While 16-year-olds Jessica Watson and Abby Sunderland are well along the way to their goals to sail solo round the world, 14-year-old Laura Dekker, who had similar ambitions but was forbidden by a Dutch court to go sailing, has now been returned in custody to the Netherlands after running away from home.**
She had successfully avoided European regulations, which would have prevented her from travelling as a minor without permission, by flying to Paris and taking the onward flight to Sint Maarten in the Caribbean on her New Zealand passport. Laura holds dual Dutch and New Zealand citizenship.
After arriving back in Amsterdam on a flight from the Netherlands Antilles island of Curacao, Dekker was interviewed by police and then turned over to child-care authorities. Police have not commented about their discussion with her.
Holland's Bureau of Youth Care wants to remove the girl from the home of her father, Dick. Dekker's parents are divorced, and her mother unlike her father, does not approve of her sailing ambitions.
A district court hearing about Dekker is slated for Wednesday local time.
An official at the Utrecht court said a closed doors hearing would be held to hear the request from welfare authorities to place Laura in court custody. A ruling will be handed down soon after.
'Options include placing her into foster care or with her mother,' the court official said.
Where she wants to be - sailing her yacht Guppy - .. .
Born on her parents' boat in New Zealand, Dekker spent the first four years of her life at sea and had intended to start a two-year solo voyage round the world on her 8.3 metre yacht Guppy on September 1 when she was still 13.
Her grandparents criticised youth welfare workers for their treatment of Dekker in a letter in yesterday's De Volkskrant.
'Since the Bureau of Youth Care got involved, we have seen Laura change from a positive teenager into a child who has lost all trust in adults,' they wrote. **It is pertinent to note that Laura was NOT wanting to emulate the circumnavigations of the two 16-year-olds who are currently set on make-or-break journeys through some of the most difficult conditions on the planet. The difference, which is huge, is that they are attempting circumnavigations 'non-stop and unassisted'.
Laura, whatever you think of her age and whether she should be allowed to go solo sailing, wanted to sail in short legs, from port to port, similar to the journeys of hundreds of cruising sailors each year, and there have been no indications that she wanted to enter high latitudes. She has already completed many thousands of sailing miles with her parents, and, at the age of 11, sailed the English Channel twice solo, in her yacht Guppy.