Posts

How to sail in the dark

My mind was boiling and churning up ideas about how to sail blind way before our trip began. Some of those ideas were how to understand distance, direction, speed, proximity to objects and maybe most importantly communication. “So how do you do this blind”? Well, my friend Urban who is familiar with blind sailing, 40,000 nautical miles of familiarity to be specific, said “use your senses”. What does this mean? To someone who has sailed the open seas for quite some time and who has paid very close attention to sailing would best grasp this subtle tip. For me it was a new endeavor, a new activity to think through and explore and we were excited to pursue the open water. When you have nothing but darkness to stare into, what do you feel? Sitting in a small sailboat, I would have to say you feel a lot. From my white water excursions down rivers and kayaking trips on placid lakes, I gained a lot of kinesthetic experience. Quite simply, I learned to use my parts of my body to read position and orientation in different spacial environments. A human has this ability because of sensory organs located throughout the body. Someone who is highly active in athletics I believe develops a better connection with their body and its ability to interface with the surrounding environment. So what does my friend Urban mean when he says, “Just use your senses”? My interpretation would be after gaining some experience in a sailboat blind, a person without sight should be able to decipher and sense different variations actively during sailing on open water. – A blind sailor can read the direction of wind on their head, face and neck I found if I splashed water on my face, head or neck I could intensify the sensation of wind. Personally, I noticed it was harder to differentiate the true direction of wind in relationship to wind generated by the forward movement of the boat on calm wind blowing days. – Feeling the current The boat will cut through the water in different ways depending on the current. One way to read the water current is to place your hand in the water when sitting still. Another observation I made was when I was traveling against the current the water forced its way up on to the bow of the boat a bit more. – Reading direction The sun and talking compass helped with direction. Over the years I was able to distinguish by the angle of the sun shining on my face, which direction I was facing North, South East and West. – Hearing & feeling distance Sound bounces off objects, so the closer you travel towards an object the sound will change. Crashing of water on the shoreline, or the insulating sound of vegetation and trees on shoreline can provide you with information to read your approximate distance to objects. Even your screaming counterparts in the second boat floating next to you can provide a blind person with spacial awareness and reference. Water behaves differently in certain situations and can provide ideas in relation to your distance from an object on or in the water. Check back for more blog posts in the near future…