Sailing nonstop across the Pacific Ocean is no easy task; doing it without being able to see anything is another challenge altogether. But difficulties don’t stand in the way of Mitsuhiro Iwamoto, now the first visually impaired person to make the 8,700-mile journey across the Pacific from San Diego, California, to Fukushima, Japan, without stopping. With the help of a sighted navigator Doug Smith to advise him, the 52-year-old departed on February 24 and arrived in Fukushima on Saturday.
This was his second attempt at the crossing. The first time around, in 2013, his boat struck a whale and sank in the middle of the Pacific. In preparation for the second attempt, Iwamoto participated in triathlons to stay in top physical condition.
Iwamoto lost his sight at the age of 16. According to Fox News in 2010, he said, “Life was hard… I was negative and I couldn’t accept my blindness. I didn’t know what my life is going to be. I tried to commit suicide even.” But then he realized, “I must have meaning in life, being blind. To encourage people. Not just blind people, but sighted people who lost their meaning in life.”
Iwamoto told Japan’s Kyoto News that the journey was a dream come true. “I’m the happiest person in the world,” he said.
Iwamoto and Smith undertook this journey to raise money for a charity and for efforts to fight diseases that cause blindness.