Blind sailor set to start solo circumnavigation

Published online: Aug 30, 2011 News Trade Only Today
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Legally blind, veteran sailor Dennis Howard is preparing for one of the most challenging journeys of his life - a solo voyage around the world.

"There's no question in my mind that I can do this," he told CNN. "There is also no question in my mind that I absolutely have to take it seriously 24/7. I need to be vigilant."

After suffering a severe form of glaucoma, which causes damage to the optic nerves, Howard, who is 62, had his right eye removed and lost most of the vision in his left.

He plans to depart on his specially designed 20-foot boat, the Avalo, from San Diego in late October. The voyage is expected to take about one-and-a-half to two years, with Howard hoping to end the journey in France.

Although he admits it will be difficult, Howard sees the voyage as an opportunity to show others that disability needn't be a barrier.

"After I lost my sight I didn't go into the tailspin of despair and fear," he said. "But what I immediately gave up on in my head was sailing. I just thought, 'Well, I'll never do it again.' But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I just had to change the way I sail. ... I want people to realize that they shouldn't just give up."

Howard's boat not only has been refitted to make sailing easier, but it is also equipped with essential technologies to ensure the safety of Howard and other sailors, including an Automatic Identification System, which alerts Howard to ships within a 50-mile radius, CNN reported.

As well as being tailored to Howard's needs, the Avalo has been redesigned to be as eco-friendly as possible. The boat's diesel engine has even been replaced by a small outboard charged by solar panels.

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