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Around the World in 366 Days

January 21, 2012 permalink

Laura Dekker with globe

Laura Dekker should arrive today at Sint Maarten, completing her round the world solo sailing trip. She left Sint Maarten on January 20, 2011, 366 days ago, only 365 sunrises in her sailing direction. The trip started with many small hops in the Atlantic and Caribbean, and stops at almost every island along the way in the south Pacific. But from Australia, Laura made two enormous crossings, from Darwin to Durban South Africa, 10250 km, then after a few stops in South Africa, from Cape Town December 12, 10360 km to Sint Maarten.

How has Holland reacted to Laura? Dutch authorities think she fell behind on her schoolwork. They issued a truancy summons to her father and are threatening to take Laura back into care when she reaches Holland. Sint Maarten is Dutch territory, so that could be soon. What does more for a girl's development? Sailing around the world stopping at over a dozen ports, and depending on your own resources to stay alive, or sitting in a classroom for two years?

An article from Sail World and Laura's blog post of January 18 discussing her problems with child protectors are enclosed. Earlier articles: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]



Solo sailing teen Laura Dekker did not 'tear down' her Dutch flag

Laura Dekker with Dutch flag
'Laura waving goodbye at the start of her journey showing Dutch flag' .

When 16-year-old Laura Dekker sails Guppy into the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten in about eight days to become the youngest ever circumnavigating sailor, she will be flying, not a Dutch flag, but the flag of New Zealand. However mainstream media reports that she had recently 'torn down' the Dutch flag are not true.

Laura Dekker at Capetown
Composite photos of Laura arriving Capetown - New Zealand flag is clearly visible .. .

Laura, who has dual Dutch and New Zealand citizenship, has been flying the New Zealand flag since she departed Darwin Australia. Her reasons are, however, certainly steeped with the hurt she has experienced from Dutch child authorities who have constantly tried to impede her progress. Even after she had made many concessions and her journey was well advanced they have not relented their attempts to prevent her voyage continuing.

Her lawyer Peter De Lange told Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant that truancy officers issued her father a summons to appear late last year after a newspaper quoted her as saying in her blog she had not been giving her studies full attention.

Mr 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.

When her father refused to turn up, the truancy agency notified child protective services, infuriating the family.

'Who knows, maybe they'll be waiting for her with handcuffs at the finish line,' Mr De Lange said.

If Laura checks in as a New Zealand citizen, they will have a hard time fastening those handcuffs.

The story behind the acquisition of a New Zealand flag is a simple one. On arrival into Darwin, Laura's Dutch flag was looking a little ragged. Knowing that she wanted a New Zealand flag, her agent and friend Lyall Mercer bought the flag and presented it to her as a present. Laura's voyage route did not include New Zealand, but she has said she hopes to sail there after reaching Sint Maarten.

Laura is currently sailing her 38ft Jeanneau Gin Fizz ketch Guppy across the Atlantic from Cape Town, following the trade winds to the Caribbean and the completion of her around-the-world sail. She is expected to arrive the island around 24th January, having departed there in August last year. If she arrives on that day, she will be 16 years, four months and 15 days old, more than seven months younger than Australian Jessica Watson, who completed a non-stop journey, staying mostly in the southern hemisphere, just before her 17th birthday.

Some like to count these things, but the fact is that neither the Guinness Book of Records nor the World Speed Sailing Record Council accept 'youngest' records these days, so as not to encourage parents pushing their children into foolish exploits.

Laura's difficulties with the authorities:

The Dutch court originally blocked Laura's voyage and only permitted her to set off after she finished her school year.

While it could be said that Laura already had learned the skills that she needed, the authorities put their reluctant stamp of approval on her journey only after she had passed certain courses to their satisfaction, bought a bigger boat than the one she originally planned to use; enrolled in a special correspondence school and shown that her navigation equipment was adequate. Did she need these extra checks? Her father is vehement that she did not, that they added nothing to her skills, nor to the safety of her boat. Would she have coped just as well as she has without them? We shall never know...

