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Exactly 364 days ago I was sailing on the opposite side of Guadeloupe heading west...
January 21, 2012 5:28 PM   Subscribe

Today Dutch sailor Laura Dekker returned to St. Maarten, completing her yearlong solo voyage around the world aboard her sailboat, “Guppy.” (Previously)
posted by the_artificer (49 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think the post should mention she's 16.
posted by falameufilho at 5:42 PM on January 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Brava Laura! Way to go girl! And only 17?! Astounding.
posted by nickyskye at 5:42 PM on January 21, 2012


There's a documentary being made about this called Maidentrip.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:45 PM on January 21, 2012


Truly outstanding. I hope she gets some satisfaction in taking it out of her critics.

I dream of doing a circumnavigation like that, at some point in my life -- to have done so at the age of 17 is...well, beyond impressive. Not really sure what you do after that; try for the Americas Cup on a gap year?
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:08 PM on January 21, 2012


I hope she gets some satisfaction in taking it out of her critics.

That she succeeded doesn't make the critics incorrect. I survived a lot of stupid shit. That doesn't mean I would advise doing half the stuff I've lived through. Hopefully the next kid that tries this is as lucky.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:21 PM on January 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


The SS Guppy is the name of Cap'n Crunch's ship.
posted by Daddy-O at 6:41 PM on January 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


What an incredible feat. Still seems incredibly irresponsible as well.
posted by basicchannel at 7:12 PM on January 21, 2012


Hopefully the next kid that tries this is as lucky.

Still seems incredibly irresponsible as well



Please. Luck doesn't really have a lot to do with this awesome young women's accomplishment, and I guarantee you that she has more sense of responsibility than most college grads these days.

Sure shit happens at sea, but her ability to plan and execute this remarkable feat is a result of her courage, experience, intestinal fortitude, planning, risk-assessment and amelioration, and intelligence.

All the hand-wringing curmudgeons and nannies getting the vapours over this can go back to jamming up the roads while shuttling their precious little snowflakes the few blocks to school, the mall, and Justin Bieber concerts again.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:21 PM on January 21, 2012 [15 favorites]


Eh, 'youngest person ever to do something' achievements are kind of arbitrary and only reward parents willing to endanger their children. In two years, the achievement would have been worth exactly as much on a personal level, but they authorities wouldn't have (rightly) freaked out and she wouldn't have had to drop out of school. There just wouldn't have been the fame for her or her parents - which is why she couldn't wait.

Plus there's always the worry that the only reason they want to do something like this is because they've been massively coached by their parents their whole childhood (probably ever since they displayed talent). It's disconcerting to watch a person take massive risks before they have a chance to achieve self-determinacy and start to choose their own path through life.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:52 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


It occurred to me as I read this, earlier today, that considering all the modern communications technology and particular attention to her wellbeing -- together with her being miles at sea from her peers -- Laura was actually more safe and secure than most teenage girls in their own societies. Remember when you were sixteen? Wouldn't you have liked to be thousands of miles away from everyone you knew on a regular basis?
posted by Countess Elena at 8:15 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Because what could go wrong at sea? And we all know 16 year olds are great in a crisis!

What the hell are the airlines paying these adults to fly those planes for? They could get kids so much cheaper. Good thing we have child labor laws.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:34 PM on January 21, 2012


Yeah, and I bet this girl wasn't sailing her boat drunk, either. One can't always say the same for commercial jet pilots. I think it's weird to judge her so harshly. And you know, hey! look at that, she did it.
posted by heyho at 8:51 PM on January 21, 2012


And we all know 16 year olds are great in a crisis!

Yeah she should have had the advice of someone with the age and experience of Captain Francesco Schettino to help plot her course, ensure her safety at sea, and handle any crisis that arose.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:52 PM on January 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Her father is evil. No short way around it... to demand your daughter be in the open ocean, all alone, for her late childhood? Even worse, convince a pre-teen it's her own idea?

Yeah, in the same league as the pseudo-mormon cultists who claim 14 is marrying age...
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:22 PM on January 21, 2012


I would feel better for this girl if her parents had taught her to drive the "The Truck They Couldn't Drown".

I mean, it's still water related and all that.
posted by lampshade at 9:34 PM on January 21, 2012



Because what could go wrong at sea? And we all know 16 year olds are great in a crisis!


I would point out that David Farragut, future Best Admiral of the USN Ever, had is first command at the age of 12.
posted by mikelieman at 10:22 PM on January 21, 2012


only reward parents willing to endanger their children [...] before they have a chance to achieve self-determinacy and start to choose their own path through life

This is uncharitable. Is the interpretation of "reward" here something different from "seeing your almost adult child succeed in something quite challenging"?

She was born on a boat, and spent the first four years of her life at sea. This is not some sort of a publicity stunt - sailing is what she and her family do, and I don't see how you'd take that out of her own path.

