AMSTERDAM // Laura Dekker says she will leave the Netherlands on Wednesday in her quest to become the youngest to circumnavigate the globe alone. But it won't yet be the first leg of the 14-year-old's solo voyage. Laura said on her blog Saturday she will sail with her father to Portugal, and will begin her round-the-world venture from there later. She said she did not know when that would be. Laura won a prolonged battle last Tuesday when a court released her from the guardianship of Dutch child protection agencies that had blocked her attempts to leave last year when she was still 13. The authorities said being alone and absent from school for so long would be harmful for her education and psychological development.
On her blog, Laura posted a picture of the schoolbooks she is taking, packed snugly in a wooden rack. She planned to set out on her yacht Guppy from the southern Dutch harbor of Den Osse with her father Dick Dekker, who has supported Laura's ambitions to enter the record book as the world's youngest round-the-world sailor. The family court in nearby Middelburg ruled that Laura's preparations appeared adequate and it was up to her parents to decide whether to let her make the attempt. Her mother, Babs Mueller, who is separated from her father, recently withdrew her opposition. "It's great that I can now officially say it will happen on Wednesday," she wrote. In an earlier blog posting, Laura wrote that she and her father would sail together to Portugal to make final adjustments and safety checks aboard the red twin-masted ketch. Laura, who was born on a yacht off the coast of New Zealand, has been whittling away at the objections to her unassisted voyage since the authorities stepped in last year. She got a bigger, sturdier sailboat, took courses in first aid and learned to suture her own wounds, and practiced coping with sleep deprivation. She made at least one solo trip across the North Sea to England. But her plans and legal wrangles have contributed to a global debate over the wisdom of allowing ever-younger sailors to take on the risks of sailing the high seas alone. Concerns were heightened in June when American teen Abby Sunderland had to be rescued in the Indian Ocean. A wave snapped the mast off her yacht and left her helpless until she was eventually rescued by a French fishing boat more than 3,200km west of Australia. Laura is trying to beat the record set last May by Australian Jessica Watson, who was 16 years old when she completed a 210-day voyage on her 10-metre yacht, Ella's Pink Lady, around the world. Watson says she has just completed a book on her experience. Ms Watson remained at sea nonstop for her trip around the globe, but Laura plans to stop at several ports along the way where she can meet family and rest. * Associated Press