It has been a wonderful day in Portsmouth. Our feet have barely touched the ground since Oceans of Hope arrived in Gunwharf Quays yesterday afternoon.
In the evening at a reception in the marina the crew was officially welcomed to Portsmouth by Councillor Frank Jonas from Portsmouth City Council while Tessa van den Berg from the Netherlands talked movingly about what it means to be part of the crew on board. More than one of the guests said they had found themselves with tears in their eyes as they listened to her speak on behalf of the team.
Today it was the turn of people with multiple sclerosis from across the south of England to take to the water. While Oceans of Hope is taking advantage of the world-leading marine facilities in Portsmouth Harbour to prepare for the next stage of the voyage which will take them through the Bay of Biscay and across the Atlantic, the beautiful Thames barge, Alice, took our guests on board for a spin in the Solent. More photos in the Gallery.
Conditions could not have been more perfect: glorious sunshine and a light breeze had smiles appearing on people’s faces before they had even left the dock.
It was a great opportunity for those on board to rediscover their passion for sailing and for others to experience it for the first time. It was also an opportunity to discuss MS with others, literally, in the same boat. Everyone found something special in the experience: one commented that it was the first time since he had been diagnosed that he had been able to talk with others about their experiences of the disease, while a former professional sailor found he still had what it takes when Alice’s owner allowed him to helm her back to her berth and a third said she felt she’d been on holiday.
With sessions in the morning and afternoon everyone came together for lunch on board and Oceans of Hope founder, Mikkel Anthonisen explained why he had set up the Sailing Sclerosis Foundation project.
In the afternoon Alice was joined by Wetwheels, the wheelchair accessible power boat based at Gunwharf Quays which offers boating opportunities to people of all ages and abilities. Geoff Holt MBE DL, the first disabled person to sail single-handed around Great Britain, was at the helm and he too passed the controls to those on board.
New friends have been made, phone numbers exchanged and the thought confirmed that it is still possible to pursue your passion after being diagnosed with MS.
We’ll be doing it all over again in La Rochelle, Lisbon and Boston. Next Friday afternoon in La Rochelle there is an opportunity for people with MS in France to sail on Oceans of Hope. Email for more information.
There has been a steady stream of visitors to Oceans of Hope today find out more about how they can get on board to take part in the voyage. Places are available for people with MS from all over the world to take part. There’s more information and application forms here.
Oceans of Hope will be at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth until midday on Sunday when she sets sail for France. She is due to arrive in La Rochelle on Thursday 10 July for four-day stopover.