Dutch Government Move To Block 13-Year Old From Sailing Around the World

laura dekker
The Outside Online Blog has an interesting story about a 13-year old girl named Laura Dekker who was hoping to sail solo around the world, but has now been taken into temporary custody by the Council of Child Protection in Holland to prevent her from hitting the open seas.

According to the story, Laura’s parents fully support her goals and have a good understanding of the issues with long distance sailing. In fact, the girl was born aboard a boat while they were circumnavigating the globe, and she lived aboard a ship for the first four years of her life. But the Dutch Government feels like she doesn’t have the proper experience and skill set to survive alone on the ocean for months at a time, and have taken custody of her for her own safety.

Lately there has been plenty of young men and women who have been vying for the title of the youngest person to ever sail solo around the world. Recently, Zac Sunderland set the new mark, at the age of 17, but several others are gearing up to make their runs soon as well, including Zac’s own sister. The question is, when is it too young to go on such a dangerous journey?

Personally, I think 13-years old is too young. While I’m sure Laura is comfortable aboard a ship, and probably quote competent than I’ll ever be at sailing a ship, there are just certain things that a person that young is not quite equipped to handle just yet, not the least of which is the months alone at sea. The thoughts of pirates and other dangers are too scary to even think about really.

Hopefully her parents will think twice before sending her out, and I support the Dutch in making this move. She can still sail around the world in a few years time, so I say let her grow up first and she can have the adventures she wants down the line. After all, why send her out at 13 unless it really is about the “youngest” record?

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7 thoughts on “Dutch Government Move To Block 13-Year Old From Sailing Around the World”

  1. I agree on both accounts. Too young to go on her own, but not sure they needed to take her into custody. I assume they are worried about her setting out to sea before they can stop her.

  2. I was born and raised in Russian Siberia, skid since I was 4 and always wanted to reach Arctic Circle (which was 80 km from where I lived). At 13-14, I asked my father :'' Can I do it?" He said:"After 18 , you can do whatever the hell you want." As a parent myself, I know, that there is a thin line between encouraging your kids and being a selfish parent (let's be honest here, it's all about money).

  3. Totally agree, 13 is far too young for that sort of adventure. As you quite rightly said Kraig, if it's not about a record then why not wait? I wouldn't let my 13yo go solo (if I had one!) they are not emotionally equipped at that age to manage all and every situation on their own. I'm sure the Dutch authorities will return her back once they are satisfied she is not going to be sent out on the boat alone.

  4. Very hard to judge.My opinion is different. If she has this in her blood and her mind, she should go, or at least try with a very close supervision.

    Most of our society is based on getting more away from nature and we have lost a sense of survival. We put insurance everywhere, we always need to find a guilty person.

    Let's say she leaves, and dies, it would have been her choice, and she certainly knows everything can go wrong, and the choice of her parents too.

    We are of course all against as 13 is (seems) too young because we've been told so since we are born in our culture, in our references with our laws etc…

    I could ask what the minimum age to have sex or to be married ? In some places in Africa, it's common when the girls are 12 or 13. We could find this a shame etc… but it's their point of view, their culture…

    Why always try to reproduce what we do everywhere asif it was be best thing, asif we were right.

    Basically where's freedom?

    I think the has the right to try, the duty to prepare herself very well and to train.

    And yes I agree that 13 is too young, or might be not mature enough. But seriously think about this. Planing her trip and thinking of it at 13 ? With the education she had ? She might be more mature than all of us at her age.
    Question is what is maturity versus experience ?

    Her ssafety is the uttermost importance, so if she has 2 satphone, a good ship etc… Why not?

    I think she's safer going now at her age than people who went 100 years ago to the poles or Columbus who 500 years ago who dared to try something new to reach India. They became heroes.

    Did we stop that Nepalese girl to climb everest at 15 years old ? Are we stopping Jordan Romero from the 7 summits ? Ok he's not alone, but are we physically and mentally strong enough at that age ? I don't know. But what I'm sure of is that he's got probably the best attention in the world.

    Around 2030, what's the percentage of chance that the first people going to Mars will succeed coming back alive ? Might be small on a long journay like this. (I was shown the expected times to get there : roughly 185 days to go and 175 to come back + time on the planet). I hope we will succeed as it's a wonderful project.

    In Africa, some kids of not even 5 or 6 walk alone for days with just a tiny blanket, bare feet to go from one village to another.
    Have you seen the movie "rabbit prooffence" ? These girls made it across the desert because the had the skills and the will to be free again.

    Next week, I meet a friend I haven't seen in 10 years, he's married with 3 kids between 1 and 7, and he's leaving for a 7-year journey around the world with a magnificent education project at hand. Good or bad for his kids, I dunno, he takes responsibilities and choose to offer soemthing else and freedom as education.

    In conclusion, it's hard to judge with or "prefab" modern world mindset. But if the attitude, skills and physical strength is there with all moderns safety equipment we have, what is the probability of of a dramatic event ? I don't know. But if no one tries, we'll never know.

  5. LouPhi: While I agree with you in some regards, and obviously do admire her sense of adventure, I still believe that 13 is far too young for someone to make a true solo circumnavigation attempt. If her parents are following along behind her in another boat, than perhaps it would be okay, but for it to be a true solo circumnav, she would be alone.

    Besides, as I said in the post, if this isn't about some record, than what is the rush? She'll always be able to sail around the world. Why does she have to do it at the age of 13?

    I also still feel that Dutch government didn't have to take her into custody. I've heard elsewhere that she holds a New Zealand passport though, and is likely to be sailing from there instead. Of course, they wouldn't let Olly Hicks launch from their shores either, so perhaps they would deny her too.

  6. let her do it, been in europe for 1 year now coming from africa and have realised that parenting here is equivalent to policing. Every human should have the chance to create their own destiny, if she is confident enough to attempt this then i think that we should not worry about her emotional status. Why and how have we got to a stage where governments can restrict a persons freedom in such a way, human progress depends on such courageous people

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