Outdoors, action, adventure

Category: Piracy

Pirates are long in his wake, but Zac Sunderland's wisdom teeth are killing him

Zac edney-1

It has been months since Zac Sunderland's square-off with what he perceived to be pirates off eastern Africa. Now the 17-year-old from Thousand Oaks, who is trying to become the youngest person to sail around the world alone, is near the equator in the south Atlantic dealing with another troublesome issue: wisdom teeth.

"I actually went to the dentist over Christmastime and had no problems but they did say that my wisdom teeth should come out within the next six months," Zac wrote on his blog. "Now one of them is pressing on my back molar and feels like it is on fire. I hope they have some good dentists in Grenada!"

It's the last thing the intrepid sailor needs. Zac, aboard a 36-foot Islander named Intrepid, is traveling with a sense of urgency. He left Marina del Rey last June and needs to get through the Panama Canal and up into California waters before the Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins in late May. Zac's current leg from St. Helena to Grenada is 4,278 miles. His final two legs are 1,300 miles to Colon, Panama, and 2,970 miles to California. 

An extended stay at St. Helena, where repairs were frustratingly time consuming, is what set him back. But now the wind gods are at his side, whisking him along. Zac reports: "I'm still making good progress toward the equator although the squalls have picked up quite a bit. The intensity is not too bad. Most are only 20-25 knots. I've been able to use them my advantage which has been making a pretty boring passage much more interesting.... I'm averaging about 120 miles a day right now. If I am able to keep up this speed I should be crossing the equator in about three days."

By then perhaps the pain in his mouth will have subsided.

--Pete Thomas

Photo of Zac courtesy of Jen Edney

Zac Sunderland, sailing alone around the world at 17, fails to phone home but is OK


Imagine yourself as the mother of a 17-year-old who for the last eight months has been sailing alone around the world and facing all sorts of threats, including piracy and menacing seas.

You maintain your sanity only through your daily conversations via the satellite phone.

Zac Sunderland, a Thousand Oaks adventurer who left Marina del Rey at age 16 last June, has made it a point to phone his mother and/or father at a specified time each day, to help ease their minds.

Zac did not call the other day,  nor did he arrive at St. Helena, an island in the South Atlantic, on schedule.

This caused Marianne Sunderland to post this message Wednesday on her son's blog:

"There is a saying that says something like, 'No news is good news.' That is definitely not the case when you haven't heard from your son who was due in port hours ago but hasn't arrived. I normally would wait to post until he arrived, but just so you don't think that we have forgotten about you all -- here we are.

"We are not really worried about Zac because we know he is in calm seas and not yet that late. Yet, our ears are hyper-vigilant to the possible sound of the phone ringing and email is being checked more than regularly in the hopes of hearing that our boy is safe in port."

Marianne shared the good news Friday morning: Her son had arrived at St. Helena Yacht Club. He had not been able to get a phone signal and was late because of frustratingly light winds.

The mother is clearly relieved. In fact, she probably will collapse with relief when her son arrives back in Marina del Rey in a few months, completing his odyssey.

--Pete Thomas

Photo: Zac Sunderland

Zac Sunderland, sailing solo around the world, faces daunting Cape of Good Hope passage


Where in the world is Zac Sunderland?

It has been a while since Outposts last caught up with the intrepid sailor from Thousand Oaks, who is more than halfway around the world aboard his 36-foot sailboat and currently outside Port Elizabeth, South Africa, as he begins a potentially perilous passage around the Cape of Good Hope.

Zac, 17, is either going to stop at Mossel Bay to await a favorable weather window, or round the cape in a straight 300-mile shot to Cape Town, his next port of call.

It's considered the most dangerous leg of his journey but he has already survived a confrontation with pirates and some of the nastiest weather Mother Nature can dish out, so Zac is seasoned and seemingly unfazed.

He's also becoming rather elusive, but hopefully not reclusive, which is a characteristic older sailors who spend too much time alone at sea tend to develop.

