With the wind at their backs, a small crew of determined sailors afflicted with multiple sclerosis have spent the last five months adjusting their sails and empowering each other to look beyond their chronic disease and toward a brighter horizon.
In May, The Oceans of Hope boat embarked from Copenhagen in the first circumnavigation of the world in a sail boat crewed by people living with MS. Sailors hailed from Denmark and Portugal, with one Bostonian catching the boat in Bermuda.
The journey was put together by The Sailing Sclerosis Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting people living with MS. Cambridge-based Biogen Idecwas the principal sponsor and official partner for the global program.
The boat docked Monday at Rowes Wharf, kicking off the North American leg of the journey and coinciding with the MSBOSTON 2014, a four-day MS medical convention that kicks off Wednesday at The Hynes Convention Center.
Oceans of Hope project pioneer Dr. Mikkel Anthonisen said he hopes the journey will help change people's perceptions about the autoimmune disease, which affects the central nervous system.
"[MS] changes something inside you. There is a sense of a loss of identity," said Anthonisen. "This project creates a narrative that's strong. It's about empowerment. The people in this boat have recaptured their identity."
Mikkel Farber, 46, of Denmark was diagnosed with MS three years ago, and said the Oceans of Hope sail has reinvigorated his outlook.
"Since I was a little kid I always dreamed about crossing an ocean. I'm so proud," said Farber. "We have had no problems, no one has been ill. Apparently sailing is good for people with MS."