Laura Dekker – why Holland has no modern heroes

Laura Dekker the 16-year-old Dutch girl, is about to complete her circumnavigation of the world in her twin masted sailboat ‘Guppy’.  This young girl is remarkable.  At the age of 6 she was sailing a small boat across lakes, at 13 she sailed from The Netherlands to England, and back.  She is the youngest person to ever have completed this trip.

So why my comment in the headline?  When it became public knowledge that Laura, then aged 13 was planning this trip, in jumps Dutch authorities – Netherlands Youth Institute.  Without meeting her and without talking to her they made a court application to have her removed from her father and locked up in a secure facility to prevent her from leaving.  When this failed, they went back to court four more times.  Fortunately the judiciary had more intelligence than the Youth Institute.  So eventually, she is free to go and heads off on her adventure.  It would be reasonable at this point to expect that the authorities expended their energies on how to support this remarkable young girl, but no, earlier this month truancy officers issued her father with a summons claiming that the schoolgirl had been failing to complete her homework on time.  She doesn’t always have access to the internet and her time is usually preoccupied with storms, sleeping and the safety of herself and Guppy.  Frankly I find it amazing that the authorities here have not reached the conclusion that any 14-year-old that can learn all the skills needed to sail a boat single-handedly around the world, would probably not benefit from a standard Dutch education.

So having done something of this magnitude, you would expect that Laura is about to return to a heroes welcome in Holland.  Sadly not. Instead Laura chose the Dutch Caribbean island of St Maarten as the arrival point because she feared the presence of social services if she returned directly to her native Netherlands

The opportunity that Laura presents for this country as a symbol of determination, skill, intelligence, spirit and individual courage is clearly not as important as this years version of “Voice of Holland” where the country goes into a frenzy to vote and applaud someone who will slide into utter obscurity within 6 months.  It cannot come as any surprise that Laura says that although she loves the Netherlands, she is unlikely to return because she finds it too stifling – now there is a surprise!

I do have to point out that Laura was actually born on a boat in Whangarei Harbour, New Zealand 🙂

You can read the full news article on the BBC website.  You can also read her story on her own website here.


1 thought on “Laura Dekker – why Holland has no modern heroes

  1. Whilst I agree with you about how farcical the authorities dealt with this issue in the beginning, let’s not forget the fact that it came to a head when her Mother initially refused to let her go sailing around the world and she called in the courts to help prevent it.

    It was only after the mother relented and let her go off, that the courts loosened the noose, so to speak.

    Whilst an achievement, I cannot help notice that you failed to mention the fact that she basically gave everyone who tried helping her (sponsors, TV documentary crew etc) the two fingers. Whilst I’ve not met her personally,the general consensus amongst the sailing press is that she’s extremely self centred, stubborn and wants to get her own way….my guess is as a result of the extreme version of laissez faire parenting her father chose to adopt. I’m all for kids exploring their abilities and expressing themselves, but I also think that they should understand boundaries. What happens as an adult when she’s been used to getting her own way, and now all of a sudden doesn’t. What will she do, have a hissy fit until the world gives in to her demands, no matter how ludicrous, unsafe or idiotic they may be?

    In the end, I think the courts just had enough of dealing with her and told her to Fuck Off and have a nice life. Mind you, I’d personally have wanted her family to stump up for the SAR costs if anything DID happen. I don’t see why someone else should pick up the tab for “hands-off parenting” like that. This in it’s own right is indicative of Dutch parenting in general….let someone else raise your child because you can’t be bothered/have no time to do it yourself.

    I do agree though of the point about this country being too stifling and think the whole truancy officer thing way over the top. But then, look at what they’re doing where I love now vis-a-vis dog tax….if they’re like that about policing dog owners, I’m not surprised they’re 10 times worse when it comes to kids. Rather than teaching Dutch kids the “three ‘R’s”, they should maybe focus on teaching them simple good manners and proper social skills….something Dekker was severely lacking….even towards the people who were actually trying to help her.

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