Jim Dickson, facing mounting repair bills and storms, yesterday quit his attempt to become the first blind sailor to cross the Atlantic Ocean alone.
At a news conference in St. George's, Bermuda, the 41-year-old Washingtonian said he will try again next spring. "It was difficult to say, 'Well, there is always next year,' " he said. "I never set out to prove I was the greatest sailor in the world."
He left Portsmouth, R.I., Aug. 4, trying to sail the 2,800 miles to Plymouth, England. He had to detour to Bermuda last week because of the 50-knot winds and 15-foot seas of tropical storm Arlene. Navigation equipment aboard his mildly battered 36-foot sloop Eye Opener had failed, and he said Saturday that, unless the equipment was fixed or replaced and unless the weather was fair, "this camper ain't going out."
Tropical storm Bret, with 45-mph winds about 1,300 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands yesterday, stood in his way, he said. So did Arlene, now a hurricane with 75-mph winds some 700 miles southwest of the Azores.
The cost of the diversion and repairs broke the trip's $175,000 budget, said expedition spokesman Stephen Graham.
Dickson said he was encouraged to try again when Club Med offered to pay about $20,000 to repair the navigational equipment. He said he expects to have other sponsors for the voyage as well.
"I feel like I've got a new lease on life with this offer from Club Med," he said. "We just have to work out the details."
Graham said that before Dickson decided to try again next year he had asked for two backups for his navigation system, a salary and assurances that he would not have to raise funds. Dickson did not mention those requests during yesterday's news conference.
Dickson said he doesn't know if he will leave Eye Opener in Bermuda for the winter or sail it back to Rhode Island or Washington.
Dickson, blinded at age 7 by retinitis pigmentosa, has said he wants to make the crossing to show what the sightless can do with the aid of technology.