“I am not the same person who set sail from Marina del Rey on January 23, 2010…I have a different take on life than before. Alone with myself at sea for months, I learned who I am…” Abby Sunderland
Unsinkable is a story about a young woman coming of age. The obstacles 16-year-old Abby encounters at sea while attempting a solo sail around the world, are only part of the story. Before she has even begun her voyage, she and her parents find themselves having to convince the world that she is ready to embark upon such an adventure. Despite many naysayers and critics, sponsors, and a team of experts come together to form “Team Abby” — and her dream becomes real.
Abby Sunderland grew up on boats. In 1998 she and her family moved onto a mooring in Emerald Bay (Catalina Island), where her father was working as a harbor patrolman. In 2001, Abby, her mother and father and three siblings set out for Mexico on their fifty-one-foot Aleutian cutter-rigged sailboat Amazing Grace. For three years the Sunderlands cruised and Abby’s parents taught their children safety at sea and how to appreciate simple pleasures.
Once Abby got saltwater in her veins, there was no turning back. When she was thirteen, she started helping her dad deliver boats from port to port. It was on the water that Abby felt the most at home. That year she told her father she wanted to sail around the world someday — alone.
As time went on, Abby Sunderland’s desire to sail solo did not waver. After much planning and hard work, sponsors and the gathering of a team of experts, she set out aboard Wild Eyes on January 23, 2010, on an adventure to catch the golden ring.
Unsinkable is written in three voices: Abby’s, the narrator’s and the rescuers’ who saved her in the Indian Ocean. This method works wonderfully, allowing readers to feel like they are right beside Abby throughout her voyage. When she spends ten hours ripping apart the electronic system and putting it together over and over again in different ways, in order to have one working autopilot (while wet and freezing), readers shiver too — and feel a sense of accomplishment for this young and determined sailor.
“Feeling frustration start to build in my chest, I squashed it like a cockroach before it could turn to fear.” Abby Sunderland
Additionally, readers know what her parents and the members of her support team are doing, thinking, and feeling — especially when Abby is having problems with something going wrong on Wild Eyes or when they have no way to contact her. Readers feel the frustration and tiredness of Abby’s pregnant mother, as she waits long hours to hear that her daughter has been located and taken to safety — and the pride of her team members when they see her face situation after situation, and give no sign of giving up.
Knowing what the rescuers are doing, thinking and feeling, makes them very real – and shows their determination to find and rescue Abby. Readers will find themselves crossing their fingers and cheering for them to be successful.
Unsinkable is not a story of failure, but one of accomplishment. Abby’s trip did not end the way she had hoped, but she had sailed twelve thousand miles and she was proud of her accomplishment. And — she still loved sailing.
Unsinkable: A Young Woman’s Courageous Battle on the High Seas by Abby Sunderland and Lynn Vincent (Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2011; 221 pages)