Review: Unsinkable: A Young Woman’s Courageous Battle on the High Seas


Unsinkable: A Young Woman’s Courageous Battle on the High Seas
Abby Sunderland with Lynne Vincent

Product Description (from
The stirring narrative of Unsinkable tells sixteen-year-old Abby Sunderland’s remarkable true story of attempting to become the youngest person ever to sail solo around the world.

More people have flown into outer space than have sailed solo around the globe. It is a challenge so immense that many have died trying, and all have been pushed beyond every physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual limit. In Unsinkable, readers follow Abby Sunderland into those depths. This biography delivers a gripping and evocative firsthand account that starts prior to her departure, travels through her daring (and sometimes near-death) encounters on the open sea, to her dramatic rescue in the remotest corner of the Indian Ocean, and the media explosion that happened upon her safe return to dry land.

Along the way, readers discover what it means to boldly face any challenge, to strive after something great, and to plumb the depths of faith, fear, and desperation only to emerge changed, renewed, and emboldened. In this day and age, when the most productive thing a teenager may do is play videogames, Abby’s ambition and tenacity is a real-life parable of what can happen when we choose to exceed our own limits, embrace faith, and strive after what all the naysayers say is impossible.

My Thoughts:
Having recently re-read one of my favorite books ever, Tania Aebi’s Maiden Voyage, I was in the mood for more stories of circumnavigation. I find the idea of circling the world alone in a sailboat both romantic and insane, as all the best adventures tend to be. I download samples of two books: Abby Sunderland’s story about her attempt to to a solo, non-stop, unassisted campaign was the first I read, and I finished it this morning over coffee, yogurt, and a croissant with Seville marmalade, the grey weather outside my window meshing nicely with Abby’s final days on her boat, Wild Eyes.

As I’m not a parent, I can’t speak to whether or not it was the responsible thing to allow Abby to make the attempt to sail around the world. As I’m no longer sixteen (and haven’t been for more years than I care to count), I can’t speak to whether or not that age is “too young” to do things. I don’t know Abby, but I do know that her story comes across as honest, interesting, and ultimately inspiring. How many of us, after all, have Bucket Lists of things we will never do, let alone attempt?

As a left-wing, liberal, non-evangelical Christian, I was concerned that the religious aspect of Abby’s story – and of her life – would be off-putting, but instead, I found her faith to be representative of what the best religion should be: supporting, uplifting, and helpful, rather than divisive. Her faith seemed to ground her, and her ability to poke a bit of fun at herself endeared her to me.

So, for most of the weekend (when I wasn’t busy shopping, doing laundry, recovering from strep, cuddling dogs, and cooking), I was with Abby on her voyage. At first, the convention of having symbols to mark the changes in point of view bothered me (an anchor for the ‘narrator,’ a sailboat for Abby, and a cross for the rescue team that eventually plucked her from the middle of the Indian Ocean after her boat had rolled over and become dis-masted – and that’s not a spoiler because it was in the news), but the symbols quickly became invisible, and the switches in voice enhanced the over-all story, allowing us to experience the care and concern of the land-based “Team Abby” – which included her family, friends, and a cadre of experts – and even the perspective of the rescue team.

My ultimate impression? Abby is a very lucky young woman, not just because she survived a horrible accident at sea, but because she had the courage and the support to go on her adventure in the first place. Does it matter that she ultimately didn’t succeed in her circumnavigation? Not one iota. Her story is satisfying, and even after all of it, her life is just beginning.

I can’t wait to find out what further adventures she undertakes.

Goes well with: Hot coffee and warm croissants, especially on a cold rainy day.

Unsinkable: A Young Woman’s Courageous Battle on the High Seas
Abby Sunderland with Lynne Vincent
Thomas Nelson Press, April, 2011
240 Pages
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Book Review: Dove by Robin L. Graham

by Robin L. Graham
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I bought the book Dove shortly after re-reading Maiden Voyage, because it kept showing up on Amazon’s list of “people who bought this book also liked…” and reading about people going to see on sailing ships is a welcome respite from the world of articles about auto insurance quotes that I generally inhabit.

After reading it, I’m a bit disappointed, because it didn’t have the same pull for me that Aeibi’s book did, but overall I thought it was an interesting tale of a young man who didn’t really fit in the conventional world, finding himself on the sea.

Where Aebi’s Maiden Voyage happened during a time when she and I were of a similar age, Dove takes place in the late sixties, and there are minor cultural issues – generally the treatment of Polynesian people and culture – that I found a little disturbing.

For the most part, however, Dove (which is the name of author Graham’s boat), is a grand adventure, with a bit of nostalgia mixed in.

Sunday Salon: Ship-shape

The Sunday

I realize that I’m actually writing this on Monday evening. I’m either slightly late for yesterday, or really early for the 30th, but either way I was mulling this over yesterday, but never manage to post it.

My reading this week has been a leisurely revisiting of one of my favorite books, Maiden Voyage, by Tania Aebi. It’s the memoir of the author’s two-year trip around the world as the solo handler of a sailboat. She wrote it twenty years ago, and I bought it when it was new, and have re-read it a few times, over the years.

I’m not sure why this book resonates so with me. Part of it, I think, is that I love the ocean in a way that most people who don’t sail rarely do. Part of it is that the romance of being alone on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean appeals – and the risk. Part of it is that I relish the coziness of a ship’s bunk with a small furry animal for company, and reading myself to sleep as the waves gently rock me.

There are, of course, moments I do not wish to experience, even vicariously. At one point, Aebi describes having an earache in the middle of the ocean, and how she heats a sock-full of salt and holds it against her ear. Another tale in the book is the relatively brief mention of a fellow sailor’s issue with a toothache, and how he basically gets drunk so he won’t care, since it’s not exactly like there are orange nj cosmetic dentists hanging in the tropics. Or if there are, they’re sailing, too, and not seeing patients.

Mostly, though, I recognize that I, who considers “roughing it” to be a hotel without room service or wifi, and who can’t even sit through movies where people are cold, wet, tired, hungry, dirty and lacking toilet paper, would probably not be happy for more than a day or two than the minimalist conditions Tania Aebi seemed to thrive upon, as much as I like to imagine I might.

For Tania Aebi, Maiden Voyage represents two years of her life, twenty years ago.

For me, it’s several hours of reading enjoyment and lovely dreams about sailing, which is, after all, what reading is all about.