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Dutch teen sailor heads for Canary Islands on controversial solo trip around the world

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — A 14-year-old Dutch sailor aiming to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world is sailing in fine weather toward the Canary Islands off northwest Africa, her manager said Monday.

The first 48 hours of Laura Dekker's controversial voyage have gone smoothly, Peter Klarenbeek said.

"Everything is going well. She's very happy," Klarenbeek told The Associated Press by telephone from the Netherlands. "The weather is very good. There's a bit of a strong wind but ... it's no problem."

Dekker left Gibraltar, a British territory bordering the southwestern tip of Spain, on Saturday on the first leg of her global journey.

Klarenbeek said Dekker plans to spend at least two months in the Canary Islands 1,380 kilometers (858 miles) off Spain's southwestern tip waiting for the Atlantic storm season to abate.

While there she will catch up on her schoolwork, receive family visits and install cameras on her yacht for a film to be made of the voyage, Klarenbeek said.

After the Canary Islands Dekker intends to head south to the Cape Verde Islands off west Africa before continuing to the Caribbean on a trip expected to last a year or more.

Klarenbeek, who said he is in touch with Dekker by satellite telephone, said he is tracking her progress by computer and speaking to her by satellite telephone. He said he did not immediately have her exact location.

Laura's website features links titled "My Coordinates" and "Where is Laura," but neither was working Monday.

The schoolgirl plans to stop at dozens of ports and may even return home to catch up on her studies before resuming her trip.

The attempt has been criticized by Dutch child protection authorities, who questioned the wisdom of a child risking the world's oceans alone.

Dekker was initially scheduled to depart from Portimao on Portugal's southern coast, but local authorities said they could issue permits for sailing ocean vessels only to people 18 or older. That limitation forced her to leave from Gibraltar where, her representatives said, the regulation does not apply.

Dekker said in a post on her blog late Sunday that she was disturbed by the close media and public attention in Portimao, a popular tourist destination.

"Dozens of people were walking on the dock. And everybody had to take pictures! That was annoying," she wrote.

Her departure came after she took measures to reduce objections to her voyage. She purchased a bigger, sturdier boat than the one she originally planned to use and took courses in first aid and coping with sleep deprivation.

In the end, the Dutch court ruled that her preparations were adequate and it was up to her parents, who are divorced, to decide whether to let her make the attempt.

The trip comes two months after Abby Sunderland, a 16-year-old American, had to be rescued in a remote section of the Indian Ocean during an attempt to circle the globe. Earlier this year, Australian Jessica Watson completed a 210-day voyage at age 16.

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Associated Press writer Mike Corder in The Hague contributed to this report.

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