Court asked to block Dutch girl, 13, from sailing alone around the world

By on August 26, 2009
Laura Dekker

When we think of yachts, we often associate them with luxury. High class boating on the mysterious seas and other bodies of water around the world and yachts seem to go hand in hand. For one teenager, though, a yacht is more than just luxurious boating – it is a symbol of independence, aspiration, and adventure.

A thirteen year old Dutch girl by the name of Laura Dekker aspires to be the youngest individual to sail around the world alone in her yacht. While many would consider this quite ambitious and admirable overall, the protection agency that supervises the affair of children in The Hague are standing in strong opposition to this teenager’s dream. We often complain that our children fail to stand for something, they fail to plan, and they fail to dream… so, why is it when one of these children aspire to fulfill a dream, society zooms in on them and attempts to shatter those dreams?

I am a parent of two young boys. I have found that they each possess their own strengths and their own weaknesses. I have discovered that they are each ambitious in their own ways. When I have attempted to stop them from fulfilling their goals and dreams due to my own issues of doubt, I have witnessed their crushed spirit. I know it seems odd that I am supportive of this teenager’s goal, but if you look at her history, her experience, and even the yacht that she wants to implement on her journey, you will perhaps understand my degree of support. First, she was actually born on a yacht. Her parents were indulging on a world wide trip at the time that lasted seven years. Her birth occurred just off the New Zealand coast. From birth, she was actively involved in sailing, boating, and all things related to the water.

Throughout her short life, Laura has been trained in handling a yacht and sailing in general. When other students were playing with Barbie Dolls and mastering reading, Laura was far ahead academically and was being taught in the ways of the sea as well as the way of the land. At six years old, a time in which many parents are removing training wheels from their child’s bicycle, Laura received her first, very own yacht. She learned everything that she could about the boat including maneuvering techniques and mechanical upkeep. By the age of eleven, she struck out on her own. She spent nearly two months on her own, exploring various areas with her yacht – and did it successfully! She approached her father, Dick Dekker, with her dreams and he felt that she has the maturity and expertise to engage in an independent world tour.

In order to help prepare Laura for her incredible adventure, he got in touch with the school and requested that she be removed from her academic obligations and be permitted to conduct her studies through the internet. Naturally, once the school system learned the reason behind the request, they refused without hesitation. Immediately thereafter, the Dutch protective services were called in on the case. The further they got into their investigation, the more they pushed for the parents to lose their parental rights. As of August 24th, the yacht that she plans to use, which is just over twenty-four feet long, and is named “Guppy” remains in waiting. She and her family are in court over the issue. Laura hopes her Hurley 800 yacht will be able to make the trip – with her included, but the court system seems absolutely convinced that her dream is not in her “best interests”.

Let’s see a short video: The Dutch Council for Child Protection’s concerned about the dangers and has asked a court to grant it temporary custody of Laura Dekker.

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My question is, who decides what is in another person’s best interests? Have these people even considered her expertise? Have they considered the security enhancements that yachts have today? Have they considered the fact that the teenager can be in constant contact with her family through the use of MiFi, radio, cell phone, and other means? Have they thought about the fact that some yachts are designed to reflect a small apartment? Who are they to squash the dreams of this teenager? In our early history, thirteen year olds held a massive amount of responsibility – some were sole providers for their family, some were parents, some were on their own – why is it so different now? Are we developing or regressing?

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Related links:
Laura Dekker’s official website

Foto: Arie Kievit