Dutch teenager Laura Dekker made headlines in 2009 when she announced her plan to circumnavigate the globe in a 38-foot ketch named Guppy. She was 13 at the time, and a legal battle with child-welfare officials ensued that delayed her expedition for a year. Jillian Schlesinger’s inspiring documentary (as spirited as its gutsy protagonist) opens with a quick recap of that trying chapter via newsreel footage and retrospective comments by Laura, then gets to the meat of the story—the journey itself.
Schlesinger gave Dekker several portable cameras that she used to document the solo portions of her two-year odyssey. One of the most moving moments comes when the young sailor bursts into tears after spotting a school of dolphins swimming alongside her boat—you can sense the curious child gently emerging into an enlightened adult. The real beauty of Maidentrip is how it downplays the go-for-glory aspect of the tale (this adolescent mariner’s aim is to become the youngest person ever to sail around the world) to focus on more earthly matters like the isolation and loneliness of the voyage or the lingering effects of the divorce that irrevocably shaped Dekker’s life. There’s plenty of triumph in this quest, but also an equally potent dose of coming-of-age melancholy.
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