Sailing Teenagers
Don't let your age or the size of your boat limit the size of your dreams.
The year was 1965. The teenager was 16 year
old Robin Lee Graham.
The boat was named Dove. She was a
used 24 foot fiberglass sloop. Over the next 5 years National Geographic
would feature Robin Lee Graham on the cover of 3 issues. That's more covers
and feature stories then they have given one person in the history of National
Geographic Magazine.

     I read each issue, probably 500 times, and spent hours dreaming over the
dozens of color photographs. The words and the pictures of Robin taking a
reading with his sextant, feeding a sea lion, climbing the mast, sailing across
the Cape of Good Hope, swimming off the beaches of Fiji, holding a fresh
caught Dorado off the stern... All of it, entrenched in my mind as if a road map
for future things to come. It was nourishment for the wanderlust in my veins. It
fueled a fire in my soul, a yearning for a life on the sea; that to this day
remains, echoing in the chambers of my heart.
Before Robin would complete his circumnavigation . . .
Over the past 50 years (since Robin started his voyage) I have met at least a hundred
other sailors whose inspiration also came from Robin Lee Graham.

     Now, having raised three kids of my own (all sailors), I have a very deep understanding how
Robin, Tania, Jessee, Zac, Jessica, and yes, especially Abby; will influence an entire generation
of new sailors. Their story, the news, the publicity of their adventures will inspire and influence
thousands of others to redefine their own goals, and to pursue them. Many, will even take up
sailing, some will eventually end up sailing around the world, or anchoring in some Paradise
Island cove.  And I believe it is a good thing.

     Undoubtedly, over the next 45 years, there will be sailors on the sea that were inspired by
one or more of these teenagers making headlines, having their stories appearing in
magazines, followed by books, television interviews, and even a movie.
My guess is that more then one movie producer will have reached Abby Sunderland before she
can even get home from her ordeal.  If only she had left a boyfriend at home, her's could have
been an epic adventure at sea to rival the movie Titanic.

     Of course, the negative responses over these teens (especially the girls) are abundant.
Ironically, the most bolstered negative statements have been from parents, and the harshest
comments directed at Abby Sunderland's Mom has been from other Mothers. It seems these
parents that can't understand how other parents could permit their "child" to do such a
"dangerous" thing - are the very parents that really have no idea what their "child" is doing.
And if you are one that thinks you do... then you have forgotten your own teenage years. Those
parents, the one's voicing such strong negative opinions about Abby's parents, are the very
ones that never accepted the full responsibility of raising kids, and they will never accept the
blame for the things their own kids do - or never accomplish.

     Beginning with toddlers, we give them coloring books and crayons and from that day
forward, they are taught, praised, and rewarded for "staying between the lines". But did you
know that for the exception of one. . . none of the worlds great painters ever saw the inside of
a coloring book.  When confronted with one for an opinion; Picasso responded with "for our
shame this is, that it will steal our children's creative dreams and imagination".

     Teenagers today need their "own" dreams. Not the dreams or goals that we as parents hold
up in a mirror for them to see... They need their heroes and sheroes. They need to feel the
passion and desire for achievement and accomplishment of their very own goals.
Jesse Martin, a 17 year old Australian teenager
was the youngest solo yachtsman to sail
non-stop around the globe. He did it in a 34'
sloop and held the record for the youngest
"non-stop" solo circumnavigation prior to Zac
For Tania, it wasn't about breaking records, or becoming the first, or even famous. She did it for herself.  
Her goal, her dream was not a lifetime thing. Instead, it was an out of the blue thought that just stuck in
her head until she made up her mind; that's what she had to do.

She made a deal with her father. A boat instead of a college education. She had no sailing experience
other then a few lessons and few months of practice as she bought and provisioned her inexpensive 26'
sloop.  Her goal of course was simply to prove to herself and her father - that she could complete
something. Her story is of an amazing voyage of teenage angst, solitude, self discovery and adventure.

Aebi's story is unusual because she was poorly prepared for her voyage, but prevailed through common
sense, faith and fortitude. She had almost no sailing experience when she departed on her journey in
1985 - she (as with Robin Graham before her) did not have the advantage of GPS, or laptops with GPS
integrated mapping and autopilots. She had to use a sextant for celestial navigation. She also did not
"sea trial" her boat before purchasing it. Nor did she have it certified by a professional Marine Surveyor,
and thus she was plagued by factory defects that could easily have been prevented before departure.

Tania Aebi has written two books.
(1989)  Maiden Voyage.    Ballantine Books.  
(2005)  I've Been Around.  Sheridan House.
Both were million copy best sellers.   
     Sailing around the world is a dream many of us have. Most of us imagine taking our time, setting off
from the mainland headed to some Paradise Island with pristine sandy beaches and gin clear turquoise
and azure waters. We are the romantics, we picture doing it with someone we love, and all our thoughts
are of enjoying every moment, discovering the world one very slow mile after mile. For us, it is the
journey. We vision going non-stop, or going fast, as counter productive - something like rushing through
your vacation so you can get home to look at the pictures.

