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Scuttlebutt Poll:
Should there be an age limit to sail alone across an ocean?
August 25-27, 2009

Scuttlebutt has long followed the passages of solo and crewed teams as they seek to eclipse the elapsed time records of those that came before them. The pursuit of these claims has created a multitude of categories, and for nearly every ocean (or oceans), there is a time standard to beat. Tracking systems have brought the online viewer onboard, and the media coming off the boats have helped heighten the interest in these efforts.

As of late, the pursuit of being the youngest person to circle the globe has attracted multiple entries. On July 16, 17-year-old Zac Sunderland (USA) became the youngest person to complete a lap around the world. This week, 17 year-old British sailor Mike Perham will finish his circumnavigation two months quicker. Aussie Jessica Watson is getting ready to begin her attempt in mid-September, with hopes of returning by April 2010 before she turns 17. Zac’s 15 year old sister Abby wants in on the act too, and has initiated a PR campaign to seek the funding needed for a November departure.

But what has really got our attention now is the 13 year-old Dutch girl Laura Dekker who wants to begin her passage this September, but is now battling child protection authorities in her Netherlands homeland who are taking the case to court in a bid to stop the teenager from making the trip. Social workers and child protection authorities are fighting to have the teenager made a ward of court so her parents - who support her plans - will lose the right to make decisions on her behalf.

So what do you think about all this? Are these wonderful examples of independent young people following their dreams, or purely an accident waiting to happen? Parents must constantly balance the necessity of keeping their children safe, while giving them age-appropriate freedom to explore, grow, and mature. Can there even be a safeguard to limit what parents permit to ensure that questionable judgment does not impact the safety and resources of others? We do have age limits to vote, to drive, to drink alcohol…is this the next one?

Here was the survey result to the question: "Should there be a limit on a person's age before they are permitted to sail alone across an ocean?"

  • Yes - 50.59%
  • No - 49.41%

  • Click here to read the voter comments.

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