While the 15-year-olds you know may be jonesing for a drivers' license, Laura Dekker is alone on a boat in the middle of the Pacific. Dekker set sail last August from Gibraltar in hopes of becoming the youngest woman to sail solo around the world. If all goes well, she will return to the same port before her 17th birthday in September 2012. Der Spiegel catches up and finds things going pretty smoothly. The young sailor keeps cluttered quarters complete with stuffed animals and books, and has personalized her yacht, the Guppy, with two painted fish on the bow. However, Dekker can sleep only 20 to 40 minutes at a time to ensure she has enough time to react to trouble. She recounts only a few tense days so far and says she has no fear on the sea, only "happiness."
By the end of summer, her journey should be about halfway done, but as many skeptics predicted, rough waters lie ahead. Her route (which can be followed on Google Maps) was chosen specifically to avoid storm zones, but the pirate-infested Horn of Africa is unavoidable. "They'll hardly hijack a boat carrying a single girl," says her dad, Dick Dekker. After a pause, he adds: "But maybe Laura is also an attractive target, because she's so well-known?" We'll see. "One of Laura's friends was run over and killed on her way to school," he says. "Accidents can happen anywhere."