     There are many small vessels currently circumnavigating. At last report, over 900 private recreational
sailing vessels have made passage through the Panama Canal so far this year, and twice that number
last year. Of those, the vast majority belong to the "no hurries and no worries" Capt. John's style school
of sailing. These are the ones that know completing the voyage only means ending the fun; and there's
certainly no rush to do that - and if they never finish, so be it. (This is by far, the very safest as well as
the most enjoyable way to do it.)

     Those sailors that belong to the "non-stop, few-stops, we've got to keep going" school of sailing -
blow past anchorages, meet very few people (if any) aside from a Port Captain and Marina employee, and
see nothing of the sites. They miss all the free wonders of the world, and they make no friends along the
way. These are the ones that usually end up with ripped sails, masts blown away, or busted keels,
rudders, or wind vanes. They sail on a strict schedule with an uncompromising agenda that really never
seems to align itself with the real world in any way. In addition having a lot less fun and adventure; this is
the most dangerous way to sail around the world.

     So for all the teenagers of all ages with a sudden passion and desire to sail around the world, I say:
read Robin Lee Graham's book
Dove and Tania Aebi's book Maiden Voyage. Learning to sail is both fun
and easy. Learning to do it in the safest most possible way and in the most comfortable manner requires
hard study, practice, and knowing every square inch of your boat. Read all you can find from sailors who
have actually done it and learn from their mistakes. Learn with and take a friend, enjoy the ride, stop in
many places and talk to many people, see the sites, and make your voyage a wonderful safe adventure.
First teenager to sail around the world.
Robin Lee Graham on his sloop
Photograph compliments of National Geographic Magazine.
Robin Lee Graham (16) did it in a 24' sloop.
Brian Caldwell (19) did it in a 26' sloop.
David Dicks (18) did it in a 34' sloop.
Jesse Martin (17) did it in a 34' sloop.
Zac Sunderland (17) did it in a 36' sloop.
Jessica Watson (16) did it in a 34' sloop.
Abby Sunderland (16) gave it her best shot in a 40' sloop.
Laura Decker (15) has a Sept. 2010 start date.
Teenagers sailing "solo" around the world, Oh My!
     Not a bad representation of youth... Especially when you consider that no teenager has lost their
life trying to doing it.  In addition, they belong to a very-very unique club, as since 1895 when Joshua
Slocum became the first man to sail around the world
alone - fewer the 45 solo sailors have set
records. Only 125  
solo sailors have been documented, though it is believed that approximately 250
sailors have sailed around the world alone.
Just how popular is Abby?

Well, if you really want a good idea
of just how popular she really is. . .
If you Google "Abby Sunderland" you will get about
6,250,000 hits.  (that's what I got on 6/14/10)

Now, if you need something to compare that to
then Google the most popular celebrity in America
"Winfrey Oprah"
and you get only 202,000 hits.
Zac Sunderland had somewhat fleeting fame.
While he broke Jesse Martin's record of being the
youngest solo sailor around the world, Zac's
record of very short lived. He only held the record
for six weeks before it was broken by Michael
     And while setting the record put his name in the
history pages sailing. . . He is already simply being
referred to and remembered as "Abby's brother".
     I kinda feel a little bad for Zac, as his
accomplishment was a great one. He had his goal,
he pursued it, and he accomplished it. In addition,
he has a good head on his shoulders.
Zac, by the way, said he was inspired by Robin
Lee Graham's book "Dove".
Mike Perham, seen here receiving a plaque from Guiness
World Records. At 17 years and164 days old, this teenager
was escorted across his finish line by the Royal Navy's
HMS Mersey, and the 771 helicopter Squadron of the
Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose. He was also greeted by a
flotilla of press boats that had been on standby overnight
to record his finish.

Mike's record held for only nine months, and was broken
by Jessica Watson.
Jessica Watson, at 16 years of age completed
her voyage just 3 days before her 17th birthday
making her the very youngest solo
circumnavigator in world history.  The reason for
her journey: "I wanted to challenge myself and
achieve my life long dream. I knew it would
always be something I could be proud of."
Jessica's book "True Spirit" scheduled to hit the
book stores in August, already has enough
advance orders, it will come out as a million copy
best seller.  
     Laura Dekker,  was born on a boat, September 20, 1995 during a seven-year around the world voyage by her
parents.  She spent the first four years of her life at sea. At six, she had her first boat - a small sailing dinghy which her father says,
she climbed in and sailed away without any instructions. Her next boat came at the age of ten. She named it Guppy, in it, she spent
weekends and summers solo sailing the Wadden Sea, and North Sea. In May 2009, in her third boat, she made a solo-crossing of the
Atlantic and back to England - where authorities demanded her father come and accompany her on her return voyage to the
Netherlands. She was only 13 years old at the time.

     Laura's initial plan of sailing around the world solo was stopped by the Dutch Child Welfare Office. They had her return home
from the Caribbean threatening to put her Dad in jail if she did not. She returned when the Dutch government said if she continued
with her plans to sail around the world, they would arrest her Dad, come get her, and confiscate her boat. The Dutch Child Welfare
Office meantime, was  successful in their bid for a court order that stopped Laura's planned departure. The court order expired in
July 2010, and Laura's departure soon followed.

