When Dino DiMeo was a teenager in a Boston suburb, a volunteer with the Community Boating Incorporated (CBI) suggested he might enjoy a few sailing lessons. Soon, he was learning how to put up a sail, tie bowlines, turn the 15-foot boat to come about and avoid swimmers. It was immediate—Dino was hooked. Many boaters have the same story. Looking back, he thought about all the people saying, “You can’t do this.” He was aware of those words and knew he’d prove them wrong.
Dino is deaf.
Today, when he isn’t working as a U.S. Department of Treasury budget analyst in Washington D.C., Dino is planning the next sailing adventure with his friends. And yes; they are also deaf.
It’s not just his personal experiences on the water that makes sailing part of life. Following the four America’s Cup first place finishes by Dennis Conner and meeting Peter Isler, Conner’s Stars and Strips navigator from the 1987 win, Dino decided racing was the obvious next step.
“I looked up to Conner,” he says, and was soon crewing on J/24s and PHRF (Performance Handicap Racing Fleet) boats in Boston and Marblehead. His office at the time overlooked the Charles River where the CBI had a fleet of boats. After a move to Maryland, he’s sailed a 21-ft Viper/640, a 29-foot J/88 or the 35-foot J/105 out of Annapolis.
Yes, the inability to hear is legal on the water. Chesapeake Bay Magazine put that question to Cynthia Oldham with the U.S. Coast Guard, who says, “The operator must maintain a proper lookout while underway.”
Watching is what he does both onboard and in life. “No matter what activity, there’s a perception about Deaf individuals that since they can’t hear, how can they possibly communicate?” Dino says. “We can do anything, but people have to be open minded. On the boat I show the crew, which includes those who can hear, how to communicate.”
It’s not just the Chesapeake Bay where this happens. In 2005, Gerry Hughes was the first deaf sailor to sail single-handed across the Atlantic and a decade later, he circled the world. Today, there are local groups offering training for deaf sailors, such as Cape Cod Deaf Sailing.
Next year, we’ll go for a sail to watch Dino DiMeo’s crew talk to each other as they take another Chesapeake sail.