Blind sailors depart for circumnavigation

Blind sailors Pamela Habek and Scott Duncan departed last fall from San Francisco aboard their Valiant 32, arriving in Mexico to prepare for their next adventure: sailing across the Pacific Ocean to the Marquesas. They will continue to New Zealand and Australia and hope to be the first blind people to circumnavigate the world unassisted.

Habek and Duncan departed Barra de Navidad, Mexico, on May 5 and by press time in mid-May had sailed nearly 1,000 miles from the coast. While Duncan is not totally blind – he is considered legally blind, but has partial vision – Habek is completely blind. The vessel’s nav station is equipped with speech-output software, a speech-modified GPS, video magnifiers for magnifying paper charts, and color-coded running rigging.

“Our voyage is all about getting the word out about the true potential of people with disabilities, to both visually impaired and non-disabled people alike,” they wrote via email after a week at sea. They were sailing under a reefed main and jib in 16 knots of wind, strategizing about their approach through the Intertropical Convergence Zone.

Habek and Duncan have received assistance from the following companies and organizations: Sendero Group (for speech-enhanced GPS software), Monitor Windvane, KVH, Icom, Viking Life-Saving Equipment, Navionics, Raymarine, Atomic Concept Group, American Foundation for the Blind, Club Nautique, Soroptimist International, Mariner’s Hardware, Sal’s Inflatables and ZonePerfect.

“I am participating in this voyage to reach out to blind children everywhere that feel all alone and live by the limitations set by others,” Habek said.

The couple plans to have sighted assistance upon entering foreign ports. Visit www.blind for more information and to follow their progress.

By Ocean Navigator