Dutch teenage sailor Laura Dekker arrived in Portugal Saturday after a ten-day test and repositioning leg with her father leading up to her beginning of her solo circumnavigation on her 11.5 metre (38ft) Jeanneau Gin Fizz ketch called Guppy.
'Laura arrived in the Portuguese port of Portimao in the early morning hours,' manager Peter Klarenbeek told reporters, adding the docking had been kept quiet at the 14-year-old’s request.
'She has had so much media attention in the last year, and she decided she needed some time to be herself, in peace,' he said.
Dekker set off from Den Osse in the southwestern Netherlands on August 4, days after winning a 10-month court battle with child welfare authorities concerned she was too young to undertake the trip.
Accompanied by her father Dick, Laura set sail on her red-hulled yacht for Portugal for a trip meant to iron out any technical problems before her departure.
Klarenbeek said the Laura would leave from Portugal 'within the next week', and a final date would be announced in the coming days.
'She has had a fantastic trip so far. She saw dolphins and a whale.'
Dekker wants to break the record for the youngest world solo sail set in May by Australian teenager Jessica Watson. Watson completed a non-stop, unassisted round-the-world trip a few days before her 17th birthday.
Dekker turns 17 on September 20, 2012, allowing her a little over two years to complete the trip, during which she intends to stop at several ports along the way.
Dekker has said her route from Portugal will take her across the Atlantic Ocean and into the Pacific via the Panama Canal. She plans to stop at the Galapagos islands before heading to Australia, Thailand and through the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden back to Europe.
Dutch child protection authorities had been preventing Dekkers’ departure since last September for fear it would stunt her social and emotional development.
But a court last month rejected a request for a one-year extension of state supervision over the girl, saying her parents should decide.
Born in New Zealand during a round-the-world sailing trip by her parents, Dekker completed her first solo voyage, to the northern Netherlands, at the age of 11, then sailed solo to Britain, where she was promptly placed in a Children's Home and her father summoned to collect her. When he did so, he took her back to the shore, and she sailed home again solo across the English Channel for a second time.
In June she sailed again alone across the North Sea to England to prove her sailing skills to the authorities. Last December after being told she was not allowed to go sailing solo by the Dutch authorities, she ran away from home to the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten (St Martin) using her New Zealand passport. Police had to escort her back home.
Both her parents now support her plans after her mother, who is separated from her father, suffered a late about-face shortly before the court was due to give its most recent decision.
Comparisons with earlier teen voyages:
Except that they are all three young teenagers, Dekker's voyage is neither to be compared with that of the American Abby Sunderland, during which she had to be rescued from the South Indian Ocean after her yacht was dismasted, nor with that of Australian Jessica Watson, who successfully rounded the globe earlier this year. Dekker will venture nowhere near the dangers of the Southern Ocean, will avoid all hurricane seasons, and mostly remain in tropical waters. In addition, she will stop several times on the journey.
Her adventure is more to be likened to that of Zac Sunderland, Abby's older brother, who successfully circumnavigated the world last year, for a short time becoming the youngest person ever to do so, making many stops on the way. British teenage sailor Mike Perham, who set out to do a non-stop circumnavigation, but had to stop several times for technical repairs, finished his own circumnavigation a couple of months after Zac, and a few months younger.