Blind veteran and lighthouse guide learns how to sail

PUBLISHED: 10:55 29 May 2018 | UPDATED: 11:01 29 May 2018

Chris Cardwell learning how to sail. Picture: Blind Veterans UK.

Chris Cardwell learning how to sail. Picture: Blind Veterans UK.


A blind veteran from Southwold has been taking to the waves and learning a new skill during a sailing taster day.

Chris Cardwell pictured in front of Southwold Lighthouse. Picture: Blind Veterans UK.Chris Cardwell pictured in front of Southwold Lighthouse. Picture: Blind Veterans UK.

Chris Cardwell, 66, was one of six from East Anglia to take part in the day organised by Blind Veterans UK and The East Anglian Sailing Trust.

Through the use of audio navigation units, tactile charts and Discovery Pens, the vision-impaired ex-service men were able to fully partake in the day of sailing in Levington, near Ipswich.

The veterans fulfilled a variety of roles on the yacht, including navigator, helmsman, mainsheet trimmer and grinder.

Mr Cardwell said: “The best thing about the day was that it took me massively outside my comfort zone. Through working as a team with sighted sailors I could safely participate in the sailing of the vessel, far beyond what I had expected to be able to do.”

Mr Cardwell joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1971 and trained in the 212 Field Hospital based in Sheffield. He was discharged in 1974 as a Lance Corporal. Mr Cardwell was registered blind in 2008 with no sight in one eye and 10pc in the other.

He said: “I’m a guide at Southwold Lighthouse, so it was particularly special for me today to sail towards the Sunk Centre Lightvessel, just outside Harwich.”

Ian Jewry, a trustee of The East Anglian Sailing Trust and yachtmaster said: “The audio navigation device includes a fluxgate compass which beeps when the boat goes off course, meaning a vision-impaired helmsman can steer the boat.

“The new kit we’re really excited about are the tactile charts and Discovery Pens. The raised areas on the charts show the positions of landmarks like buoys and sandbanks. When you put the Discovery Pen on that area, you hear further information, allowing someone who is vision impaired to fully partake in the planning of a route through touch and audio.”

Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 and the charity’s initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in the First World War. But the organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning the Second World War to recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan.

For more information about the charity visit

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