     Now, while I agree there has to be an age that is simply too young, and 15 may very well be it, but Laura was not the girl that
should have been stopped. She not only had more sailing experience then any of the above teenagers... She had much more "long
distance solo" sailing experience. This young 14 year old had already spent weeks and months alone at sea. She feeds on it. And it
is solitude - more so then sailing skills (in my opinion) that is the solo sailor's most perilous aspect of a circumnavigation.
     Laura successfully completed her solo circumnavigation in January 2012.
came after

14 year old
Laura Dekker
Tania Aebi, In May 1985, when Tania Aebi was 18, she
cast off from lower Manhattan, alone, on her 26-foot
sloop, Varuna. For the next two and a half years, with
only a cat for company, she sailed 27,000 miles around
the world, returning to New York the youngest woman to
ever circumnavigate the world solo.
Robin Lee Graham and wife Patti
In 1965, at the age of 16, Robin Lee Graham
set out to sail around the world - alone.  He
wasn't trying to set any world speed records,
and in fact never even thought that he might
be the youngest. No, it wasn't for any of that.
For Robin, it was simply all about the
And what an adventure it was. . .
His voyage included numerous stops: Hawaii, Samoa, Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, and Fiji (where he
met Patti in 1966). Robin's adventure lasted almost 5 years. During which time, he married Patti in South
Africa, but continued his voyage alone. Robin and Patti still live in Montana (documented in his second
book, "Home is the Sailor") and are grandparents of two grand sons of Quimby and her husband. Their
son Benjamin is recently married. The Grahams continue to serve as a positive influence in the lives of
young people through their missionary work and writings. They are a remarkable couple with a remarkable
story of love, courage, perseverance, hope and charity.
Robin Lee Graham, in addition to being featured on the cover of 3 National Geographics,
wrote two books:
Dove, the book was published in 1972.
Dove, the movie was released in 1974.
Home Is The Sailor, the book was published in 1983.
Known in sailing circles as a "solo circumnavigation" these most recent brave and daring teenagers have created
as much controversy as Obama, as much debate as Arizona's new illegal alien law, and nearly as much negative
response as BPs oil spill in the Gulf.
But honestly, just how young is too young? And just how safe is safe enough?

Not long ago, I received a speeding ticket. Rather then have the points on my license and a hefty fine, I chose to
pay the $20.00 for Drivers Education. Of course, I was the only senior citizen in a crowd that consisted of exactly 30
teenagers. I know there were exactly 30 teenagers, because the Instructor started the class off by having
everyone under 20 raise their hand, and he counted them out loud. Then he said: "Look around at everyone
standing!  Three of them will be killed in an auto accident before they reach the age of 20."
That hit a special nerve with me, as I instantly remembered 7 of my high school classmates that were killed in car
accidents before they could graduate. That 7 was out of a high school graduating class of 66. So, not only was that
Instructor's statistical information correct, it hadn't changed since I graduated from high school.

So... obviously teenagers sailing around the world are safer then teenagers behind the wheel of a car. And we
have all the above teens to prove it.  But, you'll never hear an outraged parent bolstering harsh comments about
other parents could permit their "child" to do such a "dangerous" thing.
Me? I was always more comfortable with my kids sailing, then I was with them driving to and from home to the
Marina. In fact, our conversations were always "call me when you get to the Marina so I will know your OK, and call
me when you leave the Marina on your way home."
I worried about them on the highway. I never worried about them on the boat.
How young is too young?   &   How safe is safe enough?
So. . . Where do we draw the line?
He did it my way. . .
Not one teenager has been lost at sea.
- Capt. John - the Frugal Voyager - Capt. John - the Frugal Voyager - Capt. John - the Frugal Voyager - Capt. John - the Frugal Voyager - Capt. John - the Frugal Voyager -
The Frugal Voyager
     Yes! Sailing around the world
has been accomplished by
teenagers. In addition, it has been
done, and is being done by young
people in their late teens and
twenties daily. That's right -
someone under 30 years of age is
sailing across the ocean to exotic
places around the globe - and many
are doing it solo.
- Capt. John - the Frugal Voyager - Capt. John - the Frugal Voyager - Capt. John - the Frugal Voyager - Capt. John - the Frugal Voyager - Capt. John
- Capt. John - the Frugal Voyager - Capt. John - the Frugal Voyager - Capt. John - the Frugal Voyager - Capt. John - the Frugal Voyager - Capt. John
- Capt. John - the Frugal Voyager - Capt. John - the Frugal Voyager - Capt. John - the Frugal Voyager - Capt. John - the Frugal Voyager - Capt. John
© 1993 - 2016
Abby Sunderland
Jesse Martin
Zac Sunderland
Mike Perham
Jessica Watson
Tania Aebi
Today . . . Sailing around the world is no longer "rocket science" of the 18th & early 19th Centuries. Today we have
GPS navigation and charts that tell us our exact location, and point the way to our next destination. Getting lost is
virtually impossible, and communication is available 24/7.
     What does it take? The right tool for the job! If the job is crossing the ocean, you simply need a safe, seaworthy
boat that is small enough to handle safely and live on comfortably.