South Africa's 'Silent Solo Sailor' Goes Home

Charl de Villiers photo by Philip Nothnagel
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South Africa: Charl de Villiers made headlines four years ago when he became the first deaf sailor to circumnavigate the world single- handedly.

He made his his epic 2004 voyage in his 11.2m Tartan yacht 'Island Times', which he bought in September 2000, and departed on his amazing journey from Palacios, in Texas.


Seven months and 13 days later, he was welcomed back by 300 people, including family members, at the same spot.

His inspirational voyage took him through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific and Indian oceans. He overcame equipment failure, adverse weather conditions, a near collision with a freighter, and even fell victim to a robbery on his yacht.

Now the 'silent voyager', who has been based in Texas for the past 17 years, is back in the country of his birth, South Africa, visiting his family in East London.

'It feels good to be back in South Africa, it’s the most beautiful country in the world,' said De Villiers, who has been deaf since the age of seven, but lip-reads English and Afrikaans.

His father Johan jokingly told the Dispatch that De Villiers only visited his family when he was injured – the last time was after he had broken his leg playing rugby.

This time around, De Villiers injured his arm while repairing a boat in Texas. Doctors told him it would take six weeks for his arm to heal so, as he was unable to repair boats or sail with one arm, he took the opportunity for a trip home.

'Once I’m in Texas I never know when I’ll see my family again,' he said with a chuckle.

A father of two, his daughter is married to a rancher, and his son is in his final year at university.

He became deaf after suffering an allergic reaction to medication he was given for severe burns.

Today he repairs and delivers both power and sail boats for a living and his new career has led to him sailing the great American lakes of Erie, Huron and Michigan. He has even sailed the Mississippi River.

'Going down the Mississippi River, I felt like Mark Twain,' he said.

Between boat work, De Villiers has managed to start a rugby club with South African expatriates and gives motivational speeches about his life and sailing experiences.

Inspiring stuff for someone who has lost their hearing.....

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