Abby Sunderland, the precocious 16-year-old girl who attempted to sail solo around the world, is returning to the port from which she launched her voyage five months ago, her boat having been abandoned in tatters but her spirit unbroken.
Sunderland flew home to Southern California Monday night and was to speak with reporters Tuesday at a hotel in Marina del Rey, the same port from which she set sail in the 40-foot boat Wild Eyes on Jan. 23.
She was about halfway through her journey earlier this month when a fierce storm in the Indian Ocean snapped her mast and ended the voyage. After three days adrift, she was rescued by a fishing boat and taken to the French island of Reunion.
Before leaving Reunion, Sunderland told reporters the storm that destroyed her boat "ended my trip but it didn't end my dream." She still hopes to sail around the world someday, just as her 18-year-old brother, Zac, did last year.
Zac Sunderland answered the phone late Monday at the Sunderland home and said the family was about to cut a cake in celebration of his sister's homecoming.
Since her voyage went awry, Sunderland's parents have come under relentless criticism for letting their teenage children attempt such dangerous voyages. Abby Sunderland has defended them, saying she was as experienced as most any older sailor and, like them, knew the risks involved.
When her brother completed his voyage last year he was the youngest person to do so. His record has been broken twice since then, most recently by a 16-year-old Australian girl.
When she left port last January, Abby Sunderland hoped to return with the record. She had to abandon that plan when her boat developed problems and she had to pull into port in South Africa for repairs. Sunderland, who has been sailing since she was a toddler, decided to continue the journey, however, simply to realize her dream of circling the world.
That ended when she was caught in a storm in the Indian Ocean that battered her boat with waves as high as 3-story buildings. She had to give the vessel up to the sea when she was rescued.