As I mentioned last Friday, over the weekend 16-year old Laura Dekker completed her quest to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world by arriving back at the Caribbean island of St. Maarten on Saturday. In completing her circumnavigation attempt, she has beaten the previous record, set by Australian Jessica Watson back in 2010, by eight months.
Happy to be reunited with her family, and enjoy the comforts of being back on land, Laura says she’ll spend the next few days clean up her 30-foot yacht named Guppy. Then, she’ll return to school and the average, daily life of a teenager – something she has missed out on while sailing the high seas over the past year and a half.
Upon arriving on St. Maarten, Laura was greeted by a crowd of supporters and media, who were there to witness her accomplishment. It was a whirlwind finish to something that Dekker says she has dreamed about since she was ten years old. The teenager was actually born on a boat off the coast of New Zeland, and has spent her entire life in and around the water.
Now that she has completed the journey, Laura says that she isn’t sure she wants to return to her home country, the Netherlands. When she announced that she was planning to sail around the world at the age of 13, the government there moved to block her from leaving and even threatened to take her away from her father, who has custody of the girl after he and her mother divorced a decade ago.
Laura says she feels that she was thrust into the spotlight on a world stage because of the what the Dutch government did, and because of that she doesn’t know if she wants to return home. She says she’ll discuss it with her parents first and make up her mind on what she wants to do next.
I hope that Laura chooses to let the actions of the Dutch government go and decides to go home. They were doing what they thought was right at the time and were trying to keep her best interests in mind. I’m sure some things could have been handled differently, but in the end, she did get to sail and she accomplished her goal in a very convincing fashion.
I imagine the transition back to “normal” life will be a rough one. For more than a year, she has been completely on her own, making her own decisions, and taking complete responsibility for herself and her boat.
That isn’t an easy thing to put behind you at any age, but especially as a teenager. Still, something tells me she’ll do just fine, and after spending a suitable amount of time at home, she’ll probably be back out on the water again before we know it.
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