Saturday, January 21, 2012

True Survivor Celebrates Life

I want to dedicate this space to a young lady named Laura Dekker, a 16-year-old Dutch girl who has fought hard to celebrate life by accomplishing a dream she has held since she was 8 years old. Today, she will complete her solo circumnavigation of the world on a sailboat — a huge accomplishment for anyone. She becomes the youngest person ever to circle the globe alone on a sailboat. Congratulations Laura.

Why should I mention her on my survival blog site? Because she has what it takes — courage, determination, a can-do spirit — all of which are requisite to be a survivor. And she backs that up with preparation, clear thinking, a willingness to get her hands dirty and do the work. Most of all, she wouldn't give up, even when her own government tried multiple times to essentially put her in jail to prevent her from making her voyage. She is a true survivor.

As a sailor, I know intimately what it takes to operate a sailboat in rough conditions. A sailor doesn't just push the throttle down and point the boat where he wants it to go. It takes experience and thorough knowledge of the weather, water currents, and how to use the sails to best advantage. It requires strength and agility to raise and lower sails, change to different sails on a pitching deck, raise and lower the anchor, and perform maintenance on a boat that is continually wearing out under the ceaseless action of the ocean.

I've followed Laura's ship's log day by day since she began the voyage, paying close attention to how she handled emergencies at sea, and how she held up under weeks on end of total solitude. During her crossing of the Indian Ocean, she went dark for several weeks on the advice of experts who were telling her not to attempt any contact with the outside world, even by posting her log online, because it would give pirates in that region information about her location. She sailed without radio, without using lights on her boat, without radar — all of which could be tracked by pirates.

There were those in the sailing community who railed against the whole concept of a person so young attempting something so huge. And there were those who consistently stood behind Laura, giving expert advice and encouragement to help her along the way.

To those who fought against Laura's effort in the public media, I say, "Get a life yourself." It's all too easy to sit at your desk and fire off criticism based on your own personal prejudice or your condescending attitude that young people ought not to try to do anything challenging. Maybe those critics have lost the fire of youth and have forgotten what it's like to have a dream and then work toward its accomplishment.

After following Laura's adventure every step of the way by reading her log entries, all I can say is that she is one heck of a girl. Courageous, and able to back up her courage with action. Mature far beyond her chronological years, capable of handling emergency situations calmly, and with a spirit that will not be damped. Way to go Laura! You can be on my team anytime. With a spirit like that, you're a true survivor.

If you want to read her ship's log go to and click on the News link.


  1. I've read a lot of books about living on the seas. And talked to a lot of folks that did, they have some amazing stories.

    Ted for example, roamed the seas on his sail boat, would drop in here every year or so for a while, then he just disappeared, listening to music on the pier one evening summer before last on my boat I got to talking to an old man that sails the seas on a ketch, him and his wife has lived on sail boats all their adult lives and expect to die at sea.

    He solved the mystery of Ted for me and I blogged about it, they found his boat grounded on the barrier reefs but didn't find him.

    Oh well, he was in his 80's and fully intended on dying at sea.

  2. Amazing. Thank you for this post. I am enjoying reading her blog now.

    Laura is an inspiration!