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Abby Sunderland is believed to be 'alive' and 'most likely floating' in the Indian Ocean

The engineer behind Abby Sunderland's solo trip around the world says he believes the 16-year-old Thousand Oaks sailor is "alive" and "most likely floating" in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Speaking to a throng of reporters outside the family's home, Jeff Casher said he spoke to her at 3:45 a.m. Thursday, then lost contact after she went to check on some equipment on her boat. About an hour later, she apparently activated her emergency beacons – devices that sent automatic alerts to the Coast Guard and her family.

Casher said the family is looking at three possible scenarios. Either the boat's mast came down, giving her no ability to sail the vessel; the keel hit something and possibly flipped the boat upside down; or she may have broken an arm or leg while being whipsawed about in violent waters.

"She set this off not because she lost communication, but because something else was wrong," Casher said. They had set very clear guidelines for when to activate emergency beacons – and losing communication alone was not enough, he said.

Casher said the high school junior has the mental fitness to make it through this. Her brother, Zac, made a solo trip around the world when he was 17.

La-me-sunderland11-new Abby Sunderland apparently was a little rattled when the boat's motor wouldn't work Thursday morning. But, Casher said, "The moment the engine started, she was her same old self – perky and tough.… She's just as tough, or tougher, as most of the cruisers we've met."

The family is hopeful that a Qantas Airbus, commissioned by the Australian government, will be able to spot her at daylight – about 10 or 11 p.m. Pacific time.

Water temperatures are about 54 or 55 degrees, Cash said, describing it as cold, but survivable. Sunderland had equipment on board to survive a crisis, including a dry suit and life boat.

--Catherine Saillant in Thousand Oaks and Rich Connell in Los Angeles

Comments () | Archives (96)

This is some good news. When I heard earlier today that there was problems during her voyage, I feared the worst. I commend her for chasing her dreams and surpassing a bar that most kids her age would never even attempt to. I've read some really nasty and ignorant comments on other pages about this story and all I can do is pray for her safe return and that her parents will be comforted by this news. Good Luck Abby! Your quest and your strong will is beyond admirable! You're in my prayers
- Fellow Sailor

Hold on, beautiful girl, hold on....

A 16 year old just doesn't have the experience to make sea voyages like this.

She may know a lot. But its experience that enables you to use the knowledge.

Unfortunately for the young lady, the engineer doesn't have his facts straight. The water temperatures in the southern Hemisphere during winter are a LOT colder than 54 degrees. It is essentially the worst time and place for her to be capsized. I hope their confidence is well founded.

I agree with the engineer. She was well enough to set off her emergency beacon. The automatic beacons; however, did not activate. Based on these two data points, most likely she lost her mast and is adrift - boat otherwise in tact. As long as she is not seriously injured, has fresh water and a wet suit, she can last a long time. If the beacon holds out, she has an excellent chance of ending up on the Tonight Show. Bon chance!

I truly feel for this young lady and her family, and am praying that she survives this ordeal.

However, these young adventureres and their families are truly among the most thoughtless and selfish people on planet earth. The moment they get in trouble, they expect governments to mobilize literally millions of dollars in personnel, equipment and supplies, and even risk their own lives, in order to try and rescue them from their own stupidity and selfishness.

They are even worse than the young American hikers being held in Iran, who viewed the whole world as their playground to the extent that they felt themselves free to go hiking in a war zone where their couragous countrymen are still dying daily. Now their mothers want the U.S government to spare no amount of effort to free them.

This is a free nation and I don't believe in preventing individuals from engaging in whateverfoolishness they desire, as long as they are'nt harming others. However, they should expect to pay the consequences if things go badly and not expect the whole world to stop itself and risk the lives and the fortune of others to bail them out.

Sorry to hear about this kid but maybe the parents should have thought more responsibly instead of being blinded by celebrity. I'm sure they'll mention how your daughter wanted to sail solo and this was her idea and how she had the best equipment in the world...but seriously, she's a 16 year old kid - since when do 16 year old children make the most prudent decisions in their lives? Most kids her age (including myself when I was that age) do absolutely idiotic things. The only difference being my parents would have been mortified of my behavior instead of condoning it.

Having raced on ocean racing sloops over the years, I think that it is important to keep in mind that the alarm signalling a complete submersion of Abby's boat has not gone off. Also, she is sailing an incredibly "strong" and seaworthy boat that can withstand the seas that abby is now facing. I have too believe that Abby was physically able to secure herself in her bunk while she "rides-out" the present storm. If so, then she is probably okay and will ride this storm out--perhps a little bruised from being thrown around before she could secure herself, but still okay. I believe that she has enough experience to know that she should not leave her boat as long as it remains afloat. Finally my very best wishes to Abby and her family--Everyone needs to be a little optomistic and not conclude that Abby is "lost at sea"--Personally, I do not believe that to be the case, Semper Fi, John Oswald

I have been following this trip on her blog and this is devastating. Hopefully she is alive and will be rescued - and then I think she should declare victory and go home. She had a lot of problems before she got to Cape Town. That was ominous.

we know you're out there brave one and don't worry: rely on your training because help is on the way! see ya stateside...

