Friday, September 21, 2018

Young Sailor Passes the Equator and Becomes a Shellback

by JJFCPA (editor), McLean, Virginia, February 25, 2010

Credit: Abby Sunderland
Abby Sunderland's boat rides on calm seas on global trip

A 16 year old girl continues on her record breaking journey to be the youngest to cross the globe. She has passed the 1st leg of a long and dangerous journey.

What is it in our human nature that allows us to conquer our fears and go out into the unknown? There have been many examples in history of those who pushed themselves to the limit; who took on a challenge without knowing all the dangers they may face. Great seafarers like Magellan who circumnavigated the globe when maps were poor and Ernest Shackelton who led an expedition in the freezing Antarctic represent that spirit. A remarkable contemporary example of this is occurring at this moment as a young 16 old girl from California seeks to be a modern day Magellan with one difference – to do it solo.

Abby Sunderland plans to become the fastest sailor to cross the globe without a crew. In a custom sailboat built for the type seas she will encounter, she has been at sea since January 23rd. Alone but confident in herself and her boat she has had to endure lonely days and nights. Her trip already experienced one unexpected change when she had to go to port in Mexico for needed repairs. This disrupted her intention to not touch ground from the day of departure until her return.

She headed south from the California coast and passed through the area known as the Doldrums. These idle seas allowed Abby time to continue to get more familiar with her boat before the rough seas of the Pacific are encountered in the coming days. Her plan is to go southwest from there and pass through the Equator. On February 19th, she passed from the northern to the southern Equator. This was the 1st leg of her trip. Her next goal is on to the Horn.

In the sailing tradition, this transforms Abby from a 'Pollywog' to a 'Shellback’. According to Wikipedia, the tradition was created as a test for seasoned sailors to ensure their new shipmates were capable of handling long rough times at sea. Sailors who have crossed the Equator are nicknamed (Trusty) Shellbacks, often referred to as Sons of Neptune; those who have not are nicknamed (Slimy) Pollywogs. Pollywogs are also commonly described as tadpoles. In crossing this imaginary line, Abby is ready for the mighty waves and currents ahead.

When she has time, Abby writes in her blog ( She shares with the interested reader the news of the day. Recently, she has commented how the winds have caused her to be a little off course. Also, the temperatures have been too hot for her to remain below. An amazing situation for those who have been suffering from the El Nino effects of frigid air and heavy snow storms. While she has contemplated a quick dip, she has decided against it as she noted how something it the lure off her line.

With 5 or 6 more months at sea ahead, Abby has many days to contemplate the dream that she is living. For us, we enjoy her journey from the safety of our homes and try to imagine what it must be like to travel alone on the ocean. Like those before her who included her brother, her story and journey will inspire someone else to do the impossible.

About the Writer

JJFCPA is an editor for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
Want to write articles too? Sign up & become a writer!

3 comments on Young Sailor Passes the Equator and Becomes a Shellback

Log In To Vote   Score: 2
By Theresa H Hall on February 25, 2010 at 04:09 pm

Oh, I am so glad you wrote an update on Abby. She is so courageous and I pray for her good journey and also for her health and safety.

Thank you so much for this article including the history, which I truly loved to read. I never new those titles and how a sailor came to earn them. Good story!

 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 2
By Angie Alaniz on February 25, 2010 at 07:06 pm


Someone to be admired?......Or Not?

I am having a hard time deciding because of her age.

One part of me says, “what an amazing thing to do, she is fearless, GO ABBY, GO”.

The other part of me is thinking, “What the hell is that kid thinking?, She’s only 16 yrs old.?” Where are her parents? Does she have any? That’s just crazy.

But, Gosh I wish her well and much love.
Daughter of Neptune stay safe.
May the sun during the day, the moon at night, guide and enlighten your path with more then just light.


 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 0
By Theresa H Hall on February 27, 2010 at 04:31 am

With the earthquake 8.8 in Chile and now a Tsunami generated and traveling pray she is NOT in its path!!!!!

 Report abuse

Add A Comment!

Click here to signup or login.

Rate This Article

Your vote matters to us