SHIP OF DREAMS

Ves­sel de­signed for wheel­chair users vis­its Sum­mer­side

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY COLIN MACLEAN Colin.MacLean@Jour­nalPioneer.com Twit­ter.com/Jour­nalPMacLean

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.

COLIN MACLEAN/JOUR­NAL PI­O­NEER

Jour­nal­ist Bob Vo­gel at the helm of the Im­pos­si­ble Dream, the ship that has been his home as it sails from Mi­ami to Que­bec.

COLIN MACLEAN/JOUR­NAL PI­O­NEER

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.

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