3. Laura Dekker

Sailing solo around the world

Apr 9, 2012
Outside Magazine
Laura Dekker

Adventurer of the Year Laura Dekker    Photo: Corne Van Der Stelt/Redux

Dekker's journey

Dekker's journey around the world (see corresponding numbers in body text for weblog entries)

Dekker's boat

Dekker's boat, the Guppy, near Portugal

Laura Dekker was ten when she began preparing to sail around the world. In August 2010, at 14, she finally set off from Gibraltar, after winning a legal battle with Dutch authorities who believed the journey too dangerous. In January—at 16 years, 4 months—Dekker maneuvered her 38-foot ketch, Guppy, into St. Maarten Harbor, in the Caribbean, to become the youngest person to sail alone around the globe. Record books no longer recognize “youngest” feats, but Dekker, a Dutch-Kiwi-German citizen, doesn’t care. “I wanted to see the world,” she says. Below, a highly abridged version of her voyage blog. (See sidebar image for corresponding locations.)

1. August 21, 2010: In Gibraltar, Dekker’s father unties the Guppy and bids her farewell. First stop: Canary Islands.

August 28: Dekker waits out the Atlantic hurricane season.

2. December 1: Dekker leaves Cape Verde, off western Africa, for a three-week, 2,200-nautical-mile trip across the Atlantic to St. Maarten. A squall breaks a wind vane used by the autopilot system, so she fixes it. “I regularly wake up after only one hour of sleep," she writes. "I do not need an alarm clock anymore.” 

3. December 25: Dekker spends Christmas in the Caribbean. She repairs the halfwinder and mainsail and makes a humble plea for sponsors. “I cannot deny that a little bit more of everything would be nice,” she writes, but adds, “of course I have everything I need.”

4. March 30, 2011: In Shelter Bay, Panama, a horde of journalists await her arrival: “My good mood slowly faded to an inner anger that I always feel when people treat me like a celebrity.”

April 13: Dekker emerges in the Pacific. “The passage through the Panama Canal was great!”

April 25: “Crossing the equator felt just like New Year’s Eve!”

5. April 26–May 7: The Galápagos. “Perhaps the most extraordinary islands I have visited.”

May 13: About 1,100 miles in, Dekker breaks her personal record for most miles sailed in a day: 199. She suffers a deep wound on her foot during a fall. 

6. May 26: The mayor of Atuona, on Hiva Oa in French Polynesia, welcomes Dekker, and locals throw her a party with drums and dancing. 

7. August 25: Australia at last. “I thought I would pass out from exhaustion. I longed to sleep a long sleep in one stretch, a night without shredding sails, without islands, without reefs or sandbanks, without buoys or ships.”

8. September 26: She crosses roughly 5,500 miles of the Indian Ocean to Durban, South Africa. “One of the things I have learned from my voyage is not to be in a hurry to reach my destination.”

November 7: A cargo vessel radios her to get out of the way. “This was like a car asking a turtle to move,” she writes. “  ‘How about you alter course?’ ” I asked. “The huge ship finally gave way and went around me.”

December 20: “I have now crossed all of the earth’s longitudes. That’s pretty amazing. Now I only have some 4,800 nautical miles to go to the Caribbean.”

December 26: A flying fish lands in her cabin. “A sure sign the water is getting warmer.” 

January 17, 2012: “I can’t take my mind off our arrival.”

9. January 23: “It is sweet to me that I get to see my parents when I feel like it, even though that may take getting used to.”

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