Friday, December 31, 2010

Our Blind Pacific Crossing Accomplishment

Hello Friends of the Blind Circumnavigation,

Happy holidays to you, our friends and supporters. It has been quite a while since we sent out an update, and we hope this message finds each of you happy and well. Frankly, the reason for our silence is because since our return to Australia after Pam’s sudden issue with her vision in Vanuatu, both of us have been grappling with some very difficult decisions.

Upon Pam’s emergency return to Australia she was diagnosed with a retinal tear and hemorrhage in her right eye, she eventually had two surgical procedures and many visits to a retinal specialist that successfully stabilized her vision, though could not restore the vision she had lost. Pam never received any concrete answers as to the cause of the sudden vision loss, only that it could be anything from a fall earlier in the year, genetics, or simply fate.

In Pam’s words; “At this point in the voyage I decided to reevaluate my goals. The voyage thus far was the highlight of my life, and yet with the delays from my surgeries and the overall length of the voyage to date, I was feeling both a personal strain to resume a life on land and a financial strain. I spent the months during my recovery soul searching for the direction which eventually led me to my current path. With very mixed emotions I made the decision to start a new adventure. I told Scott that I wished to stay in Australia and try to make it my new home. I had already found employment with Northcott Disability Services, an Australian not-for-profit where I had worked the prior year while waiting out the cyclone season. They assisted me in obtaining an extended work visa, which offered me an opportunity to continue an adventure. and start a new life with a clean slate (how many times in our life do we get to do that?). Today I live in Sydney in a wonderful little home on land (I even have my bathtub I so desperately missed), my job is rewarding and challenging, and I am surrounded by the many wonderful friends I have met since our arrival to Australia.”

“One of my primary reasons for leaving the states on this voyage was to break out of the safety zone of my life in San Francisco and to find myself, stretch my edges and have an adventure. I can truly say I have and continue to accomplish all of these goals every day, particularly as I continue the valuable lesson learned sailing of living in the moment! There are many times when I miss the challenges of our incredible sail, but each day I face the excitement of my new direction with openness and persistence. In a nutshell, I am happy! Grateful for the many things I learned while sailing and happy for where the voyage has taken me.”

As Pam convalesced and searched for and finally found her new path, Scott returned to the United States to work as a consultant and plan for the continuation of the sail. When Pam finally reached her decision, Scott had a number of decisions to consider as well…

In Scott’s words; “When Pam decided to stay in Australia I was not surprised. They say that we each find our own port to set anchor, and for Pam it was Australia. I was thankful for the adventures we had shared together, and I was in awe of Pam’s dedication to the voyage and raw bravery so often displayed.”

“I was now faced with the decision to continue without her or seek out a new visually impaired sailing partner. For months I looked at this decision from every angle and started to investigate both options. Then fate intervened, offering me a completely unexpected option to consider. While in the states I was offered a position with the US Department of State providing on-site technical support for their disabled employees around the world. Not only would I continue to see the world, but I would help pave the way for the hiring of many more disabled employees in international high profile positions.”

“This alluring curve ball came as a complete surprise to me, as I was not looking for employment whatsoever, but this is also the kind of opportunity that rarely comes along. I finally ended up reasoning that the voyage to date was something that Pam and I had accomplished as a team. Yes, I could continue on without her but our voyage across the Pacific Ocean was something that we shared together that in and of itself was an incredible feat as we are the first legally blind people to accomplish this milestone. I would rather bask together in the satisfaction than continue on without my partner to complete a circumnavigation that would neither be finished solo or together. After all we had crossed the Pacific together as legally blind people, visited many exotic destinations and sailed over 17,000 miles!” We shared a great accomplishment and something very special by crossing the Pacific Ocean together and I decided that this voyage should stand alone”.

“Today I am seeing the world in a vastly different way. In fact, as I write this I am sitting at a desk in a hotel in Brunei. I have a small condo in Alexandria Virginia, when I am in the states, and I am finding my way forward. I know that my adventurous side is only in temporary remission. I am already thinking about a sail across the Atlantic, or perhaps a sail from New York to San Francisco, around the Horn, with a cross disability crew of sailors (hopefully including Pam), and possibly even a bid for a non-stop blind circumnavigation if some younger blind sailor doesn’t do it first (secretly I hope they do).”

There you have it. If we learned anything along the way, it was that life is ever shifting and that all one needs to do to have an adventure, is to take a step in an unexpected direction. Both of us are exploring new directions, yet we will never forget the unbelievable experience we shared with each other and with both disabled and non disable people throughout the world. We will be modifying our website to showcase the Blind Pacific Crossing, and have started on a book to chronicle our voyage. Currently it is titled: With the Wind to Guide Us. We will let you know when it is finished so more than two copies will be read.

Finally, we want to thank you. Though two legally blind sailors crossed the Pacific Ocean independently, we did not do it alone. You were always there with us. Some of you guided us into tricky anchorages. Some of you were there on the satellite phone during a storm, and some of you encouraged us over our sail mail as we sat by the radio waiting anxiously for your messages from land. Although there are far too many people to thank individually, we would like to single out one person for a special recognition. Thank you to Captain Arnstein Mustad who’s kind and disciplined instruction gave us the core skills that surely kept us alive today.

We want you to know that this was not Pam and Scott’s voyage, but all of our voyage and we want to thank your from the bottom of our hearts for sailing with us. This is also not goodbye, just see ya round mates. There is definitely more to come.


Scott and Pam