For all of you naysayers. The "kid" was well prepared and very knowledgable according to the reports. It's great to see someone with the focus and determination she is showing. I commend her and wish her luck. And yeah, I know, you make your own luck, and it sounds like she's done everything to be ready.

Whether it be to follow a dream, set a record, or by any other motivation, the facts are these: No person, male or female, adult or teenager, no matter how well prepared or skilled, should be sailing a small boat in the southern Indian Ocean at this time of year. In such high latitudes during winter months, large, violent and fast moving storms can form quickly. It is a foolish endeavor to voluntarily put oneself in such a position and it is inviting disaster. Unfortunately, but predictably, disaster accepted the invitation in this instance.

That said, whatever God there may be, please take care of Abby.

I feel saddened when I see stories like this, the first child to fly solo across the US at 6.(Dies) What are these parents thinking. My sons are Eagle Scouts. I made real sure that they knew how to take care of themselves with Mountain Oriented First Aid and Red Cross Lifesaving training in Mountain Climbing. Yet the world is a cruel and unforgiving place, just ask the parents of Natalie Holloway. One parent brands his kids, another sends them in harms way to sail around the world in a small boat?? We have many ships of war that have gone down with all hands.

Frigate USS Insurgent departed Hampton Roads, VA on 8 Aug. 1800 for West Indies. Never heard from again. Ship and crew of 340 presumed lost in severe West Indies storm on 20 Sep. 1800.

Let kids be kids.

May God be with little Abby until the rescue crews bring her back to safety.

I'd rather see Abby Sunderlands on every corner of this world than the likes of Joran Van Der Host, whoever or whatever his name is. As for those who criticize her and the judgement of those who allowed her to fulfill her dream, wow be you! Nations everywhere spend huge amounts of monies training for these types of events, so this is just a small part of the budgets already alloted. This is extremely brave young girl who, should she survive will go on to be an asset to all that may be lucky to experience her insight later in life! God speed and get home safely.

I am a sailor. I have been through the immense dark Indian ocean crossing the equator into the southern hemisphere at this period in the season (winter). The condition is perilous, with unpredictable weather and winds gusting in excess of 60-70 knots, unpredictable wave patterns (including roque waves)reaching in excess of 50 ft, there are huge marine life that when hit can seriously damage your keel/rudder or simply take it off. A 16 years old young woman, inspite of being well trained is no match to the elements. Besides being so young she really has no experience for this level of sailing. Just the sheer physical strenght needed to stay on deck (with a lifeline) and be bashed about while doing emergency work on the sails or rigging, or repairing a major water leak is definately not a place for a young girl. This was poor judgement on the parents. Some records are not worth the cost.
I hope she is surving out there. I pray God is holding her hand until the rescuers arrive.

Man, remind me to hug my kids more often.....

Even though making this kind of solo trip definitely would be memorable accomplishment, it just takes too much risk, especially for a 16-year-old lady.
I hope she makes her way back!

Sorry but a 16 yr. old has no business sailing around the world alone. I pray she is found.

Not to be heartless but what is it about our society that has to continuously put ourselves and others at risk or perform insane theatrics in an attempt to get attention or our 15 mins of fame.

Why is a 16 year old sailing around the world alone? Seriously, we have pirates now and wars in most waters. But no one thought to intervene putting a little "American" girl in a small boat in the middle on the ocean ...... I'm just saying.

Just let me add that I have been praying for this young sailor and her family since hearing the news. With our prayers, God's grace, and a severe portion of luck she will survive and have learned from this incredible experience.

I sure hope she's okay, but if I were her mom I would have at least sent the brother with her.

We all hope she is safe. For those who speak ill of her voyage, keep in mind that in 1965, Robin Graham was also 16 when he set sail around the world with the Dove. At only 24 feet it was 16 feet smaller and a far less sophisticated boat, and at 24 feet it was 16 feet smaller. Jessica Watson was also 16. Many of us feel especially protective of the "fairer sex", but girls are as capable of excellence and courage as boys! Abby Sunderland is, and will always be and inspiration for those of us who "can't" reach for their dreams!

Now is not the time to question her being out there or her ability's. Now is the time to pray that she is alive and safe....

As a 40 year old surfer who has surfed that part of the world, it gets heavy around this time of year. I agree she may have a lot of sailing knowledge but truly is experience that can get you through hairy situations. Its like a prize fighter who has both his eyes swollen shut but still wins the round. It was his intellect but years of training and experience. Plus there are a lot kidnappings near Malaysia Straights. I wouldn't send a pretty young women alone over there. Good luck...

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