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Originally published Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 3:05 PM

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‘Maidentrip’: Teen’s 17 months before the mast

“Maidentrip” is a compelling documentary about a Dutch teenager’s solo sail around the world.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 3 stars

‘Maidentrip,’ a documentary directed by Jillian Schlesinger. 80 minutes. Not rated; contains some strong language. SIFF Film Center.

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“It was the end of a dream that I had as a child, and the beginning of my life as a sailor,” says Laura Dekker, the real-life heroine of Jillian Schlesinger’s documentary “Maidentrip.” At 16, the Dutch teenager had just become the youngest person to sail solo around the world; a journey that took her 17 months. The film captures that journey, mostly through footage shot by Laura herself, alone on a 38-foot sailboat named Guppy.

Using whimsical animation to diagram the progress of her journey, “Maidentrip” shows us life at sea: spilled ravioli (due to wave action); the unexpected pleasure of finding company in a passing school of dolphins or a visiting bird; the challenges of windless days; the quiet of being perpetually alone. “I don’t miss a thing,” Laura tells the camera, and indeed she seems uncannily self-reliant and confident in her seafaring skills and ability to keep herself amused.

Questions linger that the film doesn’t answer: most notably, what compelled her parents to let her set off on her own while still just 14. (Laura’s family life, though she puts a bright face on it, casts a bit of a shadow; she tells us that she rarely sees her mother, and that her father, who had custody of Laura after a long-ago divorce, worked long hours and wasn’t around much. It’s no stretch to see where the independence came from.) You also wonder why the now 18-year-old Laura, who shot most of the film, has placed a statement on her personal website saying that she is “not going to say much about the film ‘Maidentrip’ ... as I am not fully standing behind it.”

Nonetheless, the film is a compelling tribute to a remarkable achievement, and to a young woman who is, in her own words, “pretty bad-ass.” In this artful video diary, her reflections sometimes find an unexpected poetry. “After 30 days,” she says, of a long stretch at sea, “time didn’t exist any more.”

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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