Posted Fri, June 11, 2010 3:50pm EST

Bonnie Asks: Should 16-Year-Old Sailor Abby Sunderland’s Parents Be Arrested For Child Endangerment?

Posted Fri, June 11, 2010 3:50pm EST

My first reaction on hearing that 16-year-old sailor Abby Sunderland may have been lost at sea, was to blame her irresponsible parents!

Were they lunatics for allowing their daughter to put herself into enormous danger? Was there any difference really between sending her alone across a 6000 mile stretch of Indian Ocean at 16, versus leaving a 5-year-old home alone? Lock them up!

Just how ridiculous are these growing quests for “youngest” records anyway? Abby Sunderland was on a mission to set a record as the world’s youngest person to sail around the globe non-stop. Her older brother Zac, had successfully navigated the globe in 2009 and became the first person under 18 to achieve this.

His trip ended safely. So did Jordan Romeo’s, the 13-year-old who was the youngest person ever to scale Mr. Everest, just last month in May.

However, quests to set records of being the “youngest” have ended in tragedy– most famously when Jessica Dubraff, a 7-year-old student pilot from Pescadero, California crashed after takeoff on the second leg of her ambitious journey. She was attempting with her parents support to become the youngest person ever to complete a round-trip flight across the country.

Now, personally I would never allow my minor daughter to sail solo around the world no matter how experienced a sailor. It appears fraught with danger.

But according to George Day, owner and publisher of Blue Water Sailing magazine, “it seems like a challenging and dangerous journey but it’s not unique — a number of other teenage sailors have successfully made the voyage.”

Day is very familiar with the whole situation including the sailboat that Abby used — in fact, he said that Abby’s family purchased the boat in Rhode Island, where he’s based. “The boat had already been around the world and was equipped with sophisticated communications systems, navigation systems and back up systems.”

In his professional opinion, her 40 ft boat was actually an excellent ocean-going size. When it comes to safety in the ocean “it’s not necessarily how big the boat, but the experience of the skipper,” he insisted.

But could a 16-year-old ever be experienced enough to handle a solo global sail trip? Day countered that Sunderland did have enough experience after growing up in a seafaring family.

Now here’s another question for you — if you have a teenage child that’s obsessive and gifted — whether as a pianist or an athlete like Tiger Woods or Vanessa or Serena Williams — do you ENABLE them like Abby’s parents did, or overprotectively hold them back?

“In order to be exceptional, you have to have an exceptional upbringing,” believes Atoosa Rubinstein, former editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine. You have to remember 16-year-olds in our country don’t have enormous responsibility but historically they had to pull far more weight. ” She doesn’t equate what Abby’s parents did to “putting any kid into an LL Bean jacket and saying good luck. If my child showed an extreme and passionate interest in something, I’d help her pursue it.”

Ok — I can buy that. And really children’s literature from Harry Potter to the Chronicles of Narnia to George of the Jungle, are full of teenage hero’s and heroines who set off on adventures to conquer the world. And we read these books to our kids, then take them to movies, adapted from them.

No wonder an Abby Sunderland could think it was ok to follow her dreams.

But here’s my real complaint against her parents Laurence and Marianna. They allowed her to set off recklessly. If they were letting her go, they should have ensured that Abby was set up to sail as safely as possible. They didn’t.

The southern Indian Ocean between South Africa and Australia is known as one of the fiercest stretches of oceans in the world for sailors , especially in the winter, according to Blue Water Sailing’s, George Day.

Apparently, Abby was originally supposed to have begun her trip from Southern Cailfornia — in Oct. or Nov. — a far safer time to sail. Hurricane season in the southern Pacific occurs during the southern hemispehere’s winter.  Delays for various reasons, held her up.

I fault her parents for allowing her eagerness to set a “youngest” record, outway concerns for embarking on the sailing trip at the safest time possible. As the mature adults, they should have insisted she wait .