I was supposed to receive a satellite phone call from Zac on Monday, but none came. It's the second time recently that we've failed to connect. Clearly, the teenager has more important things on his mind.

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Zac Sunderland and Mike Perham, global sailors, Yank versus Brit

Zac Sunderland with new acquaintances Ashley and Kate, whom he met while in Mauritius.

Zac Sunderland is on one side of Africa, Mike Perham is on the other. The Yank and Brit, 17 and 16, respectively, are both trying to  become the youngest person to sail alone around the world.

Sunderland, who has been on his adventure since June 14, is currently attempting a tricky sail into Durban, South Africa, and is past the halfway point. But he still must round the treacherous Cape of Good Hope. The Thousand Oaks adventurer is on a grass-roots-type excursion aboard a 36-foot Islander named Intrepid.

He has been doing his own provisioning and is down to canned mac-n-cheese and canned curry.

Perham is aboard a sleek, fully provisioned 50-foot racing yacht. He left Nov. 15 and had planned on sailing nonstop and completing his journey in four months, beating Sunderland into the record book.

Many Sunderland fans perceive this to be a deliberate attempt to steal Zac's thunder. Truth is, Perham had been working toward this project for years.

But no one knows how things will turn out. Perham has been sidelined for more than a week in the Canary Islands because of problems with his autopilot, so his "nonstop" effort is over.

They are two different adventures. Sunderland (pictured above with girls he met in Mauritius) is stopping in ports and seeing the world. Perham just wants to get around it as quickly as he can.

But it has become a race of sorts and both will be winners merely by surviving the length of their odysseys. Sailing around the world alone -- with its storminess and piracy -- is a very serious, man-sized undertaking.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Zac Sunderland with new acquaintances Ashley and Kate, whom he met while in Mauritius. Credit: Richard Munisamy

Sailor Zac Sunderland gives thanks, turns 17 alone in Indian Ocean

Zac Sunderland relaxes in Mauritius before embarking for Durban, South Africa.

Did you enjoy a warm and cozy Thanksgiving with family, gorging yourself?

Zac Sunderland did not. The 16-year-old from Thousand Oaks was aboard Intrepid, his 36-foot sailboat, eating Costco spuds while sailing into a headwind off Madagascar, pointed toward Durban, South Africa.

If that isn't a sad story, two days later he turned 17, alone, not terribly far south of a red-hot pirate zone, celebrating by snacking on a just-add-water microwavable cake and opening presents stuffed in a box and stowed on his vessel long beforehand by family and friends.

"Zac is well and entering the danger zone as far as weather off of Africa," Marianne Sunderland, his mother, says. "So far he has had pretty light winds and so though he's not making great progress, he is happy to not be getting his butt kicked."

That is the best birthday gift of all, as the danger zone Marianne speaks of is notorious for cyclones beginning about this time of year.

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Zac Sunderland clear of pirate zone but faces daunting sail to Africa

Zac Sunderland atop his mast while in port at Mauritius.

Zac Sunderland is suffering from the flu in Mauritius while working feverishly to repair his  36-foot sailboat so he can begin his 1,500-mile sail to Durban, South Africa.

Not too far to the north, also in the Indian Ocean off Somalia, pirates are out of control. Earlier this week, an Indian warship blew up a suspected pirate vessel off the Horn of Africa.

Sunderland, 16, before embarking on his solo-circumnavigation attempt from Marina del Rey last June, had originally considered sailing through the Suez Canal, which would have required passing directly through the most dangerous pirate-infested waters.

Still, the Thousand Oaks teen had better stow his Jack Sparrow costume because authorities are not joking around when it comes to piracy.

And nor will the seas be placid between Mauritius and Durban.

Marianne Sunderland, also suffering from the flu, has been helping maintain her son's blog and reports:

"There is, reportedly, a storm that lives off of the southern tip of Madagascar. Zac's job will be to stay far enough south of Madagascar to avoid this storm without going too far and getting blown south of Durban and needing to beat to get into port."

Continue reading »

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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.