One of the pleasures of my life as a yacht broker is the people I get to meet. From  millionaires to seagoing paupers all have interesting life stories to share.  The most inspiring and intriguing character so far has been Bruno.

The first thing you notice about Bruno is his wheelchair.  It’s a shock – because he is intent on  buying a sailing yacht despite being a paraplegic. Two minutes after our first meeting he has clambered out of his wheelchair and is bouncing his way across the gangplank lifting his useless legs over the guardrail and depositing himself on deck. I must have looked flustered and upset because he tells me to relax. He tells me most “uprights” suffer stress when they first meet him. He asks me to open the fore hatch so that he can drop into the cabin to check out the interior of the boat. Bruno grew up in Rhodesia. His blond hair and tanned body belong to a beach bum. He readily admits that surfing and sailing are his passions.

Life changed radically for the twenty-seven year old Bruno in December 1997.  A  car crash during a failed carjacking attempt in Capetown left him with a broken back. Life up to that point had been a dream.  A charter yacht skipper based out in Indonesia surfing some of the best waves in the world; and getting paid for it too!

Recovering from the depths of despair was a hard road to travel. Drugs, drink and even a game of Russian Roulette did not give him the resolution he craved. One day he persuaded a friend to lend him his surfboard to paddle out beyond the breakers where he planned to drown doing what he enjoyed, surfing!  He had not counted on the human spirit, the will to live. He found himself surfing a small “foamy” back to the shore. This small surfing success helped him regain his will to live.  He resolved to get himself as fit as possible and to resume life to the best of his ability.

We are back on the yacht. It’s a South African built Atlantis 36, a brand that is rare in Europe. He sees this and its African name as a fateful sign. He borrows a mask and snorkel and slips off the sugar spoon stern to inspect the underside of the yacht. Bruno’s element is the water. He lifts himself back onto the sugar spoon and announces that the hull is sound. He shares his plan with me. The idea is to acquire the boat which will become home for him and his beautiful girlfriend. He will move the boat to the Moroccan Atlantic coast, which the surfing cognoscenti will recognise as the new Mecca of the surfing community. I am learning all the time! With permission from the vendor he is allowed to stay aboard for the night so that he can plan the modifications he will need to make to the yacht. We part company that evening with a promise of a Rock tour courtesy of Boatshed Gibraltar. In truth it’s a crude attempt of mine to spend more time with this incredible human being.

The following day I collect him at Ocean Village and we set off for the tourist hot spots.  At Europa Point he seeks my advice on wind, tides and currents in the Straits. Next we head for the Upper Rock where at St Michaels Cave he singlehandedly negotiates steps (backwards) down into the cave on his specially designed wheelchair. The tourists in the cave that day learnt something about the limits of disability.

When we return back to the marina he shares his next big project with me. He is seeking sponsorship to acquire a large catamaran which will be adapted for disabled young people. I tell him to look me up if he needs help. I know Gibraltar is a generous place.

Bruno is a shining light. As we move along the pier at Marina Bay at our last meeting he tells me that most people are disabled. In his case it’s the legs. The first thing you notice about Bruno is his wheelchair.  The last thing you notice about Bruno is NOT his wheelchair.