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Blind Sailor Docks In Bermuda After Riding Out Storm

August 14, 1987

ST. GEORGE, Bermuda (AP) _ A man attempting to become the first blind sailor to cross the Atlantic alone docked in this port Friday, his sloop guided through rough seas and Bermuda’s treacherous reefs by its designer.

Jim Dickson, 41, left Portsmouth, R.I. on Aug. 4, bound for Plymouth, England. But he had to head for this tiny British colony, 200 miles out of his way, when his talking computer and autopilot broke down.

The side trip was lengthened by tropical storm Arlene, which Dickson had to ride out at sea Thursday, about 60 miles north of Bermuda.

Paul Petronello, whose Rhode Island company desiged Dickson’s 36-foot sloop Eye Opener, boarded the vessel shortly after noon Friday and guided it to St. George, a port at the north end of Bermuda, said Timothy Winkelmann of Bermuda’s Rescue Coordination Center.

Petronello, who had arrived in Bermuda Wednesday, sailed north Friday morning in a lifeboat to meet the Eye Opener outside the reef line.

In 10-foot waves and high winds left by the storm, Petronello leaped from the lifeboat onto the Eye Opener’s pitching deck.

″It was a very difficult transfer, but Paul managed to do it,″ said Winkelmann, who estimated seas in the area were as high as 10 feet and winds were gusting up to 35 mph.

As the worst of Arlene tossed the Eye Opener about Thursday afternoon, Petronello spoke to Dickson on a ship-to-shore radio and described the Washington, D.C. sailor as being in good spirits.

At noon EDT Friday, Arlene’s center was near latitude 33.0 degrees north and longitude 61.5 degrees west, or about 200 miles east-northeast of Bermuda, said the National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables, Fla. The storn was moving east at 5 to 10 mph and little change was expected in its strength, the center said.

Winkelmann said two other ships near Bermuda were experiencing trouble in rough seas Friday.

The U.S.-registered yacht Kairos, which was headed for the Azores, was being brought into the island by a Dutch warship after its engine and steering equipment failed, he said.

Winkelmann said that the merchant ship Christopher C, which had been on its way to the island, was in difficulty about 109 miles northeast of Bermuda.

″She has sustained weather damage and has hove to. She’ll be coming in later when the weather eases,″ he said.