My love for the ocean was instant and only grew over time. Having lived in a house for only one year of my life, the ocean naturally feels like my home.
On 21st January 2012, Laura Dekker completed her first solo circumnavigation of the globe. She was just sixteen years old.
Laura Dekker quite literally grew up on the water. She was born in New Zealand in 1995, partway through her parents’ 7-year sailing circumnavigation, and she grew up living on a yacht.
Her parents divorced when she was young, and she decided to live with her father. Together, they began building a 70-foot fishing boat from scratch. This experience inspired her to construct her own boat, a small sailing raft that she built when she was only six. This was also the year she completed her first solo sail.
I loved to sail alone, well almost alone […] my dog Spot was with me wherever I went, whether it was on the water or on land.
By the age of eight, she had already decided that she wanted to sail around the world solo. For Laura, this was more than just a pipe dream; it was a goal she was actively planning and preparing for. She started working odd jobs, delivering newspapers and gathering tips as a street performer, in order to save money to purchase her own yacht.
Buying a yacht would take time, so, rather than simply waiting to purchase her own boat, when she was ten, she convinced a friend of her father’s to allow her to repair and sail one of his. Within a year, she had taken it for a seven-week solo trip around Holland and the Wadden Islands.
By the age of eleven, she had accomplished her goal of buying her own yacht, and by thirteen, she had sailed solo all the way from the Netherlands to England and back again. It was at this point that she decided she didn’t want to wait any longer to fulfill her dream of circumnavigating the globe alone on her sailboat. She knew she had the skills necessary to do so successfully, and so, with the support of her father, she began planning her trip.
It was then that I wondered why I should wait any longer to fulfill my dream of sailing around the world. After all I had a seaworthy boat, some money saved up and enough skills to navigate my boat to anywhere I wanted.
She was temporarily thwarted, however, by the Dutch government who, fearing something would happen to her, took guardianship away from her parents in an effort to stop Laura from undertaking her solo expedition. She spent almost a year fighting with the government, at one point even running away. There must have been moments where she felt helpless, but she never gave up, and eventually, she was able to convince them to stop blocking her trip.
The last obstacle finally out of her way, Laura set off to fulfill her dream of circumnavigating the globe. She was only fourteen years old. One year and five months later, she accomplished her goal, officially becoming the youngest person in the world to circumnavigate the globe in a solo voyage.
After my world voyage I continued sailing to New Zealand, so I actually ended up circumnavigating one and a half times. I went back to the town I was born and decided to make that my home base.
Since then, Laura has dedicated herself to helping students across the world develop the life skills and experiences she gained as a sailor through her work with the Laura Dekker World Sailing Foundation. She has also written a book about her first circumnavigation, which has been published in four languages.
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