Updated: Laura Dekker Went Missing, Found in St. Maarten

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Laura Dekker, the 14-year old girl who had hoped to make a solo circumnavigation sailing attempt a few months back, but was subsequently barred from doing so by the Dutch government, went missing over the weekend, and was later found on the Island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean.

According to this story from the BBC News, relatives reported the young girl missing three days ago, and Dutch newspapers reported that she withdrew $5000 from her bank account before fleeing to the island. Dutch courts had ruled that Laura was to remain under supervision of the State until the school year ended in July to ensure that she didn’t go ahead with circumnavigation attempt, despite the barring of that adventure. Authorities are still weighing the idea of someone so young hitting the open ocean on their own.

The BBC says that a local woman recognized Laura and alerted authorities to her whereabouts. A lot of questions remain regarding just how she got to St. Maarten, and whether or not she was assisted by anyone in doing so. Her father is a strong supporter of her making the voyage. It should be noted that her boat, the Guppy, is still in its slip back in the Netherlands.

I’ve written my thoughts on Laura a number of times already and it remains the same. I still believe that she is far too young to set sail on her own, no matter how much sailing experience and knowledge she has. Something about this story makes me very suspicious as well. Perhaps the plan was to send her off to St. Maarten and get her underway, with a different boat of course, over the holiday break, and before too many people noticed, so she would be well into the voyage before anything could be done. Perhaps I’m looking too deeply into this, but that’s the first thought that comes to my mind. This already odd story grows even stranger, and it’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out. Either way, I don’t believe this will help her cause when the case comes up for review next summer.

Update: There is more information on this story has begun to come to light, thanks to this story from the Times Online. It seems that Laura may have run away from own, possibly on her own and likely to set off on her sailing journey by herself. Apparently she left her father a note before she set off, although the contents of that note are as of yet still unknown. Her father has supported her right to sail from the beginning, and has been her staunchest defender. According to the Times, Laura is now on her way back home to Holland, where I’m sure this little incident will play poorly with the Council of Child Protection, who are charged with overseeing her case.

On a side note. When I was 14 if I had planned to run away, it probably would have been down the block. This kid hops a flight to the Caribbean. She certainly has nerves of steel, although I stand by my thoughts that the high seas are no place for a 14-year old to be sailing solo.


17 thoughts on “<b>Updated:</b> Laura Dekker Went Missing, Found in St. Maarten”

  1. What's even more remarkable is that father did not report her missing, but rang mother in stead and mother's partner finally went to the police.
    More and more it seems the girl is a pawn in someone else scheme and not her own person!
    No way a minor can go on a flight alone from the Schengen countries, someone must have accompanied her or delivered details and forms.

    What may happen now is that since both her father and herself cannot be trusted she will be placed in a home, her father losing his guardianship and the court ruling she must wait until she is 18. Her socalled maturity is very much negated with this action. If she were the topsporter ppl are calling her she would have been able to deal with disappointment and set backs. She really is just a 14 year old girl who becomes confused and behaves immature and rash, or maybe worse is being "played" by adults who do not have her best interest at heart. The things that surface about her parents makes you wonder about the basis of her life.

  2. Thanks for the insights Amiche, they are much appreciated. I'd say it is time for her to be placed in someone else's custody until this can all be sorted out. Her father definitely has an agenda for her, and I'm not sure it is in her best interest.

  3. What a girl ! Honestly, I didn't expect anything like that from a 13yo girl. That ,kind of, shows that she might be ready for her big journey. On the other hand , she didn't go too far, so may be she should wait couple more years.

  4. Seems like she is showing a level of immaturity by reacting this way, and that it is more evidence as to why a 14 year old shouldn't be going out on the ocean alone.

    You have to admire her tenacity though, I'll grant you that.

  5. I do not question Laura's abilities or her sense of adventure. In fact I am not surprised that a 14 yr old has all that. It's a healthy thing and adults should not try to take that away from young ppl. Teens have not yet learned to question everything or have an amount of bad experiences that influence their dreams and hopes. Healthy because this is the time for them to take risks and grow. But that always needs to be done with the safety net of their parent(s) under them.
    The fact that she grew up on a boat with avid sailors as parents have made her different from regular teens, but not all that different. Suppose a child grows up with mountaineers as parents who went along various climbs with them, would you let him or her climb on their own at 14? I don't think so.
    I am also amazed to read she owned her own 7ft boat at 10 yrs and a 27ft at 13. I would understand her father taking her on his boat and letting her handle it on her own, with him present. I mean, that is what regular parents would do with any major skill. Like my dad let me drive his car at 15 for a short bit on a country road (in Holland we need to be 18 for a license). Some say even that is foolish (it's def. illegal 🙂 ), but as long as he's in charge and gives the child some leeway …. It would be very odd if my father had gotten me my own car then, lol.

