Who should decide when you’re old enough to do anything?

dekkerThis is 13 year old Laura Dekker.

She wants to sail around the world- her Dad has no problem with it but social workers in Holland are taking legal action to stop her.

Who should make the call to decide when a child is ready to do anything ? the parents or the state ? or the child his or herself ?

Surely we all mature at different rates. Presumably it depends on the activity as well.

At 12 years old Rupali Ramdas Repale successfully swam the English Channel, in 1994. 

 Here is a picture of her at the  start of her English Channel swim.

Our guest, Mike, who piloted her boat, thought that she was too young.

Do you agree?



This lad seems to be conquering African mountains without any problem — and he’s only 10!

But where do we draw the line? How old should a child be before they start helping out on the family farm? Or go off travelling on their own?

107 Responses to “Who should decide when you’re old enough to do anything?”

  1. 1 Bob in Queensland
    August 25, 2009 at 11:12

    As a parent with grown kids (and a 4 year old afterthought) I strongly believe that there’s no magic age when children can suddenly take all responsibility. It has to be a gradual process of giving more and more freedon as they show themselves ready.

    As for this particular case, I know of a 15 year old American boy who sailed around the world many years ago–and, although he survived, his autobiography has some incidents that make me question whether the trip was really wise. Certainly, 13 sound too young to me.

    • 2 Denise Franklin
      August 26, 2009 at 18:51

      It is absolutely unwise even for an adult to make such a trek alone. Recently a US football player lost his life when his boat overturned on a pleasure trip. He was presumably in top physical condition, yet still lost his life. Even if one could be convinced that a 13 year old could physically endure all that would be required, there are other safety issues to be concerned with. There are still modern day pirates on the open seas. A 13 year old alone is no match for that situation and be most vulnerable.

      There is absolutely no wisdom in this at all!!

      • 3 Matt
        August 28, 2009 at 07:03

        I’m going to poke in here and say that a pro football player probably doesn’t spend too much time on a boat, and that in a well built and safe boat with plenty of mechanical advantage, physical strength wouldnt enter into it that much. and pirates? don’t make me laugh, please. the odds of pirates attacking a 13 year old girl with no practical material value are next to nill.
        Oh, and as for adults doing it alone, check out the Vendée Globe.

  2. 4 Doc Savage
    August 25, 2009 at 11:39

    At age 13, you are still too young to fully appreciate the consequences of your actions. I believe it takes several more years of life’s hardships to gain the experience necessary to be responsible for your own actions.
    In this case, 13 is too young. If she were my daughter, this situation would die quickly.

  3. 5 Dinka Aliap Chawul-Entebbe Airport,Uganda
    August 25, 2009 at 11:45

    Parent has overall power to protect their children especially at the teenagers because of their vulnerability to numerous problems…………

  4. 6 anu_D
    August 25, 2009 at 11:51

    Parents should decide until the age of 18 ( or whatever the legal age is in that country for adulthood)

    Thereafter it is the individual

  5. 7 Deryck/Trinidad
    August 25, 2009 at 12:12

    The question has no absolute answer as it all depends on the age, maturity and what the child is going to do. It also depends on the parents ability to give the child independence because of trust.

    Each case must be addresssed separately.

  6. 8 Crispo, Kampala Uganda
    August 25, 2009 at 12:50

    What can i say, am not even a parent. I’m working, but my dad calls the shots on certain things. That’s my African culture.

    The law, however, gives a limit of 18years. How about taking that as a precedence? I believe it will stop a lot of the qualms, unless, of course, we want to debate that as well.

  7. 9 patti in cape coral
    August 25, 2009 at 12:55

    I don’t know of many 13-year-olds who could handle sailing around the world, or many parents who would let them. Maybe this 13-year-old is the exception, I don’t know her. I would not have allowed my child to do this feat alone when she was 13. I was responsible for my daughter until she turned 18, and at that point I could only advise and cross my fingers. I suspect I will be doing that for the rest of my life!

  8. 10 Crispo, Kampala Uganda
    August 25, 2009 at 13:00

    We almost had a brawl with dad over leaving home to stay alone and undertake an adult life. It only ebbed when i chose to stay along. May be certain parents appreciate the situations in which their kids are differently. But it doesn’t matter much, does it?

  9. August 25, 2009 at 13:06

    13 to me sounds too young. Bob in queensland, has the best example to help up all reach this conclusion.

  10. 12 Rob (UK)
    August 25, 2009 at 13:17

    I think it is best for the state to step in, but they should aim to ascertain independently whether the girl has the requisite skill to complete the task. Her father may be hoping for glory, and she may be blinded to the danger by his ambition and misplaced confidence. But if she is shown to be sufficiently skillful, she should be allowed to do it.

  11. 13 Ibrahim in UK
    August 25, 2009 at 13:20

    I don’t believe there is an arbitrary one-age-fits-all.
    Some children mature quickly, some never mature.

  12. 14 scmehta
    August 25, 2009 at 13:42

    Your loving & caring parents and sincere friends/well-wishers, as well as the laws of the land you live in, should decide about the age and/or about how much you should/can venture or handle independently.

  13. 15 James Turner
    August 25, 2009 at 14:45

    The parents should have the chance to speak first. They should be prepared to explain the reasons for their concerns. If the child still insists on doing a very dangerous stunt. The parents along with the local authorities should explain that if this person get into trouble he or she is on their own and no one is going to risk their lives to save his or hers. End of story! Obviously the parents must have an open dialog with the child!

  14. 16 Tom K in Mpls
    August 25, 2009 at 15:06

    It is a logistical impossibility to evaluate each individual until they pass. And at what age do you start the testing? What about those that will never pass? The only practical way to do things is to set an age of majority, give parents the limited ability to supersede, and deal with those that will never fit on a case by case basis as industrialized nations already do.

    And gee, I personally know a guy that was declared an adult at thirteen. The rare exceptions mean nothing. Ignore the ‘poster child’ argument.

