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It’s a crisp, warm Wednesday afternoon in San Diego, and from the bow of Scott Warner’s 45-foot sailboat, the Pacific Ocean is the only thing in sight.
The vessel glides gently over the swells as it gains speed out of Oceanside Harbor. Four knots of boat speed becomes five, and pushes upward of six as the sails fill and his sailing partner pulls the jib tighter.
Mitsuhiro Iwamoto, the man at the helm of Warner’s boat, cannot see any of this.
But he can feel it.
Blind since he was a teenager, Iwamoto has long navigated the world with the aid of a cane, or the guiding arm of a nearby friend.
Once aboard a sailboat, though, he mostly goes it alone — moving about the vessel by memory and feel, using the lifelines that run along the edges of the boat more as guides than as a means of stabilization.
He works the boat with fervor — beads of sweat drip from his face. He cinches the winches tighter and tacks and jibes. Forget for a moment that he’s blind and the motions seem unremarkable. Shut your eyes and imagine going through the same motions and the simple acts seem nearly impossible.
There’s time to relax as well. It’s a beautiful day — the sun is shining hard and the gusts help the boat cut through the sea. From the deck, Iwamoto soaks in the ocean air.
He and Scott talk about the two voyages they hope to make soon: a “TransPac” crossing from California to Hawaii, and, eventually, a trip across the Pacific Ocean.
The challenges seem endless, but so does the opportunity to overcome them.
As Warner guides the boat back into the marina, Hiro takes care of shipkeeping details. After he’s brought the sails in, he clings to the mast and grins.
When we get back to the car, he waxes philosophical for a moment and tells me his message for the world. But his words are redundant — I’ve already seen them on his face: “Life is good.”