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]