August 24, 2012

Ombudsman investigates children forced to sail to get an education

Filed under: Weird by Orangemaster @ 11:56 am

We reported several times about Laura Dekker, the sailor girl who was allowed to circumnavigate the globe for a year, and more recently we told you about two teenage brothers, Enrique and Hugo who are being denied an education because of their special needs as dyslexics and decided to sail off to get one the same way Dekker did.

The national ombudsman finally got wind of the situation and wants to find out why these kids can’t or don’t attend classes, as there are thousands of them. The brothers set sail today although Child Protection Services recently took their parents to court, but the court is delaying their verdict until December. I bet they are doing this because they know the parents aren’t at fault, and with general elections coming up on September 12, a lot could change in the meantime.

Child Protection Services can’t prosecute the parents for not trying to put their children in a school, as all schools within a large radius have refused the brothers. I don’t understand why the government doesn’t force a school to take them or at least try and resolve this situation. This imbroglio is far from over, and it is quite embarrassing.

Since Dekker got special schooling from the World School once she set sail, the same should apply to these kids or else someone will call out ‘discrimination’. Of course, the problem is that children of school-going age are being kept out of school by the educational system. What’s more, the parents aren’t legally allowed to home school their children, but I really do hope they are, I know I would.

(Link:, Photo of a sailboat by the US Navy)

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June 10, 2012

Three kids from Utrecht under supervision for being too fat

Filed under: Dutch first,Health by Branko Collin @ 11:42 am

Child protection services has placed three children from the same family in Utrecht, ranging from 6 to 13 years old, under the supervision of a guardian for being dangerously overweight, De Telegraaf writes.

The children weighed 15, 18 and 51 kilograms too much in November 2011. The parents fought the services’ decision in court, but in a decision published in May, an judge in Arnhem found against the parents. The court felt that although it was obvious that the parents cared about their children, they lacked both the drive and the skills to deal with their children’s bad health.

According to, “this is the thought to be the first time children in the Netherlands have been subject to a court order because of their weight”. NRC writes that in the UK, dozens of children have been placed under supervision since 2006 for being obese. Child protection services told the newspaper that they will only place children under supervision “if the parents refuse voluntary help and the problems are such that the development of the child is halted or endangered.”

Supervision means that although the children will generally get to stay with their parents, the supervisor must be consulted for all major decisions regarding the children, and orders given by the supervisor must be followed.

A high profile supervision was the 2009 case of then 13-year-old Laura Dekker who wanted to sail around the world by herself. The intent then was to determine whether Dekker was fit to sail the world by herself, although in hindsight the effect mainly seems to have been to instill a severe dislike for Dutch bureaucracy in the teen sailor.

(Photo by Quinn Dombrowski, some rights reserved)

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January 20, 2012

Laura Dekker ignored by Guinness, but still a winner

Filed under: General,Weird by Orangemaster @ 4:47 pm

The Dutch media probably chose today to make punny headlines about Laura Dekker who won’t become the youngest person to sail solo around the world because the Guinness Book of Records scrapped the distinction in 2009. However, back in 2009 (PDF) she had already mentioned she didn’t care about the record:

“Q. Is the record to become the youngest solo sailor very important to you?
A. It’s not the most important, it’s a nice addition. I have a dream and a very strong desire to do this.”

It’s amusing to see the Dutch Twittersphere make such a big deal about old news, claiming the ‘dumb cow’ should have gone to school like the rest of them. Of course, we also assumed she’d hopefully break a record, no matter what you call it.

According to Radio Netherlands, “Guinness World Records have decided to abandon the category of “youngest” in its list of world records. Their argument is that they do not want to encourage, discourage or support inappropriate record attempts by minors. On those grounds, they therefore refuse to acknowledge any achievement by the youngest person to sail around the world.”

And no matter what, whether there was a party or not at the finish, whether child services will haul her and her father away, one thing remains: she hates her nationality and will probably move to New Zealand and trade the ‘dumb cows’ in for sheep.

(Link:, Photo of Dutch flag by Guido, some rights reserved)

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January 11, 2012

Laura Dekker hounded by Dutch officials about school

Filed under: General,Sports by Orangemaster @ 11:57 am

Just as Laura Dekker is coming closer to being the youngest person sailing solo around the world, the
compulsory schooling bureaucrats have turned up the heat on the fact that she’s not handing in her homework. Her lawyer and even the Minister of Education has said that Laura does not have to go to school in Netherlands as she signed herself out the local registry.