Many civil libertarians in the Netherlands are angry about the treatment of Laura and her family, accusing the government of 'nanny state' control - 'parochialism versus global perspective, fear versus adventure, paternalism versus empowerment' as one Dutch journalist put it.

Laura was born on her parents' yacht when it was docked in Whangarei, making her a New Zealand citizen. She spent the first few years of her young life completing a circumnavigation with her parents, who are now divorced. Passionately in love with sailing, the tearaway teen then completed her first crossing of the English Channel solo at the age of thirteen, ending up in a Children's Home after the British authorities saw the age on her passport.

Mr De Lange said Laura plans to return to school after her voyage, perhaps in New Zealand.

Source: Sail World (Canada)

Reaching the end of my circumnavigation, I look back with joy at the adventures of the past year. I am also thinking hard, and trying to come to terms with the year prior to my voyage. The Dutch government was not kind to me. As a 13 year old girl, it was never my intention to be the center of world news. From the moment my plans became public, Youth Care and other government organizations tried to stop me. During the first court case, in August 2009, (even before Youth Care had ever seen me, or had spoken to me…), they asked the Judge to take me away from my father and to lock me up in a secure clinic! By doing this they tried to stop me from sailing. Another five court cases followed and another five times Youth Care asked the judge to lock me up. I only wanted to go sailing! Fortunately the judge never honored this terrible request. Over a period of 11 months, I was constantly afraid that Youth Care would lock me up. Also during this period, there were intimidating interviews with Youth Care workers. It was all a frightening and traumatic experience. So often these terrible memories come to me. I can’t ignore them. It is painful. Now, after sailing around the world, with difficult port approaches, storms, dangerous reefs, and the full responsibility of keeping myself and Guppy safe, I feel that the nightmares the Dutch government organizations put me through, were totally unfair. I think that the nightmares will follow me for the rest of my life... At sea, I feel comfortable and I come to rest. I especially enjoy the long passages over the Indian and Atlantic Ocean. I hear now that the Dutch government organizations have started causing problems again. I am seriously thinking about not returning to the Netherlands. Of course I will discuss this with my parents. We will make decisions carefully, such as finishing my high school education and making plans for my future. Last but not least, I would like to say that I realize my voyage would not have been possible without the support of all my fans from around the globe and my sponsors. I am very grateful to them and I would like to thank them all! I can’t be negative about the Netherlands, a country with so many good people. Because of my past experience with the Dutch government organizations, I have the feeling that it will be very difficult for me to return to the Netherlands. I will complete my solo circumnavigation on the island of Sint Maarten. I am sorry if I disappoint my Dutch fans. What a party it would have been if Hoek van Holland or IJmuiden had been my port of arrival…!!!.. Who knows, it might still happen one day…


Source: Laura Dekker blog

Below are two news reports on Laura's arrival in Sint Maarten.



Laura Dekker
Dutch girl Laura Dekker, 16, arrives in the Dutch Caribbean island of Saint Maarten.
AFP: Jean-Michel Andre

Source: ABC (Australia)

16-year-old girl, Laura Dekker, completes solo trip around the world

Laura Dekker, Dick Dekker, Kim Dekker and Babs Muller
Dutch sailor Laura Dekker, center left, is hugged by her father Dick Dekker, right, sister Kim Dekker, center, in red, and mother Babs Muller, left, after arriving to Simpson Bay, St. Maarten, on Saturday.
(AP Photo/Stephan Kogelman)

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten — Laura Dekker set a steady foot aboard a dock in St. Maarten on Saturday, ending a yearlong voyage aboard a sailboat named “Guppy” that apparently made her the youngest person ever to sail alone around the globe, though her trip was interrupted at several points.

Dozens of people jumped and cheered as Dekker waved, wept and then walked across the dock accompanied by her mother, father, sister and grandparents, who had greeted her at sea earlier.

