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Boats won't reach Abby Sunderland for almost two days, but brother is optimistic

June 10, 2010 |  1:49 pm

Two boats are headed toward Abby Sunderland's vessel but won't be there for another 40 to 48 hours, said her brother Zac Sunderland, speaking briefly to reporters from the doorway of the family's Thousand Oaks house. At first light, the Australian Coast Guard also intends to fly over the area, he said.

The family remains optimistic that the 16-year-old is still alive because a beacon triggered when the boat sinks has not been set off.

Abby Sunderland sailed into a storm Thursday in the Southern Indian Ocean and lost contact with her family. She apparently activated emergency beacon locating devices on Thursday after losing contact over satellite phone with her family.

Zac Sunderland said his sister had three emergency beacons. Two are on the boat and one is on her life vest. Two of the beacons have been manually set off.

The third is a deep-water automatic beacon that is triggered by salt water and goes off when the boat has reached a depth of about 15 feet. That beacon has not gone off. The boat is built with water-tight compartments and his sister could be huddled safely in one of those, even if the vessel has capsized, Zac Sunderland said.

"It's weird not being able to help and being at a distance," Zac Sunderland said.

The family was huddled inside the house in a room equipped with a navigation station and computers. His parents were on the phone with the Coast Guard. Zac Sunderland was making calls to Mauritius, an island off the coast of Africa, to start an emergency rescue effort from there. Zac Sunderland said he has a personal relationship with people there because he stopped there during his solo sail around the world when he was 17.

Two ships are about 400 miles – and two days – away from her location.

Los Angeles sector Coast Guard Lt. Ana Thorsson said Sunderland's emergency beacon signal was picked up by her agency in Northern California. Sunderland was about 2,000 miles southwest of Australia.

A voluntary international merchant ship rescue network, known as AMVER, is expected to join the search effort, Thorsson said.

While there may not be government rescue ships in the immediate vicinity, she said, "There's almost always merchant vessels out there."

-- Al Seib and Catherine Saillant in Thousand Oaks; My-Thuan Tran and Rich Connell in Los Angeles

Photo: Abby Sunderland and brother, Zac, share quality time in Ensenada, Mexico, before she helps sail Wild Eyes, background, to the United States to prepare the yacht for a solo-circumnavigation trip. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Photos: Abby Sunderland
prepares to make history

Video: 16-year-old girl starts
solo sail around the world