The Voyage of Laura Dekker–Part 2, her book One Girl One Dream

This is follow up to the original post entitled The Voyage of Laura Dekker, posted here on September 2, 2014.

Piracy was a concern of Laura Dekker. She planned her route to avoid known pirate danger areas. The post was written at a time when the information about Laura was the motion picture Maidentrip released in 2013 and available in commercial video in mid-2014.

Laura kept a diary, in the form of a blog, as she sailed. She published her diary in Dutch in 2013 and in English in 2014, in paperback, under the title One Girl One Dream. At present the English language version of the book is available only in New Zealand and Australia. Late in 2014, after publication of the blog post about Laura Dekker on CTLR, The author of this post obtained an English language copy of One Girl One Dream from Abbey’s Bookshop in Sydney, Australia.

In the book Laura describes her plans to avoid pirates during circumnavigation of earth. One possible route was to return via the Red Sea and Suez Canal to her starting point at Gibraltar or further on to St. Martin in the Netherlands Antilles. For two reasons Laura did not take that route. First, she did not want to go back to the Netherlands. See below for explanation. Second, to sail the Red Sea/Suez route ran the risk of sailing through a pirate infested area off the horn of Africa.

Laura did not want to return to the Netherlands. She no longer considered it her home because of the way she was hounded by Dutch authorities who opposed her trip. She explained:

“In the Netherlands it is compulsory for children to attend school until they are 16. If kids want to take a day off, they have to ask permission weeks in advance and then it is usually turned down. If they take the day off anyway, their parents get a heavy fine and, if they refuse to pay, then one of them may face prosecution. As I was planning to stop going to school, we had to see an official from the Department of Education. She didn’t understand what we were talking about and had never heard of the Wereldsclhool.”

Note: The Wereldschool is a company providing teaching programs for Dutch-speaking children between 3 and 16 years old who are going abroad with their parents for an extended period of time. Pupils enroll in teaching programs specifically for their school level (primary school or three secondary school levels) or a specific course such as IB Dutch and language courses. Approximately 1,400 pupils per year enroll, spread over more than 128 countries.

The school provides full distance learning to children going/living abroad or coming back to the Netherlands and corresponds to the Dutch curriculum so that re-integration in Dutch schools after returning to the country is possible. 1

Because while still only thirteen years of age Laura had announced her plan to sail solo around the world, this became a sensation in the Dutch media.

Laura continues in her book, “When Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkende announced publicly on TV that I couldn’t skip school to sail because it was compulsory for everyone in the Netherlands to attend school, Child Protection began to meddle in our affairs. Dad and I were called to appear in court, and we needed to engage a lawyer. . . The Child Protection official asked the judges to have me put into a closed institution immediately and to terminate my dad’s parental rights. Fortunately . . . in the end, the judges decided I was allowed to stay with Dad, but ordered me to remain under the supervision of the authorities.” One Girl One Dream, pages 16-17. Dutch authorities confiscated the boat she had purchased for her voyage.

Laura slipped away from observation, took a train to Paris, and from Paris flew to St. Martin. There she contacted a yacht broker to assist her in buying another suitable boat. Using an assumed name she presented herself as 17-year old Jessie Muller. Muller was her mother’s maiden name.

The yacht broker recognized her, and showed Laura the notice about her from Dutch authorities on his computer. He and his family took her to lunch, and then called the local police, because he believed he must. Two policemen came to pick her up. The next day she was put onto a flight to the Netherlands under police escort.

She had lost a whole year and had to plan to start her voyage in the summer of her 14th year, shortly before her 15th birthday on September 20, 2010. During the spring and summer of 2010 she and her father found and reconditioned another boat, the 38-foot ketch in which she made her eventual voyage.

Together they left the Netherlands on August 4, 2010, bound for Gibraltar. August 4, 2010 was 47 days before Laura’s 15th birthday. They sailed about 1,000 nautical miles from the Netherlands to Gibraltar in fifteen days. Laura’s father then returned to the Netherlands and Laura started her solo voyage from Gibraltar on August 21, 2010, thirty days before her 15th birthday. To avoid the hurricane season in the Atlantic, Laura sailed south along the coast of Africa, stopping at the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde Islands. On December 2, 2010 Laura sailed west toward the Caribbean, safely after the end of the Atlantic hurricane season.

