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Keeping track of Laura Dekker- Happy Birthday!

by Nancy Knudsen on 24 Sep 2010
A shy wave from Laura after arriving in the Canaries SW
Laura Dekker, the 14-year-old Dutch sailor who has started her planned solo circumnavigation of the world, and is berthed in Marina Rubicon on the island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, has turned fifteen!

Most parents would say that they would worry for their fifteen-year-old spending her birthday alone, unsupervised, far from home and with no family around, but Laura - and her family - seem to take it in their stride.

But then this is no ordinary teenager, and an analyst might say that Laura's yearning to be at sea is not a yearning to challenge herself or confront danger, but a longing to return to her most secure memories. She was born on a bluewater cruising boat, did half a circumnavigation before she was six.

She gravitated, as a child does, to imitating what her parents do, and she's been sailing her previous Guppy, a 28-foot Hurley 800, on her own in the English Channel and North Sea since she was 11.

Below is her latest blog entry from the Canaries:

Yesterday was my birthday, thank you very much for all the congratulations. It was a very fine day for me.I awoke this morning to a phone call from my mother and my sister, followed by a call by my father and the rest of my family.
Later when I was busy doing my schoolwork the first gifts arrived, given by the Dutch people I have had dinner with. Then I received a fancy cake from the people of Marina Rubicon themselves.

The day before yesterday I went for a walking-tour of the volcanoes. That also was very nice, and afterwards we had
dinner where I tried Calamari. Actually I didn't like the taste too much. But I tried it. Still with one of my Dutch friends I
went snorkelling today. It was incredibly beautiful. I saw different species of fisheswith all kinds of colors. And those underwater rocks are admirable too (even though I actually don't like them that much, because you have to beware of them with
your boat).
After that we went to eat something. When I returned to my boat in the evening I found another gift for me. Given by someone from the island I have had a chat with earlier.
I also received greetings cards and things from some other people. In short: It was a great 15th birthday.
Today I will head for Gran Canary, leaving Lanzarote, Marina Rubicon and all the beauty here behind me. On towards new things and meeting new people.

Laura now sails a Jeanneau Fizz ketch 38ft, also named Guppy. The boat is equipped for long-distance sailing and adapted for solo-circumnavigation. The route is planned to go from Portugal westwards, cruising the Caribbean, go through Panama and past Indonesia. Then she plans either to go past Somalia to the Mediterranean, or around Africa if piracy is of concern. She plans around 26 stops.

Her planned voyage is pretty much 'the Milk Run' for cruising sailors - not for her the challenges of the Southern Ocean or the solitude of months and months alone. The longest she will probably be alone, all going well, is for three weeks at a time, and that is most likely to be on a Pacific leg, in the tropics, sailing from Galapagos to the Marquesas in French Polynesia.

This is not to underestimate Laura's voyage. The risk of colliding with a ship or running aground is much larger near land than on open ocean. Also the risk of being a crime victim is larger in a port city than on the sea.

Laura will still have to cross the big oceans. On the other hand she will avoid the stormy roaring forties, and she will wait (as she is now) to avoid the hurricane seasons which otherwise makes latitudes 20-30 dangerous.

Her education is to be conducted through the Wereldschool (Worldschool), an educational institution that would provide her with material for self-learning. During hurricane seasons, Dekker plans to fly home to study there

Laura will have more than the usual help in ports. At 14 locations Dekker will be met by a support team that follows the same route. It will also help her along difficult spots such as the Panama Canal. An Iridium tracking system onboard will allow a team in the Netherlands to monitor her course closely.

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