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Waypoint Yacht Charter Services: Venture Magazine


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Waypoint Yacht Charter Services: Venture Magazine

  1. 1. Waypoint yacht charter ServiceS By Scott Rains In May 2008 the chartered yacht Sea Wolf cast off from Gustavus, a l a s k a , t o e x p l o r e G l a c i e r B ay w i t h s e v e n p a s s e n g e r s , m y s e l f i n c l u d e d . This small community—held together by a thin wooden hull as it passed between icebergs, fjord walls, and near beach-patrolling grizzlies—be- came its own ecosystem, and a sort of freedom machine for disabled and non-disabled alike. a trend in modern history led me there. Parents once packed kids away in the back seat tipped off that something out of the ordinary is of the car with the family trailer in tow. Later, about to happen. In real-life encounters with pro- a generation retired to the road as RV nomads, found transformation the props rarely give away while the romantically inclined rediscovered the the story beforehand, but the Sea Wolf gave me a rails. Meanwhile, cruising became king on itiner- few hints. aries such as alaska’s Inside Passage. My trek began with a slightly goofy-looking Megaship floating resorts won young and old black dog bounding toward me down the boat’s alike to the “unpack once and let the ports come ramp as I sat on the dock in my wheelchair. I to you” travel style, and the adoption of Universal felt more like I was entering a cartoon than what Design—land-based design guidelines developed was to become something of a mythical odyssey, in the seventies by quadriplegic architect Ron where seemingly simple questions get unexpect- Mace—and acceptance of its counterpart, the Way- ed answers. Questions like “For a quadriplegic, is point-Backstrom Principles of human-centered getting a new wheelchair closer to putting on new maritime design, allowed seniors and others with clothes or adding a new body part?” Maybe the disabilities to travel freely. yet a “small is beautiful” dog’s name, Boo, should have been the first clue movement to minimize megaship anonymity and that the answers would be surprising. to maximize intimate ecological contact evolved all human beings use tools to extend their ca- among pioneers. naturalist Kimber Owen is one pabilities. For someone like me, with a mobility of them. impairment, equipment that allows for increased She customized her 97-foot, wood-hulled WWII mobility can be seen as the aforementioned free- minesweeper, christened the Sea Wolf, to accom- dom machine. That equipment—along with the modate slow and non-walking passengers on all built environments and attitudes one encounters— three decks. To do that she drew on the nautical represents real gateways to be negotiated on the technical expertise of paraplegic entrepreneurs path to participating in life as a full human being. like Mike Passo, owner of Elakah Expeditions, Tools that equalize opportunities can take on the and partnered with the yacht broker industry’s naturalness and intimacy of a limb over time. I only certified accessible travel specialist, Sherri had never thought of a boat in those terms before, Backstrom, who is also director and co-owner of though. Waypoint yacht Charter Services, which is based We left from Gustavus, as I’ve mentioned, which in Bellingham, Washington. Owen picked her is a small community located inside Glacier Bay crew with an eye for that “something extra.” In national Park. Crystalline air and near-artic light the end she has achieved something characteris- surrounded us with spring-like alaskan weather tic of this movement; full programmatic inclusion on our departure. a week of clear skies and a hint of people with differing abilities that goes beyond of unseasonable warmth were an added bonus. mere physical accessibility. Intentional, systemat- Heading four hours up the bay, our first stop was ic social inclusion is the genius of this movement. the Reed Glacier. Stories of magic and adventure often begin with Glacier Bay is a place apart. Formed by the a mysterious beckoning path, a magic bridge, or fastest receding glaciers in the world, this 60 maybe a doorway of no return. The reader gets mile-deep network of fjords in Southwest alaska 016 | January/February 2009
  2. 2. Aboard a 97-foot accessible vessel exploring Alaska’s Glacier Bay, the author ponders the meaning of inclusion and the guiding principles of Universal Design. Whales breach, sea lions sun, otters entertain, porpoises taunt boats to go faster, and harbor seals shyly peek up once they’ve passed. January/February 2009 | 017
