Laura Dekker, Youngest ‘Round World Sailor!


From Laura Dekker’s Blog.



Laura Dekker’s Editors Note:

At 14 Laura started from Gibraltar for her maiden voyage. January 2012 Laura has reached after 27.000 miles the Island of Sint Maarten to complete her circumnavigation after her departure there from Sint Maarten on January 2011. 

Laura is the youngest sailor ever who sailed solo around the globe!

Over the past years I have had many people ask me “Whats next?” – probably expecting me to start with some other adventure straight away. I might have disappointed some people, explaining how living a daily life in one place was the most challenging thing for me so far.
But even though I didn’t talk of the many ideas lingering in my head – they are there! I just didn’t want to go into too much detail yet. After all, I didn’t forget what happened (being worldwide news in 2010) the last time when I mentioned that I want to sail around the world…

When I left as a 14 year old I was already different from most kids my age – simply because my parents raised me so. However – the trip itself was absolutely life changing. Opening my eyes to the world and teaching me more then I could have ever learned in school.

Over the last years in New Zealand I’ve worked with the Girls High School, doing sailing lessons, hikes, camps, survival etc. I was so exited about the fact that these programs exist in schools there, especially when exchange students came over and I could see the difference first hand. Those familiar with nature and other things then school books and theoretical questions behaved more grown up, more capable to take care of themselves and take on responsibilities.

During my trip I didn’t quite realize what an amazing gift my parents had given me by letting me do many things by myself since I was a little child, allowing me to explore and learn by doing things and not by being told it’s not possible. And of course once I was able to stretch my wings and fly off on my own at age 14 all I learned was seriously put to the test – while learning still continued of course, as it hopefully always will. All I knew when I left was western mentality thinking, which shortly summed up looks a bit like this to me: Get good notes in school – go to a good university – get a good job – in order to buy heaps of stuff over which you can worry for the rest of your life 🙂
I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong with this – however the thing that I don’t agree with it is that everybody is expected to do this. Whether they want to or not. Some people love to study, however others don’t, but might be very good at something completely different. My parents never cared whether I had good notes in school or not. Dad never told me to do my homework either. He simply told me about the consequences of the different actions, but left the choice up to me. I loved learning and so I mostly did do my homework and did get good notes. But how is one to find it’s capabilities if he/she isn’t allowed to try? Of course kids will make mistakes and fall on their noses numerous times. So did I – really a lot as I am particularly stubborn. However through this I learned and found out which things I’m good at and which not.

Coming back to Europe I get a bigger shock every time – Seeing people so consumed with themselves, their own life, their own phone and holding onto it for dear life – not sharing a little bit of it.. 🙁  Don’t get me wrong – there is still many awesome people out there, and also many that do share – but I do get a little discouraged sometimes.

I am very far from perfect – but one thing I did learn on my travels is that the people you meet along the way are the most important thing. They make it or break it. Some of the islands in the pacific are my favorite places not only because the land is so beautiful but because the people are. They share, they listen, they actually care and it makes them happy too! Even though they don’t have much themselves, they will give you food, show you their land and their families. I met so many amazing people which – according to our western standards – have absolutely nothing, but they have a roof above their head, water from a river and food from the land and trees. This is enough to live and they were content, happy and more welcoming than most of the people I meet in our rich, busy society. It was a real good lesson for me to learn that happiness certainly doesn’t come from materialistic things.

I wish I knew how to change the world. I wish so often I had all the answers and people would become nice again to each other and stop fighting over everything. However the conclusion I came to is that we’re all human and none of us is perfect. And to change anything in the world I must start with myself  🙂

If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

Daniel and I have been working on plans to acquire a good size ship to take groups of youth aboard to gain life skills while discovering new horizons. Help them understand that we can be more independent than what we often act out on the one hand, but are more dependent than we often think in other aspects: the brands of our clothes, the latest phone, computer game or whether we act cool and up to date – these are things we do NOT depend on to have a place in this world! We can live independently of that kind of pressure. Plus – there’s a lot of ability that young ones obtain, which is unknown to them, because they hear the words “You’re too young for that!” or “You can’t do that!” too often. Only the challenge will show, whether one is capable or not, and often it’s just a matter of practice and exercise. There’s a lot more independent capability in young ones, than many have found out!

On the other hand we depend on a good relation to friends, family and neighbors! A self centered attitude is destructive – because we depend on each other even more than we depend on nature – people and nature are our environment! So to act respectfully with each other and work/live together as harmonically as possible is of great value for a long, happy and healthy life.

The idea is that the ship will be used for adventurous expeditions.

Groups would vary between youth from 9-13yo to 13 -17yo.
There will be different legs to a journey on which they can join or they may join for the full length of the journey.

While sailing the focus shall lay primarily on building life skills and character that can be learned through sailing. They will be involved in all aspects of the trip – preparation, cooking, maintenance, navigation, watches, sails, provisioning etc. Through the trip we wish to achieve some core life skills, like team work, responsibility, self confidence, determination, discipline, become aware of our environment & experience the pleasure of simplicity (= how less can be more)

Of course they will also learn about life at sea (i.e. sail handling, ropes, navigation (celestial and modern), understanding the weather, maintenance (rope work, woodwork, engine…)

However our main focus is building confidence, determination, team work and responsibility as these are the important things in life.

The ship would make port several times along the journey. Explorations ashore may involve activities like hiking, camping, outdoor survival skills, cultural insight, educational (museums,..) and other activities depending on the possibilities at each port.

We have a lot of ideas on how to run such a program and get more excited every time we think about it – however even though the plans, ideas and motivations are there, we still need a suitable boat and enough funds to start putting it into reality. 

       The quest for a boat:
We began searching for a boat last year, asking around and searching the entire internet for a suitable vessel.
I found it very difficult to find something that would be suitable for our plans.
We want it to be a non profit organization and to be affordable for all youth. So it has to be a boat that doesn’t cost tons in maintenance and dockage. However still be big enough to take on enough kids to make trips worth it.

We’ve spend a lot of time over the past year traveling all over the world looking at boats and found some that were quite suitable but near sinking and far too costly to keep maintained. We did also find some well maintained boats in our budget, but then they weren’t really suitable for sailing with youth. However after looking at so many boats and searching the internet for days we did get an even better idea of what our next boat should ideally be like.

This one got very close to what we want: However she needed so much repair and then maintenance to keep her sailing that it just wasn’t worth it.