Thank the Lord, Abby is safe and I applaud her mature and adventurous soul. But, she’s incredibly lucky that her parent’s recklessness didn’t end in a tragedy.

What do you think BFFs?

  1. TEEN SAILOR FOUND! Abby Sunderland Stranded But Safe (Whew!) In Southern Indian Ocean!
  2. Heidi Klum NAKED! Can You Believe She’s A Mom Of Four?
  3. Hey BFFs! GQ’s World Oceans Day Party Was Off The Hook – And I Was Inside!

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Tony

Posted at 4:14 PM on June 13, 2010  

The parents shoul be prosecuted. They this for money..Look at the site abby16.com and then there is another site asking for donations to bring the boat back. Also her brother is selling stuff on his site. too.
So they put the young girl in danger for them to make money. Arrest the basterds and throw away the key.

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Kiko Villalon

Posted at 4:38 PM on June 14, 2010  

You are NUTS and do not know why. You lack the guts that once signified to be an American. Poor you!

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Alex

Posted at 1:38 PM on June 13, 2010  

So tell me, who will pay for rescue operation? If it’s me as taxpayer, I prefer to say “farewell my little stupid girl”.
Today I read news on footballtransfer.com about parents who prevents promising 17-y/o boy to sign a contract with football club in other country. They fears he will be alone in different culture and he is so young to stay with adult men in club hotel room.

I want to ask Abby parents why you send your baby to take death in open ocean? It’s your choice of course and I can’t to complain until you ask help for rescue operation. But after someone decide to start rescue operation, I’m strongly against it. No pain, no gain you know. If you have mind enough to start your daughter journey, please be patient until her death.

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suz

Posted at 12:01 PM on June 13, 2010  

Everyone against these parents is looking at the situation from a very narrow viewpoint. Only in the United States do we treat 16y/os as children. In almost EVERY area of the world, maybe with the exception of some western Europe (and even their it’s iffy), 16y/os are treated as and expected to act as adults. What about Olympians? Gymnastics is dangerous. Bobsledding is dangerous. Ski jumping, track and field, SAILING, diving, SPORTS ARE DANGEROUS. and the “she should be in school” is just stupid. Do you say the same of the Disney channel actors your children watch?? They all have tutors, usually excellent tutors.

How about we all spend more time encouraging our nation of severely overweight and under educated youth to go out and accomplish something great on their own.

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Eye On Annapolis

Posted at 10:20 AM on June 13, 2010  

I wonder about the push now to get the boat back. Yesterday the parents put up a new website looking for donations to bring back the boat with Abby. Somehow I feel their priorities are misplaced.

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Steph

Posted at 5:12 AM on June 13, 2010  

They absolutely should be examined for child endangerment charges. If I claimed my daughter was an expert driver and left her 16 year old body hightail it all over the country, I’d have to face consequences. The only thing that makes it so these parents don’t have to? Money.

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emafitz

Posted at 11:42 PM on June 12, 2010  

She should be in school…i just don’t get parents these days…

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Rae

Posted at 6:03 PM on June 12, 2010  

Wow! Again I agree with Bonnie? What’s up with that? Who’d of thunk it… anyway…. this minor’s parents should receive some type of disciplinary action. Whether the minor was trained to sail or not…that isn’t the issue. The issue at hand is that a minor was absent from any parental guidance or protection for far to long. It’s not a dinner and movie date that we are discussing here. The adults in question let their minor child sail off into the ‘wild, blue yonder’ – literally. Those are the facts. So, the last time I checked… what transpired here is against the law. Pretty sure it’s abandonment or even cruelty towards a minor. The facts are what they are. Sorry haters.

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donna

Posted at 4:34 PM on June 12, 2010  

She has been well trained and had the right equipment. When one takes on a goal of this nature they should be prepared that their responsibilities go way beyond them. I would hope that they should take FULL responsibility to the people that had to rescue her. Including FULL FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY. If they weren’t prepared to do that THEN she should have never attempted the trip.