  15. 17 alfred decker
    August 25, 2009 at 15:49

    Dear Reader,
    charity they said begins at home.if laura’s parents wants their daughter to sail around the world,its up to them to take thet drastic decision making and not the authorities.i believe there’s a room for opportunities;so let the little girl give it a try.its up to the parents to accept or not that’s why people pay for insurance who shouldbe responsible if anything happens.A bird they say as small as it is has to learn how to fly before it can rub shoulders with the bigger birds.
    alfred decker(Nigeria)

  16. 18 T
    August 25, 2009 at 15:58

    It depends on the kid and their overall background. Maybe part of this is that other kids have done impressive things. So she wants to top all of them (without a parent going along). How many 13 year olds can handle a boat all by themselves?

  17. 19 Art O Laoghaire
    August 25, 2009 at 16:38

    I’m a parent of young kids, and I think this is crazy.
    Obviously there can be no abolute rule, some kids grow mature much faster than others.
    But I have to wonder are the parents competent, as parents, if they would allow a 13 year old do this.
    If the parents aren’t competent then the state must step in.
    If the parents are competent they should be told to pay whatever insurance premium is necessary to cover ALL eventualities – if they can find an insurer!!!

  18. 20 steve
    August 25, 2009 at 16:39

    Gotta agree with the government. 13 and alone? Piracy is up. Say if she needs her appendix removed? I recall several years ago some 7 year old girl insisted on flying, and she and her trainer were killed when their plane crashed. Sorry, but 7 year olds shouldn’t be flying airplanes, given they cannot even drive cars until they are 16.

  19. 21 Jennifer
    August 25, 2009 at 17:06

    Re: Who should make the call to decide when a child is ready to do anything ? the parents or the state ? or the child his or herself ?

    The parents should be deciding what their children can and can’t do. Most parents know their kids-some are mature and some are not. I don’t really think a 13 year old needs to be sailing around the world. Is she in school? Hmmm

  20. 22 Nesha from Ohio
    August 25, 2009 at 17:23

    Sorry, kid but you’re wayyyy too young to consider that. The parents have every right to tell her what she should and shouldnt do, because let’s face it, we were all 13 once, and most of us had bigger dreams than we could handle at the time.
    There’s no problem with dreaming and fantasizing, but there’s a limit to what dreams you can accomplish safely, and dreams you’re just not ready for.

  21. 23 Tom D Ford
    August 25, 2009 at 17:30

    @ Rob (UK)
    August 25, 2009 at 13:17

    “I think it is best for the state to step in, but they should aim to ascertain independently whether the girl has the requisite skill to complete the task. Her father may be hoping for glory, and she may be blinded to the danger by his ambition and misplaced confidence. But if she is shown to be sufficiently skillful, she should be allowed to do it.”

    I agree with you.

    And I wonder how much she has read about or talked to others who have sailed around the world. The bottom of Africa and South America are incredibly dangerous waters, and I’d be concerned about pirates and any other dangers. And the psychology of being alone, is she going to be in regular radio contact and tracked by whoever can track such small boats?

    Yes, I think that Holland ought to ask some very direct and intense questions to make sure she is well equipped and educated about what she wants to attempt and make sure of her parents competence.

  22. 24 Michael
    August 25, 2009 at 17:39

    Sometimes one has to look at the situation, and not compare someone to themselves. At 13 I was learning my third language, and I was still raising my little brother (due to my mother working all the time). if some people are afraid or unable to undertake certain tasks, that does not mean other are incapable to take on the challenge.

  23. 25 Count Iblis
    August 25, 2009 at 17:47

    The problem with this case is that the social workers did not meet with Laura, they reached their conclusion based only on media reports about her plan to sail around the World and that she’s 13 years old.

    While it may be true that almost no 13 year old is capable of doing what Laura wants to do, without examining Laura you cannot reach the conclusion that Laura is unfit to sail around the World. For all we know, Laura could be the one in a million supertalent who can do it.

    It is a separate question whether or not the government has the right to conduct a detailed examination and on the basis of that overrule the wishes of Laura and her parents.

  24. 26 Nick
    August 26, 2009 at 13:59

    If a parent says it is good, perhaps then it is good, since under the law this parent is responsible. But what kind of parent would like his daughter to risk her life? And therefore, what about common sense?
    She might be capable, but then again, she might not be. Is it just and normal to have a 13 year old risk her life?
    Should we expect a 13 year old person to be physically and mentally ready and experienced enough to undertake such an event? To be honest, I don’t think so. There was a boy of 15 mentioned here – 15 is already much older, however still I would say for solo round the World sailing someone should be at least 18 years of age and therefore adult in the legal sense. Examination of Laura seems pretty pointless, since nobody will be able to say she is capable. What are the necessary qualifications, besides being a very good sailor? All signs are against her when one realizes even more experienced and physically stronger grown ups have died. This says nothing about her mental abilities, I know this very well. So, she could perhaps do it, but then again, she might die.
    She has not reached the age yet at which one can expect she is able to reasonably oversee the true meaning of what she wishes to undertake. Therefore on the basis of this alone I think she should not be allowed to do it.
    If someone wishes to undertake things like this extreme form of sailing I would say let him/her then also be responsible for (completely) funding any possible rescue actions and not have tax-payers of some nation pay for it (Coast Guard operations and such). I wonder if there will be any insurance company who will cover this 13 year old girl’s adventure, moreover since normally extreme sports are excluded from travel insurances.

  25. 27 robert
    August 26, 2009 at 14:35

    It should be about about ability not age. If you can prove your competent to do something then it should be your choice to do it or not. If your not competent then you shouldn’t be allowed.

    I’m sure she has the technical ability to sail a ship around the world. The question to me would be could a 13 year old deal with issues such as supplies, medical issues and docking in other countries. My gut feeling is no, and as such not be allowed to do this.

  26. 28 Dennis Junior
    August 26, 2009 at 14:41

    The decision should be made by the “family”….

    =Dennis Junior=

  27. 29 Auspicious in Malawi
    August 26, 2009 at 15:05

    The guiding principle is: Every action that concerns a child has to be pursued in the best interests of the child. You cannot allow a child play around with fire just because it is what the child wants. At 13 this girl is too young to sail the world and social workers have a right to intervene. There is always a difference between good parenting skills and letting your child get whatever he or she wants.

