Abby Sunderland, 16, describes how a massive wave crippled her boat and ended her global voyage

Credit: Laurence Sunderland/AP

The storm had passed, night had fallen and Abby Sunderland was trying to fix her boat’s diesel engine when the massive three-story-high wall of water hit.

“It happened so fast,” Sunderland, 16, said Tuesday during her first public appearance in the United States since being rescued from her crippled 40-foot sailboat in the Indian Ocean over two weeks ago. “When the wave rolled my boat I hit my head and things went black for a few seconds.”

Despite being alone in one of the most remote parts of Earth and without a way to communicate with the outside world, the teenager from Thousand Oaks, Calif., claims she never feared for her safety.

“I just felt bad for everyone at home and all the worry that I must be putting them through,” she says

During a press conference in Marina del Rey, Calif., Sunderland also defended her parents, who had been criticized for allowing their daughter to undertake such a dangerous voyage.

“It’s hurtful to read and hear all the things that have been said about my parents,” she says. “It made me sad to see it. I can’t believe people would say things like that.”

She insists that her family has no plans to make a reality TV show or a documentary, although she is contemplating writing a book.

Sunderland also says that, despite her age, she was fully prepared for her five-month-long sailing odyssey. “I sailed 12,000 miles by myself, crossed two oceans and sailed around Cape Horn,” she says. “Questions of my age should have been over a long time ago. My trip didn’t end because of anything I did wrong.”

She says it’ll probably be “a few years” before trying another solo voyage. In the meantime, she’s getting her driver’s license. “Roads are more dangerous than sailing,” she jokes. “So I think I’m going to be more nervous driving than I was sailing.”