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gbtw

Posted at 5:25 PM on June 12, 2010  

i agree. tho the australians don’t want any money. they just want to know that anybody else would do the same thing for their citizens if necessary. not sure about the fishing boat and whether or not they’ll want compensation.

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Jen

Posted at 1:12 PM on June 12, 2010  

Ok. I know of this family as I am from the same area. They are far from bad parents. First, she specifically set a wide route around pirating areas in order to avoid any possibility of that. Second, the article says “The southern Indian Ocean between South Africa and Australia is known as one of the fiercest stretches of oceans in the world for sailors , especially in the winter, according to Blue Water Sailing’s, George Day.” Is it just me or is it NOT winter? Personally, I think the delay probably HELPED her situation since it would have been more winter months had she left in October or November. Her parents made a decision and kept in constant contact with their daughter. They let her pursue a dream while being as safe as possible. Their parenting shouldn’t even be in question.

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gbtw

Posted at 4:58 PM on June 12, 2010  

i think you are confusing seasons. their winter is the opposite of ours because they’re in the other hemisphere. but, regardless, after hearing an interview with her father i feel a little less baffled by how they could let her do this. for people that are not sailors (me), it just seems so crazy scary to think of being alone out there in the sea during horrific winds and crazy waves- regardless of age. so, the idea of letting your own child do it seems crazy to people less familiar with the sea. but, their family seems to have thought everything through very well. it does seem sort of like they should pay for the rescue efforts, and i don’t like hearing that the ship that saved her lost the captain overboard, and he had to be saved… you know, it is maybe a little selfish to put yourself in a position where you have to ask others to risk their lives to save you, right? but, you know, i’m not going to demand a lynching or anything. it’s just hard for me to relate to this- though, she sounds like an extraordinary girl and her parents sound more than competent and clearly raised a wonderful girl.

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Tom

Posted at 11:07 AM on June 13, 2010  

you’re one dumb nut. It is winter in the area in question when it is summer here. Are you from California too like the girl’s parents? Your stupidity seems to point in that direction.

Tom

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Tony

Posted at 4:20 PM on June 13, 2010  

hey dummy, it is winter in the southern hemisphere, are you dumb? When its summer in the nothern hemisphere it is winter in the southern. Jesus Christ, how can people be su uneducated. Maybe you were homeschooled too?
Arrest the parents like now for child endangerment.

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Tony

Posted at 4:22 PM on June 13, 2010  

Hellooooooooooooo? what school did you go too? IT IS WINTER IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE SILLY. When is summer in the northern hemisphere it is winter in the southern.
Wow, were you home schooled and abused too?

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Dirtymike

Posted at 12:40 PM on June 12, 2010  

Where would the world be without a little adventure and excitement?? This girl is 16 and able to decide if she is scared or not. I mean not less the 100 years ago we were sending our 16 year old across seas to fight in the 2 world wars. This girl found misfortune in her travels yes, but why is that a bad thing? These are events that make or break people and the most successful and famous people in history have had some dangerous in devours and we idolize them for coming through it…why are we becoming such pansies

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mimi

Posted at 11:14 AM on June 13, 2010  

the results is whats important………and look what happened …it is very dangerous stuff what a 16 year old girl is doing….I would never allow that as a mother, the sea is NOT the only dangerous thing out there, it has nothing to do with “becoming such pansies”…

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mimi

Posted at 11:42 AM on June 12, 2010  

Look the result…..she is very lucky she was found …it is very dangerous to send a 16 year old girl alone around the world????? I cannot swollow this one…it is really too crazy

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Jason

Posted at 9:28 PM on June 11, 2010  

People need to mind their own business and stop trying to arrest people every time something goes wrong! Horrible things happen due to nature and peoples best plans fall short as a result. We look back as a society and say what if, if they just “” and they should be held responsible! Arrest them, take their assets, make them PAY! remember this when nature turns on you and the people around you say, you should be known better.

