Laura Dekker set off by herself in August 2010 to sail around the globe. She was just 14-years-old. Her voyage was not without controversy yet 500 days later she’s still at sea and close to completing her goal.
“Now 16, Dekker is on the final leg, a long stint from Cape Town, South Africa, to the Caribbean island of St. Maarten, where she set sail in 2010,” writes the Associated Press. “Amid blustery weather, she’s on pace to reach port in Philipsburg around Jan. 24, her lawyer Peter de Lange said in a telephone interview Wednesday.”
“I am looking forward to my arrival and officially end my journey even though I feel like I already accomplished what I had set out to do a long time ago,” Dekker wrote in a blog post. “I have learned very much about myself along the way and I also have learned very much from all the different places and the many different people that I came in contact with in so many different countries.”
The journey wasn’t a whim for young Dekker, she’d spent most of her life on boats. She owned her first boat and learned to sail it at age six. But the sailing hasn’t exactly been smooth. A Dutch court had originally “blocked her voyage and only permitted her to set off after she bought a bigger, sturdier boat than the one she originally planned to use; fitted it with advanced navigation and radar equipment; enrolled in a special correspondence school; and took courses in first aid and coping with sleep deprivation.”
So after a bit of struggle, Dekker was on her way, only to more waves during her trip. More recently, “In her native Netherlands, the story of her voyage has once again been overshadowed by conflicts with the Dutch school system and bureaucrats about approval for her trip. De Lange confirmed a report in De Volkskrant newspaper Tuesday that truancy officers issued her father a summons to appear late last year after a newspaper quoted her as saying she hadn’t been giving her studies full attention. De Lange said the report was a misunderstanding, based on her saying she needed to concentrate on sailing while weather in the Atlantic was poor.”
Although the school system seems pretty serious, de Lang is hopeful the issues will be smoothed over once Dekker is back home. Especially since she’s two years older and has expressed her interest in returning to school. But Dekker herself is more concerned about the media she’ll face once she’s done.
“Everything will abruptly change soon as we will come under the media limelight,” wrote Dekker. “I am so glad that I still have 12 more days on the Atlantic Ocean before that time comes because that part never appeared in any of my dreams.”
Dekker is not the only young woman to attempt the voyage. “Her circumnavigation attempt started two months after Abby Sunderland, a 16-year-old American, had to be rescued in a remote section of the Indian Ocean during an attempt to circle the globe. Jessica Watson of Australia completed a 210-day solo voyage at age 16. Dekker is now on day 508 of her voyage.
But as far as official accolades go, Dekker is out of luck. The AP writes, “Guinness World Records and the World Sailing Speed Record Council have decided they will no longer recognize records for “youngest” sailors to avoid encouraging dangerous attempts.”