  3. 3. literally did not exist when the first European explorers—led by Captain George Vancouver— passed by in 1794. Where seawater still sloshes under the calving tongues of glaciers, there is more to be revealed. The bay continues grow- ing. Grizzlies and black bears prowl anxiously each summer, exploring the addition to their territory that comes with glacial retreat. Humans have two fundamentally different ways of being introduced to the primitive en- clave that is Glacier Bay. approaching from the Pacific Ocean reveals an ecosystem of ma- ture forests and a diversity of land and marine wildlife. Bears rule the land, while signs of na- tive alaskan culture still linger in the woods. Offshore whales breach, sea lions sun, otters entertain, porpoises taunt boats to go faster, and harbor seals shyly peek up once they’ve passed. We were introduced through the oppo- site approach. We started at the barren end, where life scratches for a foothold on land. There, alien landscapes held frozen and scrubbed barren under up to a mile of ice emerge for a second life after hundreds of years. The birth of ice- bergs into the sea means the rebirth of that time-suspended glaciated land. The interdependence of it all is starkly appar- ent. Seabirds nested on the high fjord walls cap- ture, and then predigest, nourishment for their chicks. as if following the same script, glaciers spew powdered and dissolved remnants of the walls themselves where they meet the sea and form teeming marine nurseries, nourishing the At top, the harness used to hoist kayaks—and our author—from the ship’s deck hungry new life gathered there. where guests explore the shoreline in tandem boats, center. At bottom, the 97-foot Here the near-freezing water is far too cold World War II minesweeper Sea Wolf is retrofitted for accessibility. for sustained human contact, so the proper tool for participation in this “mountains-into- the-sea” encounter at the mouths of glaciers is a sea kayak. The same winch aboard the Sea Wolf that lowered the boats from their storage on the third deck to the water below “flew” me down to my own kayak. While the way I entered was not the same as those who could walk, the tool required for everyone’s kayak to enter the water was the same one that I used. The first of several “inversion of perspective” moments created by the ship’s singular environment oc- curred when I realized that the ladder down the side of the ship was a “special accommodation” for the walking guests. My needs, it seemed, were not really so “special” after all. as a quadriplegic with an unreliable grip, someone else needed to paddle, so a tandem kayak was the appropriate design for me. Through the wisdom of the Sea Wolf crew my paddle-wielding companion, Sarah Betcher, was also a young and perceptive naturalist. Primary photography by Scott Rains 018 | January/February 2009
  4. 4. Accessible Itineraries The following accessible motor and sailing vessels are available through Waypoint Yacht Charter Services for itineraries found around the world: Argyll (motor vessel, or M/V): staterooms. Dedicated to charter ports in England, Wales, Ireland, and 153’ for 10 guests, five cabins. Caribbean, holidays for guests of all abilities. Belgium. New England, and Bahamas. Tenacious (S/V): Verity K (S/V): Kona Aggresor II (M/V): 164’ with eight wheelchair berths, 35’ for five guests, three staterooms. 80’ for 14 guests, six staterooms. Built in individual bunks. Sails from various 1995, this dive boat explores the rugged, beautiful western coast of the island of Hawaii. La Reine Pedauque (M/V): 128’ for eight guests, four staterooms, including two accessible suites. Cruises the scenic Burgundy Canal in France. Savoir Faire (M/V): 132’ for 12 guests, six staterooms. Choose from seven itinerary choices in France, Belgium, or Holland. Sea Wolf (M/V): 97’ for 12 guests, six staterooms, including three that are fully accessible. Guest areas include a dining room, main viewing salon, and a covered aft viewing/dining deck. Seadream I & II (M/V): 344’ for 110 guests, with 55 staterooms. The ultimate private luxury yacht experience for corporate groups, family events, and reunions. Shannon Princess II (M/V): 106’ for 10 guests, five staterooms. Built in 2002, she cruises along the lower Shannon in Ireland. Islander (motor sailing vessel): 192’ for 10-12 guests, five staterooms. Luxury cruising at its best in the Mediterranean Lord Nelson (sailing vessel, or S/V): 137’ with eight wheelchair berths, individual bunks. Sails from various ports in England, Wales, Ireland, and Belgium. Solis Invictus (S/V): 43’ for six to eight guests, three to four January/February 2009 | 019
