Tuesday, May 21, 2013

An exclusive club - Second Deaf Mariner to Solo Circumnavigate the World

South Africa: Charl de Villiers made headlines four years ago when he became the first deaf sailor to circumnavigate the world single-handedly.

He made his his epic 2004 voyage in his 11.2m Tartan yacht 'Island Times', which he bought in September 2000, and departed on his amazing journey from Palacios, in Texas.

Seven months and 13 days later, he was welcomed back by 300 people, including family members, at the same spot.

His inspirational voyage took him through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific and Indian oceans. He overcame equipment failure, adverse weather conditions, a near collision with a freighter, and even fell victim to a robbery on his yacht.

Now the 'silent voyager', who has been based in Texas for the past 17 years, is back in the country of his birth, South Africa, visiting his family in East London.

'It feels good to be back in South Africa, it’s the most beautiful country in the world,' said De Villiers, who has been deaf since the age of seven, but lip-reads English and Afrikaans.

His father Johan jokingly told the Dispatch that De Villiers only visited his family when he was injured – the last time was after he had broken his leg playing rugby.

This time around, De Villiers injured his arm while repairing a boat in Texas. Doctors told him it would take six weeks for his arm to heal so, as he was unable to repair boats or sail with one arm, he took the opportunity for a trip home.

'Once I’m in Texas I never know when I’ll see my family again,' he said with a chuckle.

A father of two, his daughter is married to a rancher, and his son is in his final year at university.

He became deaf after suffering an allergic reaction to medication he was given for severe burns.

Today he repairs and delivers both power and sail boats for a living and his new career has led to him sailing the great American lakes of Erie, Huron and Michigan. He has even sailed the Mississippi River.

'Going down the Mississippi River, I felt like Mark Twain,' he said.

Between boat work, De Villiers has managed to start a rugby club with South African expatriates and gives motivational speeches about his life and sailing experiences.

Inspiring stuff for someone who has lost their hearing.....

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Gerry Hughe

According to boatbuilder Beneteau, 1,525 people have scaled Mt. Everest, 560 have been to outer space, yet only 300 people have completed solo circumnavigations. Those are fairly exclusives clubs. Perhaps the most exclusive club of all is one that includes but TWO sailors: Gerry Hughes, a Scottish school teacher is the SECOND deaf sailor to have sailed around the world solo.
Hughes started his circumnavigation on September 1, 2012 from the Firth of Clyde on Scotland's west coast aboard his Beaneteau 42s7, Quest III. More than 32,000 miles later, and after he had doubled the world's five southernmost capes, he arrived home on May 8, 2013.  Hughes said he undertook his circumnavigation to fulfill a lifelong ambition and, more important, to inspire young deaf people to overcome the obstacles they must face in life.

1 comment:

  1. Get your facts straight!
    Charl de Villiers did it in 2004 and become the first deaf sailor to solo circumnavigate