Boats Head To Pick Up Stranded Teen Sailor

A rescue effort is under way for Abby Sunderland, 16, who was attempting to sail around the world solo. An Airbus A330 spotted her boat in an upright position and made contact with her via radio. A spokesman says she's doing fine after running into rough seas.

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DEBORAH AMOS, host:

We have news this morning about a 16-year-old Southern California girl trying to sail solo around the world. Yesterday, Abby Sunderland was in the Indian Ocean, hundreds of miles from land when she hit high seas and harsh weather. She lost radio contact with her parents. She activated her emergency beacons. A multination rescue effort was launched. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates has been following the story, and she has the latest.

Good morning, Karen.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: Morning, Deb.

AMOS: What do you know about Abby's condition now?

BATES: Well, what I know is that Abby is in way better shape than her boat is. An Australian plane was able to fly over, make radio contact and ascertain that she was OK. There had been very high seas for a day before. Her boat had been knocked down several times. And in the middle of these multiple knockdowns, the mast was broken. So she couldn't sail it. She also didn't have any way to let anybody know this because all the communications had gotten really sketchy. So everybody was crossing their fingers, hoping for the best. And, indeed, things have turned out OK.

AMOS: Well, she lost contact with her parents a day ago. They're sailors themselves, so they must have had this notion about how harrowing it was for their daughter.

BATES: They do. But I'll tell you Deb, these are people who have lived a lot of their lives on the water. Her dad is a boatwright, and he manages a yacht company. Her older brother Zach, who actually sailed the globe by himself as a 17-year-old just a few months before she did this, likes to tell people that he actually learned how to sail before he knew how to ride a bike. So they are very at home in the water. So they knew what they were going out on.

AMOS: There's been some criticism of her parents for allowing a 16-year-old out on the sea. Any change in that opinion from them after this event?

BATES: We haven't heard from the parents yet, so we don't really know whether they're saying OK, fine. That's enough of this. Now get home, and we want you to stop this trip. Her dad and her mom were very supportive about this. Laurence Sunderland said we've tried really hard to let them go where their hearts carry them. This has been a passion for both of them. We've tried to prepare them the best we can, and we think it's going to be all right.

They are deeply religious people. They describe themselves as born-again Christians, and her dad said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times just before Abby was getting ready to leave on this big trip: We have prepared her. She has prepared herself. But in the end, it's not really in her hands. It's not really in our hands. It's in the Lord's hands.

And Abby basically said to reporters several times, you know, I could not have gotten this far if God hadn't wanted me to do this. So they feel that there's been some sort of divine guidance in all of this.

AMOS: Thank you very much.

BATES: You're welcome.

AMOS: NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates.

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