Hettie Lynne Hurtes |

16-Year-Old Abby Sunderland Safe and Sound

Sixteen-year-old sailor Abby Sunderland, who lost communications with the outside world amid her solo circumnavigation attempt, may be cold, wet and bruised — not to mention more than 2,000 miles from the nearest land.

But her dad says she's OK this morning as a French ship steams to her rescue in the southern Indian Ocean, about halfway between South Africa and Australia. A ferocious storm with near-hurricane-force winds thrashed her 40-foot boat putting an end to her odyssey.

The mishap has reinvigorated a debate about the wisdom of letting young people set out on death-defying adventures. While Sunderland hoped to become the youngest sailor to circumnavigate alone and unassisted, a 16-year-old Aussie named Jessica Watson just completed an assisted solo voyage last month.

And just a month after Zac Sunderland became the youngest solo circumnavigator last year, a British sailor who's a few months younger dethroned him.

While most countries have no laws regulating such adventures, Dutch child protection authorities recently prevented a 14-year-old girl from trying to sail around the world alone.