‘Ocean of Obstacles’ Chronicles 12 Blind Phoenix Teens’ Sailing Feat

David SchwartzJuly 14, 2021
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The Blind Buccaneers at a tropical stop in the Caribbean during their weeklong sailing journey while filming Ocean of Obstacles; Photo courtesy Foundation for Blind Children
The Blind Buccaneers at a tropical stop in the Caribbean during their weeklong sailing journey while filming Ocean of Obstacles; Photo courtesy Foundation for Blind Children

A new documentary chronicles the sailing feat of 12 blind Phoenix teens. 

When Phoenix film director Louie Duran came up with the idea for his new documentary Ocean of Obstacles, he had one goal in mind – to show that being without sight should not matter. A dozen Phoenix youths, nicknamed the blind buccaneers, were there to help him tell that story.

Set off the shores of Puerto Rico, the movie chronicles the adventures of the dozen blind teenagers from the desert as they test their courage and determination navigating the open waters across the Spanish Virgin Islands aboard three catamarans – aided by three veteran captains, for safety. The 82-minute film traces the students, who were recruited from Phoenix’s Foundation for Blind Children, from the outset, showing them learning the rigors of nautical life while discovering a little about themselves during their 2018 trip. As with other challenge events put on by the foundation, such as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or hiking rim-to-rim at the Grand Canyon, the challenge was steep.

Along the way, friendships are made and new experiences are absorbed. Take the time a rare school of dolphins visited the buccaneers as they were diving near the boats. Or an impromptu linking of arms captured during an uphill hike amid a driving rain. And there was the victory dance, complete with power hymns like “We are the Champions,” when the all-girl boat beat the others to shore.

“I wanted to show people you shouldn’t let obstacles in life hold you back,” Duran says. “Even if you can’t see them.” He adds that the teenagers quickly adapted to life on the boats.

To prepare, the youths spent Saturday mornings for weeks training at Lake Pleasant Harbor before traveling to Fajardo, Puerto Rico, for the seven-day excursion, including five days at sea.

For buccaneer Adonis Watt, a Brophy College Preparatory junior, who has been blind since age 5, the trip simply showed, “If you put your mind to something, you can do it. Blind or not.”

The documentary from Gravitas Ventures is available at vimeo.com/ondemand/oceanofobstacles.

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