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March 16, 2017

Aft starboard was on the 0000-0400 watch. We were steering by the wind (70 degrees off port bow) and it was a crucial watch to determine whether we would reach Southampton purely under sail. Wind speeds reached 32 knots and we cracked the top sailing speed of the voyage with a speed of 10.7 knots. But at the conclusion of our watch, Nellie was still half a latitude degree short of our goal of 47 degrees North.

As part of the youth Leadership at Sea Scheme, all of the participants must spend a day blindfolded to simulate and experience the reality of being blind. At 0800 it was my turn to take on the challenge and wear the blacked out goggles for the day. The goggles only provide the sensation of light and dark. The experience as a whole felt isolating; you don’t know who is around unless they want to speak to you, and I must say it can get embarrassing if people don’t announce their departure from the room during or after a conversation. Lunch was definitely amusing for those around me. Cookie decided to serve spaghetti which can be tricky at the best of times, let alone on board a rolling tall ship while blindfolded. Sail setting and rope handling became even more of a challenge. The wind made it difficult to hear instructions, and to be honest I am not sure what sails were set or handed, I was just led to specific ropes and told to sweat, tail or heave it. Without my sight, I struggled to judge the swell to know when Nellie was going to roll, and my watch did have a good laugh when I sweat my head straight into the shroud. Helming was my next endeavour and using the audio compass and my watch mates to guide me, I attempted to steer Nellie on a course of 060. It was quite difficult and took a while for me to adjust, as I was only able to use quantitative stimuli.

I appreciate and am thankful that I had the opportunity to participate in this activity. It definitely tested me in numerous ways throughout the day, but it also gave me an invaluable insight; I have a whole new appreciation for the challenges that blind people face on a daily basis. This task also reinforced to me how crucial it is to provide support and encouragement to people of all abilities, to enable them to participate in activities from which they are often excluded.

 

Abby Dixon


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