The news of Dutch authorities preventing a 13 year old from sailing around the world hit the headlines this week.
13 year old Laura Dekker from The Netherlands has been stopped by Dutch authorities from embarking on a long-term lone sailing trip (with assistance) that would potentially break the world record (currently held by a British 17 year old who broke the record this week which was previously set this July by an American 17 year old!) And they say teens these days have no ambition!
(The term "with assistance" refers to sailing alone but stopping at ports when necessary, for repairs etc. )
Laura Dekker has already sailed from The Netherlands to England alone, but was taken into custody due to being in a foreign country, as a minor, with no parental supervision. This action caused Dutch courts to look into her situation and once they learned of her plans to embark on an around the world trip, they stripped her parents of sole custody. The courts and parents will share custody while the child is evaluated in terms of her mental and physical abilities to take this trip alone.
The child has her parent's full support to sail around the world and has been sailing alone since she was six years old. She spent the first four years of her life living on a boat.
The American teen who broke the world record this June saw many difficulties on his travels - one being a near miss with pirates. I heard his interview on NPR and while he enjoyed himself, it's a very difficult trip with potentially deadly consequences.
The British teen who broke his record this week has warned that just being a good sailor isn't enough. The person needs to wear many hats including an excellent working knowledge of mechanics, carpentry as well as electrician skills and more.
A person would also need the wherewithal to deal with being attacked by pirates or other criminals on the high seas, in addition to the dangers of treacherous weather, and mechanical failures. Loneliness and isolation are also important factors.
And with all these teens breaking this particular record this year - experts worry that the notion of fame and fortune may be getting in the way. They say that while it's great to be the first or the youngest or the fastest to do something, there are real dangers involved that can be ignored in favor of glory. Just because someone is physically capable of doing something, doesn't mean they should.
However, this child does have excellent sailing talent and the backing of her parents. The Dutch courts will make their decision in a couple of months to determine if she can go ahead with the trip. If they refuse, the girl's family have indicated that they may relocate to New Zealand (where she also holds citizenship) and try from there. But New Zealand authorities have implied that they may also get involved to possibly stop her.
Would you allow your 13 year old daughter to sail around the world, if she had the sailing expertise? Why? Why not?
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