SHIP OF DREAMS
Vessel designed for wheelchair users visits Summerside
Vessel designed for wheelchair users visits P.E.I.
“To go sailing is so powerful and for someone with a disability — just the magic of the water. And wind doesn’t care if you’re walking or wheeling, as long as the design is proper. Suddenly you’re on the same level as everybody else and it’s such a powerful tool to instantly change somebody’s life.” Bob Vogel
Summerside recently had a brief visit from a unique sailing ship, though probably not the type that first comes to mind.
This was not one of the large wooden-hulled tall ships that were in the city for Canada Day. This vessel, a modern catamaran named Impossible Dream, showed up at the Silver Fox marina en route to Quebec.
What makes Impossible Dream so special is that it was created for people who require the use of a wheelchair.
Some of the vessel’s innovations include a complete lack of stairs anywhere on the ship, they have all been replaced by various hydraulic lifts, and its sail, motor and other systems can all be controlled by a handful of consoles in the main cabin.
The ship was originally built in 2002 for a man in the United Kingdom who had been paralyzed in a skiing accident.
He had the vessel custombuilt, at a cost of more than $6 million, to be completely operable by someone using a wheelchair. It was sold in 2014 to a group in Miami, Florida, who went on to found a non-governmental organization around it, also called The Impossible Dream.
The ship’s captain, Will Rey, said the group’s goal is to expand the horizons of and provide hope for people with mobility problems.
“The mission is to get people with disabilities out sailing and help them expand their horizons as to what’s possible in their lives. And also to show what can be accomplished with design,” said Rey.
On this particular voyage, Impossible Dream’s first in Canada, there are two wheelchair-using passengers on board.
Bob Vogel and Allen Fiske have been friends for decades and both have a life-long love of sailing.
Vogel is also a freelance journalist who is writing an article about the experience of the voyage.
It’s definitely been eye opening, he said, and a whole lot easier for him than being on a ship usually is.
“To go sailing is so powerful and for someone with a disability — just the magic of the water. And wind doesn’t care if you’re walking or wheeling, as long as the design is proper. Suddenly you’re on the same level as everybody else and it’s such a powerful tool to instantly change somebody’s life,” said Vogel.
Though the Impossible Dream’s first visit to Summerside was a brief one, its crew is hoping to make a return visit on their way back to Florida.
They’re unsure of the exact date though, so anyone interested in potentially meeting the crew and getting a look at the ship should keep an eye on its website, www.impossibledream.us, which has a feature to track the ship’s GPS location, or its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/impossibledreamproject, for updates.
Journalist Bob Vogel at the helm of the Impossible Dream, the ship that has been his home as it sails from Miami to Quebec.
Captain Will Rey stands with Bob Vogel and Allen Fiske aboard the Impossible Dream. Fiske and Vogel are passengers aboard the vessel, which was designed for people in wheelchairs.