Some 518 days after she first set off alone in her sailboat, 16-year-old Laura Dekker glided into a Caribbean port on Saturday to complete her historic, and controversial, voyage around the globe.
The Dutch citizen arrived in Sint Maarten around 3 p.m. (2 p.m. ET), her spokesman Anton Van de Koppel told CNN. And a picture linked from Dekker’s official website Saturday shows her standing behind a group of children holding a sign, “Congratulations Laura Dekker … Welcome back to St. Maarten.”
While other teens have made similar sea voyages — some of them without stopping, as Dekker did — the Dutch girl unofficially appears to be the youngest to do so sailing alone. In 2010, Australian Jessica Watson finished a non-stop, unassisted solo circumnavigation days before her 17th birthday.
But sailing journalists have said, and her team didn’t dispute, that her route was less than 21,600 orthodromic (or, in the same direction for a great circle) nautical miles, which is the length of the equator and the distance generally used for round-the-world sailing records.
Dekker states on her website that she traversed about 27,000 nautical miles on her own solo voyage aboard her 38-foot yacht, which she has dubbed Guppy. She was 14 when she began August 21, 2010, in Gibraltar and then headed west across the Atlantic Ocean, through the Panama Canal, across the Pacific, through the Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope, and ultimately to her final destination in the Caribbean.
The trip almost didn’t happen — not because of problems at sea, but rather due to a high-profile legal fight by Dutch authorities to prevent the teen from setting sail, for her own safety.
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Article courtesy cnn.com