  28. 30 Robz
    August 26, 2009 at 15:21

    It’s good that this girl has parents who encourage self reliance.But to let any child take on such a journey alone is not good.
    So she may have good grades,or shows above adverage maturity.
    She is still a very young girl.
    The world is not a safe place for children to be alone.
    Rob in Florida.

  29. 31 Eric in Oregon
    August 26, 2009 at 15:44

    It’s a slippery slope allowing the state the ability to trump parents in deciding that something is too risky.
    In my opinion, we have enough people on the planet that we can afford some risk.
    Give the girl a skills test. If she can compete with sailors twice her age – get out of her way and let her set sail!!

  30. 32 Tony from Singapura
    August 26, 2009 at 15:45

    Its a matter of weighing up the risks, for a 13yo girl to sail around the world, she is in danger of being harmed by pirates even though she may be a highly competant navigator and helmsman.

    If she was my daughter I would say no – because the risk of personal harm from others is possible.

  31. 33 John in Salem
    August 26, 2009 at 16:12

    Like it or not, in this country we keep and raise our children because the state allows us to. Each state has it’s own version of a Child Welfare Division which has the power to take your children away from you (sometimes on the basis of a single accusation) and you have to prove your fitness as a parent to get them back.
    Two other observations –
    Most of these same states say that when you turn 18 you’re old enough to die for your country but not old enough to drink a beer.
    And – what age do you have to be before it sinks in that the kid isn’t paying attention to you anyway?

  32. 34 gary
    August 26, 2009 at 16:13

    The oceans of Earth do not suffer fools, or the inexperienced, gently. Thirteen years isn’t long enough to have become master of one’s self, much less master of the seas.

  33. August 26, 2009 at 16:28

    I believe parents should guide their children into what they wish to become. As per this case, I also do not believe a 13 years old child has got all it takes to sail around the world. I agree she may have the dream and financial support now, but not sure if she has got the technical know-how to go about it all by herself at present.
    One point I would like to mention is, there are some children who put pressure on their parents to accept all they propose even if it is not time to carryout that particular task.
    Anyway, my last word is, please let her do as she wish.

  34. August 26, 2009 at 16:40

    Freedom of the child.

    No two are alike or see eye to eye. The individual involved should have complete say in the matter. Neither the law nor the parents should dictate terms to them. As long as they cause another no harm. Most parents are more immature, manipulated and dumber than their children at any age today. That is development and progress. Parents should only help the children whenever or whatever they want to do.

  35. August 26, 2009 at 16:46

    A 13 year old is not mature, she hasm to grow up first before she makes this kind of trip. She will need all the protection she can get. How will she handle
    abuse, rape, assault without her parents?
    The world is dangerous and she deserves her parent’s protection. I will never support this kind of freedom.

  36. 38 Bob in Queensland
    August 26, 2009 at 16:49

    As an aside, one of the Australian networks covered this story today including an interview with a lad who did do the round the world sail, having left at age 16.

    Even he said he thought the Dutch girl was too young, especially since the threat of piracy is so much greater now than when he did his voyage.

  37. 39 Isaac in London
    August 26, 2009 at 17:01

    There is no one-size-fits-all age of maturity- just looking at the stupid things many supposedly “grown adults” do is enough to prove that. Maturity is up to the individual and should be treated as such. I know young people wiser than old people; and vice versa. Everyone has a point of maturity where they not only know who they are but how to world works and how they are to survive in it.

    I am an example of this- I am currently seventeen and traveling around the country on a motorcycle. I’ve been riding since I was fourteen and I have never crashed or done any “hooligan stunts”, and the knowledge of how to ride gained in those early years is invaluable.

  38. 40 patti in cape coral
    August 26, 2009 at 17:19

    @ Isaac – Maturity is no guarantee for safety. You can do all the right things and things can still go wrong, and this is especially of concern when you are at an age where your parents are still legally responsible for you. I understand that there is no real guarantee of safety anywhere in the world, and you can’t stop living your life because of what might happen, but there is a lot of bad out there, and I see no reason to invite it. Couldn’t a compromise be reached where she wasn’t alone, or she was trailed by another ship?

  39. 41 Dennis Junior
    August 26, 2009 at 17:20

    In my earlier comments: The authorities don’t have any right in this case to forced her not to take this trip on a round-the-world trip…..

    =Dennis Junior=

  40. 42 Sophia
    August 26, 2009 at 17:30

    I think it is the person’s right to decide what he/she wants to do with his/her life regardless of their age, provided that the decision constitutes one that is mature and responsible with all the necessary precautions thought-out and implemented in case of unforeseen circumstances. Even so, for those who feel, that a child or more appropriately a teenager cannot be expected to make a mature and/ or rational decision, I would suggest parental or other adult supervision. However, I don’t see any reason for anyone else to be concerned about a teenager’s ambitions or plans for his/her life just as you cannot expect teenagers to be concerned about anybody else.

    In the present case, I feel the need to question the security measures applied at sea. To go sailing, I would imagine some on-boat police officers and security guards working to maintain the atmosphere on board. As such I think it would add a little bit of security in order for her to sail and then again, even if those measures seem too risky or inadequate to let her sail on her own, then maybe one of her parents should consider going along with her. Perhaps, the authorities are right to question her ambitions and her parent’s judgement provided that they are aware of the security situation at sea. If this point is indeed proved to be true or if she doesn’t want her parents to accompany her, then I guess she could wait until she reaches the legal age to travel or go sailing on her own, if something like that exists.

  41. 43 Steve in Boston
    August 26, 2009 at 17:43

    Being a coastal sailor in New England of 22 years, I can assure you that 13 year-old girl is far too young to undertake such a venture. The obvious dangers include injury or death from severe storms or equipment failure, collisions with freighters at night or with one of the tens of thousands of lost shipping containers floating three feet beneath the oceans’ surface. There is also the loss of sanity from the isolation. There’s a documentary of Dodge Morgan sailing solo around the world, sinking into the depths of depression on camera, leaving one wondering if he’ll make it.