Because what could go wrong at sea? And we all know 16 year olds are great in a crisis!

Is this about all 16yr olds, or only some of them? We let most of them drive - is this crisis weakness something we should be concerned about?
posted by ivancho at 11:24 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Robin Graham set out from California to sail to Hawaii in an era before satellite phones, GPS, satellite tracking devices, EPIRBs, or the Internet. He eventually sailed around the world as well. I don't know which is more dangerous - a 16 year old girl on a sailboat outfitted with a ton of modern electronics and a modern life raft, or a 16 year old sailing from California to Hawaii with only a set of paper charts, a compass and sextant.
posted by thewalrus at 11:54 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


ivancho: I don't see how you'd take that out of her own path.

Have her live on her own for a few years, away from her parents. If she still does it then, she actually wanted to do it.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:54 PM on January 21, 2012


Mitrovarr:
Have her live on her own for a few years, away from her parents. If she still does it then, she actually wanted to do it.


This is a bit of an oversimplification, and I can't see its usefulness as a criterion for deciding what kids actually want to do. Say her parents were both professors in mathematics - are we going to ask the kid to stay away from math (the discipline she is most likely to excel at) for a few years, until we are sure it's what she "actually" wanted? Things are fluid - maybe she'll find another interesting challenge, maybe she'll stick to stuff she is generally good at. Would you be as dismissive if she had proven Fermat's (Last) Theorem over the course of 365 days?
posted by ivancho at 1:21 AM on January 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh please. Like sixteen year olds never did anything on their own. How many of you have grandparents (or even parents) who left school at fourteen and got a job, perhaps working with heavy machinery or travelling with the merchant navy or something? Sure, they weren't entirely on their own, but this idea that sixteen is 'late childhood' and it is evil to let a sixteen year old try to achieve something? Or equating it with a fourteen year old girl forcibly married to someone old enough to be her father? I'm not saying we should all go back to 'the good old days' but there are plenty of societies, past and present, where doing 'adult things' at sixteen is not seen as so extraordinary. When my kid is sixteen, I only hope he has the gumption and independence this girl has shown.
posted by Megami at 1:23 AM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, irresponsible behaviour does happen. 2½ years ago, a family (mom, dad, three teenage kids) set out from Denmark planning to sail around the world in two years. About 1½ years later, they sailed right into a well-known pirate territory west of Somalia. They were captured (along with two crew members) by pirates, and they spent the next 6 months in captivity before being released for a reported ransom of 3 million dollars.

(I know that Laura Dekker stayed far away from Somalia, so no slur on her.)
posted by WalkingAround at 2:47 AM on January 22, 2012


It's the "risk vs. benefit based on cost" issue which bugs me.

Like " I am going to risk my daughters life for the benefit of sending her around the world in a boat alone , but I will spend enough so she will be as safe as if she never left."

I don't know if it is possible to spend that much money but I would think if something happened - it would be related to to "not spending enough" and "being too young to go around the world in a boat alone" and the parents not capable of recognizing one or the other.

There must be an age where it is too young - and these parents want to be as close to that age as possible - where I tend to wait a little longer. I am a parent and have a canoe, so I can relate.

And why do they have to be alone ? Is going around the world in a boat ruined by having another passenger ? Seems needlessly extreme .

"I just got back from a boat trip around the world!"
"At your age ? Were you alone ?"
"No "
"Meh"
posted by epjr at 2:48 AM on January 22, 2012


BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS IF NOT DUFFERS WONT DROWN
posted by Grangousier at 2:53 AM on January 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


(Correction: *East* of Somalia.)
posted by WalkingAround at 3:53 AM on January 22, 2012


This is not some sort of a publicity stunt

Well, actually...

But the Guinness Book of World Records will be upholding Jessica Watson's record in perpetuity.
posted by likeso at 4:22 AM on January 22, 2012


Her father is evil. No short way around it... to demand your daughter be in the open ocean, all alone, for her late childhood? Even worse, convince a pre-teen it's her own idea?

And worse than that he tricked her into believing he hoped it was just something she'd get out of her system after her solo trip to England. From About Laura:
Guided by her father, who wrongly thought that her first single handed voyage from Holland to England would cure her of her' wanderlust', Laura has studied tides, weather, navigation, regulations and safety.
What a manipulative monster he is!
posted by scalefree at 5:57 AM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hate these sorts of stunts in general anyway. There's really, really no point in crossing the Amazon in a wheelchair[1] or the Atlantic in a rowboat or being the umpteenth thousanth person on Evererst and it doesn't make you a hero or particularly admirable. It just means you're a douche with too much money to waste on publicity stunts taking advantage of an outdated public sentiment that still thinks of things like that as the equivalent of the discovery of the sources of the Nile.

