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 🙂