    I just heard the news where the lawyer said she had sidestepped euro regulations by flying from Paris on her New Zealand passport. Next question for me: having a dual nationality does not automatically mean one has both passports. It should be requested and explained and a minor needs an adult signature for that, so someone did in fact help her prepare.

    It's a sad sad story and my heart goes out to Laura, because she is far too young to have to deal with all these hassles of parents fighting, media coverage, interrogations etc etc.

  6. BTW, the judges had ruled negative on the basis of considerations of safety, like she had not gone further then a trip from Holland to Britain on her own, had not done first aid and had not trained the sleeping technique of various short naps when the weather poses a risk. Seems to me these are also part of being a world sailor. Handling the boat isn't everything.

  7. Thanks for the continued updates and insights Amiche. I agree with you on every thing you said.

    It should be interesting to see where Laura goes form here. Will she be allowed to stay with her dad? How will the courts rule in the spring?

    I feel for her, but I also think it's in her best interest that she stay home. For now.

  8. Now I'm probably different from you all. But being just a couple of months older than Laura I think I can see where she is coming from. I know that if I (and I'm sure its true for anyone) had a dream as big as this, but there is just a small window of opportunity for this dream to take place. People are closing that window. How would you react? I know that there are millions of people, grown adults who when there life goes to crap, whether a spouse leaves them, they lose their job etc, they break down. They often will take time to go away, become alcoholic, or try and do something to keep their job/ spouse. How often people go to extreme lengths to get the love of their lives back?

    To Laura, this is that job you've wanted all your life, this is loved one who is leaving you. She is reacting proactively, rather than sulking about, rather than getting immensely depressed or drinking (like loads of 14 year olds do), she has done the admirable thing and tried to do something about her problem. Now do the courts really think that taking her away from her parents, the only support she seems to visibly get? No. After losing a spouse, you don't take the child away do you?!

    I ask you all, if you had the most important thing in your life taken away from you, would you just sit there and go, "ah well, a mature person doesn't do anything when the most important thing in their life [in my opinion] is taken away. So i guess im just going to sit there and get over it". No, you'd probably cry a bit, get immensely pissed off, and want to do something about it. She saw a way that she could do something, just a shame it didn't work in my opinion!

    Anyway, the thing that bothers me the most about this situation is how Utrecht Welfare has been like "well her dreams have fallen apart, so we're worried she has taken it badly." This bothers me because they were the ones that took the dream and stamped on it, squished it into the dirt. How hypocritical of them…. And again, anyone, be they 14 or 40 will take a loss of a dream bad.

  9. Rowan,
    I also understand where you are coming from and I am the first to acknowledge how hard this all is on Laura. But let's not forget her young age when it comes to dreams. She still has a whole life in front of her and if she gets to sail the world at a later stage it would still be a major achievement. Why it is so important to be the youngest is still amazing me. Guinness Book said they will not encourage records at young ages. And I would think the achievement is in the action not the time of life it is done in. It would have been up to her parents to discourage the dream being about age and nourish the dream of sailing the world some time with lots of support and training.

    Anyway, a dream like that comparing to adults who lose their job or spouse and when a whole life is falling apart seems a bit harsh. Setting a record like that is far more a luxury kind of thing then something as unsettling as having no income or raising your kids on your own.
    About the welfare ppl: I applaud the fact that they are very aware of what it does emotionally to Laura, rather then them making decisions without considering what it does to her. They think they made the right choices, but still want to make sure to do everything for her well being.
    I am not a big supporter of child protection services as they have made huge mistakes with taking children from their homes or neglecting signals of abuse, but in this case they have been trying to not overdo it or make rash decisions.

    I am not sure if Laura was being pro-active and with a clear mind with her move to St. Maarten. Her grandparents (father's side) are now commenting on how depressed she had gotten and closed up. They said they did not recognize her anymore, prior to her disappearing. Not a state of mind you want to be in when going on such an adventure. BTW, app. she was with sailing friends there on the island.

