Local Blind Students Learn to Sail

WAIKIKI (KHNL) - While the world's best sailors are racing in the Transpac event, some people have never even had the chance to set sail on our waters. Disability has kept one group on shore, until now.

Members of the Waikiki Yacht Club share their love of sailing with those who are blind. Sure there are risks associated with teaching the blind to sail but Bill Klimpl has it down. He's been doing it for more than 20 years.

With their crewmembers as guides two blind sailors from the Ho'opono training center look forward to their day on sailboat named the Windy Wendy. Her skipper is 84 year old Bill Klimpl.

After he retired he wanted to give back, and share his love of sailing.

Over the past 20 years he's taught more than 5 hundred blind people to sail.

Once we set sail Petrus Smulders inquires, "Bill how much sail do you have up today? Bill answers, Well just have main sail right now and reef at three points."

To make the concept of sailing easier to understand Bill Klimpl uses

training aids. Students handle a miniature sailboat to get a feel for

parts like the sails and tiller. And more modern technology; a beeping compass.

Bill Klimpl explains, "We'll set up the blind person's compass and Petrus and Carl will take over

while the crew can relax, that's the plan of the day."

It's hard sailing when you can't see where you are going. So a compass beeps when the students go off course. "I have to fall off right now, got to push it back again to get optimal wind going into the sails, " explains Petrus.

Petrus Smulders has been sailing with Klimpl for 12 years

"People like Bill Klimpl and his crew Emilio and Scott, if it wasn't for them I don't think any of us would be out here on the water enjoying the sunshine the wind and the water. "

Carl Pangilinan is just on his third sail. He guides the tiller and controls our direction. What he doesn't know is Scott let's go. "Until I found out he wasn't holding the tiller it was a fun experience then I got scared."

It's not everyday blind people get to sail a boat. No they don't see the sweeping views of Diamond Head or the skyline of Waikiki. But the capitan and his crew describe the scenery.

For the blind crew members they enjoy the simple things like the splash of the salt water and the sound of the wind hitting the sails.

Klimpl and his crew take the blind sailors out at least once a month and many of his students say it is the highlight of their lives.