With Laura Dekker I hate it even more, because if you're sixteen you should be in school like everybody else, not get to fart around the world on a sailboat just because you really really want to.

She's a horrid spoiled brat who has threatened to leave the Netherlands because funnily enough neither the school authorities nor child protection thought this stunt was a good idea. Well, good riddance to bad rubbish.

[1] Particularly those, where somebody with a disability or a cancer survivor has to prove their macho toughness that's difficult and dangerous for somebody in peak physical health already, all under the motto that they don't let their disabilities ruin their lives. It always comes across to me as looking down to all these with similar disabilities who either have more sense than to traipse around the jungle or don't have the resources to do so. As if living day to day life in a society not all that friendly to those not temporarily able is not a big enough achievement already.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:04 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love the smell of sublimation in the morning.
posted by dantsea at 8:27 AM on January 22, 2012


God, the hand-wringing. Driving around in my freind's mom's '72 Impla all of us blitzed out of our minds on orange sunshine, or drunk off our asses, or downhill skating at 4 am on purple microdot was probably 1000 times more dangerous, and way the hell less fulfilling. I'm jealous, and I'd gamble some of the hand-wringers are privately jealous, too.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:32 AM on January 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Emotional baggage should be sent down on the freight elevator.

Of course this is an extremely privileged thing to be able to do. The more I think about it, though, the more I think that a short stint of lone wilderness survival would be good for every teenager. I think that this was done in some Native American tribes, although only by the boys, of course.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:46 AM on January 22, 2012


Better the Guppy than the Minnow...
posted by Redhush at 8:59 AM on January 22, 2012


You guys (you all know who you are, don't you?) are so fucking pathetic. A sixteen year old girl accomplished something that none of you ever will. And you can't even gather enough grace to keep your stupid ass mouth shut.
Sometimes Metafilter shows a side you just didn't imagine existed...
posted by c13 at 10:09 AM on January 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


@c13--your words are a bit stronger than mine would be but the sentiment is shared. I much prefer to accept it as an admirable accomplishment and let the speculation and critiquing behind.
posted by rmhsinc at 10:23 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


“I looked about me. Luminous points glowed in the darkness. Cigarettes punctuated the humble meditations of worn old clerks. I heard them talking to one another in murmurs and whispers. They talked about illness, money, shabby domestic cares. And suddenly I had a vision of the face of destiny. Old bureaucrat, my comrade, it is not you who are to blame. No one ever helped you to escape. You, like a termite, built your peace by blocking up with cement every chink and cranny through which the light might pierce. You rolled yourself up into a ball in your genteel security, in routine, in the stifling conventions of provincial life, raising a modest rampart against the winds and the tides and the stars. You have chosen not to be perturbed by great problems, having trouble enough to forget your own fate as a man. You are not the dweller upon an errant planet and do not ask yourself questions to which there are no answers. Nobody grasped you by the shoulder while there was still time. Now the clay of which you were shaped has dried and hardened, and naught in you will ever awaken the sleeping musician, the poet, the astronomer that possibly inhabited you in the beginning.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand, and Stars
posted by alpinist at 11:20 AM on January 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's just so grating to see a bunch of know nothings get all uppity and moralistic about something that is light years out of their league. Idioticy like "if you're sixteen, you should be in school" is almost physically painful. The girl took a damn boat around the world, can you imagine how much knowledge and skills it takes to do this? There is a 250 page book on my shelf that talks about nothing except how to anchor properly - something that she spent a tiny fraction of time doing. And that's one of the thinner books on the topic. What can they possibly teach her in 8th grade (or whatever grade you're in when you're 14) that she does not know, or must know in order to lead a fulfilling life?
It's an extremely priviledged thing to do? More privileged than getting a brand new Jag for 16th birthday, a multithousand dollar prom, or every new edition of iphones and ipads as soon as they come out?
How are her parents any more manipulative than soccer moms and baseball dads, or those beauty contest creatures?
It is obvious to me that the uproar has been caused by the fact that people realize that she did something that they never will - not circumnavigating, that's just details, but that she refused to become a little powerless, unknown and unimportant sheep. She refused the dictates of the "authority" and she succeeded. I'm sure it triggeres a bunch if comlexes and inadequacies in a lot of people, I'm just surprised that so many of them have so little self respect as to let it show so glaringly.
posted by c13 at 11:33 AM on January 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


C13, I'm in agreement with you. I'm mostly surprised not that there are people who scorn her accomplishment, but they're focusing her not being in school as their main objection.

Acting as if sailing around the world was just an elaborate way to play hooky.