    Anyway, the courts are now back in session to make up their minds whether or not she can stay with her dad. Apparently more is surfacing of which the investigators are not giving details that is making it important for her protection to give someone else custody. She is now staying with relatives where she can be at peace and not get bothered and the address is not given out.

  10. Uh, it's worth noting that everyone has dreams. Most of us don't necessarily get the cash to pursue them at age 13. Sometimes you have to work for years to get such opportunities. They don't necessarily get handed to you.

    And Rowan, while I don't necessarily agree with the Dutch government's theories on "child protection," sailing around the world isn't a "job," it's a hobby. In this case, one that would leave Ms Dekker with a 6th grade education. Her quest is fascinating more than laudable,especially since she's apparently angsted about possibly not becoming 'the youngest' to make the sail. In these modern times when every climber dude and exercise junkie somehow thinks they have the right to a fully sponsored life, it's OK to get dialed back to reality every now and then.

    The world already has plenty of self-centered trust fund adventurers, and for Dekker, the ocean will still be there in a year or two.

  11. I have to do my best not to get cynical over all this, it's so easy to be. Thinking about a minor, who owns her own boat, is capable to simply withdraw a more then regular month's pay and fly off to the caribean … App. the money was intended to just buy another boat over there and get going.
    And all this in a time when millions are without work, their houses reposessed, not able to insure themselves and their family. And we actually add to the madness by debating it here.

    Rumour has it – I just heard on a talkshow here, too early for the main news – that the judge has ruled, not only that she can remain with her father, but is also allowed to make her trip. It's as if her "flight" twisted the court's arm: If you can escape your guardians and fly on your own like that you must be fit to do the solo tour. Now let's wait and see what mum does. I also heard that the mother is afraid to say much, as Laura is prone to pay her back with not wanting to see her or talk to her anymore. Sounds like a real brat to me.

  12. I understand. The analogy of jobs and spouse isn't a perfect one. But regardless, if people have a goal in life, regardless of what it is, and it gets squashed, anyone would be upset, and you can't expect people to sit there and do nothing to it. Thats all I was trying to say.

    Amiche, where do you find your information. I don't doubt it one bit, I would just like to know so I don't have to rely on you to keep on updating us all 😛

    Most of my frustration is that I`m hating being penned in and trapped in the mundane way of life that the vast majority of us live. So it saddens me to think how crushed I would be if I had an opportunity, to escape that normal life for something better, and then it is taken away.

    And yes, you can be cynical about it quite easily. I try not to be because generally being cynical never got anyone anywhere except the morgue, but secondly, ok, so she has money, was born into money. Not her fault the life she was born into was a rich one. There are loads of kids who are probably richer than her, but instead of trying to do something amazing (or fascinating as you put it) they fritter it all away on designer clothing, multiple electronic devices, alcohol, and drugs. She has the money, and is trying to do something out of the norm with it.

    What do you want her to do, say oh no, I`m rich, better give it all away since being rich is a bad thing. Loads of people have reacted badly just because she is rich. Being rich is not inherently bad. Spending it on guitar shaped swimming pools, or on the above booze, drugs, electronics etc is way worse than an experience which will define your life. Also, where are you going to learn more about the world? In a classroom, or by going out and actually seeing the world!
    Nothing wrong with your comment, just I disagree with it. We can agree to disagree. But 6th grade education? Well she is 14, so wouldn't that actually leave her in grade 9? Like I said, she will learn way more by her time when she stops in ports, about other people/cultures than she would sitting in a classroom (she is also going to be a student of the Wereld School whilst on the boat, so she will keep learning).

  13. I'm sure Laura is more than able to do a solo circunnavigation.
    It´s also amazing that some people have tried to stop her, and still trying.
    Curiously, most of the people who try to stop her haven´t ever sailed.
    Honestly, I think Laura can think by herself and take her own decisions. She really is more than prepared to do what she wants.
    I hope she doesn´t hesitate next time and sails off.
    She doesn´t need anyone to be looking after her, not like some adults who really behave like an immature.
    Let her carry out her dreams, she hasn´t asked anybody's opinion, she knows what she's doing, she can do it,let her do it.
    She's more than prepared, other wise she wouldn´t have tried.

    P O W O D Z E N I A

  15. Wow, it looks like all the doubters are way wrong about almost everything here! I just watched the Movie "Maidentrip". It was mostly filmed by her on her solo trip around the world. It was amazing and she handled it quite well.

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