    We New England sailors remember Mile Plant who died when the keel fell off his boat in the middle of the Atlantic. How about Englishman Donald Crowhurst who committed suicide while participating in a solo round-the-world race?

    One of the larger dangers of sailing long distances in a small boat is getting caught in the doldrums too far out at sea to motor anywhere, and running out of food and water.

    Should she make the attempt she will most likely fail, and very likely come away with some lasting physical or psychological injury. She does not have the physical strength, let alone the decision-making ability, to handle all that the sea can throw at her.

    Should she be permitted to do it? Any parent who facilitates such an undertaking for a 13 year old girl should be locked up for child abuse and given intense therapy for what can only be his or her own deeply rooted psychological problems. She is certainly not old enough to make an informed decision about this on her own.

  42. August 26, 2009 at 17:52

    Wow! A very brave lass whose determination is written in her eyes. In the ideal world nobody should stop her but in the real world and in pirate infested seas prudence should be the watch-word. If something untoward should happen, her parents would never forgive themselves. She has her whole life to prove herself. For her maiden trip she coud accompany an experienced sailor to get the hang of the dangers involved. She should not throw caution to the winds. When she has experienced a few more sea-voyages, she could attempt a solo trip when she reaches adulthood. Her parents should be congratulated for giving her the independence. But she is still too young to face the rigours of sailing around the world alone on tempestuous seas.

  43. 45 Charles
    August 26, 2009 at 18:04

    Your parents should be the ones who, along with yourself, should be able to say when you are old enough to do something, unless the parents are not sane. If these parents are sea-going and have trained the girl, they may know that she is capable. I would assume that the money the parents have would allow them to rescue her easily if she were in trouble, barring a monsoon or something.

  44. 46 steve
    August 26, 2009 at 18:06

    Seriously, a 13 year old cannot even get a hotel room, drive, of course not rent a car. Is she going to have a firearm to protect herself from pirates? Is she allowed to use a firearm since it would irresponsible to travel the seas these days without a means of defense?

    And aren’t there rules mandating that teens get educated? How will she learn while she’s sailing for 2 years? She might be in international waters, but upon her return, couldn’t she get in trouble?

  45. 47 steve
    August 26, 2009 at 18:08

    States that rule with a heavy hand are police states? Don’t most civilized nations have mandatory education up to a certain age, where you have absolutely no choice, that you must go to school?

    Also, recently in the US, there was that story about the child who didn’t want chemotherapy, neither did the parents, yet they were forced to get it. If the state can force a child to get toxic chemotherapy, then they surely can dissalow a 13 year old from sailing for 2 years.

  46. 48 Shannon in Ohio
    August 26, 2009 at 18:10

    Keep your sweet child at home for a few years. She can break more records when she is older, stronger, and wiser.

  47. 49 Keith- Ohio
    August 26, 2009 at 18:13

    I think she should be older before being allowed to do something like this. Sailing for a long period of time solo is dangerous, even for an older person. I don’t think it’s reasonable, especially when it seems like a lot of the rush (both by the parents and child) is because they want to break a record, not because of some more legitimate reason.

    Then again, a bit of it is probably just my resentment for a girl who got her OWN YACHT (her FIRST yacht) at age 6. Unbelievable.

  48. 50 Venessa
    August 26, 2009 at 18:14

    This is not a black & white issue. Everyone matures differently. There are a lot of risks involved with such a journey but that doesn’t mean she can’t do it successfully. If this girl has the aptitude to undertake such a trip she should be allowed.

  49. 51 Wil in Oregon
    August 26, 2009 at 18:15

    This story sounds a bit sexist. No one discussed whether a 15-year-old guy should be able to sail solo. Humans reach adulthood at different times, and if this girl is a skilled sailor and her parents have given their consent, there should be no problem. I think it’s totally unfair for the media to decide when you’re old enough.

    • 52 Wil in Oregon
      August 26, 2009 at 18:26

      Another note:
      If one of her parents accompanied her on the trip, would it be “safer?” What makes dirtbiking, bungee-jumping, and driving so much safer than sailing? Kids aren’t stupid. They can understand risks, and have the same adrenaline rushes as adults when in a dangerous situation. If you’re going to limit children from sailing solo, then you might as well require hubristic adults to pass some sort of test before they can do the same.

  50. 53 Robert Macala
    August 26, 2009 at 18:16

    Let her do it, but make the parents sign a form or document that states
    that if anything goes wrong, let them pay for the people and institutions
    who will have to search for her or send her help. It all comes down to
    money. If she is so in need of attention and notoriety go for it, but
    make sure she will underwrite her aspirations financially. Teens
    are teens after all for god sakes….Bob Macala ….Miami Beach…

  51. 55 Isaac in London
    August 26, 2009 at 18:17

    @Patti- Yes I believe in this case there should be a compromise, because maturity is not the only issue at stake. Piracy and other factors out of anyone’s control would hurt someone of her age more, even if just physically. So even if she is very exceptional and understands things to the level of perhaps an 18-year-old, she is not as capable to defend herself as someone older and therefore a trailing ship would be a very good idea.

    The point I was originally trying to make was simply that everyone is different; some of us grow up early, some never grow up, and as with all of us there are things we will be mature about and things we will not. And that of course, some ( with emphasis on some) teenagers or indeed some children are capable of adult-level rational thinking and choices.

    To again use myself as an example- It was at around 13 that I experienced the “point of maturity”, after which it took a year to figure myself out- but by 14 I was capable and responsible enough to hold down consistent “odd jobs”, and by 15 was taking safe riding classes- which is why I am where I am today.

  52. 56 Domi from Warsaw,20
    August 26, 2009 at 18:20

    The girl and her parents are the ones to decide. The mother and father probably know their daughter well, and if she really wants it – it is nobody’s bussines but that of the Dekker family.
    I can’t see why the state should interfere with their plans and dreams.

  53. August 26, 2009 at 18:21

    I think it is important for youths to take risks and dream big while they can. It is a great way to mould the individual’s character. Even if he/she decides to give up for fail trying, he/she should be encouraged for trying, because people have stopped trying to accomplished the impossible.

