Jim Dickson, the District man trying to become the first blind person to sail across the Atlantic alone, arrived safely in St. George harbor, Bermuda, yesterday after riding out Tropical Storm Arlene for two days at sea in his 36-foot sloop, Eye Opener.

Dickson, forced into the port for repairs after vital electronic equipment failed, was greeted by cheers when he docked at St. George's Dinghy Club at 6:02 p.m. (5:02 EDT). "I'm very glad to be here," he told a crowd of about 30 that included his family, supporters and local officials. "There were a few moments when I didn't think I was going to make it."

By one preliminary account, Paul Petronello, one of Dickson's advisers hopped aboard Eye Opener from a pilot boat 28 miles out to help the blind skipper cross the shoal-strewn harbor entrance. By other accounts, Petronello fastened a line to Eye Opener, which was then towed in.

Dickson, 41, had endured winds up to 50 knots and seas up to 12 feet alone as he took the full force of Arlene, which by late yesterday had drifted 225 miles east northeast of Bermuda. During the worst of the storm he dropped all sail and went below to ride out the weather.

He originally planned to sail nonstop the 2,800 miles from Portsmouth, R.I., to Plymouth, England. But on Aug. 7, four days and 350 miles into the voyage, he lost the electronic navigation system by which a computerized voice gives him location, boat speed, wind speed, wind direction and other information needed to sail. He also had trouble with the automatic steering and radar, a spokesman said, and decided to head for Bermuda.

When he arrived yesterday, a week later and 650 miles from home, he said he was tired. "I want to get a hot shower and some rest," the bearded Dickson said.

" . . . I had a terrible time sleeping" during the storm, he later told friends and relatives.

In a comment interpreted as referring to what his next step might be, he said, "I'm not going to make any decisions until I've gotten sleep -- lots and lots of sleep."

But a support crew member, Don McGrath, said Dickson was in good spirits and eager to continue once repairs are made, which could be as quickly as three or four days. Although one of two life rafts and a sea anchor were reportedly lost, and a sail was torn, McGrath said there is nothing wrong with the boat itself, and Dickson hopes to leave for England via the Azores on Wednesday if the electronics are serviceable.

Dickson's plight has gathered increasing national attention since the gear failure last week, and he became something of a cause celebre for the handicapped when nationally syndicated columnist William F. Buckley suggested in a column Thursday that the effort was ill-conceived.

Buckley, an offshore sailor, wrote that Dickson was tackling too grand a project. "It is one thing to care after the lame and halt and to endeavor to give them opportunities to live productive and happy lives," he wrote. "It is something entirely different {for them} to do that which their handicap inherently proscribes."

Dickson offered no comment, but Tony Lush, one of his sailing advisers, said the remarks probably constitute fighting words.

Dickson has been battling for equality since he lost his sight at age 7, the result of a degenerative disease, retinitis pigmentosa. By refusing to attend special school classes as a child he became the first blind student to be in the "mainstream" in Massachusetts public schools, he said, and later he attended and was graduated from Brown University over the objections of his high school guidance counselor.

Dickson has worked since then for organizations that help the economically and physically disadvantaged. He is on leave from a Washington voters' activist organization, Project Vote.

He said last month that the sailing venture was in part to satisfy his wanderlust, but also to show how technological advances are increasing the capability of the handicapped faster than society recognizes.

Dickson's sailing experience is limited, and some advisers had urged him to wait a year and spend more time on the boat before embarking. Lush, a veteran offshore singlehanded racer, was one, but he said yesterday from Newport, R.I., that Dickson "is headstrong, and he's under a lot of pressure" to finish the voyage.

The only other blind ocean crossings on record belong to Hank Dekker, a Californian who has twiced sailed to Hawaii. Dekker had none of the electronic gadgetry and nothing like the $175,000 budget of Dickson. But he also sank his boat after running aground on his second passage.