I sat in the cockpit of a 39-foot yacht on the Royal Cork Yacht Club marina at Crosshaven on Monday morning and talked to a man who is facing what to me is a disaster and who is meeting that challenge with calmness and determination.
Chris Egan has retinitis pigmentosa which will eventually lead to the complete loss of his sight.
“It is inevitable and I know that,” he told me as we sat in the sunshine of a beautiful June morning.
His peripheral vision is already affected: “It’s like looking down a tunnel and not being able to see anything outside of that. I only see shadows now most of the time.”
He is on his second ‘round Ireland’ fundraising sail. This time for Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Four years ago he also rounded Ireland, raising money for cancer research after he was diagnosed with lymphoma and Hodgkins Disease which required surgery and chemotherapy. He has qualified in independent living skills training with the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and done training with the National Council for the Blind for the use of a cane.
“Because the guide dogs are such a cost and their funding level from the State is so low, I decided to do this second voyage.”
Accompanying him are David Bevan, who as a fellow cancer sufferer, did the voyage with him in 2013 and Jim Humphreys, whose boat they are using. They are all members of Foynes Yacht Club, which they left on May 6, sailing down the Shannon out into the Atlantic, bound on a Northerly course around the top of Ireland, down the East Coast and now reaching Cork, which coastline they will be sailing along this week.
“I’m not an expert sailor, by no means, I just enjoy it,” he said and added that he would also give funding to the RNLI Lifeboats. He can still smile at his situation.
He told me about being around Rathlin in Northern Ireland: “We had some very bad fog and I think that’s the only time when the lads felt on a par with me, because visibility was treacherous. We were all on an even keel at that stage! We can cope with the variety of weather which you must expect when sailing. The lads are keeping me safe. We don’t take risks. That’s the way to enjoy sailing.” I was impressed with the determination and attitude to life of Chris. Does he ever get depressed?
“I get my moments, but I try to keep it in private.” He described meeting “an inspiring man on Tory Island” on the Donegal coastline who has no sight: “I had a chat with him because that is what I am headed for, I am going to lose my sight completely.
"There is no way out of it. I asked him what’s it like, because I’m dreading losing my sight. He told me he dreaded it too for years and said that now that it’s gone, he had no worries about it. So there you are.”
With that Chris and his companions readied their boat to leave Crosshaven. They hope to be back in Limerick next week. Inspiration on the water.
You can hear Chris on next week’s THIS ISLAND NATION radio programme.
NO GOVERNMENT INTEREST IN SEAFARERS
The Irish Government has no plans to join the United Nations in honouring seafarers this Sunday. The UN’s International Maritime Organisation has asked Governments all over the world to mark the day by declaring that ‘SEAFARERS MATTER’. The Government of this island nation isn’t doing so!
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org EVENING ECHO SPORT TOMORROW: Sovereign hunters in Kinsale.