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gbtw

Posted at 5:02 PM on June 12, 2010  

i don’t necessarily disagree with your thoughts about this situation, however, i don’t agree with making a blanket statement that people need to mind their own business when children are involved. i witnessed plenty of abuse when i was a child that would’ve been stopped if people had been paying attention and had NOT minded their own business. again, i’m not saying in this situation the parents need to be chastised, i’m just saying that in general when kids are involved minding your own business is not always the answer. peace.

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gbtw

Posted at 9:25 PM on June 11, 2010  

i wouldn’t go so far as saying to “lock them up”, but i feel very uneasy with their choices. sounds like you and i are alone though. in any case, my child isn’t a teenager yet, and i would be very tormented by the decision to let her do something so incredible, yet dangerous. i would want to let her go off and be exceptional if she exhibited such a passion and had the requisite talent. however, even if i could put my own fears aside and let go of my daughter the way these parents did, i don’t think i would have done it once she wasn’t able to take off on the best time frame. i heard it’s essentially like traveling through a hurricane on the ocean in the indian ocean at this time of year- a predictable certainty that it is that bad, not just an off chance of it. i don’t know. that just seems a little crazy for me, but i do feel the need to defer to them a bit b/c i know nothing about sailing. i can say for certain though, i cannot fathom or relate to this decision they made. but maybe if my daughter is a superstar at that age i will have a better understanding of why they did it. long story short, i’m just so happy that she is okay.

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Tony

Posted at 4:27 PM on June 13, 2010  

Lock them up, they put the child in danger for MONEY…take a look at abby16.com, and then her blog with ads and a link to a page asking for DONATIONS. These parents are dispicable, she almost died, was just requested and ALL THEY THINK ABOUT IT SELLING CRAP FOR MONEY. Could they not have waited untill she got home. This is the same as forcing your child into prostitution, only this is more reckless

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S. Gonzales

Posted at 6:33 PM on June 11, 2010  

Parents that should be arrested: Parents whose 14,15,16,17 year old daughters get knocked up; parents whose sons knock up their underage girlfriends; parents whose sons and daughters are in gangs; parents whose kids sit like zombies in front of the TV, computers and video games for hours on end. Parents who should receive applause and acclamation: parents like the Sunderlands who have raised a mature, intelligent and courageous daughter who is a role model for all young people.

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Mark

Posted at 8:56 AM on June 12, 2010  

I cant agree more, or parents who spend hours and hours a day on the internet instead of raising their kids

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cloe

Posted at 6:21 PM on June 11, 2010  

I don’t think they are irresponsible. It’s hard for people who aren’t in the situation to imagine it. People freak out because we let our son fly all the time (with instructors) – it’s his passion and we don’t believe in living life in fear.

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Simon King

Posted at 5:40 PM on June 11, 2010  

I would be very angry at the parents if they did NOT let her follow her dream!

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nana

Posted at 12:55 PM on June 12, 2010  

Following your dreams is one thing.Being stupid is another.Way to dangerous for a 16 year old to be out on the high seas alone.With all the pirate attacks going on lately.She could have been raped and killed.The parents should be arrested and the book thrown at them.

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Donna

Posted at 5:34 PM on June 11, 2010  

I seriously do not think I would allow my child to do this, but I do concede that there are teenagers that are mature far beyond their years, and are able to make decisions about situations better then many adults. I do not know this young lady, so how can I say she isn’t able to physically, and emotionally, and capable of making such a trip. I just know that if it was my daughter everyday I would be in a knot emotionally regardless. Probably not a good thing as a parent since it may give my child the feeling I have no faith in their ability. I guess this young ladies parents saw the need for her to do this and had the trust in her ability to succeed. I do wish her well and hope she will be well.

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Village

Posted at 5:06 PM on June 11, 2010  

Kids can be emancipated at 16 to work in Hollywood as an adult, and we know what happens to so many child actors. I refuse to be concerned about kids trying for these records. Life is short. I say go for it. It’s a shame this was so poorly planned it put her in this particular ocean in the storm season. That was stupid, and better planning could have avoided that obstacle.

