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 (soloround.blogspot.com). 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.