THE HAGUE, Netherlands - Her dream of becoming the youngest person to sail solo around the world shattered and under scrutiny over her quest, Dutch teenager Laura Dekker ran away from home - to the Caribbean 5,000 miles away.
Two days after she was reported missing, police managed to track the 14-year-old girl down on the island of St. Maarten.
Police and child-care authorities were working yesterday to find out how Laura got there and why she fled, as a family spokeswoman speculated that the pressure of a court battle over the sail venture had gotten to her.
St. Maarten police spokesman Ricardo Henson said Dekker arrived on the island Thursday from Paris.
She flew out yesterday dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. She was carrying several bags, a small suitcase and a guitar.
It remained unclear if she had any plans to use the island, half of which is part of the Netherlands Antilles, as a start point for a sailing voyage.
She made international headlines in August when a court blocked her bid to set sail alone around the world in her 26-foot yacht Guppy.
If Laura were to get permission to set off on the voyage and successfully complete it, she would break a record set this year by 17-year-old Mike Perham of Britain, who sailed 28,000 miles around the world in nine months.
A 16-year-old Australian girl, Jessica Watson, is now trying to beat Perham's record.
Utrecht District Court ruled in October that Laura was too inexperienced for the marathon voyage. Judges sent her home to live with her divorced father and appointed a temporary guardian to ensure that she did not set off on the voyage. They urged her to make better preparations and said they would reconsider her case in July.
Laura was born on a boat in New Zealand while her parents were sailing around the world. She is widely acknowledged - even by the judges - to be an excellent sailor.
Her parents have since divorced and Laura lives with her father, who is seen as a driving force behind her sailing plan. Instead of calling authorities when she vanished, her father called her mother who in turn informed police on Friday. She was seen and detained on St. Maarten on Sunday.
Laura's mother has remained largely out of the picture, but she has said she considered her daughter too young to make the round-the-world trip.
In recent weeks Laura had been feeling drained by the pressure, said family spokeswoman Mariska Woertman.
"For her it was a big disappointment that the judges wouldn't let her go," Woertman said. "For a child of 14 years old, it's probably a bit difficult to grasp." She said Laura had "a gut feeling" the court would not let her set sail next year either.
Laura was expected to arrive in the Netherlands on a flight today, police spokesman Bernhard Jens said. Police will then ask her how she managed to slip out of the country last week and whether anybody helped her.
It is possible she could be taken into state care, said Richard Bakker, a spokesman for the government's Child Protection Agency.