She sailed solo across the Atlantic ocean 2223 nautical miles to Saint Martin. In her mind Saint Martin was the real starting point of her circumnavigation. She made a leisurely tour of the Caribbean, stopping for extended stays at several islands before entering the Panama Canal.

Her departure date from Saint Martin was December 20, 2010, exactly three months after her 15th birthday. She completed her circumnavigation at St. Martin on December 21, 2011, a year and a day after leaving St. Martin. Then she sailed west again, through the Panama Canal en route to her chosen new homeland, New Zealand.

In her voyage Laura sailed through both hemispheres and all three major oceans, the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Indian.

At times in the absence of wind she used a small diesel-powered auxiliary motor, but most of the voyage was under wind power alone.

As for pirates, the only time she thinks she may have seen any were two separate instances of fishing boats traveling without lights and following her shortly after leaving the Straits of Torres, a passage between the north of Australia and New Guinea. The Straits of Torres is more dangerous for heavy cargo ship traffic, ocean and weather conditions than for pirates. Laura mentions that the Australian Coast Guard is quite thorough and vigorous in its patrolling of ocean approaches to Australia. She says the appearance of an Australian Coast Guard helicopter at one point resulted in a suspicious fishing boat turning tail and sailing away from Laura’s boat.

In both the motion picture and her book Laura mentions specifically that she is aware of areas where there is pirate activity and planned to sail far away from those areas, the only exception being her decision to go through the Straits of Torres rather than take a much longer route to Australia.

The decision to go as direct to Australia as possible was prompted by deterioration in her boat’s sails and various mechanical difficulties that needed attention as soon as practicable.

Much more than the motion picture the book provides a vivid description of some of the  dangers of the ocean during the voyage. At one point in the trip from Darwin, Northern Territories of Australia through the Indian Ocean to South Africa, Laura encountered such heavy swells that at the bottom of the trough of one swell her boat turned completely onto one side. It righted itself and sailed up a virtual wall of water to the top of the next swell.

Laura’s trip around the Cape of Good Hope from Durban, on the east side of South Africa, to Cape Town at the southern tip of the continent was through some of the stormiest weather experienced in those seas, according to accounts in Cape Town newspapers.

Throughout the book Laura expresses no fear of the ocean, only respect for its challenges. She had more fear of the Dutch authorities than of the ocean. She describes the Netherlands as a totalitarian state. Because she was born in New Zealand of a Dutch father and German mother, she is eligible for citizenship in all three countries. She chose New Zealand as her permanent home base. She calls the Netherlands a dark little country partly because of its gloomy winter weather and partly because of the way she was treated by the Dutch authorities.
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Notes:

  1. See Wereldschool (World School in English) at
    http://www.virtualschoolsandcolleges.eu/index.php/Wereldschool
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4 Responses to The Voyage of Laura Dekker–Part 2, her book One Girl One Dream

  1. Richard Boren says:

    Thanks for adding the additional information–too bad it wasn’t even hinted at in the movie, at least to my recollection. The Netherlands sounds pretty grim.

    • fgmarks says:

      Now that I have read the book I think the movie was well done, but the book is far richer in detail. The book brings out that Laura had a very good time visiting places from the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa and on to islands in the Caribbean, the Galapagos, Tahiti and several other landfalls in the South Pacific. As she relates her adventure she sounds like a combination of a teenager having a lot of fun, a thoughtful adult taking in a variety of experiences during her travels, and a highly capable sailor coping with the challenges of sailing a 38-foot ketch around the world.

  2. Ron Zamarin says:

    Incredible, can’t wait to read the book

    • fgmarks says:

      It is a real page turner. You can find contact info for Abbey’s Bookshop online and order a copy of the book on the internet. That is how I was able to buy a copy.

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