“When people ask me if I would go again, I reply ‘in a heart beat’. Seeing my buddy steering Tenacious at the helm and telling me that he felt in control for the first time in his life, was the biggest reward I could ask for”.
Sally Browne is a Vision Rehabilitation Specialist and sailed on Tenacious for the first time in February 2020. She was impressed with the design of the ship for those with vision impairment and surprised herself by accomplishing things she didn’t think she’d be able to do.
“I joined Tenacious in February this year in Antigua volunteering as a buddy for a young man with vision impairment, transitioning from school to adult services in our local community here in Bermuda. The opportunity came about as part of a partnership between the JST and the Bermuda Sailors Home.
I had never sailed on a Tall Ship before. In fact my sailing experience was minimal but given I now live in a sea-faring community I thought the opportunity to learn to sail would do me a world of good. So I said ‘Why not’.
My role was to help my buddy prepare, reassure him that all was in hand, and then assist his travel to Antigua through two airports and two overnight stays in hotels, then throughout the voyage on the ship.
I found the experience both exciting and really helpful to my professional development as a Vision Rehabilitation Specialist.
I was impressed with the design of the ship, the accessibility, the specialised equipment, and the most patient caring Permanent Crew members. It was a great experience with a completely inclusive approach to all people being able to take part in life on a Tall Ship.
From the Vision Impairment perspective, the Braille signs, the continuous indicator strip on the decks for orientation, and the directional arrows on the railings are a great design. The talking compass was wonderful – it meant that everyone could have a go at sailing the ship. Non slip edging both before and on the stairs was helpful in an unpredictable mobile environment. Being able to use a belt to clip on to railings around the ship was a great back up if the weather got rough, and balance became challenging. Loud speaker announcements were helpful to those who couldn’t independently read notices, and Watch Leaders and Mates were always on hand to make sure people got to where they needed to be on time.
I also accomplished things I never thought I might be able to do. My professional cap was tested during my phase of sea sickness, when my patience was a bit frayed; being able to support my buddy through their hesitations, fears, sea sickness and overcoming barriers.
For me physically climbing the mast, jumping off the side of the ship, negotiating the top bunk, and human guiding in sometimes exceptional circumstances; pushed me to extend my own ideas of what I thought I could manage, and do them well all the while having backup support of the Permanent Crew, my Watch Leader, and my watch team mates around me, if needed.
Team work was an essential part of the journey, and really made the experience special. I feel that I have made new friendships that I hope will be enduring with our common bond.
I was really worried about going before leaving. Could I really do it? It was a huge task to undertake at this stage in my career.
When people ask me if I would go again, I reply ‘in a heart beat’. To support another individual to be able to have that experience would be a great honour. Seeing my buddy steering the ship at the helm and telling me that he felt in control for the first time in his life, was the biggest reward I could ask for.
I came back feeling ten feet tall, the voyage had confirmed everything about my skills that my University Degree had prepared me for. If I felt this way, then I can’t even imagine how those with disabilities might be feeling.
This was summed up when one of our group was asked if he was ready to go home and he replied ‘No, not ever!’