Dekker arrived in St. Maarten after struggling against high seas and heavy winds on a final, 41-day leg from Cape Town, South Africa.

“There were moments where I was like, ’What the hell am I doing out here?,’ but I never wanted to stop,” she told reporters. “It’s a dream, and I wanted to do it.”

Dekker claims she is the youngest sailor to complete a round-the-world voyage, but Guinness World Records and the World Sailing Speed Record Council did not verify the claim, saying they no longer recognize records for youngest sailors to discourage dangerous attempts.

Dutch authorities tried to block Dekker’s trip, arguing she was too young to risk her life, while school officials complained she should be in a classroom.

Dekker said she was born to parents living on a boat near the coast of New Zealand and said she first sailed solo at 6 years old. At 10, she said, she began dreaming about crossing the globe. She celebrated her 16th birthday during the trip, eating doughnuts for breakfast after spending time at port with her father and friends the night before in Darwin, Australia.

The teenager covered more than 27,000 nautical miles on a trip with stops that sound like a skim through a travel magazine: the Canary Islands, Panama, the Galapagos Islands, Tonga, Fiji, Bora Bora, Australia, South Africa and now, St. Maarten, from which she set out on Jan. 20, 2011.

“Her story is just amazing,” said one of Dekker’s fans, 10-year-old Jody Bell of Connecticut. “I can’t imagine someone her age going out on sea all by herself.”

Bell was in St. Maarten on a work trip with her mother, Deena Merlen, an attorney in Manhattan, who wanted to see Dekker complete her journey. The two wore T-shirts that read: “Guppy rocks my world.”

“My daughter and I have been following Laura’s story, and we think it’s amazing and inspiring,” Merlen said.

Unlike other young sailors who recently crossed the globe, Dekker repeatedly anchored at ports along the way to sleep, study and repair her 38-foot (11.5-meter) sailboat.

During her trip, she went surfing, scuba diving, cliff diving and discovered a new hobby: playing the flute, which she said in her weblog was easier to play than a guitar in bad weather.

Dekker also complained about custom clearings, boat inspections, ripped sails, heavy squalls, a wet and salty bed, a near-collision with two cargo ships and the presence of some persistent stowaways: cockroaches.

“I became good friends with my boat,” she said. “I learned a lot about myself.”

Highlights of her trip include 47 days of sailing the Indian Ocean, which left her with unsteady legs when she docked in Durban, South Africa, where she walked up and down the pier several times for practice.

While in South Africa, she also saw her first whale.

“It dove right in front of my boat and got all this water on my boat, and that wasn’t really nice,” she said.

Dekker launched her trip two months after Abby Sunderland, a 16-year-old U.S. sailor, was rescued in the middle of the Indian Ocean during a similar attempt. Jessica Watson of Australia completed a 210-day solo voyage at age 16, a few months older than Dekker.

Dekker had said she planned to move to New Zealand after her voyage, but she said Saturday that she wants to finish school first. If she goes to New Zealand, she said, she’d like to sail there.

Source: New York Daily News

Addendum: Here is a video Youngest Cirvumnavigator to Sail Alone Around the World By Laura Dekker with a local copy (mp4). There is also a movie, Maidentrip, about Laura's voyage. It is available on bittorrent with this magnet link: Maidentrip.

Addendum: Rejects of Society. Laura was interviewed by Radio New Zealand on November 5, 2014, local copy (mp3). Starting at 16:11 Laura gives her opinion of social services.

Addendum: In an opinion piece about the failures of state-run education, Jacob G Hornberger uses Laura Dekker as an example of how to get a real education.



Laura Dekker: Public School Failure or Free-Market Success Story?

One of the real downsides of living under a socialist system for a long period of time is that people lose their faith in freedom and free markets. One of the best examples of this phenomenon involves public schooling, the governmental program to which American children are required to submit when they reach six years of age.

The common notion is that without mandatory, state-approved education, the vast majority of children would never get educated. We would end up with a nation of mostly uneducated people.

