Abby Sunderland "in awe" of rescue; thought rescue might take weeks

Teen sailor Abby Sunderland thought her rescue might have taken a few weeks.

French fishing vessel Ile De La Reunion rescuing American Abby Sunderland from her vessel "Wild Eyes" in the Indian Ocean after Australia scrambled a chartered passenger jet from Perth to scour seas some 2,300 miles distant, roughly halfway to mainland Africa.

Abby Sunderland, who was plucked from her disabled sailboat in the turbulent southern Indian Ocean, said Sunday she is in awe of the effort to rescue her and thought it might take much longer before she was saved.

Writing on her blog, Abby Sunderland said she had only hoped for a ship to pass her by within a few weeks.

Instead, a coordinated international response was launched to find the 16-year-old. A French fishing vessel rescued her more than 2,000 miles west of Australia on Saturday, three days after she set off her emergency beacons.

"Everyone on board has been really friendly," she wrote. "They have come a long way out of their way to help me and I am so thankful that they did."

Sunderland's boat, Wild Eyes, was disabled when a wave smashed down its mast and knocked out her satellite communications.

She set out from Marina del Rey on the Los Angeles County coast on Jan. 23, trying to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo and nonstop.

Soon after starting her trip, Sunderland ran into equipment problems and had to stop for repairs. She gave up the goal of setting the record in April, but hoped to complete the journey.

Zac Sunderland, her brother, held the record briefly last year until Briton Mike Perham completed his own journey. The record changed hands last month when 16-year-old Australian Jessica Watson completed her own around-the-world voyage.

Sunderland had been keeping in contact with her parents and support team by satellite phone during the voyage. Early Thursday she reported her yacht was being tossed by 30-foot (9-meter) waves — as tall as a 3-story building. An hour after her last call ended Thursday, her emergency beacons began signaling.

Rescuers in a chartered jet flew from Australia's west coast and spotted Sunderland's boat on Thursday. She was able to radio to the plane to say she was in good health and had plenty of food supplies.

Sunderland spoke with her parents for about 20 minutes after her rescue Saturday

"She sounded tired, a little bit small in her voice, but she was able to make jokes and she was looking forward to getting some sleep," her mother, Marianne Sunderland, told reporters outside the family home northwest of Los Angeles.

Sunderland will leave the French fishing boat in about two days to board a maritime patrol boat that will take her to Reunion Island, according to a statement from the office of the French Indian Ocean island's top official. The transfer will take place off the Kerguelen Islands, with the exact timing depending on weather and ocean conditions.

Authorities said Sunderland likely would not arrive in Reunion for at least a week.

Marianne Sunderland said her daughter was relieved to be off her boat, but it was difficult to abandon it.

"When you're on a boat like Abby has been and so closely related to that boat for your everyday existence you become very close to it," she said. "She had to leave Wild Eyes in the middle of the ocean and that's been hard for her."

Sunderland also said on her blog Sunday that she has started writing about her adventures, possibly for a book.

"I started to think about all the good times Wild Eyes and I have had together," she wrote. "All that's left of the voyage of Wild Eyes are my memories, eventually they will get fuzzy and I won't remember all the details. I don't want that to happen."



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