When Englishman Geoff Holt was a young man, he was living the dream — making three transatlantic voyages and one round trip from Great Britain to the Mediterranean and back. Then, while preparing for a fourth transatlantic crossing, this one from the Caribbean back to England, he broke his neck in a diving accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down and confined him to a wheelchair with only limited use of his arms and hands. That was in 1984. He was 18 years old. Since then, he’s gone on to do some pretty remarkable things that many of us with “normal” physical ability would be hard-pressed to match.
Walking on Water; a Voyage Around Britain and Through Life is Geoff’s personal account of his accident and what led to his eventual circumnavigation of Great Britain in Freethinker, a specially equipped 15-foot Challenger class trimaran. The book gives us a daily account of his incredible voyage and, through a series of flashbacks, his childhood, the accident, and the years that follow. In those years Geoff got married, started a family, earned a college degree, and became an avid sailor who helped develop the Sailability program in Great Britain, which provides physically challenged individuals a chance to experience the freedom of sail that many of us take for granted.
Geoff takes nothing for granted. Throughout the book he freely acknowledges that without the support of literally hundreds of individuals and groups, his trip would have been impossible. But in spite of all the help, Geoff was the one who conceived the idea, set the goal, and did everything in his power to bring it to fruition.
Sooner or later we all end up feeling sorry for ourselves. It may be the loss of a job or loved one, a divorce, whatever. We find ourselves wallowing in our own self-pity, wondering, “How could something like this happen to me?” But after a time we get through it, realizing that life goes on and you have to play the hand you’re dealt, as the old saying goes. Walking on Water gives us a glimpse into the indomitable human spirit we sometimes have to look for to keep going. And Geoff Holt has given us someone we can all look to as a role model, no matter where our lives seem to be. This is a very worthwhile read from the perspective of an extremely worthwhile individual.
Walking on Water; a Voyage Around Britain and Through Life by Geoff Holt (Seafarer Books/Sheridan House, 2008; 360 pages)