  54. 58 Venessa
    August 26, 2009 at 18:24

    Everyone is talking about the danger of pirates. What makes anyone think she will be safer if she was a couple years older or 18?

  55. 59 bjay
    August 26, 2009 at 18:25

    Who should decide when you’re old enough to do anything?

    YE !
    Childhood has no justice only consequences

  56. 60 Belinda in North Carolina
    August 26, 2009 at 18:28

    Two things to look at in this situation:

    1) power relationships between Lauren and her parents: Is Lauren truly doing this for herself or to gain something that her parents have the power to withhold that is contingent on her doing this activity?

    2) informed consent: Is Lauren capable of giving informed consent? This involves a realistic conception of risk and the reasoning ability to do her own risk/benefit analysis.

  57. 61 patti in cape coral
    August 26, 2009 at 18:28

    @ Isaac – OK, agreed. I know my mother used to tell me that before she was tall enough to reach the kitchen sink, my grandmother would stand her up on a chair when she was 6 years old so she could wash the dishes, and from then on, all she could remember about life was work, work, and more work. She provided me with a very cushy and comfortable life, so there is no way to compare her at 13 and me at 13.

  58. 62 iolo
    August 26, 2009 at 18:28

    Magellan no longer –
    Is this a record worth noting, if it were a record at all.
    These days one must say that such a voyage is entirely a matter of several substantially refined technologies, and good old fashioned luck –

    There is no world edge to sail over nor disprove, et c – so the mythological aspect is pretty much lacking –
    I personally can’t imagine the sense of bourgeois accomplishment i would feel for doing this, or conceiving of it, myself

    now, if this young lady had built a moon rocket in the garage and was secretly trying to launch it, I would be all for it, provided she was a genius and did not endanger anyone else

    if she had assembled several microwave ovens into a cyclotron and was experimenting with ionizing radiation as a source of thrust, i would be all for it

    taking a yacht or a rowboat around this planet is really an exercise in self indulgence – for an individual, it might be necessary, but when it remains an unreachable quest for most of us???”Oh mummy., get me a yacht, because before i become president of the world, i wish to sail it and acquaint myself with all the natives and their strange customs – and I’ll do it in 87 days. Oh! Please mummy? We’ll have pictures forever if we get coverage.”

    Perhaps i am a bit satirical – i see no great accomplishment in doing this, except among the set who consider golf, bowling and tennis as worthwhile, even a way in which to prove one’s excellence.

    So, to me, spending an hour talking about it, or even as i do now, sitting and thinking about it, makes one wonder how much of a situation comedy the scheme of life might become, if left in the hands of those who commodify and attempt to sell all and every last thing.

  59. 63 steve
    August 26, 2009 at 18:28

    What about her education? I wouldn’t have been allowed to even if I were an expert sailor at age 13, because I was required to remain in school until I was 16.

  60. 64 Andrew in Australia
    August 26, 2009 at 18:29

    Legal sanction and maturity do not necessarily mean that an adult is capable of doing what they are eligible to do. Just look around and see some of the incredibly stupid things people do every single day. It all comes down to capability. But if you are going to legislate that until a certain age is reached before this or that can be undertaken, then be consistent in its application or dont make such rules in the first place, but above all be prepared to abide by any such rules.

  61. 65 Orsi from Hungary
    August 26, 2009 at 18:29

    I think there is no way a 13 year old to be mentally and physically prepared to do that. A mentally healthy teenage girls should have other problems and issues (boyfriends, shool etc.) at that age rather than wanting to sail the world..

  62. 66 Roseann In Houston
    August 26, 2009 at 18:29

    This trip does not require just physical preparedness, it requires emotional and psychological balance and strength – this girl will be ALONE on the ocean for MONTHS. If the trip took a week or two, or if she had one or two other 13 year olds with her, maybe… To be facing all the challanges ALONE is completely different than being a Girl Guide and facing challanges as a group. As a 13 year old girl I hitchhiked all over New England, I camped alone in the White Mountains and on the coast of Maine, I did quite a lot of things that I was probably “too young” to do, but I always knew that I could get support from someone (anyone) within an hour at the most if I ever needed it.

  63. 67 John in Salem
    August 26, 2009 at 18:30

    At 13 I had the skills and was given the opportunity to survive on my own in the desert, with only the barest of essentials, in an area where people without that knowledge die on a regular basis – like the ocean, the desert has no pity. My family was camped 5 miles away, close enough to hear the universal panic signal of 3 quick shots if I needed rescuing.
    It was risky – a single mistake can be fatal – but my parents were confident in my abilities and gave me the chance to create my own “rite of passage”. The most important thing, however, was that my parents were qualified to judge my skills.
    I’ve lost dear friends to the sea, people who died because of a single error, a miscalculation of conditions or an oversight of one critical factor. As much as I sympathize with this girl’s desire to prove herself this is simply too much – she would be out of reach to help and at the mercy of the ocean and whoever she might encounter. I have to question the qualifications of her parents to assess not only her skills but the thousands of potential risks involved in navigating the globe, and I believe the state has every right to step in when parents willfully put a child’s life in danger.

  64. 68 Ana Markosian
    August 26, 2009 at 18:31

    I agree with the previous blogger: at age 13 one might be able to do extraordinary things, but one is not mature enough to defend oneself physically and is not ready to handle certain difficult psychological situations. Unfortunately, it looks like her parents are not mature enough to understand it, which makes this girl being constantly at risk . I would say the government should keep an eye on this family in general – the parents are to quick to put their child’s life into jeopardy, and, that sounds very suspicious and unnerving.

    • 69 Matt
      August 28, 2009 at 07:24

      How do we know ANYTHING about this situation, we read an article, and now are going on and on and on about outrage and irresponsible parents, but how do we know anything about the girl, her skills, her parents, the proposed method, or anything other than her age.

  65. 70 Electric Larry
    August 26, 2009 at 18:35

    How would people feel if the parents decided to sail around the world for two years and leave their thirteen year old at home by herself. Does the government have and interest there? What if the girl decided she wanted to have a child, should we all applaud and say how brave she is?