What the bureaucrats have managed to do is make the teenager hate the Netherlands so much that she has no trust in the Dutch government whatsoever. She’s now flying with a New Zealand flag on her boat and does not want to live in the Netherlands anymore.

In about two weeks, she will arrive on the island of Sint Maarten, a Dutch island, and achieve her goal.

Will some petty bureaucrats ruin her party because they couldn’t take down a teenage girl with that much will power? Stay tuned! My money’s on Laura. She’ll show those losers what a real hero looks like and surely has the intelligence to go and study on her own terms eventually.

(Link:, Photo of an entirely unrelated boat by the US Navy)

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November 13, 2011

Sailor boycotts prize because teenage girl Laura Dekker is also in the running

Filed under: Sports by Branko Collin @ 1:40 pm

Somebody called Lucas Schröder has rejected his nomination for the prestigious Conny van Rietschoten Trophy, reports.

Schröder does not want his achievements to be compared with those of Dekker: “Many will inevitably see Laura’s nomination for the Netherlands’ most important sailing award as a collective opinion of the sailing community. This makes me feel so uncomfortable that I request you no longer consider me a candidate for your trophy.” Dekker’s solo global circumnavigation attempt has stirred controversy both inside and outside the Dutch sailing community.

It is unclear to this blogger what Schröder’s achievements are supposed to be. Nauticlink mentions his participation in an endurance race called Mini Transat, in which sailors cross the Atlantic Ocean in 6.5 metre boats. Schröder recently achieved a tenth place in that race.

The foundation that awards the trophy writes on its website that it regrets Schröder’s decision, and abstains from further comment. Schröder, whom I had never heard of before, managed to get a lot of free press with his action.

Laura Dekker in the meantime is busy crossing her third ocean in a row, the Indian Ocean. She is keeping mum about the route she is taking, as she doesn’t want to put ideas into the heads of Somalian pirates—which to me strongly suggests she is going for the Suez route.

Update 14-11: it turns out Laura is taking the South-African route after all. She has just arrived in Durban.

See also: Teenager attempts sailing solo around the world record.

(Photo of Laura Dekker by Wikimedia Commons user Savyasachi, some rights reserved)

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September 20, 2011

Laura is not hitting the books anymore

Filed under: General,Sports by Orangemaster @ 3:17 pm

Following Laura Dekker’s voyage as we have been, we left off recently with “still no word on if she has ever touched her homework.”. A report on her birthday today says that she just doesn’t have time to study. She had started to study at the beginning of her one-year sail around the world, but gave that up quickly enough.

One of the legal conditions on which she would be allowed to sail solo was that she do homework. She doesn’t plan to stop studying altogether, but I can totally imagine that repairing and replenishing her boat comes first.

The Dutch authorities can only wave their finger Dutch uncle style about her not studying, as her studies are her parents’ responsibility. And after the whole mess of a legal situation Laura got into with the authorities and her parents, she gave up being Dutch and relied on her dual citizenship with her country of birth, New Zealand.

Mark my words, if and when she completes this amazing feat, we’ll be playing ‘Zoek de Nederlander’ (’Find the Dutch person’) soon enough. In Laura’s case it will be a game that consists of constantly dissing a Dutch person in the media and then ignoring all the bad things and claim her victory as a Dutch one.

Follow Laura’s tweets on @laura_and_Guppy (Guppy is the name of her sailboat)

See also all our stories about Laura Dekker .


(Photo of an entirely unrelated boat by the US Navy)

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September 10, 2011

Laura Dekker in Australia

Filed under: General,Sports by Branko Collin @ 11:23 am

Two weeks ago ‘sailor girl’ Laura Dekker reached the shores of the Northern Territory of Australia, and not a moment too soon.

Her boat Guppy was in desperate need of repairs as both the genoa and the rudder had broken down. In Darwin she re-united with her father who had flown in to celebrate her sixteenth birthday (September 20). From that day on she has about a year and week to complete her global circumnavigation if she wants to become the unofficial record holder of being the youngest person solo sailing around the world.

In the past months Dekker sailed past the country of her birth, New Zealand (she has dual citizenship), even though she professed a desire to visit. Says

Her manager, Australian Lyall Mercer, [said] today Dekker did not take her New Zealand nationality lightly and had especially embraced it since starting to feel “disconnected” from The Netherlands after courts there stopped her from embarking on her trip when she was 13.

“Yet she has failed to find any support from New Zealand, unable even to source a New Zealand flag that she wants to fly from her boat ‘Guppy’ for the duration of her trip,” Mercer said.

