Laura Dekker Jumps the Pond

     When fifteen year-old Laura Dekker left home after a fight, it wasn't about curfew or clothes or homework. She had been struggling for more than a year with Dutch authorities over her right to sail around the world alone, a battle that ignited international commentary and outcry.
      Laura's journey began when she announced, a few months before her fourteenth birthday, her intention to circumnavigate the globe alone over a two-year-period. If successful, the feat would make her the youngest person to do so. The Dutch government moved to prevent the trip by making her a ward of the state. Even after presenting ample evidence that she was smart enough, fit enough, mature enough and a good enough sailor; after other sailors, her father and a Dutch television crew all offered to follow in a chase boat; after she proved that she had safe places to stay in every intended port of call, the court continued to delay her dream.
     By the time she finally set out for Portugal in October, two other teen girls had already completed their journeys. Australian Jessica Watson finished a Southern Ocean circumnavigation in May; American Abby Sunderland was dismasted more than halfway through her journey in June.
     Today, Laura cast off from the Cape Verde Islands to "jump the pond" -- the Atlantic. The next time she sets foot on land (and we're touching wood now), she will be in Sint Maarten in the Caribbean. She has chosen the route and timing of prudent, unhurried sailors, waiting until the hurricane season is over to take advantage of gentle trade winds. She isn't racing to become the youngest circumnavigator. She's just another cruiser, off to discover the world.
     Fair winds, Laura.