Blind Veteran Helps Others Learn to Sail (CNN Human Factor)

Blind veteran helps others learn to sail

The sea is a demanding environment, so people always ask, “How are you able to sail if you can’t see?”

The answer: I have an acute “spacial” awareness and directional ability, and I use the wind’s varying pressure and patterns of waves to determine the direction I’m headed.

The truth of the matter is at night on the sea, everyone is blind. When the darkness takes over, it can be the most frightening or peaceful of times. A time when you can be at one with the ocean and your vessel, whether a totally blind sailor like me or blessed with 20/20 vision.

When I became completely blind in 1984, I first thought sailing would no longer be possible. Then I was introduced to a program called “Challenged America,” which is designed to teach people with disabilities of all kinds how to sail. I realized it was something I had to be a part of, and I welcomed one of my truest passions back into my life.

Having logged thousands of coastal and offshore sailing miles in my youth, I’ve been able to add to my experience by sailing and racing on the West Coast with “Challenged America.” This includes being the captain on two trans-Pacific races from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

Ultimately, my blindness isn’t my biggest challenge when I take to the open sea — it’s my type 1 diabetes. Many people don’t realize the daily, if not hourly requirements that people with diabetes face. But it’s a disease that when properly managed can be nothing more than something you live with, rather than something that determines how you live.

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