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Lots of boats come to Oriental, some tie up at the Town Dock for a night or two, others drop anchor in the harbor for a while. If you've spent any time on the water you know that every boat has a story. The Shipping News on TownDock.net brings you the stories of the boats that have visited recently.

Abby Normal
Positive Flotation: Boat Easier Than Apartment
January 4, 2016
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“I
’ve had people tell me, ‘You are the happiest handicapped person I’ve ever met.’”

abby normal
Cliff Kyle on his Pearson 26, Abby Normal at the Oriental Town Dock in late December.

Cliff Kyle lost his left leg years ago when he was hit by a truck whose driver had a seizure. These days, he is living on a 26’ sailboat and was heading south on the ICW when he stopped in Oriental for a few days after Christmas.

abby normal
The Pearson 26 taking Cliff Kyle south this winter.

Cliff has been an Army Ranger in the “All-American” 82nd Airborne Division, a biomedical-electrical engineer and a father. But when his Kentucky home was foreclosed two years ago, Cliff, who is in his late 40’s, decided it was time to return to the sailing and cruising he had done as a younger man.

“It seemed better than sitting around the house waiting to die,” Cliff says with a crooked smile.

abby normal
Cliff approaches his boat.

For years, Cliff’s gotten around in a wheelchair. “I always decided to be positive about it.” he says. At first, that was on land. Now, it’s on docks. And boats.

abby normal
Cliff Kyle clearing the lines just before pushing off from the Oriental Town Dock.

Cliff first started sailing before the accident. It was in the early 90’s after he finished his stint in the Army. At the time, he wanted to try his hand at deep-sea fishing.

“When I got to Florida, I found I couldn’t afford a deep-sea fishing boat,” Cliff says.
He was, however, able to find a 1967 Pearson Wanderer for $700. He spent two years of the early ‘90’s living off the coast of Florida.

“I ended up not catching fish but learning how to sail,” Cliff said.

abby normal
The dragon tattoo predated Cliff’s stop in Oriental.

One thing sailing teaches is how to handle what’s thrown at you and navigate through it. That might also describe Cliff’s attitude in the years since that accident. “I always decided to be positive about it.” he says.

“When I lost my leg, I got to raise my son solo,” he says. “And I’d always choose raising my son and losing my leg.”

abby normal
Cliff’s wheelchair folds relatively flatly.
abby normal
But does require some heavy lifting over the lifelines.

Abby Normal is actually the second Pearson he’s lived aboard since moving from Kentucky two years ago. He first bought a Pearson 30 and lived on it for a year.

This past July, he found the Pearson 26 for sale online. Cliff headed to Rhode Island to buy it. It was cheap, he says. He repaired it and continued the modifications while travelling, with stops at, among other places, Block Island, Mystic, and Chesapeake Bay.

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Posted Monday January 4, 2016 by Keith N. Smith