Teenage sailor on solo voyage reaches St. Maarten
A 15-year-old Dutch sailor on Sunday completed the longest leg
so far of her attempted circumnavigation of the globe, saying it
felt ”really weird” to be back on dry land after nearly three
weeks out in the ocean.
Fifteen-year-old Laura Dekker, aiming to become the youngest
person to sail solo around the world, was in good spirits after
completing the 2,200 nautical-mile (2,532 land-mile,
4,074-kilometer) trip from the Cape Verde Islands off West
Dekker anchored Guppy, her 38-foot (11.5-meter) ketch, just
outside Simpson Bay Lagoon after what she called ”a very nice
trip” so far. She later steered it into the lagoon as a crowd
gathered at the docks and snapped pictures.
”It’s really weird. It’s not moving and not bouncy,” she told
The Associated Press as she tried to find her land legs while
strolling in flip-flops along a sidewalk to the Dutch territory’s
immigration office. ”I don’t think I can live in a house at the
The Dutch teenager started her trip from Gibraltar on Aug. 21
and spent two months in the Canary Islands waiting for the
hurricane season to pass. She left the Cape Verde Islands on Dec.
Dekker’s venture stirred an intense debate about whether young
people should be allowed to sail the world’s oceans alone. A Dutch
court originally blocked the voyage and only permitted her to set
off after she took measures to manage the risks.
She bought a bigger, sturdier boat than the one she originally
planned to use, fitted it with advanced navigation and radar
equipment, and took courses in first aid and coping with sleep
In the end, the Dutch court ruled that her preparations were
adequate and it was up to her parents, who are divorced, to decide
whether to let her make the attempt. Dekker was born on a boat off
New Zealand while her parents were sailing around the world.
On a recent blog posting, Dekker said she ”regularly wakes up
after only one hour of sleep” and was looking forward to sleeping
through the night while in St. Maarten.
On Sunday, she told the AP that she wasn’t sure how long she
would stay in St. Maarten or precisely where her next leg would
”I will just stay here now for a bit and I will think about
that,” Dekker said. ”I’ve not really a plan. I just want to be in
the Panama Canal in May, April, so until that time I will cross the
islands, I think.”
Overall, the solitude of the trip wasn’t difficult, she said,
although she did have fleeting bouts of homesickness.
”There were two or three moments that I thought, ‘OK, why the
hell am I doing this?’ But they were not for very long. If I feel
really lonely I can always call my parents or something so then
it’s over,” Dekker said.
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.
Earlier this year, Jessica Watson of Australia completed a 210-day
voyage at age 16.
But while Watson remained at sea nonstop, Dekker plans to stop
at dozens of ports and may even return home to catch up on her
studies before resuming her trip.
If Dekker completes the voyage, any record she claims would be
unofficial and likely to be challenged. The 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.
Dekker said she’s in no rush at all and is having an ”amazing”
experience out on the ocean.
”For me it’s more weird to be in a house for a week than to
stay three weeks on a boat,” she said.