Homeschooler Sails Around The World Update…

Zac Sunderland, 17, had hoped to finish up his around-the-world solo adventure by the end of June. Unfortunately, the last leg of his trip has been plagued with troubles which will delay his arrival at Marina del Rey until sometime around July 14. Since leaving Panama, the winds have been incredibly frustrating. First the winds were fluky and light, so he barely made any progress. As he sailed farther north along the coast of Mexico, strong winds kept sending him in the wrong direction. Then his bulkhead broke, forcing him to stop for repairs. Zac explains how it happened in his blog:

“This morning I tacked over to a port tack to make some northing after a dismal night bearing south no matter how hard I pushed northwards. The wind built during the day and by 10am I was slamming in to 25 knots and 8-10 foot sharp seas…. I hit a huge wave and Intrepid launched out of the water. When we came down I heard a bang like a gun going off. Looking I saw that the deck was flexing about 3 inches up where the shrouds are attached to the deck at the chain plates. I went into the head and saw that the inch thick teak bulkhead that my portside chain plates are tapped into had cracked…. With this damage the mast wouldn’t be able to take the strain of beating in these conditions so I altered course more downwind and now I’m headed for Banderas Bay where I will repair the bulkhead and get back out to sea as soon as possible.”

This unanticipated complication also coincided with a rather nasty tropical depression that would later be upgraded to a Category One Hurricane. Both of these things had Zac heading for a safe harbor. Zac’s father and grandmother flew down to be with him at the Paradise Village Marina in Nueva Vallarta. The repairs were completed in just five days and the weather abated. As of June 27, the conditions were right for Zac to continue his journey toward home.

On July 3rd Zac was still off the Mexican Coast, 400 miles away from Marina del Rey, when a U.S. Coast Guard ship came up to him. Four armed officers boarded his boat and did a customary search for anything illegal. Zac said, “After checking my paperwork and passport they asked if my parents knew I was sailing around the world alone … which was pretty funny.”

Zac is the youngest American sailor since 1965 to attempt a solo global circumnavigation. That was the year 16-year-old Robin Lee Graham departed Los Angeles, but Graham did not finish his voyage until the age of 21. Graham’s book, Dove, was one of Zac’s inspirations. Zac sailed west from Los Angeles on approximately the same course as Graham, but plans to complete his voyage while still 17 years old.

The eldest of seven children, Zac is a homeschooled straight-A student. He brought books along to study on board so that he could finish his high school education during the 40,000-mile journey. “I have all my books with me. I have one more year to finish at high school and I have to send back my tests (via e-mail) to my mum. She’s going to grade them and make sure I am doing well.”

Visit Zac’s website and check his progress at

“I have spent a lot of time out here thinking about what is important and what I’d like to do with my life. I don’t have all of the answers but I know this…without God in your life, you have nothing and I don’t want to spend my life reading about what other people have done. I want to be the kind of person that people want to read about. I believe that my solo circumnavigation is just the beginning of many more adventures to come. Documenting them and telling others and hopefully inspiring others at the same time is what I want to do.” ~Zac Sunderland

Updated: July 5, 2009 — 10:21 pm

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