parents should have refused her for another two years until she turned 18. The fact that this child is missing only supports that the decision her parents made was WRONG!

I was surprised when I learned that a *16* year old GIRL was allowed to travel by sailboat by herself around the world. She’s not a legal adult in any sense of the word and if she had needed medical attention, say for an appendix or gall bladder or some non-sailing emergency since some here think if she’s experienced, she’s infallable, hospitals are REQUIRED to get PARENTAL PERMISSION for ALL MINORS. With foreign exchange programs, we don’t send our children to other countries without someone there to care for them. So why send a 16 year old out in the world with NO ONE to guide her or keep an eye out for her?

Let’s not even go into the dangers of the ocean. Anyone who’s been on the ocean on even a cruise ship KNOWS how small large ships are in the ocean, much less a tiny sailboat. Anyone who’s been out to sea or even familiar with the beach and tides and the strenth of the ocean waves knows the dangers of it. Never been near the ocean? Ever watch Deadliest Catch? Those rough waters are not unique to that part of the world. Storms happen all over the world.

I’m not one to knock a person’s dream and while I commend her parents for encouraging and nurturing her dreams, she had NO BUSINESS pursuing that dream until she was 18 years old, MINIMUM!

I pray and hope that she just got off course and is able to make communication with her family soon. For the sake of everyone involved. Pray for that family!

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