Brad Harrington

Abby Sunderland: A Seeker Of Values

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ABBY SUNDERLAND: A SEEKER OF VALUES

By Bradley Harrington

“I believe every human being has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine.” --Neil Armstrong, Omni Interview, 1988--

If you, like me, occasionally yearn for proof that there are still people who seek values, achievement and accomplishment, then you need look no further than Abby Sunderland, a 16-year-old girl who’s got more guts and glory in her pinkie finger than most people have in their entire bodies or lives.

Abby is the young lady who set sail last January in her 40-foot boat “Wild Eyes,” determined to circumnavigate the globe. Nonstop. Solo.

She ran into major problems in the middle of the Indian Ocean on Thursday (June 10th), however, and had her mast snapped by high storm waves and winds. Today, as of this writing, she was picked up safe and sound by a French fishing vessel.

In the wake of her failure, unfortunately, many are questioning Abby’s competence, her goals and her parents. As a fairly representative sample, consider this:

“If, at the age of 16, my daughter wanted to sail around the world by herself…I’d compliment her bravery and then lock her in her room, chain her to a tree or slip sleeping pills into her oatmeal.” (“Abby Sunderland: Brave girl, questionable choice,” Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times, June 11th.)

Not satisfied with domineering his child, however, Mr. Lopez believes Abby’s parents should do the same: “Where will mom and dad draw the line on around-the-world trips? Let’s hope they don’t have a 10-year-old who gets the bug next.”

But Abby’s father, who knows better, swept such criticisms aside: “Laurence Sunderland says he’d not only let her try again to sail around the world solo--he’d ‘absolutely endorse that wholeheartedly.’” (“Abby Sunderland’s dad: I’d let her do it again,” cbsnews.com, June 12th.)

Mr. Sunderland knows what Mr. Lopez does not: that the response to your child’s dreams is to foster them and enable them to acquire the necessary knowledge and training to bring them about--not to “lock her in her room.” Way to go, Mr. Lopez! How long were you planning on leaving her chained to that tree? Forever? Or just until she’s 18, and hates your guts?

Nor is Abby herself daunted by her experiences: “I’m definitely going to sail around the world again, or at least give it another try,” she said, according to Australian broadcaster ABC.

Mr. Lopez, though, deadened as he is to the sheer magnitude of Abby’s aspirations, can only worry about who’s going to pay for her rescue: “I hope Qantas Airlines and anyone else involved in the search sends the bills to mom and dad in Thousand Oaks,” he said.

Have we become so alienated from honest attainment, so scornful of legitimate success, so derisive of striving for our visions, that the grandeur of this young lady’s greatness escapes us?

Yes, it can be dangerous to walk down an unwalked road. Since our rational faculties are not infallible, since our knowledge is not acquired automatically but through an act of mental effort, we can--and often do--make mistakes. Just because we can err in our thinking, however, is no reason to refuse to think; and just because we sometimes find ourselves temporarily at the mercy of forces beyond our control, is no reason to stop taking action.

Human existence, by its very nature, necessitates that we continue to grow, think and progress--to continue walking the unwalked road--even in the face of failure. Where would we be today if the people of the past had decided to “leave well enough alone”? Where would we be if Peter Cooper had never built the first steam locomotive; if the Wright brothers had never flown at Kitty Hawk; if Nikolaus Otto had never constructed the internal combustion engine? We would still be huddling for warmth in our caves.

It is a very small fraction of mankind who have the courage to challenge the unknown, and the culture around them, head-on; yet is this very small fraction that makes life for the rest of us possible. When such individuals seek their values they deserve rewards, not ridicule. Acclaim, not abuse. Encouragement, not enslavement.

To see the spirit that drives us all in the person of Abby Sunderland, 16-year-old girl, is a gift none of us have the right to expect. So, speaking for myself, I’d like to say: thank you, Abby, for proving once again that heroes and heroines still exist; and I salute you.

--

Bradley Harrington is a former United States Marine and a free-lance writer who lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming; he can be reached at timeforeverymantostir@yahoo.com.