If she can circumnavigate the globe, I'm pretty sure she has the gumption to finish up school. Even if she didn't want to finish up school, I'm pretty sure she'll stay afloat.
posted by wires at 11:48 AM on January 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Let's be fair ... about as many circumnavigate each year by sail as summit Mt Everest. It ain't nothing small
posted by jannw at 12:20 PM on January 22, 2012


Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand, and Stars

Excellent quote - added to Amazon wish list. Thanks!
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:23 PM on January 22, 2012


Yeah, that school thing is just bizzare. But I think there's more to that.
With Laura Dekker I hate it even more, because if you're sixteen you should be in school like everybody else, not get to fart around the world on a sailboat just because you really really want to.

One has to be really psychotic to believe that delaying (not even skipping!) eighth or ninth grade will irretrivably fuck up your life. So it's really about her daring to not be "like everybody else", especially facing the brunt of the state. Can't have that now, can we? Because if a 14 year old can do such things, where does it leave us?
posted by c13 at 12:34 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is obvious to me that the uproar has been caused by the fact that people realize that she did something that they never will - not circumnavigating, that's just details

No.

Really, the main thing that irks me about all of the various YOUNGEST EVER is that they're inherently stupid. To want to do something is fine. To want to be the youngest to do it... the ocean isn't going anywhere, and it will represent the same accomplishment to do it at 18 or 22 or whenever as it does at 16.

The secondary thing with any apparently highly-driven child is that it can be hard to tell, from the outside, which ones are really self-motivated and enjoying what they do, which are just pressured by monstrous parents, and which have been so successfully pressured by monstrous parents that they've internalized the pressure.

In any case, I can't think of any reason why a 16 year old who wants to circumnavigate the world, climb Everest, run a pony farm, or marry her sweetheart can't plan to do so in a few years. There might be really great personal reasons to do any of those things. I just can't see any good reason not to wait to make a decision that large until the actual physical infrastructure for making decisions has finished booting up.

she refused to become a little powerless, unknown and unimportant sheep

She'll be unknown outside of a small community again in a few years, and she's not yet important. Circumnavigating the world will probably always be personally important to the person doing it, but it hasn't been important to others or to humanity since around Magellan, if ever.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:59 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


She'll be unknown outside of a small community again in a few years, and she's not yet important.

From what I understand by reading periodically about her adventures over the last year or so (granted it was very periodic), it wasn't her intention to become this famous anyway. The only reason she is as well known is due to all the hoopla with courts and child services.
Furthermore, I believe that even though you can't see the reason why a 16 year old can't wait a few years to circumnavigate, you probably realize that someone else can, right? I mean, I can't understand why one would want to jump into freaking sandbox the farthest, (at any age!) but I think everyone will agree it's not a good tone on my part to belittle their accomplishments over the internet...
And as far as parental pressure, since it's hard to tell anything without being a part of the family, why say anything at all? Just to insinuate things? Besides, if her dad was pressuring her to be in the top of her class, or be the best violin player/spelling bee/debate team champion etc, etc, we wouldn't be having this discussion. Much like if her dad didn't give a shit about her like so many other parents.
Finally, who said it was important for humanity? Why should it be? How important is any other sports record for humanity? Or anything else listed in Guiness? Of course it's only important for her. What I'm saying is that people should be graceful enough to congratulate her on being able to accomplish her goal, especially at such a young age and with so much headwind, rather than projecting their own inadequacies and fears on her.

posted by c13 at 4:07 PM on January 22, 2012


Wow.. something happened with the bold tag..
posted by c13 at 4:13 PM on January 22, 2012


Not to belabor the point, but thousands of young boys chase after an oblong leather thingy, running into each other at full speed, suffering multiple concussions, broken bones, torn ligaments, blackouts from dehydration, and the whole country cheers on. Parents happily pay for the gear and practice, and are considered great citizens.
But a girl takes a boat around the world, and she's just a silly misguided attention whore, her accomplishments are worthless and her parents are monsters.
posted by c13 at 4:22 PM on January 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


And what did school ever do for them? Why, I learned everything I need to know on the field!
posted by narcoleptic at 6:33 PM on January 22, 2012


They teach non sequiturs on the field??
posted by c13 at 7:02 PM on January 22, 2012


There's too much attention being paid to the "youngest" issue. Obviously she starts from a position of privilege, to have this opportunity at all - but I'm incredibly glad for her that she was able to do it. This is unforgettable, and will give her a confidence that is far more useful than whatever schooling was missed. So few of us get to have these kind of exceptional experiences. What would you risk to have one? If the opportunity presented itself, why delay it?

Given the attention to detail and planning required for single-handed open-water sailing, it's likely going to take her no time at all to catch up on schoolwork. And even if she doesn't make it all up, and I say this as a thoroughly over-educated person, I'm guessing it won't hurt in the long run.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 6:32 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not about jealousy, or whether or not missing a year off school will hurt her, it's that she has to be this special little snowflake and should be admired for it.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:18 AM on January 26, 2012


What else should she be, given the aptitude, the ambition, and the opportunity? Should she deny herself her avocation out of deference to... what, exactly?
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:24 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


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