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Would-be solo sailor, 14, vanishes, is found

A Dutch teenager who went missing after child welfare authorities thwarted her attempt to become the youngest person to sail alone round the world has been found in the Dutch Antilles.
/ Source: Reuters

A Dutch teenager who went missing after child welfare authorities thwarted her attempt to become the youngest person to sail single-handed round the world has been found in the Dutch Antilles.

The Dutch Council for the Protection of Children said on Sunday that Laura Dekker, 14, had been found on the island of St. Maarten after being reported missing by relatives in The Netherlands on Friday.

"We found her," council spokesman Richard Bakker said. "She is still on St. Maarten and she is in the custody of police." Bakker said the council and the Dutch government were working to have Dekker returned to the Netherlands as soon as possible, but a decision had not been made on where she would stay on her return.

St. Maarten is part of the Netherlands Antilles, a group of self-governing Caribbean islands that are part of the Dutch kingdom.

Police said relatives in the city of Utrecht had reported Dekker missing on Friday and authorities in nearby countries had been alerted and asked to monitor airports. Police had said earlier that her boat was still moored at its berth.

Born on her parents' boat in New Zealand, Dekker spent the first four years of her life at sea and had intended to start a two-year solo voyage round the world on her 27-foot sailboat Guppy on Sept. 1 when she was still 13.

Her plans captured the attention of both international media and the seafaring Dutch, but a Dutch court blocked her departure and placed her under state supervision, saying the trip posed risks to her safety.

In a televised interview in August, Dekker said she was not frightened of making the solo journey, and she has repeatedly said she was determined to pursue her plans.

Dekker's mother, Babs Muller, who has lived apart from Laura and her father since Laura was six, said she thought her daughter was technically capable of making a world trip but she was worried about her safety in ports and psychological isolation at sea.