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Laura Dekkers Darkest Hour


  • Laura Dekkers Darkest Hour

    We last saw of young Laura Dekker was her departure from Portugal August 21st. She made the voyage to the Canary Islands
    in 4 days and had bee languishing there ever since awaiting the Atlantic Hurricane seasons end before next leg.
    Her Weblog
    is filled with her daily adventure in the Canaries, doing thing a content young adventurer to do, exploring, diving making friends.
    Generally enjoying life to its fullest.

    Pete Thomas Outdoors reports a much darker period in Laura's life as her parents divorced, custodial battles were waged and she sought asylum far far away:

    Teen sailor Laura Dekker pondered suicide as ward of state

    Laura Dekker, 15, who is in the Canary Islands preparing to resume her quest to become the youngest person to solo-circumnavigate the planet in a sailboat, became so depressed while others campaigned against her voyage that the Dutch adventurer contemplated suicide and even tried to slash her wrist.

    The revelation was made by Riek Dekker, Laura's grandmother, in a newly-published book. Riek, in a Dutch newspaper interview, quoted Laura as saying, "The time before I decided to run away and when I tried to slash my wrist was the hardest. I did not want to hurt anyone else, so I hurt myself. I really felt I wanted to die."

    Dekker's parents are divorced. She had planned, with the support of her father, to leave when she was 14. But a court in The Netherlands intervened last fall and placed Dekker under guardianship of the state welfare agency.

    Dekker did not seriously injure herself during the suicide attempt and ended up running away instead, having somehow managed to book a flight by herself to St. Martin in the Caribbean.

    She cited unrelenting pressure from social workers and the media as reasons for her becoming despondent. In an email sent to me, she wrote that social workers pressured her mother to oppose the trip "and, of course, this was hard for me."

    All of this was happening while an unprecedented solo-circumnavigation youth movement was underway. Southern California's Zac Sunderland completed a 13-month voyage around the world, at 17, in July of 2009. He briefly held the distinction of being the youngest person to have sailed around the world alone.

    England's Mike Perham, who is slightly younger than Sunderland, completed a similar odyssey several weeks later to claim the distinction.

    Australia's Jessica Watson finished a nonstop, unassisted voyage around the world last May, just days before turning 17, and is now the youngest. A month later Abby Sunderland, also at 16, became more famous than her predecessors after her boat was rolled and crippled by a rogue wave in the Indian Ocean.

    Zac's sister became the focus of an international rescue effort and her ordeal -- there was a long stretch during which her fate was unknown -- underscored the danger associated with global sailing. It became a major news story and brought the issue of age, risk and responsible parenting to the forefront.

    Though Abby was interviewed before her voyage by a representative of a child welfare agency, Dekker is the only sailor to have had the courts intervene and prevent her from leaving.

    When Dekker's mother, Babs Mueller, reluctantly changed her mind in July and gave her blessing, and after Dekker had fulfilled a list of conditions, which included completing courses in first-aid and the use of emergency equipment, she was cleared by a Dutch court to go.

    She began her voyage from Gibraltar in late August and has been waiting in the Canary Islands for the Atlantic hurricane season to wane before sailing across the Atlantic toward the Caribbean and the Panama Canal, after which she'll attempt to tackle the Pacific and the rest of the watery planet.

    "I am really looking forward to getting across the ocean" she wrote on her blog. "I think it will be a great experience."
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