Yet, from birth to six, American children learn how to speak English, one of the world’s most difficult languages to learn. In fact, many children learn two languages in the first six years of their lives.

Many children also learn to read before they get to school. In fact, I’ve heard of instances where children who have a passion for reading soon lose that passion because they’re so bored in public school.

Defenders of public schooling say that at least it provides children with the basics of an education. But does it? Is cramming a bunch of information into a child, which is what a public-school education is all about, a genuine education?

I don’t think so, especially given the damage that a system of conformity, regimentation, and deference to authority does to a child, oftentimes for the rest of his life. Someone once said that it would be better to go uneducated than to be educated by the state. I firmly believe that that’s true, given what a state system of education — a system of army-lite — does to a person’s natural love of learning, independent thinking, and a high-spirited life.

Another issue arises: What is an educated person?

I recently watched a fascinating documentary entitled Maidentrip about a Dutch teenage girl named Laura Dekker who is the youngest person to ever circumnavigate the world in a sailboat alone. She completed the journey at 16 years of age.

She would have done it sooner but for the Dutch authorities. They filed a custody suit, seeking to prevent the teenager from embarking on the voyage. They felt that the state, not the parents, should have ultimate control over such decisions.

The Dutch courts finally ruled in favor of Laura but only on the condition that she continue her state-approved education while conducting her voyage. I assume that meant learning such things as social studies, Dutch history, chemistry, and trigonometry.

That condition really struck me as I was watching the documentary. Here was a teenage girl who obviously knew everything there is about sailing. She had practically grown up in a sailboat, thanks to her father, who also loved sailing.

In fact, there is rather humorous story about Laura and her father. One day, her father received a telephone call from English authorities telling him that his 14-year-old daughter had arrived in England on her sailboat alone. The authorities told Mr. Dekker that he needed to come and get his daughter. He responded that he didn’t know she was gone and that if she could make it to England alone, she could make it back alone.

As I was watching the documentary, I looked up her biography and learned that this teenage girl could speak three languages — Dutch, German, and English. She was also able to read complicated sea charts. She could handle radio communications. She could maneuver a 27-foot sailboat in some of the scariest storms one could ever imagine.

What was also fascinating was to watch her spirited sense of individualism, optimism, and confidence — all the traits that the state smashes out of children with its system of public schooling.

To satisfy the condition that the Dutch court imposed on her, Dekker signed up for some sort of worldwide self-education course. Along the voyage, however, she mentioned publicly that she wasn’t keeping up with the coursework given the time she had to devote to managing a one-person sailboat on the high seas.

Well, as you can imagine, the Dutch public-school authorities and the Dutch mainstream press went ballistic, even suggesting that the girl had thrown her textbooks overboard and thus was no longer getting educated. That sure seems dumb to me, especially coming from people who presume themselves to be educated because they went through the state’s education system.

In any event, public-school officials in Holland were not amused that Laura Dekker wasn’t getting educated while circumnavigating the world on her own. Here is how the website explained the situation:

Her lawyer Peter De Lange told Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant that truancy officers issued her father a summons to appear late last year after a newspaper quoted her as saying in her blog she had not been giving her studies full attention.

Mr 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.

When her father refused to turn up, the truancy agency notified child protective services, infuriating the family.

“Who knows, maybe they’ll be waiting for her with handcuffs at the finish line,” Mr De Lange said.

Well, they didn’t have the chance to put those handcuffs on Laura Dekker because rather than return to Holland, she simply crossed the Atlantic again and headed to New Zealand, where she had dual citizenship.

The public-schooling system would obviously consider Laura Dekker to be an educational failure. I say she exemplifies the deep passion for learning and the thirst for independence and a high-spirited and confident life that characterize all children from birth to six, traits that the state schooling system has smashed out of children by the time they graduate high school.

Good for Laura Dekker! In my books, she’s a free-market education success story!

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at and from Full Context. Send him email. Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Source: Future of Freedom Foundation