| SAINT-DENIS DE LA REUNION, Reunion
SAINT-DENIS DE LA REUNION, Reunion Teenage U.S. sailor Abigail Sunderland returned to dry land on Saturday after her rescue in the southern Indian Ocean this month, and defended herself from charges of being naive.
The 16-year-old was greeted by her brother as a navy patrol boat brought her into the French island of Reunion off east Africa, more than two weeks after huge waves had disabled her yacht and wrecked her hopes of sailing around the world.
"How things ended? It ended my trip, but it didn't end the dream," Sunderland told reporters after coming ashore.
The Californian hoped to become the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe alone nonstop, but was forced to abandon that endeavor in April when she had to pull into a port at Cape Town, South Africa, for repairs to her boat.
She soon set sail again, but some experts said she chose the wrong time to embark on her mission, because she risked hitting the Indian Ocean in the dangerous winter season.
"I had the guidance, daily guidance of meteorologists who have been riding people through that part of the ocean for 30 years," Sunderland said.
"It wasn't the middle of winter, it is fall, and I wasn't sailing deep south, I was hovering around 40 south, a safe area. Rogue waves can happen at any time, any place, any age."
The mast on her yacht Wild Eyes snapped during rough weather on June 10 and she was rescued two days later by a small French fishing vessel after she was spotted in a remote corner of the ocean by an Australian plane.
"As far out as I was I did not expect to see a plane. I was very surprised to see that and surprised that there was a ship so close. I knew there were a few islands around me and I was going to do whatever I could to get to those islands," she said.
Sunderland also defended her parents, who have been criticized by some in the media for allowing her to undertake the solo voyage at such a young age.
"I would like to thank my family. They have put up with tons of stuff, helped me follow my dream. There has been a lot of extremely unfair and offensive criticism toward them," she said.
Sunderland is due to head back to Los Angeles on Tuesday where she will be reunited with her parents.