Laura Dekker, the 14-year-old Dutch sailor with hopes to be the youngest to circumnavigate the globe solo, is being held by child care authorities in the Netherlands. Dutch authorities argued in a Middleburg court yesterday that Dekker should be held in protective custody for another year.
According to the AP, “Dekker was made a ward of the state last year after her plan to try to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world raised concerns over her physical ability and her social development. Both her parents, who are divorced, back the plan.” The New York Daily News quotes Dekker’s mother, Bab Mueller, as saying, “I know she can do it, she’s a strong girl who does not give up easily. Of course no mother on earth likes it if her daughter goes to sea alone. I will have sleepless nights from the worry, but this is about Laura and how I can help her.”
Sound familiar? Abby Sunderland’s parents supported her trip, too, and we all know how that ended.
Dekker, like Sunderland, has been around sailing her entire life. In fact, she was born on a yacht while her parents were sailing around the world. But does that mean she should set off solo at 14?
Many bloggers sounded off about whether or not Abby Sunderland’s parents did the right thing by letting her attempt a solo journey. Some said yes, some said no. Regardless of your position on Sunderland’s parents, her aborted journey made it clear that sailing around the world is not child’s play, and that teenagers are incapable of realizing how dangerous this type of undertaking really is. Why does Dekker feel compelled to be the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe? That type of voyage bears extreme risk for even fully-grown, weathered adults. I understand that Dekker and Sunderland may both be child prodigies, but unlike being a skilled musician, sailing solo could mean death. (To my knowledge, no one has keeled over playing Tchaikovsky.)
What do you think? Should kids like Dekker be prevented by the courts from living their dream if they have their parent’s approval?