Dutch sailor Laura Dekker has safely negotiated the reef-strewn Torres Strait and arrived in Australian waters, but only after a tense period during which strong winds tore apart one of her sails.
"There were reefs everywhere but I could hardly see anything because it was getting dark," she wrote on her blog. "I adjusted my course so I would be sailing even closer to the wind. Would this work? Guppy sliced right through the waves under Genoa and reefed mainsail.
"The Genoa had a hard time of it with its taped tears and holes -- would it last through the night? Rrrrrrippp! Without having to look I had my answer.... I rolled in the Genoa and rolled out the storm-jib and so I kept sailing very close to the wind as we went between all the reefs."
The passage comes a full year after she departed from Gibraltar as a 14-year-old on Aug. 21, 2010, on a controversial quest to become the youngest person to sail around the world alone.
Dekker, now 15, will make port for an extended stay in Darwin, Australia, complete repairs and re-provision before attempting to cross the Indian Ocean -- her final major crossing.
The Indian Ocean has not been kind to other young sailors who have sailed or attempted to sail around the world during the past two-plus years.
Southern California's Zac Sunderland, who completed a circumnavigation in July of 2009, spent three sleepless days and nights trying to prevent his boat from being battered by rigging torn loose by gale-force winds.
Zac's sister Abby Sunderland, as many recall, was rescued deep in the southern Indian Ocean after losing her mast and rigging in rough seas, as the 16-year-old was attempting an easterly crossing with the Southern Hemisphere winter setting in.
So far, Dekker and a home-based team led by her father, have done just about everything right in terms of timing and vessel preparation. She has experienced no major issues with the weather or with Guppy, her 38-foot twin-masted sailboat.
Said renowned Australian adventurer Don McIntyre: "She is setting her own pace, on her own terms. This all gives her the best chance to succeed and helps her make her own luck. In this game 'luck' is everything, but she is doing what's needed to minimize risk, and making sound value judgements by being conservative."
Critics had contended that, besides being too young to handle the rigors of solo-sailing, Dekker was too immature to deal with long bouts of loneliness and the lack of a regular sleep schedule.
Dekker said this week that this lifestyle "is all I want" and, when asked how she passes her idle time, she answered:
"I read a lot and look out over the endless powerful nature that's around me. I sleep when I feel like it and cook."
That said, she still has a long, long way to go.
-- Image of Laura Dekker is courtesy of Laura Dekker