The nephew of the renowned Jesuit author, Gerard W Hughes, will be setting off on Saturday in an attempt to be the first deaf person to sail single-handed, non-stop around the world.
Teacher Gerry S M Hughes from Glasgow, who was born profoundly deaf, has been sailing since the age of two. It has been his ambition to sail around the world on his own since he was a teenager. At the age of 13, unable to read or write, he moved from Glasgow to Boston Spa School for the Deaf, where he met and was much encouraged by Fr Paul Fletcher SJ, who is also deaf and who provides a ministry to deaf people. Gerry now teaches deaf pupils at St Roch's Secondary School in Glasgow.
Gerry says he really struggled as a youngster because of his deafness and sailing helped him to learn. "Sailing has been my passion from when I was very young … it provided me with an escape and I instantly feel at peace on a boat," he said.
He hopes his round-the-world excursion will encourage young deaf people to believe that they, too, can overcome many of the obstacles they face in life.
"I'm embarking on this challenge to raise awareness of the deaf community and to inspire young deaf people that they too can achieve their dreams," he said.
"My first language is British Sign Language and I struggled to read and write until I was nearly 15 but I am a very driven person and wanted to be a teacher so I worked hard and fought the authorities and in 1995 became the first deaf teacher in Scotland since 1880." He was also the world's first deaf yachtsman to sail across the Atlantic Ocean in the original single-handed Transatlantic Race in 2005.
The challenge is expected to last at least five months, depending on the weather, and will take him past all five capes - a journey made famous by the likes of the legendary Sir Francis Chichester and Sir Robin Knox Johnston. "This challenge has been a life-long ambition of mine and I can't believe I'm about to set sail. I am about to embark on one of the hardest challenges known to man but I am confident I can do it, as sailing is in my blood and I have a great boat."
Gerry says it will be hard being away from his wife and two daughters for so long, especially at Christmas, but they support him 100 per cent. He will be setting off from Troon Marina, Ayrshire, at 12noon on Saturday, 1 September, and he hopes to be home by the end of April 2013.
You can follow his progress on: http://www.gerrysmhughes.com
Gerry's Jesuit uncle, Gerry W Hughes, is the author of God of Surprises; God of Compassion; God Where Are You?; In Search of a Way and Walk To Jerusalem. He has been a teacher, university chaplain, and director of St Beuno's Spirituality Centre in Wales. Before moving to Edinburgh, he was based in Birmingham where he worked on the development of a spirituality for people active in peace and justice work.