Bonnie, one thing that has not been covered in the media at all is the close call Jordan Romero had on Everest. There was an avalanche that threw two people off a rope line, one who died, and a second who destroyed his hands ‘swimming’ on the avalanche struggling to stay on top. The rest of the untold story is Jordan was third on that rope, and a glancing blow from the same avalanche knocked him off the mountain. He landed on his father with a crampon to his father’s forehead. The ropes held. Had they not, the story would have had another ending. The father required stitches to his forehead, but Jordan was unharmed.

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DZ

Posted at 4:29 PM on June 11, 2010  

I think her name is Venus, not Vanessa.

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gbtw

Posted at 7:03 PM on June 12, 2010  

lol… i missed that. or, maybe there is a superstar vanessa that we don’t know about?

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Bill

Posted at 4:21 PM on June 11, 2010  

I don’t really understand your position. In this situation Abby has been in boats and sailing all of her life. And you say it is wrong of the parents to let her do it. Yet you will probably wholeheartedly agree that boys, and girls of 17, 18, 19 can be enlisted in the military services and be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan and be allowed to be maimed or killed because some brain dead politician from Texas decided he was gonna go to war. What’s wrong with this picture?

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Sugar

Posted at 4:15 PM on June 11, 2010  

If that is what she wants to do and by all accounts I’ve read she was technically prepared for the trip then I think it is fine. It is no different than letting a child participated in competitive sports like gymnastics where there is the chance they could experience a devastating injury.

I DO think that the parents should be liable for the search and rescue costs because it is so expensive to rescue her when something goes wrong on the trip. Taxpayers or private industry should not be financially liable for hers or any other person’s sport sailing rescues.

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Isaac

Posted at 4:01 PM on June 11, 2010  

You are f’n lame. I bet you have a 30 year old son living in the basement. What have you done with your life? Always played it safe? Lame.

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John F. C. Taylor

Posted at 3:48 PM on June 11, 2010  

I absolutely do not agree with your whole editorial on this event.

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penelope

Posted at 3:11 PM on June 11, 2010  

How many underage boys have done this and I do not remember any outcry when they did it. That is a bit (or rather very) sexist to think a girl can’t do it also. This is 2010 or are some people still in the Dark Ages.

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gbtw

Posted at 7:08 PM on June 12, 2010  

It’s possible that people are more worried b/c we see girls as more fragile, POSSIBLE, but I didn’t read any of that in this article or any comment other than yours. I doubt Bonnie’s opinion would’ve been different if it were a boy. Frankly, to be REALLY sexist about it, I’d trust a 16 year old girl more than a 16 year old boy in this circumstance. They tend to be more mature at that age.

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whev

Posted at 2:19 PM on June 11, 2010  

Didn’t the parents do the same when they allowed Abby’s brother to sail around the world when he’s 17? No body talked about child endangerment at that time. Why should this be different. Just because she failed?

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gbtw

Posted at 7:15 PM on June 12, 2010  

Of course it’s going to be looked at differently b/c she needed to be rescued! I don’t understand your point? Probably everyone thinks the same thing when teens do these trips, even successfully- but we don’t hear all that much about it until THEY’RE STUCK AND PEOPLE RISK THEIR LIVES TRYING TO SAVE THEM! Then, it hits home exactly why we’d never want our own children doing these things! But, you know, this girl’s trip was not timed to her best advantage, and she increased her chances of getting unlucky with nature because of it. Maybe they all were a little too flippant with Mother Nature. It also comes across as a little selfish to blatantly put yourself in a position where people literally have to risk their lives to save you. That said, I really don’t want to trash these people. Clearly they have extraordinary children. I would be curious to know if they’d have done things differently if they had to do it all over again (like, make her wait until the best season to travel, etc.). They have more kids coming through the ranks. We’ll see what trips those guys do, and what restraints they place on them.

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