By Ashleigh / Jan 10, 2023
It was a miracle that her survival gear managed to keep her just warm enough. But it didn’t protect her face from the icy stings and taste of the harsh sea.
She’d always considered the ocean to be claiming and thrilling, until now. In these circumstances, it was filled with danger, and she was terrified. As the large waves crashed around her fragile body, an eerie feeling washed over her. Would they ever find her?
All teens have life goals. But for Abby Sunderland, her life’s dream was a little different – to the point where most people didn’t believe her.
Lisa Gizara/Gizara Arts
She had loved the ocean for as long as she could remember. The look of the boundless horizon, the smell of salt water, and the feeling of the waves held a special place in her heart.
At 16, being an accomplished mariner already made her proud. But Abby wanted to sail around the world … by herself.
It was a terrifying prospect to a vast majority of people in her life – being at the mercy of chaotic weather and no help for miles. Thankfully, she had a key set of supporters.
Abby loved her brother Zac more than anything. Not only because he was the best big brother ever, but he was her biggest supporter.
AP Photo FESA/ Will Blackshaw
Next, even though her parents were worried about the entire idea, her father Laurence was a sailor as well and mother was on board as long as Abby was an expert in all safety measures.
She knew, at her core, that tragedy could strike at any moment. It didn’t matter if she was young.
South Australian Police via AP
There was no guarantee of a long life to do all the things she dreamed of. She wanted more than anything to have this accomplishment as soon as possible. On January 23, 2010, Abby was finally ready.
Her ship, Wild Eyes, was fit for the sea. Supplies were well stocked, and she was more than adept at being hyper-aware of weather patterns and how to deal with squalls.
It might have sounded ridiculous, but the threat of pirates was also a real thing, and she was ready for that as well. The plan was for a full circle around world.
The launch at Marina del Ray in California went smoothly, and so did the first 100 days. Abby would sit at the helm, taking in the vastness of the world and profound sense of how small everyone was.
It was thrilling and humbling at the same time, something that she could never get enough of. Then came a devastating, rouge wave.
Abby felt the rush of adrenaline, and her survival instincts kicked in. She had already fixed the engine and sails after one bad storm and prayed she could resolve this new problem.
But as the ship relentlessly took on more water and the sails sat limps, she knew it was time for the worst-case scenario.
Waiting For Help
Abby felt a stab of sadness as she sent out the SOS signal and pulled on her wetsuit and then the survival suit on top of that.
She had everything she needed to wait it out. But how long until a rescue team arrived? And who would it even be? Over thirteen hours past and she sat helpless on her dying ship.
To The Rescue
It wasn’t just one country that rushed to help her. Both French and Australian rescue teams set out double-time to get to her.
By the look on their faces when they arrived, she wondered if they had been preparing for the worst. But there she sat, ready and waiting to leave. More than anything, she hoped they could salvage her boat.
More Bad News
The second punch to the gut came from the rescue captains. Considering the weather and how much water the ship had taken on, it was officially lost to the ocean.
Abby shed a tear as she said goodbye to Wild Eyes. The yellow hull bobbed over the blue depths as it turned into a speck and finally disappeared.
It was bittersweet. On one hand, she was devastated that her plans had been cut short by Mother Nature.
On the other, she had covered over 12,000 miles in 5 months … all by herself. The memories sat with her all the way through the journey back to dry land – where another surprise was waiting for her.
Her big brother, Zac had flown all the way out to Reunion Island, France, just to be sure she was okay and be with her to take her home.
She threw her arms around him and burst into tears – some happy to be with family again, the rest mourning the end of her journey.
When she finally settled back into her home in California with her very relieved parents, she excitedly recounted what she had gone through.
Even her dad, the expert sailor, was intrigued by her stories. Watching the sunrise and breaking over a large swell were memories that would sustain her for the rest of her life. The world was also captivated.
Since her journey had been shared on social media, Abby found countless people inspired by her actions and motivated to do what they dreamed of.
Whatever joy and pride had returned with her now exploded to immeasurable levels. Even a failed journey had been worth it. But she wasn’t the only one to find themselves lost in the middle of the ocean with no way to get back to the people she loved.
In a small town in South America, an unlucky fisherman found himself stranded on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean. He survived on lemons and charcoal for three days and three nights, praying that he’d get to see his loved ones again.
What had started as a way to feed and support his family quickly devolved into the worst experience of his life.
