Word-Of-the-Week #771: Determination

May 16, 2019 by  

Determination the ability to continue trying to do something, although it is very difficult. 

If you were faced with numerous failures would you continue trying to accomplish something that was death defying? Is there anyone you would trust with your life?

This week and next features UT article “Blind San Diego sailor completes trans-Pacific crossing to Japan.  Mitsuhiro “Hiro” Iwamoto and his sighted sailing partner Doug Smith have become the first blind sailing team to sail nonstop across the Pacific Ocean,” by Pam Kragen.

“In spite of difficult winds and currents and numerous equipment failures, blind sailor Mitsuhiro “Hiro” Iwamoto of San Diego and his sighted sailing partner, Doug Smith, arrived in Japan on schedule Saturday, becoming the first blind sailing team to ever achieve a nonstop trans-Pacific crossing between the U.S. and Japan. 

The 8,700-mile trip, which started in San Diego on Feb. 24, took 55 days, though in Iwamoto’s mind, it was a journey that really began six years ago. In June 2013, he and a different sailing partner attempted to sail from Japan to California. But just six days into the voyage, a 50-foot blue whale accidentally struck their boat and it sank in minutes. The two men barely survived drowning.

Smith met Iwamoto 2 1/2 years ago and was so inspired by his desire to try again despite the odds that he bought a boat and offered to serve as Iwamoto’s sighted crewman so together they could complete what they called the Voyage of Inspiration. 

Describing the emotions he felt on Saturday when they sailed Smith’s 40-foot sailing yacht, Dream Weaver, into Fukushima’s Onahama harbor, Iwamoto said he’s “the happiest guy in the world.” 

“I am so happy I stood up and said I want to try again. I’m so lucky I met Doug, who heard my passion and helped me make my dream come true,” Iwamoto said in a phone interview from Tokyo on Tuesday. “I want people to learn from my experience that the only limitations we have are in our brains. My message is never give up.” 

While the duo arrived in Japan with a bit of food and emergency fuel to spare, Smith said the trip was difficult. They got off to a slow start in February when a lack of trade winds along the Baja coast forced them to re-route their westward route. Then, when they got close to Japan about eight days ago, they encountered strong currents and heaving waves that held them offshore in rough conditions for days. 

They also had numerous equipment failures. The boom brake — which keeps the heavy sail holder from swinging rapidly with the wind and, potentially, knocking a passenger overboard, broke — so they had to tie the boom in place, which impacted the boat’s response to changing winds. They also had electrical problems with their hydro-generator, their alternator, their regulator and their geo-location system. 

Smith, who was a novice sailor with just a few months of sailing lessons before the trip, said he learned a lot about sailing and electrical repair during the trip. He also learned a lot about himself as he and Iwamoto patiently worked through all of the problems they encountered without ever losing patience with one another. 

“What would we argue about? We were in the same boat both figuratively and literally,” Smith said in a phone interview from Fukushima on Monday. “We were trying to achieve the same thing and we learned a lot more about each other. It was great.” 

Iwamoto is a veteran sailor, but because he’s blind there was always the danger of falling overboard if he missed a step. And if Smith fell overboard, it would’ve been difficult for Iwamoto to find him. 

To ensure against that, Iwamoto memorized every inch of the boat before they left, and both wore life vests 24 hours a day that were tethered to the boat with a system of cables. There was one day when a sail line broke and Iwamoto had to make his way to the tip of the bow in heavy seas to help Smith fix it. Iwamoto said that was the scariest day of the voyage for him. 

“Fortunately, Doug and I worked together very well. We have a friendship and trust on land, but when you’re out in the Pacific in a boat with just one other person, you develop a much deeper trust.”

This week’s focus is on determination. If you failed at something would you try to do it again? Have you ever dreamed of accomplishing a major feat? Do you know anyone who could help you make your dreams come true?

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