Teenage Dutch sailor sets off to cross Atlantic

Teenage Dutch sailor Laura Dekker said she is setting off to cross the Atlantic Ocean in her yacht, the most challenging leg yet in her ambitious plan to sail solo around the world, by stages.

The 15-year-old expects to take three weeks to cross 2,200 nautical miles (2,532 land miles, 4,074 kilometers) from the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa to the Caribbean island of St. Maarten.

In a blog entry dated Thursday, Dekker said she was sailing past the last two Cape Verde islands with "a nice crosswind" and with waves rocking her yacht, Guppy.

Unlike previous young sailors who have circumnavigated the globe without making stops, Dekker is making her voyage in stages. That plan has her waiting in ports, sometimes for weeks at a time, between sailing legs.

She started her trip from Gibraltar on Aug. 21 in her twin-masted sailboat and spent two months in the Canary Islands waiting for the hurricane season to pass before sailing to the Cape Verde Islands.

Dekker's venture stirred debate around the world about what risks young people should be allowed to take pursuing potentially dangerous dreams.

A Dutch court initially blocked the voyage and only allowed her to set sail after she agreed to change her original plan.

She bought a bigger, sturdier boat, fitted it with advanced navigation and radar equipment, and took courses in first aid and coping with sleep deprivation.

Dekker was born on a boat off New Zealand while her parents were sailing around the world.

Her voyage began 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, Jessica Watson of Australia completed a 210-day voyage at age 16.