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Jessica Watson begins global sailing journey; Abby Sunderland hopes to leave soon

October 19, 2009 |  9:49 am

Teenage adventurer Jessica Watson departs Sydney on her solo global circumnavigation attempt aboard Ella's Pink Lady. One girl has already departed on her solo-sailing journey around the world while another girl waits, hoping she, too, is able to go.

Australia's Jessica Watson, 16, left Sydney on Sunday aboard a 34-foot pink sailboat named Ella's Pink Lady. She hopes to complete her nonstop, unassisted odyssey in about eight months.

Watson's trip has been highly criticized. She is, after all, only 16 and must now deal with the wild, unpredictable ocean and long bouts of loneliness.

On the day of her departure a quote from Mark Twain was posted on Watson's website: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do than by the things you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

How appropriate. Abby Sunderland, whose older brother, Zac, recently completed a solo circumnavigation when he was 17, must be envious of Jessica. Abby is definitely supportive.

The Thousand Oaks adventurer, who turned 16 today, is planning a late-November departure but has yet to secure an Open 40 sailboat designed for Southern Ocean travel.

However, Abby and her father, Laurence, are in Rhode Island awaiting a surveyor's report on a vessel they might purchase later today.

So it's likely that soon there will be two 16-year-old girls trying to sail by themselves around the world. Both are seeking to fulfill a dream and become the youngest to accomplish such a feat, and it's remarkable that they're even trying and that their parents are letting them try.

Even critics must admire the courageous spirit these girls possess. Here's hoping that 20 years from now both will recall fond memories of their explorations, their dreams and their discoveries. You only live once.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Teenage adventurer Jessica Watson departs Sydney on her solo global circumnavigation attempt aboard Ella's Pink Lady. Credit: Dean Lewins / EPA

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