THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - The California teenager who was plucked from her disabled sailboat in the turbulent southern Indian Ocean said yesterday 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."
Abby'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, California, on Jan. 23, trying to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo and nonstop.
Soon after starting her trip, she 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.
Abby 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 waves. 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 radioed to the plane to say she was in good health and had plenty of food supplies.
Abby 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, told reporters outside the family home northwest of Los Angeles.
Abby 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.
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."