  66. 71 Risa
    August 26, 2009 at 18:36

    What about going to school??? It is crazy to even consider it.

  67. 72 A.J.
    August 26, 2009 at 18:38

    I’ve heard at least two people say if we think it’s okay for children to be soldiers or work in factories why not to sail around the world? Who on earth EVER said child soldiers or child labor is acceptable or okay? It is not! That aside, If this young woman wants to try this courageous, daring thing, there are ways to make it safer. If she can be accompanied at a distance by another vessel ready to help or save this child if necessary, why not?

  68. 73 Tom D Ford
    August 26, 2009 at 18:39

    Surely it would be easy to test whether Laura is ready to do this.

    Look at her sailing records, try her out on shorter distances, in storms and rough waters, etc.

    If she shows up well, let her go, if she does not show well, then tell her no.

  69. 74 Neil
    August 26, 2009 at 18:39

    There are government imposed restrictions on aspects of life like driving, drinking, movie ratings – PG13, R etc, for heaven’s sake even minimum age to contest for political office. If all kids mature differently, aka at different times then why the restrictions above. Don’y pick when you want age restrictions and when not.

  70. 75 Robert
    August 26, 2009 at 18:41

    Perhaps she should take on a simpler challenge first – why doesn’t she take a drive across Europe alone?

  71. 76 Richard Tonsing
    August 26, 2009 at 18:46

    The state has the right and obligation to override bad parental decisions. The state doesn’t let her drive an automobile or a motorcycle which is an order of magnitude less risky than this adventure. The state also has a requirement for children to attend school for which she would have to get a waiver. Many countries prohibit parents from providing alcoholic drinks to children.

  72. 77 Steve in Portland Oregon
    August 26, 2009 at 18:46

    If something were to happen to this girl, who would be at blame? would her parents be? would she shoulder the blame her self?

  73. 78 Tom D Ford
    August 26, 2009 at 18:47

    I just want to say how much I admire and respect the Girl Guides and Girl Scouts organizations. They do great things regarding building young women into confident adult women.





  74. August 26, 2009 at 18:49

    She may be capable in the sailing arena, but does she really understand the true dangers of being alone for such a long time? I am a mother, and while trust and independence are very important to young people, if it was me I would not feel comfortable letting her go. Sailing ability – yes. Handling all the other things that could happen … hmmnnn no.

  75. 80 Lucie, Prague
    August 26, 2009 at 18:49

    Crazy, very irresponsible from the parents. Parents should be responsible for their children and should not encourage actions, which involve obvious danger to the childs life! I wonder how court would decide in case of her death, if they would be treated as guilty?

    I find the comments of other listeners in terms of the childs labor in developing countries as irrelevant. it is not double stadard, I do not agree with child labor in developing countries, if I have the possibility I would stop. I do not have double standards.

    Once again parents are responsible for the health and well being of children and although naturally cannot watch every childs step, they really should not encourage risky behaviour as sailing across the world obviously is.

    And more thing I want to point out. The social norms should ensure childs safety, health, education etc. It is not only about childs labor….children should be allowed to be children. There are many things they can postpone doing as children, but they never can be children again. In this sense I am also very much against child film stars and models of 14 years old….it is a child abuse. Children should enjoy their childhood, in this way I see double standars in our society! Parents are willing to exchange childhood of their kids for fame of money!

  76. 81 Tara
    August 26, 2009 at 18:50

    I think 13 years old is entirely too young to sail around the world on your own. I mean think about that age for a minute. 13. only 3 years from 10 years old, which is only 5 years from 5 years old. 13 is still a BABY. And, yes, children and teenagers need as much respect and free will as any adult, but 13 is just too young. It isn’t a question of letting her do what she wants to do, it’s a question of responsibility. What’s wrong with her sailing around the world with some adults? It won’t lesson her experience any more, and the ocean isn’t going anywhere, so she can easily sail around it later on in life all on her own, when she is grown. The fact that people are trying to argue this point is ludicrous. We must have tough love with our children. It’s better to be safe, than sorry.


    These people talking about “risk” on the radio right now are ridiculous. It’s not just a question of risk, and she can always take that risk later, when she is older.

  77. 82 steve
    August 26, 2009 at 18:50

    That girl is taking risks. She’ll still go sailing. There’s a HIGH chance she’ll die from this adventure. She still can go sailing, take other risks. I would never want to risk losing my child just to set some record. She’s not going to be forbidden from sailing, and each time she goes out she takes risk. But this is an unreasonable risk.

  78. 83 Nick
    August 26, 2009 at 18:52

    In many countries police will do utmost to prevent people from commiting suicide. So there are clearly limits to what society thinks is tolerable. Our laws state one is mature at 18. I read much about people who think they were already mature at 13, but under our laws they simply aren’t.
    Certain adults who wish to perform certain stunts are stopped as well, simply because the risks are too high.
    For parents to have their daughter go out on a possible (or even likely) suicide mission seems a very strange thing to tolerate. Motivated probably too by a wish for fame, instead of ‘simply’ a young girls dream. Some dreams are impossible, although to children they may very well seem possible.
    Is this alleged dream worth dying for? Will she die if she waits another 5 years? Why must it happen now, at this moment? Is her (alleged) dream ‘on fire’?
    Totally wrong if any taxpayer should pay for rescue operations and such. How will the World react if she should die (since it has ben argued before society has nothing to do with this)?
    Imagine this girl breaks her neck because the mast falls on top of her. Will she then blame her parents for not having protected her?
    What will be next? Some parents who declare their 10 year old son wants to basejump from Eiger Northface and they support him in this? When I was 10 my parents pulled me off a highrise building (alarmed by local people) where me and my mate stood (with parachutes!) ready to jump. Till today I still am grateful they did, although at the time I was convinced they overreacted. And of course I can put a lot of false stuff about how mature I was at 10, because everybody should know any 10 or 13 year old child is not mature and I wasn’t either, especially not since we are mainly talking about children from our Western societies. Bet this 13 year old sailor never had any responsibilities nor did she have to deal with real hardships like some children her age in Third World countries have. They will by now probably cherish life so much, they won’t even think about doing their best to prove their own mortality by doing a thing as insane as sailing solo around the World at 13.

