Posts tagged " sailing "

Dis-Connecting in the Caribbean

May 8th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 9 comments

It is time for re-entry to reality. I have been off-line for over a week and only now do I realize how “connected” I usually am.

For many years, during our summer boating trips, we were out of touch in a way that today’s youth can’t imagine. When we sailed from California to Hawaii one of our friends and crew was a ham radio operator. Every few days he would hail some radio pal, who then, as a courtesy, phoned our parents to tell them that we were fine. Aside from that sporadic crackly contact we spent twenty-two days isolated from the world on our sailing boat in a small world of our own.

Even during our trips along the British Columbia coast, we were often incredibly isolated. My husband vividly remembers taking the dinghy ashore to call his parents from the phone booth on a dock on Quadra Island, BC. When his father asked him what he thought of the war, his response was, “What war?” (The first Iraq War had broken out a few days earlier.)



Split Opinion

July 6th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings 4 comments


Well. You certainly had a lot to say!  When I wrote about 16 year old Abby Sunderland’s solo boat trip, I didn’t realize how passionately many of you felt on the subject – and how your opinions would fall on both sides of the issue. Assuming that Abby’s parents were loving and conscientious, I suggested that they made a responsible decision in letting her attempt her, eventually aborted, around the world trip.


Some of you agreed and appreciated my arguments. Others, both landlubbers and sailors, vehemently disagreed. Clearly, the topic resonated with parents, and since many readers whom I highly respect thought I was way off in my analysis, I decided to give it a second look. However, I ended up in the same place.


Let me be clear. I am delighted that none of my children wanted to attempt such a trip. But then, solo sailing is neither part of our family culture nor were our children trained for such a voyage. On the other hand, there was a period in his teens that my son did consider assembling a crew and heading off for Australia. It would have been pretty hard to crush his plans considering that my husband and I took three children under the age of three sailing from Los Angeles to Honolulu.


 Let me be clear about this. Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, the closest I came to an ocean voyage was the Staten Island Ferry. But making a Pacific crossing was a lifetime aspiration of my husband’s and one that he was competent to achieve. While I joke that I can’t believe my mother or mother-in-law let us go, realistically we were probably in more danger each time we strapped our children into their car seats and went to the park. Crossing the Pacific may be less common than driving, but the chance of a random disaster for a well prepped boat, isn’t actually that great.  My husband spent years honing his sailing skills. I spent fewer but substantial time becoming familiar with our boat, we planned the specific voyage for over a year and we brought along other experienced sailors (who did double duty as baby watchers).


A number of sixteen year olds, including Robin Lee Graham whose adventure was documented by National Geographic magazine and more recently Abby’s brother have successfully solo navigated around the world. Obviously, it isn’t something lightly undertaken, but I still don’t see it as an automatically reckless activity. Statistically, there may well be more risk in a sixteen year old driving in many localities.


My close friend, Diane Medved (Searching for Bright Light) wrote the following:


I disagree with you, though on your support of Abby Sunderland’s solo journey.  It was dangerous beyond just “testing herself.”  I remember the movie Bofinger where the very stupid actor is asked to run across the freeway, which he did.  Wanting to do something extraordinary is fine, but I do think the word “prudence” has some relevance.  I don’t want my kids to take risks with their lives.  So I tell them to wear their seatbelts in the car, even if they feel fettered.

Sorry, but I don’t accept the analogy. Running across a freeway is all risk and no reward. It is a no-hard-work required way to flirt with danger for the sake of flirting with danger. Sailing solo around the world is more in league with mountain climbing or stowing away on Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic exploration as nineteen year old Percy Blackborow did.

I have no desire to attempt such a thing and am relieved if my children have no such desire, but those who do often turn out to be the ones who push our societies forward and serve as leaders when we face dangerous times.

I wear a seat belt and would take driving privileges away from my children if they didn’t wear their belts. At the same time I do believe that our society is overly obsessed with trying to remove any chance of physical harm at the cost of focusing too much on that and too little on spiritual dangers, including the crushing of a child’s spirit. In addition, some people feel the need for excitement and physical challenge more strongly than others. I believe that if you don’t give those with that craving a wholesome outlet for that God-given sensation, they will act out that need in unhealthy ways.

So, with appreciation to those of you who let me know your attitudes on the subject – and I do especially appreciate when you “talk” to me through the comment box at so that others can join the dialogue as well – I stick with my thumbs up for Abby and her parents.






June 16th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings 4 comments




“…it seems everybody is eager to pounce on my story now that something bad has happened.”


We spent a fair amount of time in the car last week, which included listening to more radio news than usual. At the time, newscasters were fixated on Abby Sunderland, the 16 year old sailor quoted above. She had encountered a violent but not uncommon Indian Ocean storm. Her sloop had been dismasted and her emergency beacons had been activated, but it was still unclear exactly what else had happened.


As I listened to the broadcasters purporting to be concerned for her safety, they sounded to me more like lions in a Roman arena, lusting for blood. I had the distinct impression that they would be disappointed if she was unharmed.  They seemed enraged by her parents’ confidence (based on actual knowledge of sailing, emergency equipment and Abby’s capabilities) that she was weather beaten but okay. In ominous tones the broadcasters announced that “experts” were raising questions about Abby’s parents’ culpability for encouraging and allowing their young daughter to set out.


I don’t know Abby or her family, but I do know something about sailing, about 16 year olds, about having a dream and pursuing it. I do wonder how many of those attacking the Sunderlands are being inconsistent and possibly hypocritical.


I doubt that those pundits who are appalled at Abby’s voyage are equally outraged with the parents of child actors for placing their offspring in danger. Considering the sad litany of damaged former child stars, it would seem to be a reasonable query for child safety proponents. How many of these “experts” are in favor of 16 year old girls getting abortions with or without parental consent? What is it about this particular case –assuming that the outrage is real and not generated solely by the opportunity of being widely interviewed and quoted by the media – that is provoking such indignation?


Could it be that Abby’s adventure is so traditional? There is something wholesome about a 16 year old testing her abilities by going to sea, There is something old-fashioned about a young girl throwing her heart and soul into an adventure and then not looking to blame anyone when things go wrong. There is something traditional about a family sharing a passion for sailing and recognizing when their daughter has the necessary skills by looking at the child rather than at an age chart.


A few years ago, around midnight, my husband and I, armed with binoculars, crouched in bushes on the shore of a bay. We were attempting to visually ascertain whether our thirteen son and his even younger crew had securely anchored their boat on the first night of their summer sailing outing. We couldn’t see in the dark and I slept uneasily that night. But the three boys returned home after their voyage more confident, more mature and more capable of growing up healthily because we supported them as they tested themselves.


For that venture, our son recruited his cousin and a friend. When the friend’s father questioned whether the boys had enough expertise to head out alone, my husband quoted from a favorite childhood book of his, Swallows and Amazons.  In that British classic, four siblings seek their parents’ permission to have a sailing holiday in the English Lake District. Their father, abroad serving in the Navy, telegrams his wife these words: “Better drowned than duffers; if not duffers won’t drown.” 


We don’t actually agree with the first part of that sentence and we are fully aware that life has dangers that no amount of preparation or planning can eliminate. But it is has become a family motto for us nonetheless.  We take seriously the responsibility to equip our children with the tools they need to become independent and strong, whether in sailing or any other aspect of life. At a certain point, we need to cast off the lines and let them set sail. We will answer to God as to how well we have done our job, not to the “experts.”



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