Blind sailor Jim Dickson, attempting to sail across the Atlantic alone, told William F. Buckley "You are a lot more blind than I" for remarks by the columnist critical of his voyage.
Dickson and Buckley, appearing Monday night on ABC's "Night-line" program, engaged in a lively debate over remarks by Buckley, who said that Dickson could not enjoy sailing because of his handicap and that he was not helping the blind by the Atlantic crossing attempt.
"Mr. Buckley, you are a lot more blind than I am because you can't see what a person can do in my circumstances," said Dickson, 41, of Washington, D.C., who set off Aug. 4 from Portsmouth, R.I.
Dickson was forced to change course to Bermuda when the voice-activated computerized navigational system on his 36-foot sloop Eye Opener broke down three days into the 2,800-mile voyage to Plymouth, England.
Buckley, who is a recreational sailor, defended a column critical of the voyage by saying, "To say he enjoyed sailing is to say he's enjoyed apple pie without taste buds.
"Certain things one can't naturally do when one is blind," Buckley said from New York City.
"I wouldn't take a blind person to the Grand Canyon or to a ballet. And for that reason, people who know anything about sailing know it is an experience which can't possibly be apprehended unless you can see."
Dickson, appearing on the program from Bermuda, said it "is a little nerve wracking debating the world's foremost TV debater."
But he wasn't hesitant in attacking Buckley, saying an attitude like that displayed by the columnist "keeps 500 million humans in circumstances akin to the 14th Century."
"Who are you to say because I can't see, I can't enjoy something or do something," Dickson said.
But Buckley replied, "I'm saying it's a futile exercise of your time to do something that seems to look God in the face and say, 'Although I am theoretically blind, in fact, I am not blind.' "
Dickson said he will decide Friday whether to continue the voyage.