  79. 84 Chris (USA)
    August 26, 2009 at 18:52

    I find the arguments made by the Girl Guides in favor of letting Laura sail alone to be ridiculous. The only examples they gave of their own “risky” experiences were cooking a meal at age 9 and travelling to a village to promote safe sex. Was this village in the middle of a war zone? Were there landmines buried in the ground? I highly doubt it. And at least the Girl Guides in Benin were able to go to the local authorities in the village to seek assistance. Laura will be completely on her own.

    Cooking a meal all by oneself at the age of 9 or travelling to a village to promote safe sex do not come anywhere near the danger level of sailing solo around the world. When was the last time Laura sailed on her own through a tropical storm? What will she do when she sees pirates shadowing her vessel?

  80. August 26, 2009 at 18:55

    Nykhana from Jamaica,

    This is symptomatic of current attitudes in Western society….
    Since when do 10 year olds decide what is best for their safety?

    The adults need to be adults and encourage children should pursue activities which are safe and/or supervised. Children don’t ‘control’ parents or society. They are not mature enough to know the extent of the risks they are taking.

    It is irresponsible to say that children ‘know all the risks’ of what they do…

  81. 86 Scott
    August 26, 2009 at 18:55

    Maybe she is to young. But I believe this decision is between her and her parents. It is no one else’s business, particularly any government.

  82. 87 Al Baensch
    August 26, 2009 at 18:56

    This from an old sailor with lots of experience but who never attempted to cross an ocean. This girl is not only too young to sail around the world, but also too young to understand what she wishes to undertake.
    As to who is to decide when a minor is fit for a certain undertaking, it is obviously the parents. If the parents are unable to do so, as they are in this case, the community must step in to protect the minor.
    Any experienced ocean sailor will tell you, as the professor recounted, that this girl is too young too be up to the task. I estimate her chances of surviving to be about 15% at best. It is unconscionable to expose her to such risk. Would you have her walk a mine field? Or climb Everest?
    To bring in the comparison of the 12 year old swimming the Channel is off the wall. That girl had an accompanying boat, able to pluck her from the sea at any moment. That is not the case if you are to sail around the world solo. The same goes for the nonsense of comparing to child labor in Asia, or youngsters undertaking tough task under controlled conditions.
    To even ask these question displays dismal ignorance of what solo sailing around the world entails.

  83. 88 trish weinrich
    August 26, 2009 at 18:59

    Physically and mentally I can’t believe she could possibly be prepared for a solo sail. She could wait 3 years and still beat Michaels record.
    Using a math prodigy as a comparison is absurd. She doesn’t have the experience as a human to cope with being alone for that much time. And physically? Unless she is spending all her time in the gym, I can’t imagine she’d be capable for that length of time.
    She wants to be the youngest person to sail the world solo. So she wants to be famous, not just complete the challenge.
    Parents are there to guide their kids and provide boundaries. Thinking their 13 yr old child is capable of something like this is bizarre.

  84. 89 Alex Bond
    August 26, 2009 at 18:59

    The parents should be the only people to decide what their child will undertake. It is dangourous to ride a bicycle, and climb trees, or just swim. Kids die all the time participating in those activities, but we don’t want to micromanage their activities, you can never eliminate risk completely.

    Untill 18 (or 16 in some countries) children should be under control of their parents, they should not be forced to do anything dangerous, but should be the authority to thier kids preventing them from being hurt but allowing them to grow.

    I think that she might not make it all the way around the world, sailing is a hard task for anyone, but she should still be allowed to try.

    I’m sure that her trip will be watched at every step, and there will really be enough support to step in when real emergency hits.

    If government wants to help, they should provide some logistic support to be able to save her in case of emergency.

  85. 90 Alex
    August 26, 2009 at 19:02

    At 12 I was doing 50mi (80km) hikes through wilderness areas where you only saw other people every 3 days. If I had the means I would have been climbing the Mt. McKinley or Kilimanjaro. However not all children at that age could do the same thing, but neither can most 30 year olds.
    At 13 if Laura Dekker has the experience to sail around the world she should. She obviously has years of experience (she was born at sea), and to even consider the trip requires a world class sailor. The detractors completely ignore the fact that she has been solo sailing for years already.
    This is the perfect example of a situation where the individual must be taken in to account, the age is irrelevant, qualification is paramount.

  86. 91 andrea
    August 26, 2009 at 19:03

    When I was 11, my parents started treating me like an adult, letting me make my own decisions, and pretty much run wild. I did drugs, partied, camped in the woods for months at a time by myself. No, this might not be the ideal path for all young children, but in my experience, getting exposed to all these things at such a young age made my decisions much wiser in the future (18-19) while other kids were just starting to figure their independence. I am nearing college graduation at 19 years old because I started college early and worked my way through, all by myself. The reason Kids in the western world are so far behind everyone else is because they are sheltered, not treated like adults, and they don’t know how to deal with life when they all the sudden have to be adults at age 18. What I am trying to say is Laura has every right to do what she wants, especially if she has her parents blessing. This is life. Lets not shelter our children to it.

  87. 92 kevin
    August 26, 2009 at 19:05

    I think that the decision is best left up to the girl and her parents. Parents choose how to raise their children and what experiences the child has.
    However, I do think that anyone who attempts feats such as this should be required to carry insurance to reimburse all organizations who risk their lives if a rescue is required.

    • 93 Tom K in Mpls
      August 26, 2009 at 22:16

      kevin, to add to what you say, people need to realize there will communications equipment, GPS maybe a chase boat at some or all times. Plus there is a very dedicated global sailing community looking out for each other. Also, I know I hate it when others judge what I do based on their limitations.

  88. 94 steve
    August 26, 2009 at 19:17

    Say she is allowed to go, and actually surives. This will only encourage younger and younger people to go. What will she say the the family of the 12 year old who tried to break her record if that 12 year old dies?

