A Forum for Opinions on News, Politics, and Life
January 21st, 2012
By Dan Miller
If at first the jerks try to stop you, try again.
Laura Dekker, a then thirteen year old young lady from the Netherlands, had long wanted to sail solo around the world in her twenty-six foot sailboat Guppy. Although delayed by Dutch officials she didn’t yield and was eventually able to do it. Now sixteen, she is scheduled to arrive today back at the Dutch island of St. Martin, from whence she finally was able to start her voyage on January 20, 2011.
I wrote about her rocky and governmentally impaired start here. I then observed,
The teenager, born on a yacht in New Zealand waters, spent the first four years of her life at sea and had hoped to start a two-year solo circumnavigation in September when she was still 13.
Her separated parents disagreed over the ambition. Her mother, Babs Muller, said her daughter was technically capable but worried about her loneliness at sea and safety in ports. Her father, Dick Dekker, a keen sailor with whom she lived, was in favor.
According to news reports, Laura evaded authorities in December and made her way by air to the Dutch island territory of St. Martin in the Caribbean, where she was found and returned to Holland.
Sailing solo around the world in a small boat is a big and potentially dangerous deal. However, many have done it, though probably none that young. Among other things, help is generally a long way off if needed while far offshore in open ocean, and it is physically impossible to have someone stand watch twenty-four hours per day.
Many other teens, only slightly older than Laura, have done it. They found it an exciting, difficult, and fulfilling voyage.
Ms. Dekker is now at home with her father, and the Dutch court now seems to be more sympathetic:
According to earlier media reports, Laura ran away from home [to begin her voyage from St. Martin] because she feels the court is frustrating her attempt to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world. Child protection officers are concerned about her safety and the court has said it wants to be sure Laura can cope with the two-year trip.
During Wednesday’s hearing, the judges laid down concrete conditions for allowing the trip. … They said that she should see these conditions as a chance to prove herself rather than as restrictions. For example, Laura must follow a first aid course and make a number of sailing trips abroad to prepare for her proposed round-the-world journey.
According to her lawyer, the judges want to help Laura so that she can make her world trip in three months time.
Bloody good for them! The Dutch have long been a seafaring nation, and it is refreshing to see some of that heritage evidence itself in a judicial decision.
And now she has succeeded! Many of the things we want to do are difficult, dangerous, uncommon and even unprecedented. If they don’t harm others, we really want to do them and have the ability we should. Ms. Deckker’s solo voyage met those requirements and, even though I have never met her, I’m very, very proud of her and of what she did. Perhaps not unique in the strict and literal sense of the word, she is a far more than a merely “special” person.
(This article was also posted at Dan Miller’s Blog.)
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