  5. 5. I know people who swoon at the idea of being poled itations and freely share—and draw from—our differing lazily in a gondola through the canals of Venice. not me. abilities. We progress best when practicing this inter- I am not a passive participant in the outdoors. I grew dependence. In fact, the event made its way into the up hiking, skiing, camping, or eco-volunteering into the current version of the Waypoint-Backstrom Principles Cascade Mountains at least once a month throughout (the complete document can be viewed on the Waypoint my youth. So it was a measure of Sarah’s skill that I YCS Web site, which accompanies this article): could be satisfied contributing no physical effort to our kayak’s graceful forward motion while she explained Maritime practice traditionally assigns clearly-defined the chemistry that colors glacial ice, the anatomy behind shipboard roles and responsibilities. Design assump- the unique sound of a surfacing Harbor seal’s breath, tions follow. assumptions about the abilities (physi- and how the vegetation on the land to either side of us cal, mental, or sensory) of the idealized role-holder as broadcast the exact date when the glacier melted per- they are designed into products, spaces, and practices manently, exposing a particular patch of land. may prove to be disastrous in emergency situations. I did make a contribution, however, and that was to be In such cases the only person available to fulfill a life- the person that the Titanic lacked; the man at the bow saving task may not share the ability set assumed in guiding our thin shared skin safely past razor-sharp the design whether that is through temporary injury icebergs. Once, when we were safely past a “tiny” piece of the crew, or substitution of a child, elderly person, of ice, we turned to watch it demonstrate the law of or person with a permanent disability. Designing for physics that keeps at least 90 percent of its mass below extraordinary conditions is a principle that accepts the surface… most of the time, at least. Behind us we current evolving definitions of disability as the inter- watched as the backpack-sized protrusion of ice we’d action between ability (functionality) and environ- just disturbed flipped on its axis, flailing sharp edges as ment (design; social response to variety in human it spun. In the process it exposed the submerged body, functionality). It “imagines” disability as a normal which was much larger than our boat. consequence of life and designs for it proactively. That lesson in survival through interdependence brought me back to the core of disability culture: We Inclusion is transformation of the world through imag- progress best when we acknowledge our personal lim- ination. Travel agents know that they sell dreams, not 020 | January/February 2009
  6. 6. Wildlife abounds in Alaskan waters. tickets. They wrap destinations with imagination and equally disabled hands reach in and accomplish the invite customers to picture themselves there. archi- task because they were marginally better; they pos- tects know that built barriers are nothing but a failure sessed the right tool for the moment. to imagine users properly. The U.S. national Home In the end, the question still lingers: “Change of Builders association knows that their industry’s fast- clothes, or change of limbs?” Maybe that’s part of the est growth sector is rebuilding homes on the princi- mystery of inclusion through Universal Design. May- ples of Universal Design as homeowners “re-imagine” be the whole message is how fundamentally true it is themselves aging in place. Robotic exoskeletons that that we are all part of one body, and we all succeed respond to the wearer’s brain waves are available for together. rent in Japan, erasing differences between disability and superhuman strength. The manufacturer of the SeaLegs amphibious boat knows of one customer in new Zealand with limited mobility who heads straight to town in his boat to pick up his mail and do errands. nobody considers glasses or contacts a prosthetic device anymore, where a “difference” has simply be- come a part of life. Imagination applied to the world as we find it is making small intimate spaces—like a 97 foot-long community amid icebergs—the first in a new fleet. For me the most enduring moments on Glacier Bay were not seeing the mountain goat families with their kids, the roaming wolf pack, the golden sunset and green aurora Borealis, or the bears up close. The birthday parties, gourmet food, and shared slide shows remain vivid, but secondary. Halibut fishing, shoreside excursions by wave-tossed skiffs, and con- versations over shared bottles of wine were enjoyable. The most enduring moments flowed directly from evi- dence of prior planning; the application of imagina- tion to building a boat standing as concrete proof that all passengers were of equal worth. as the environment and crew wrapped itself around the three passengers with declared disabilities, those with hidden disabilities felt free to reveal themselves, and the circle of warmth, humor, and humanness grew. The tempo of communication changed. Priori- ties became more immediate and satisfying. Where I would usually experience frustration at the weakness of my gnarled, bony fingers, I saw someone else’s January/February 2009 | 021