Ever since I met my mother-in-law some sixteen plus years ago, she’s lived on a boat. She and her husband, and up until recently their cat, have called their boat home as they’ve spent some years now sailing the Caribbean and even attempted a world voyage. It’s not a lifestyle for everyone, but those who do venture into this world become part of a sailing community. It’s a community where you are welcomed no matter what port you enter as you make fast acquaintances since everyone can relate to your struggles with your boat, equipment, and sailing adventures.
Going into the first Lost Weekend, the documentary Maidentrip was one of the movies I was most anticipating. I personally have very little sailing experience, but since I have relatives that do, it made me want to gain a glimpse into what their world may be like.
Laura Dekker was born on a boat in New Zealand waters while her parents were sailing around the world. Sailing was in her blood from birth. Unfortunately her mother just wasn’t into sailing the way her Dutch father was and the family moved to Holland where her parents later divorced. Laura decided to live with her dad because of his love of boats and grew up around the local shipyards while helping her father build boats. As she grew older, she began sailing on her own, knowing one day she wanted to sail around the world. Her first major experience with sailing came when she sailed across the English Channel to England by herself with her father’s permission. When she returned from her trip, she announced, at age 14, that she wanted to take two years to sail around the world. If successful, it would make her the youngest person to sail solo around the world. Her goal was not to sail around the world non-stop, but to be able to take the time see and experience the world and its different cultures as well.
Unfortunately, the Dutch government and child welfare office intervened, and what followed was a lengthy court case that gained international attention. It took about ten months before Laura was finally given the approval to begin her journey as the government debated her age, mental health status, and whether or not to remove her from her father’s custody and make her a ward of the state since he supported her decision to make this trip. Finally, in August of 2010, Laura set out on her journey.
“Freedom is when you’re not attached to anything”
Since Laura was sailing solo, she filmed much of the footage used in Maidentrip herself. It’s interesting to not only experience her journey, but also see her transform over the almost two years at sea. At the beginning, she’s newly separated from her father, and feeling sad, but over time her independence strengthens and she even becomes stubborn when around adults who start telling her what to do. Her anger toward the Dutch government lingers and she decides to embrace her New Zealand citizenship. With stretches of ocean around her, she faces her loneliness and finds herself happier when by herself. At the end, she achieves her goal to become the youngest person to sail around the world, yet she shuns the attention and just wants to keep on sailing.
Maidentrip is a journey worth taking. It’s a real story of a girl determined to follow her dreams despite the odds stacked against her, and she succeeds. And for a brief moment, I can understand why my mother-in-law loves the sea so much.