World sailor enjoys NZ but waiting for next adventure

Laura Dekker, the youngest person to sail around the world alone, is enjoying life in New Zealand...
Laura Dekker, the youngest person to sail around the world alone, is enjoying life in New Zealand. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
The youngest person to sail around the world alone, Laura Dekker, is enjoying life in New Zealand away from the spotlight, but is itching for her next voyage.

After fighting Dutch authorities before beginning her voyage, Ms Dekker, aged 16, completed her round-the-world trip in January of last year and then sailed to New Zealand, arriving in Whangarei in September last year.

The New Zealand-born Dutch sailor, who was in Dunedin to speak at Otago Yacht Club's annual prize-giving on Saturday, is now 17 and living in Whangarei aboard her ketch she named Guppy - the same vessel in which she travelled around the world.

At first, she had planned to just visit New Zealand but she was enjoying it here so much she now wanted to stay.

She still had strong feelings about the Dutch Government, saying she would ''never forgive'' it for going to the courts to stop her record-breaking departure in 2009, before finally backing down the following year.

''I would never want to go back to the Netherlands ...''she said.

''I just wanted see Whangarei, or at least New Zealand, and then when I got here, I just stayed here. That wasn't the plan or anything, I just decided to stay.''

Asked if she wanted New Zealand to be her base for a while she said: ''I hope so.''

She had made a few friends and enjoyed living away from the spotlight and not being noticed on the the street, which happened during the peak of the controversy with the Dutch Government,She said she did not enjoy being a celebrity.

''I don't like it. It's not what I did it for, so it kind of came as a shock. I was not prepared for it at all. It's fine now, because it's died down a lot.''

She accepted she had been forced to ''grow up fast'' due her independence, but said it was her choice and she did not have any regrets about missing out on a ''normal'' childhood.

''It's not like I am at sea and I am just there, it's not that I have sailed around the world for two years and not seen anything else. I've stopped quite a lot and I have seen a lot of the world.''

Asked what she liked about sailing and living at sea she said: ''Just the fact that if you want to go, you can go. With a boat you can explore parts of the world that otherwise you would never even come close to. That's really nice.''

She was itching for her next big voyage and wanted to explore the polar regions, but would need money to buy new equipment first.

Her message to people thinking about setting off on an adventure was to just go for it.

''Just go for your dreams, don't be afraid to make that first step, because that is always the hardest,'' she said.

Ms Dekker felt most at home at sea and when asked if she preferred the comfort of living on land she said: ''I've never lived in a house, so I wouldn't know.''

-vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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