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.

Video: ten terrifying landings, takeoffs and flights

It is pretty safe to say that 99.99% of all flights are completely uneventful, but every now and then you’ll find yourself on a flight from hell. We’ve collected ten videos of poor takeoffs, poor landings and dreadful in-flight turbulence. Just remember – any flight you can walk away from can be considered a successful flight.

In the first video, you’ll see JetBlue flight 292 trying to land with a broken nosewheel. The amazing flight crew managed to land the plane without any real problems. This plane also went down in history as the first where the passengers were able to watch their own plane emergency on live TV thanks to the DirectTV service.

Ecuador, bumpy takeoff.

Aborted landing of a KLM 747 at St.Maarten airport – watch at the plane comes in to land but is faced with an occupied runway.

Watch as the pilot of this Concorde decided the crosswinds are too much for a safe landing. Such an amazing plane, and a real shame she’s no longer with us.

This is the aftermath of some really nasty turbulence on a Kuwait Airways flight. Passengers seem stunned, and the aisle is full of stuff from the overhead bins. Thankfully, most turbulence is limited to being thrown around a bit and almost never results in anything worse.

American Airlines coming in for a landing in Honduras at Tegucigalpa airport.

Same airport, from cockpit view.

Watch this Boeing 747 almost run out of asphalt – and witness the spotters freak out a little when 800,000 lbs of plane flies towards them.

Another awesome clip from St.Maarten airport. The beach at the end of the runway is notoriously dangerous, but that didn’t stop these people from enjoying some sun, sea and sand. Until the jet took off that is…

This is one of those landings where the passengers ask the pilot whether he landed the plane, or if he was shot down.

Photo of the Day (7.20.10)

Think you can’t capture beautiful images with a mobile phone? Au contraire. This tranquil sunset shot uploaded by Flickr user Gus NYC was taken with an Apple iPhone in the waters of Saint Martin. The range of color, the light, & the serene water make me want to go explore the Caribbean right now.

Saint Martin is an island in the northeast Caribbean, currently divided 60/40 between the French & the Dutch. However, on October 10th of this year, the Dutch side of Saint Martin will become a self-governing country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands; much like Aruba is today.

Have a mobile upload that we can’t miss? Put it up on Flickr and submit it to our Gadling Pool – it could just be our next Photo of the Day!

14-year old Dutch sailor goes missing, turns up in St. Maartin

Remember Laura Dekker? She’s the young Dutch girl who made headlines last summer for wanting to sail solo around the world at the age of 13, only to later be denied the opportunity by the Dutch government. At that time, it was decided that she would remain in the custody of her father, but under the supervision of the Council of Child Protection until her case could be reviewed next summer, once the school year had come to an end.

Late last week this story took another odd turn, when it was reported that the now 14-year old girl went missing, sparking all kinds of speculation in her native country as to her whereabouts. Her boat, the 26-foot long Guppy, remained safely in dock, but the local media was reporting that Laura had been spotted withdrawing 3500 Euros (roughly $5000) from her bank account. After that, she simply disappeared, without a trace.

That is until this weekend, when according to the BBC, the teenager was taken into custody on the island of St. Maartin in the Caribbean, after being recognized by a local. Exactly how she got there has yet to be determined, but yesterday it was reported that she ran away from home, apparently in reaction to being denied the option of sailing. Apparently she left her father a note before going, but the details of that note are also unknown.There is some speculation that she may have been hoping to find a boat and set sail on her own once she reached the Caribbean.

Laura is already on her way back home to the Netherlands, and it is unclear how authorities there will react to this little jaunt to the Caribbean. She was expressly forbidden to travel abroad without permission before her case was reviewed next year. I can’t help but think that this won’t help her case much.

I’ve written about Laura more extensively elsewhere, and I have always felt that 13 or 14 was too young for her to sail solo around the globe. I won’t deny that she has all the technical skills to be a sailor. The girl practically grew up on a boat, and her skills are, by all reports, highly developed. But that still doesn’t mean she should be turned loose on the ocean by herself. As I’ve said before, there are plenty of 14 year old kids who have the actual skills to drive a car, but that doesn’t mean I’d let them go on a cross country road trip by themselves.

I do respect Laura’s dream to sail around the world of course, but it does beg the question “what’s the hurry?” Can’t she wait a few more years and go when she’s gained more experience and maturity? Or is this simply a ploy to set some dubious mark as the youngest person to make such a journey? Is that a good enough reason to risk any teenager’s life?

So? What do you think? Should she be allowed to go? Are the high seas any place for a 14-year old by themselves? I’d love to have the Gadling readers weigh in with their thoughts.

Top nude beaches from around the world

If you like getting naked – but don’t want to wait for an occasion – get your (bare) ass to one of the top five nude beaches in the world. From Miami to Vancouver to Mykonos to St Maarten, you’ll find a place to roam free. Thanks to TripAdvisor for pulling this together.

Haulover Beach Park – Miami Beach, Florida
More than a million people hit Haulover every year to live the relaxed life of a nudist. If you go, you’ll stand out by trying to look like you’re not.

Wreck Beach – Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
At this clothing-optional beach, you’ll be able to gaze upon eagles and herons … or a whole lot of body parts you don’t normally see in public. According to one of TripAdvisor’s readers, “Wreck Beach is a magical place where I can strip off my layers of clothes and judgments, troubles and insecurities, and become one with the earth.”

Paradise Beach – Mykonos, Greece
They’re more open-mined in Europe, right? You bet! Check out Paradise Beach in Mykonos, where you can go “swimming in the blue waters and lying on the white sand in a place where humans celebrate the good parts of life.”

Orient Beach – St. Maarten, Caribbean
Head down to the Caribbean to shed your second, unnatural skin. At Orient Beach, you can feel the sand in every orifice. According to one TripAdvisor traveler, “Orient Beach was one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever visited. A ‘sun worshipers’ paradise.”

Black’s Beach – San Diego, California
Watch for the cliffs, which are absolutely beautiful. Then, surf naked or simply sun the spots normally not exposed to rays.