  89. 95 Chris (USA)
    August 26, 2009 at 19:20

    Look, I’m all for what the Girl Guides stand for and I applaud their mission. I wish more girls joined organizations like the Girl Guides.

    But the simple fact is that learning how to be “independent” is nowhere near enough to enable one to tackle a task as monumentous as sailing solo around the world. If the Girl Guides knowingly sent their members into highly dangerous situations just to get them to learn to be independent, I would call that criminal negligence. Laura’s parents are no exception.

  90. 96 Gloria in Oregon
    August 26, 2009 at 19:58

    Even in light of how experienced Miss Dekker is with sailing, still & all, for this particularly enormous undertaking, to sail solo around the world, 13 years of age is too young…for reasons many today have already mentioned, and for reasons yet unspoken, that potentially, are far more dangerous.

    I do, however, applaud and respect Laura Dekker, for her adventuresome spirit. No doubt, she will call upon that tenacious spirit when approaching other daunting and exciting adventures in her life, even while still young.

    Whatever the final decision, to sail or no, I send my best wishes to Miss Dekker for good health (and a reserve of humor) to accompany her during all future fascinating journeys that will, but naturally, enrich her entire being.

  91. 97 Josiah Soap
    August 26, 2009 at 20:47

    As per usual the Government is trying to decide how we run our lives and how we bring up our kids. If this kid and her parents decide that she can row around the world then so be it. I am sick and tired of Government invading our every decision, that includes smacking kids. I’m all for that, its my decision as a parent nothing to do with the Government or social workers. This kid obviously has a lot of experience at sea, so leave her alone and leave the parents to make the decisions

  92. 98 patti in cape coral
    August 26, 2009 at 21:05

    Regarding Andrea’s experience with gaining her independenceat age 11, drug use, and running wild and unsupervised, her results are atypical and your mileage may vary, so don’t go handing your kids any joints yet.

  93. 99 Kindi Jallow
    August 26, 2009 at 23:40

    As a father to Laura he should be in the position of analyzing the situation and explaining the implications of her actions across. It is a diabolical idea, but in consideration of her age, the risk involved, bad weather, security issues, etc. A father should have a foresight to give direction, advise based on the present realities on the ground.
    If Laura should fully understand the implication of her actions she will not agree to sail much more her father. A father should be able to communicate with his children in a much friendly and convincing manner to allow your child to reason out clearly and select the best option. If things go wrong it is the parents or the family who will feel it most so let them give Laura a round table discussion convincingly for her to drop her plan of sailing.

  94. 100 Nigel
    August 27, 2009 at 00:56

    Not old enough to drive legally, not old enough to vote but old enough to face the solitude and the raging oceans which have no conscience? I worked on a 21,000 ton Norwegian oil tanker in the ’60s and can tell you that we saw mid-Atlantic rage that frightened every man and woman onboard. It took great skill, training and experience of the crew to keep this iron ship from being overcome by huge waves that smashed over the bridge and shook the whole ship. Any slip by the crew would have spelt disaster and I wonder if this young lady in similar circumstances, in a boat a fraction of the size and weight would be able to produce the experience and maturity required to keep her boat stable to the seas. Baaaad idea, hope that the state stops her.

  95. 101 Roberto
    August 27, 2009 at 09:34

    RE “” She wants to sail around the world- her Dad has no problem with it “”

    ———– The problem has always been primarily with adults in the world as reviewing the wide ranging responses to the topic shows. Many simply don’t know the first thing about sailing, child development, or basic cultural responsibilities.

    In this specific case, the endeavor is extremely challenging and dangerous, not to mention expensive, and for what purpose does it serve other than a little statistical bit of trivia?

    What if she changes her mind and decides to run away from home, or become a prostitute, or wants to use Dad’s car for some joyriding around town?

    Why is this even a topic not to put too fine a point on unceasing rhetorical questions serving what purpose?

  96. 102 Magda
    August 27, 2009 at 10:24

    For me she is too yong. I agree with Nigel, she cannot face up to ocean.
    She thinks she has sufficient experiance, but I doubt.
    She ought to try in few years…but not now

  97. 103 steve
    August 27, 2009 at 16:04

    Your guest that was on air from at sea yesterday finished his trip around the world!

  98. 104 Grant La Farge, M.D.
    August 28, 2009 at 16:02

    I wonder if we should ask the parents of a 13-year Laura Dekker what it is they do not understand about international sexual predation, piracy on the high seas, kidnapping and the international slave trade, and the vicissitudes of the enormously powerful forces of Mother Nature at sea. A dangerous naïveté is the dominant force here.

  99. 105 rick
    August 29, 2009 at 05:03

    what is the motivation for making such a trip? 2 years in a 27′ boat is a long commitment for a thirteen yo. I have 2 kids, and believe me, within a short time she will have moved on to some other passion. There is a 15yo girl about to take off from Australia on a similar quest. I have met her and, having crossed the Pacific in a small boat myself, think she is much too young.

    The parents of both girls need get a grip and learn to use the word no.

  100. 106 Tan Boon Tee
    August 29, 2009 at 06:42

    It is not a question of age. The bottom line is the craving for fame.

    How could a 13 year old sail around the world SOLO without the constant assistance of others, particularly the parents who would monitor every single move 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?

    Could the child endure the hardship? Or is she that skilful to maneuver everything by herself?

  101. 107 Vijay Pillai
    August 30, 2009 at 16:06

    it would be unwise to let her alone in the sea without watching her at distance say 100 meters all along her route with armd guards to prtect her from somalian and indinesian prirates as well as to see if she can survive 50 to 100 meter high waves,whales and sharks let alone wind,rain and other natural calamities. No doubt these things would have been considered in their planning ,it would be like throughing their daugher to the wolves if her parents are going to let her sail without these arrangements in place and wait at the port of arrival to collect her.But her adventure has to be supported by all countires with their security while she pass their sea lane.world should be celebrated by all not just criticise her for trying to break a world record. Mind you it was the Dutch who traveled the world by sea and conqured many countires and now live below the sea level and ordinary mortals can lear a few tips from her courage and wish her well.

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