Maidentrip is a documentary which chronicles the epic journey of 14 year old Laura Dekker as she attempts to become the youngest person ever to sail solo around the world. This lofty goal comes at a stiff price, however, both before and during the actual trip. In a well publicized ten month trial Dekker and her father are taken to court by Holland’s Child Protection in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the teen from venturing off alone on this dangerous voyage.
Dekker, who was born aboard a boat, began her 27,000 mile trip in August 2010. Early on in Maidentrip the teen rejects the notion of undertaking a non stop voyage. Instead she yearns to see new places and experience different cultures along the way to reaching her goal. In keeping with this theme first time director Jillian Schlesinger interweaves the footage Dekker shot aboard her boat with scenes of the teen’s adventures in a number of exotic locations including the Canary Islands, St. Maarten, Darwin, Australia, South Africa, Panama, the Galapagos Islands, and French Polynesia.
Whether you think Dekker’s quest is foolhardy or incredibly brave there’s no denying that this young woman is intelligent, determined, and fiercely independent. With that in mind it should be noted that Maidentrip is far from being a vanity piece. There are many instances in the documentary in which the teenager is shown in an unflattering light as in the scene in which she’s particularly rude to a journalist whose trying to interview her. Throughout much of the film Dekker is depicted as being rather unemotional even when discussing several traumatic episodes in her past including her parent’s divorce, her strained relationship with her mother, and her father’s breakdown.
Perhaps the most poignant shots in Maidentrip feature Dekker’s small sailboat, The Guppy, bobbing up and down amidst the vast ocean like a child’s toy. This footage highlights the isolation and danger involved in Dekker’s epic voyage. During her trip we witness the young sailor as she struggles to cope with violent storms and precarious weather conditions. Regardless of the danger, however, the young woman remains undeterred and steadfast as she continues on with her journey.
Laura Dekker seems to share a number of qualities with Robyn Davidson, the Australian woman whose solo trek through the outback was dramatized in this year’s film Tracks. Both women are depicted as loners who feel as if they don’t have a real home and are most at ease being all alone in a natural setting be it in the desert or at sea. Furthermore both female adventurers are uncomfortable in social settings and find it difficult to relate to other human beings.
One of the most interesting sequences in Maidentrip takes place when Dekker passes through the Panama Canal. This event marks an important milestone in her voyage because it’s here that she realizes she’s reached a physical as well as psychological turning point. Once her boat sails through the canal it’s as if there’s no going back. This portion of the documentary also seems to signal a shift in terms of Dekker’s personality. In the early portion of her journey the teen is shown expressing feelings of loneliness and even shedding a tear or two. This is contrasted with her demeanor after she crosses into the Indian Ocean. Dekker then begins to take on the persona of a seasoned sailor who just wants to be alone at sea.
Maidentrip is an insightful documentary about a teenager who accomplished an incredible feat. In doing so she proved that despite all the obstacles in her path and factors such as gender or age almost anything is possible. Laura Dekker serves as an inspiration to women (in particular) and is living proof that if you’re willing to put in enough effort anyone can make their dreams come true.
Maidentrip is available now on DVD. 82 minutes in English & Dutch with English subtitles