Teenage solo sailor feels out of place on land

Atta girl

Fifteen-year-old Laura Dekker on her sailboat Guppy after arriving to Simpson Bay Lagoon near Philipsburg on the Caribbean island of St Maarten on Sunday. AP

Laura Dekker, aiming to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world, was in good spirits after completing the 2,200 nautical-mile (4,074-kilometre) trip from the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa.

Dekker anchored Guppy, her 38-foot (11.5-metre) ketch, just outside Simpson Bay Lagoon after what she called “a very nice trip” so far. She later steered it into the lagoon as a crowd gathered at the docks and snapped pictures.

“It is really weird. It is not moving and not bouncy,” she told The Associated Press as she tried to find her land legs while strolling in flip-flops along a sidewalk to the Dutch territory’s immigration office. “I don’t think I can live in a house at the moment.”

The Dutch teenager started her trip from Gibraltar on August 21 and spent two months in the Canary Islands waiting for the hurricane season to pass. She left the Cape Verde Islands on December 2.

Dekker’s venture stirred an intense debate about whether young people should be allowed to sail the world’s oceans alone. A Dutch court originally blocked the voyage and only permitted her to set off after she took measures to manage the risks.

She bought a bigger, sturdier boat than the one she originally planned to use, fitted it with advanced navigation and radar equipment, and took courses in first aid and coping with sleep deprivation.

In the end, the Dutch court ruled that her preparations were adequate and it was up to her parents, who are divorced, to decide whether to let her make the attempt. Dekker was born on a boat off New Zealand while her parents were sailing around the world.

On a recent blog posting, Dekker said she “regularly wakes up after only one hour of sleep” and was looking forward to sleeping through the night while in St Maarten.

On Sunday, she told the AP that she was not sure how long she would stay in St Maarten or precisely where her next leg would take her.

 Overall, the solitude of the trip was not difficult, she said, although she did have fleeting bouts of homesickness.

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