I wonder if there is not more to that story. In August 2009, Elsevier reported that the New Zealand authorities had threatened to seize Laura’s boat for reckless behaviour if she ever entered one of the country’s ports while sailing alone.

The best place to follow Dekker’s exploits is still her blog, which she keeps in both English and Dutch. Dekker spends her days playing the guitar, writing her book, and reading. Still no word on if she has ever touched her homework.

See also: more stories about Laura Dekker.

(Photo of an entirely unrelated boat by the US Navy)

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May 28, 2011

‘Sailor girl’ Dekker hopping like a flamingo across Pacific Ocean

Filed under: General,Sports by Branko Collin @ 9:38 pm

Laura Dekker, the 15-year-old who is busy circumnavigating the globe by herself on her trusty ketch Guppy, has reached the island of Hiva Oa, half-way the Pacific.

I visited the Atuona village where I was welcomed by the mayor right upon arrival and I have since already collected three flower necklaces… The people here are really very friendly, and they find it sad that they could not organize a big party for my arrival because they did not know the time of my arrival. Actually, this is exactly the reason why I did not want them to know in advance. This way my trip becomes a lot more fun and spontaneous.

Earlier this month Dekker got a nasty cut on her foot when a big wave threw her into her cabin: “If I avoid standing on my foot, the pain is bearable, and I am now quite busy practising the flamingo stance.”

Today Dekker hiked up the volcano (“once you are in the clouds, it gets colder and there are fir trees growing everywhere, which really doesn’t make me think that I am now in the middle of the Pacific Ocean”), so I am guessing the foot is coming along fine. If the New Zealand born Dutch girl manages to reach her point of departure five days before her 17th birthday, she will be the youngest person to have solo sailed around the world, an honour currently held by Jessica Watson of Australia.

Hiva Oa has a population of just under 2,000 people and is the place where both Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel spent their autumn days.

See also:

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August 4, 2010

Solo sailing girl off to sail around the world

Filed under: General,Sports by Orangemaster @ 10:13 am

It sounds a lot like a soap opera: daddy was all for it, mommy was too, then she changed her mind. Lawyers got involved, child services got involved and stalled last year’s plans, and then the girl ‘threatened’ to emigrate.

Then, the Dutch public had their opinion, which ranged from ‘let the girl do her thing, you only live once’ to ‘what kind of horrible parents lets a teenager sail alone it’s dangerous’, as if the parents couldn’t vouch for their daughter’s talent. I couldn’t resist mentioning that Mike Perham and Zac Sunderland, both boys, were encouraged for their feats and wondering if Laura Dekker was a boy would that have made a difference.

And to ward off future criticism, if and when Laura Dekker does become the youngest person to sail around the world solo, all the Dutch, including the ones with the forked tongues will be all thrilled that she did it after all. If she crashes and burns, I’ll let you go all out in the comments, but for now, let’s see what happens first and comment later.

(Link:, photo of an entirely unrelated boat by the US Navy)

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August 29, 2009

Lauragate: solo sailing school girl to be tested for two months, says judge

Filed under: Sports by Branko Collin @ 1:28 am

The verdict is in. Laura Dekker, the girl that wants to set a world record by becoming the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe in a sail boat all by herself, will be put under supervision for two months while a psychologist will try and determine whether this 13-year old is fit for that feat.

Dekker’s parents will retain custody, but will have to ask permission from supervisor Bureau Jeugdzorg (the executive branch, so to speak, of the child protection industry) for major decisions pertaining her, a Utrecht court ruled today. The judge stated emphatically that Dick Dekker was not a bad father for supporting his daughter’s ambitions, reports Volkskrant (Dutch). Amsterdam psychologist S. Moonen will now try and find out whether Laura is mentally fit for such a huge undertaking, and whether it is possible for her to be schooled from a distance.

Laura was not present during the reading of the verdict. She tried to avoid the media, and instead gave an exclusive TV interview to Jeugdjournaal (children’s news show of NOS, Dutch). In it she said she was not afraid of the psychological examination, because she would not have gone if she wasn’t ready. She also denied reports that claimed she would be alone for two years in a row, explaining she would go to shore regularly, and she would be surrounded by other sailors taking the same routes because of storm seasons and so on. (Not that fellow ‘yachties’ always stick to the unspoken code of writing poems about flowers and being nice to puppies.)

(Photo by Wikimedia user Jonathunder, some rights reserved)

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