Reporter's Notebook: Imagining their voyage at sea

NEWPORT BEACH – When I signed up to volunteer at the Sail for the Blind event, one of the first things I did was read an info packet on the American Legion Yacht Club's website.

Written from the perspective of a visually impaired person, one of the tips says, "Don't avoid words like 'see,' I use them too. I am always glad to see you."

That sounded reasonable enough, until I boarded our boat with two visually-impaired men, one of whom was blind, and a sighted crew of four.

I quickly realized how often we relate our experiences in life by describing sights, and how for some that basic language requires a leap of imagination.

Take the weather. As we sailed along Peninsula Point on our way out of the harbor, longtime volunteer captain Michael Hayden commented how gloomy the weather was and how sailing under his bright orange-and-yellow genoa always brightens up the day. Hayden added that it was a beautiful day.

Beautiful fit the goodwill among the boat's crew and their guests, but I couldn't help wonder what the blind sailors thought of the conversation.

One of them, Carlos Salguero, 49, has to beat back gloom internally. He can't rely on uplifting colors. Salguero lost his sight in a surgical accident four years ago. Before an operation to remove a tumor near his pituitary gland, his doctor assuaged him, saying that the surgery wouldn't be too risky.

"Boom. I went in, I woke up, and I couldn't see anymore," he said.

As we plowed out of the harbor, someone asked everyone in the boat, "Did you see that porpoise?"

A pair of dolphins bobbed near the space between the rock jetties. They blew spray as they ducked back underwater, into the vibrations of nearby propellers.

Salguero smiled. "What a feeling," he said, as the breeze stiffened and a 5-foot southwest swell swayed the boat toward Big Corona.

Projecting graciousness and an easy sense of humor, it's no wonder Salguero continues to close deals. A Realtor, he still helps his clients find homes, relying on his assistant to read contracts.

National magazines have written about him, the blind Realtor.

"I don't want to become popular like that," he jokes.

Later, as we reached back into the harbor, the talk turned to a sleek racing sailboat that glided past us. Its angular bow sliced the water, Hayden pointed out.

I looked over to Salguero to see how he was handling the information. With his head down, he tapped his foot to the boat's soulful music, still smiling.

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