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Dangers Sailing Around the World Solo: Is 13 Too Young?

Dangers Sailing Around the World Solo: Is 13 Too Young?

Laura Dekker, just 13 years old, wants to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world and Mom and Dad think it’s a great idea. Laura was born in New Zealand while her parents were on a round-the-world sailing trip and spent the first four years of her life on the ocean. She’s been sailing solo since she was six and began dreaming of sailing around the world when she was 10.

I’m fascinated by thrill seekers, and love to hear stories about gutsy women that overcome personal fears and insurmountable goals to reach a lofty goal. But what about a teenager that hears the call to push themselves to their limit--what happens then?

Thirteen-year-old Laura Dekker wants to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world and Mom and Dad think it’s a great idea. Laura was born in New Zealand while her parents were on a round-the-world sailing trip and spent the first four years of her life on the ocean. She’s been sailing solo since she was six and began dreaming of sailing around the world when she was 10.

So what’s the problem?

The Dutch Council for Child Protection is concerned about the dangers of the marathon voyage. So much so, that it’s asked a court to grant it temporary custody of Laura so it can halt the trip.

Here’s what the adults say:

"She simply does not have the experience to anticipate the problems and possible crises that await her." (Dutch Daily Paper, De Volkskrant)

Besides the physical hazards, experts also warn that being alone for so long at such a young age could hinder the child's emotional development.

"A 13-year-old girl is in the middle of her development and you don't do that alone -- you need peers and adults." (Micha de Winter, Child Psychology Professor, Utrecht University)

Here’s what Laura says:

"In the beginning, they asked if I was sure I really wanted to do it." They have sailed around the world so they know what could happen and that it's not always fun, but I realize that too. But I really wanted to do it so my parents said, 'Good, we'll help you.'"

What do you think? Should Laura be given her chance? While you’re thinking of that answer, I encourage you to rent a 2003 movie called Visitors. Plot? The (fictional) story of Georgia Perry trying to become the first woman to sail around the world solo…

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Helen Wortham