A Hard Working Man
Felipe had always been a hard-working man. At forty-five, he had a beautiful wife, great kids, and the best life anyone could ever ask for.
Living in a modest hut on the eastern side of his small town, Felipe and his family led a content life. Even though they didn’t have much to their names, their love for each other was more than enough. But this would soon change.
It was in the heart of the global lockdown when everything took a terrible turn for Felipe and his family. Felipe, who had been working as a clerk in town, had been let go from his post following the closure of all public locations.
The first few months of lockdown weren’t as challenging for his family, who had stored food to last them through those initial periods. But it wasn’t long before they depleted their reserves.
With a family to feed and nowhere to get food, the peace and love that had prevailed over Felipe’s house began running thin. He found himself quarreling with his wife over the most mundane things.
Felipe’s wife, Anna, loved him with everything she had. But she could see his frustration over their waning food reserves. But she didn’t expect him to lose his cool over the same.
Finding A Solution
After the third quarrel between Felipe and Anna, it became clear that the straightforward fix would be to find a job or at least food for the house. Before becoming a clerk, Felipe had worked as a fisherman, supplying the local market with fish for years.
Coming from a long line of fishermen, he knew all the best yet secluded areas where the best fish were. If he could catch a few, he’d sell them for profit and return the order to his house.
Felipe went to his backyard and uncovered an old boat and oar from his fisherman days. He spent the day fixing it and the night preparing for what was to follow in the morning.
At dawn, he dragged his boat out to the beach, his supplies in hand, and hurried into the waters. He had no clue what awaited him in the vast blue ocean.
In The Ocean
Felipe spent the first few hours rowing to the first spot he knew had good fish. But he found other fishermen, each trying to do precisely what he’d hoped to do: catch good quality fish.
As this place was already populated, Felipe turned his boat toward the deep ocean. Other sites would yield better results than this fishing spot. There was only one problem.
Middle Of Nowhere
The place Felipe had in mind was in the middle of nowhere. He would have to row for hours and hope the ocean would help him reach the place. He’d buy a boat engine as soon as he got his first pay to make commuting easier.
After two hours of continuous rowing, Felipe reached his designated spot. But what he found made him rethink his decision.
A Mighty Find
Felipe watched in awe as endless clouds of fish swam under his boat. He couldn’t believe his luck! The only problem was the dark clouds collecting in the sky.
Without a wasted second, he set to work. He reeled in as much fish as his boat could carry without listing and began rowing back. But he was half an hour into his journey back when the worst happened.
The first drops of rain pattered along the edge of his boat, wrenching a curse from the fisherman. He was still a few hours from land and wasn’t sure he’d beat the rain there.
He increased his rowing speed, fighting through the fatigue and burning muscles. But although he tried his best, the rainfall caught up with him. Everything was about to fall apart.
The rain got worse with every passing minute, and before Felipe knew it, his boat was rocking from side to side, threatening to spit him into the roaring ocean.
His boat flipped over, dumping everything, including Felipe, into the ocean. The ocean currents did the rest, and before Felipe knew it, he was miles away from any civilization, holding on to a board from his boat.
Felipe floated for a few hours, using everything within him to stay atop the board. As nightfall took the sky, he saw a mass of land in the distance.
Felipe thought he imagined it at first. He couldn’t believe his eyes. But although he could see white sand, he knew that what he’d found was not home.
Felipe dragged himself across the beach of the lone island. He found a rundown shack where he spent the night buried under swathes of old rags.
In the morning, he scoured the island, finding lemon trees with a few fruits he could eat. He plucked the lemons and returned to the shack to make a proper camp. He had no clue he’d be there for a while.
Felipe spent the first day on the island wondering how his family was fairing. He missed them and prayed they weren’t too worried about him.
He ate the lemons and coals from his fireplace whenever he could, supplementing them with a few edible plants he found all over the island. But as the third day came to a close, he knew he had to find a way out of the island or remain there forever.
Felipe began planning his way out. He could tear down the shack and build a makeshift raft to see him back home. But the rainstorm had been constant throughout the three days he’d been on the island. He knew he wouldn’t be lucky again if it caught him in the water and on a raft, no less.
He was still mulling things over when a white speck appeared in the distance. The dot kept growing until it came into view. It was a coast guard boat, and aboard it, alongside a few officers, was Anna. She’d spent the last three days scouring the ocean for her husband.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.