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While I admire Abbys courage for trying, I do not like how she planned the whole endeavour. It looks like she decided to do something, without planning to manage any risk at all.

The first aspect regarding that is entering the Indian ocean during winter, those waters are famously treacherous during winter, a storm such as that one that got her is not just a random stroke of bad luck, but is to be expected.

(Australian history is absolutely full of stories of ships being wrecked or lost in those waters)

The second aspect is the fact that she had no insurance at all to pay for her boat recovery, or for her rescue costs.

If she was successful, the insurance money would have been a drop in the bucket compared to the media deals she could have done for interviews, books and so on.

If she failed, well her family can't afford rescue costs or the boat recovery, so the insurance is necessary to pay for that.

I don't see her as that different from someone who takes risks on a stock market, loses, and then expects the government and society to bail them out.

For a seeker of values, I recommend looking at Jessica Watson, who recently did the same thing at a similar age. Everyone told her that she couldn't do it, especially after the incident at the start, but she went ahead and achieved it.

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While I admire Abbys courage for trying, I do not like how she planned the whole endeavour. It looks like she decided to do something, without planning to manage any risk at all.

The first aspect regarding that is entering the Indian ocean during winter, those waters are famously treacherous during winter, a storm such as that one that got her is not just a random stroke of bad luck, but is to be expected.

(Australian history is absolutely full of stories of ships being wrecked or lost in those waters)

The second aspect is the fact that she had no insurance at all to pay for her boat recovery, or for her rescue costs.

If she was successful, the insurance money would have been a drop in the bucket compared to the media deals she could have done for interviews, books and so on.

If she failed, well her family can't afford rescue costs or the boat recovery, so the insurance is necessary to pay for that.

I don't see her as that different from someone who takes risks on a stock market, loses, and then expects the government and society to bail them out.

For a seeker of values, I recommend looking at Jessica Watson, who recently did the same thing at a similar age. Everyone told her that she couldn't do it, especially after the incident at the start, but she went ahead and achieved it.

I disagree.

I do not see how you can claim to know or even suspect what planning had gone into the trip let alone what was done to manage risk.

In a around the world cruise you will be in some body of water during the period of increased risk for storms. Jessica Watson did experience conditions similar to Abby Sunderland she however did not have a serious equipment failure like a dismasting.

Until taxes are no longer mandatory, I do expect the services promised to me by the government and have no compunction to receiving those government services as repayment for the taxes taken from me.

I have not seen any evidence that Jessica Watson should be chosen as a more exemplary seeker a values over Abby Sunderland, I find them both to be heroes in my eyes.

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I do not see how you can claim to know or even suspect what planning had gone into the trip let alone what was done to manage risk.

In a around the world cruise you will be in some body of water during the period of increased risk for storms. Jessica Watson did experience conditions similar to Abby Sunderland she however did not have a serious equipment failure like a dismasting.

Until taxes are no longer mandatory, I do expect the services promised to me by the government and have no compunction to receiving those government services as repayment for the taxes taken from me.

I have not seen any evidence that Jessica Watson should be chosen as a more exemplary seeker a values over Abby Sunderland, I find them both to be heroes in my eyes.

I do not know all the details of the planning of the trip. But I do see the evidence that has been released in the public domain.

The first bit is the time period that she entered one of the most treacherous bodies of water in the world during the worst possible time period to enter it. A trip around the world in a sailing boat takes 9 months.

If your sticking to one hemisphere for most of your trip, you can time the trip to avoid the winter in that hemisphere by starting at the end of that winter(early Spring) and finishing the trip in the late Autumn. Note that Jessica did such a thing so while she encountered storms, she minimized the amount that she would encounter and avoided the worst by making sure that she was home safely a month ago.

What Jessica did, is in my mind effective risk management. If a storm can demast and destroy your boat, minimizing the amount of storms that you encounter by avoiding the storm season, minimizes the risks.

It is also a matter of public record that she could not pay for her rescue.

Your point about taxes is invalid for the following reasons.

