Teen sailor Laura Dekker to complete round-the-world voyage today

16-year old Dutch sailor Laura Dekker will complete her quest to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world today when she arrives back at the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean. She is expected to make landfall around 3 PM local time this afternoon, exactly a year and a day after she set out on her voyage.

Dekker gained international attention when she first announced her intent to sail around the world at the age of 13. That sparked a great deal of debate on how young was too young for that kind of endeavor. Officials in the Netherlands even went so far as to step in and block her from sailing while they evaluated her skills and observed her relationship with her divorced parents. Eventually, after months of legal wrangling, she was allowed to sail, and at the age of 14 she hit the open water aboard her ship the Guppy.

Her shakedown cruise of Guppy took her to Portugal and then across the Atlantic to St. Maarten, where she tuned the vessel and prepared it for the long journey ahead. From there, it was through the Panama Canal, across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. Her non-stop crossing of the Atlantic was the final hurdle to overcome before being done.

Now, more than a year and a half after she initially set out, Laura’s about to reach her goal, and break the previous “youngest around” record by eight months. That record was set back in 2010 by Aussie Jessica Watson, who was 17 at the time.

On her blog, Laura says that she is looking forward to being back on land, taking walks and enjoy fresh food, while spending time with her family. They will greet her at a ceremony in her honor upon her arrival today, where a host of journalists are expected to be on hand to interview the teen.

Congratulations to Laura on a job well done. When I was 16 I could barely circumnavigate around the block in a car.

Teen sailor Laura Dekker completes first leg of solo circumnavigation

Dutch teenager Laura Dekker completed the first leg of her attempt to sail into the record books a few days back when she completed a solo sail across the Atlantic, reaching the island of St. Maarten in the process. The 15 year old is attempting to set a new record for the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

Dekker has been hoping to make this voyage since she was 13, but her departure was delayed on more than one occasion by the Dutch government. Earlier this year they relented however, and granted her permission to sail after she demonstrated her skills and made a commitment to keeping up with her education.

The voyage officially began back in August when she sailed from the Netherlands to Gibraltar before proceeding on to the Canary Islands. Laura then spent two months there getting her 38-foot yacht, affectionately named Guppy, ready for the journey ahead. She also used that time to wait out the hurricane season before beginning her crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.

On December 2 she left the Cape Verde Islands, off the west coast of Africa, en route to the Caribbean. It took her 17 days to cover the 2200 nautical miles, arriving in St. Maarten this past Sunday. Dekker described the voyage as “a very nice trip.”

She’ll now spend some time in the Caribbean, sailing the islands and exploring the region before moving on to her next big leg. She says she doesn’t have any set plan at the moment, but hopes to cross through the Panama Canal, and on to the Pacific, in April or May.

Ah, the idle days of youth. Sailing the high seas, exploring tropical paradises, and seeing the world. My teen age years were much like this. And by much like this, I mean not at all.

[Photo credit: AP]

14-year old granted permission to sail solo around the world

14-year old Laura Dekker has waited months for her opportunity to attempt a solo circumnavigation of the globe, and after being denied on several occasions by Dutch authorities, yesterday she finally received permission to set sail at long last. She now plans to begin the voyage, which could take upwards of two years to complete, sometime in the next couple of weeks. The teen hopes to set a new record for the youngest person to sail around the globe alone.

Laura first received attention last year when it was announced that she hoped to make the solo circumnavigation attempt at the age of 13. Before she could set out however, a Dutch court intervened, barring her from sailing. Since that time, she has been under the supervision of child protective services, who have continually recommended against allowing her to sail. That recommendation changed recently however, as the young woman trained to improve her sailing and survival skills, and joined a distance learning program that would allow her to continue her studies while she is at sea. Even Laura’s mom, who had been against the voyage, had changed her tune, now granting the 14-year old her blessing to sail.