1. The Australian government coordinated the rescue at the expense of $300,000

2. She is an American citizen, she is not a taxpayer of Australia.

3. The Australian government does not provide those rescues as freebies, it normally bills people for any rescues. Note that Jessica Watson and her family made sure they had the money set aside to pay for any rescue should it have proved necessary.

4. Abby doesn't have the money to pay for the rescue, so the Australian citizens are now saddled for the expense for a risky decision that a non citizen took that ended in disaster.

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Your point about taxes is invalid for the following reasons.

It is not invalid, I know for a fact that the US Air force and Navy conduct rescues around the world, including a rescue of a Australian who ran into the same trouble as Abby back when my father was a rescue pilot in the 80's and I never heard of them being repaid.

In the US the coast guard according to TITLE 46--SHIPPING Subtitle II--Vessels and Seamen Part A--General Provisions CHAPTER 21--GENERAL Sec. 2110. Fees (5) The Secretary may not collect a fee or charge under this subsection for any search or rescue service.

The US and Australia are also part of International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) if you look at the map IMO Ocean Atlas The US has a large chunk of ocean it is responsible for.

So it is a matter of reciprocal service and Maritime law and as an Tax paying citizen either herself or her parents she is entitled to the service she received by virtue of being subject to and in deed paying taxes like the registration fees on her boat.

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The US and Australia are also part of International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) if you look at the map IMO Ocean Atlas The US has a large chunk of ocean it is responsible for.

That agreement is not a valid contract. Its signatories signed away someone else's resources, to pay for securing that chunk of ocean Australia is supposedly responsible for. An invalid contract cannot be used as a valid argument for any demands of entitlement.

So it is a matter of reciprocal service and Maritime law and as an Tax paying citizen either herself or her parents she is entitled to the service she received.

Being the victim of forced taxation entitles you to retribution, if it is possible. But it does not entitle you to any services the robber promised in return, if those services are at the expense of innocent victims of forced taxation. As they clearly are.

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Your point about taxes is invalid for the following reasons.

It is not invalid, I know for a fact that the US Air force and Navy conduct rescues around the world, including a rescue of a Australian who ran into the same trouble as Abby back when my father was a rescue pilot in the 80's and I never heard of them being repaid.

In the US the coast guard according to TITLE 46--SHIPPING Subtitle II--Vessels and Seamen Part A--General Provisions CHAPTER 21--GENERAL Sec. 2110. Fees (5) The Secretary may not collect a fee or charge under this subsection for any search or rescue service.

The US and Australia are also part of International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) if you look at the map IMO Ocean Atlas The US has a large chunk of ocean it is responsible for.

So it is a matter of reciprocal service and Maritime law and as an Tax paying citizen either herself or her parents she is entitled to the service she received by virtue of being subject to and in deed paying taxes like the registration fees on her boat.

Your quoting an example from the 80's, when both Australia and the United States were very different nations?

But in that example, that Aussie should have paid his way. I don't change my principles just because the units of American and Aussie are flipped around.

Nobody has a right to engage in risky behavior and then expect everyone else to bail them out.

Why are you quoting US coast guard regulations at me? We are talking about Australian waters according to your map. The regulations for the coastguard are irrelevant since they apply to people dealing with the US coastguard, they don't cover your dealings with the Australian government.

In business, you see entrepreneurs investing in risky situations all the time.

There are 3 situations that can result from that choice.

1. The entrepreneur has huge success from their choices. It paid off.

2. The entrepreneurs choices failed, he wears the consequences of his choices.

3. The entrepreneurs choices failed, he gets the government to bail him out.

The thing about Jessica Watson is that her choices resulted in the 1st situation.

But if disaster struck, her family had made public statements that they would pay for any rescue, which is equivalent to that second businessman situation.

I have huge respect for the businessman in the 1st category, or for the ones in the second category who get up and try again.

Jessica had walked into that situation knowing all the risks, and planned accordingly.

But when it comes to the Abby, how is expecting others to pay for her rescue any different from the businessman wanting to be bailed out during the GFC for their risky choices?

I admire that she tried something great. I do not admire however, that she and her family expected other people to pay the price of the consequences of her questionable decisions.

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