The voyage that Laura has planned differs quite a bit from the one that was taken by Jessica Watson, the 17-year old girl who recently set the new “youngest” record and Abby Sunderland, who had to be rescued from the Indian Ocean back in June. Those two sailors faced the perilous waters of Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope, but Laura will instead take a route that passes through the Panama and Suez Canals. While this lowers the risks involved with her having to deal with some of the worst seas in the world, it does increase the amount of ship traffic she’ll encounter, which means she runs the risk of colliding with another ship in those busy sea lanes.

Perhaps more importantly, Laura will have a support ship that will be following her closely and will be on hand in case the need arises. This ship will be there in the event of trouble, but will not aid her in any way as she navigates the oceans. With this plan in place, she’ll have a safety net to help protect her, but one that won’t endanger the “solo” status of her voyage.

Over the next two weeks the teenager will be working hard to prepare her ship, the Guppy, for the voyage. Once it is stocked with all the gear and supplies that she’ll need, she’ll be on her way, and off on a grand adventure on the high seas. What were you doing when you were 14?

[Photo credit: Associated Press]

14-year old girl denied solo circumnavigation attempt again

14-year old Laura Dekker, who we first mentioned last year when she first announced that she hoped to circumnavigate the globe at the age of 13, has been denied permission to set sail once again. Yesterday, a Dutch court ruled that Dekker would remain a ward of the state until August 1st, and that conditions were not safe for her to set out on her journey at this time, much to the dismay of the teenager who hopes to break the record for the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

Last August, the Dutch courts intervened in the girl’s plans, preventing her from sailing at that time. In December of last year, she ran away to St. Maarten in the Caribbean in the hopes that she could somehow get a boat there and begin the voyage on her own. When she was returned home to the Netherlands, child protective services took her under their care, and although she was allowed to live at home with her father, all major decisions regarding her welfare had to be approved by the government.

Following her flight to St. Maarten, the court promised to review her case and give her a chance to demonstrate her skills as a sailor. Since that time, Laura has purchased a new, larger boat, and has taken it on several solo cruises, while also undergoing a battery of tests to provide proof of her ability to sail. Both of her parents are experienced sailors, and the girl was even born on a boat while at sea, so her technical skills are not in question.

The current record for the youngest to sail solo around the world is held by Jessica Watson, who completed her journey last month, three days shy of her 17th birthday. Laura has said that she hopes to break that record, even if it is just by one day. That would give her more than two full years to make the journey, but for now, she won’t be able to get underway until at least August of this year.

There is no indication if the recent struggles of American solo-sailor Abby Sunderland played a role in yesterday’s decision by the Dutch courts either.

[Photo by: Valerie Kuypers/EPA]

Another teenager sets sail on a solo circumnavigation attempt

16-year old Abby Sunderland set sail last weekend on an attempt to sail solo around the world, and in the process, become the youngest person to accomplish that feat. She launched her 40-foot long boat, the Wild Eyes, from Marina del Rey, California, following a delay of several days due to the heavy storms that have plagued that area recently. If all goes according to plan, Abby will be at sea for roughly 5-6 months, making the journey non-stop without ever pulling into port.

Abby won’t just be battling the ocean waves and unpredictable weather while out on the high seas, she also faces a little competition for the crown of “youngest around”. Australian teenager Jessica Watson, who we told you about here, is in the middle of her own circumnavigation attempt, having just cleared Cape Horn, at the southern end of South America. Jessica is now making her way across the Atlantic towards Africa. And lest we forget, 14-year old Laura Dekker is hoping to make the same journey later this year, provided Dutch officials allow her to set sail.

For Abby, sailing runs in the family. Her brother Zac temporarily held the record for youngest solo circumnavigation last year when he completed the voyage at the age of 17. His record was bested by British teen Mike Perham a few months later. Perham is also 17, but is a few months younger than Zac.

It use to be that teenagers simply asked their parents for the keys to the car, but in the case of these adventurous young men and women, they’re hitting the high seas and spending months alone out on the water. The questions remain however; Should we be encouraging these activities and how young is too young?