May 15, 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of the HHH Adapted Sailing Program. In 2005 I was thrilled to work with our then Assistant Director of Outpatient Services, Jan Crittenden, to form a partnership between HHH and the Nyack Boat Club (NBC). This year, another 30 people will participate in our Adapted Sailing Clinic, bringing the total number of sailors trained close to 300. Pre-registration is required. Call our Adapted Sports and Recreation Coordinator, Matt Castelluccio at 845-786-4950. for more information.
We couldn’t host this program without the generous and highly motivated members of the Sonar Fleet who agreed to volunteer for our first clinic by lending their boats, crew and captain expertise to help train people with physical disabilities how to sail. The first year went so well that they’ve been supporting the program ever since. Besides all their help and equipment on the day of the event, the NBC Sonar Fleet also provides lunch, water, snacks and an after party which is very popular.
Sailing is a sport that levels out the playing field for people with disabilities. With only a few adaptations, anyone can sail. From the blind captain who can feel the wind and call directions to the total quadriplegic who sails independently using a sip and puff device, the sport is accessible to all levels of ability. For people with physical medicine diagnoses, the Sonar is the boat of choice because it’s very stable and has an ample stern, making it easy to adapt to specific needs of captains with disabilities. The Paralympic sailors use this boat in regional, national and international competitions.
Some people with paraplegia use a bench that fits in the aft part of the boat, between port and starboard, so they easily slide from one side to the other. Some use an extended steering mechanism and some use line holders that are easy to open and close.,Transferring in and out of the boat is fairly easy from either a fixed or floating dock. Most people with some leg function do a modified standing pivot and sit down on the edge of the boat before swinging their legs over and sliding down into the seat. People who require more help are assisted with a lateral transfer to the side and their legs are swung around into the boat. Assistants support their backs and help then slide down into the seat. People who have lateral balance issues are supported on one or both sides by volunteers, family members or other sailors. Getting out of the boat takes a bit more effort as the person needs to get out of the seat and back up to the edge of the boat before swinging their legs out and back on to the dock.
Most marinas are accessible to all types of mobility devices but it’s always a good idea to call ahead and ask about the entry to the dock, the type of dock, the club house and the bathroom facilities. Some marinas have a portable Hoyer lift that drops into a sleeve on each dock to make it easier for people who are dependent in their transfers, but it’s not required for a great day of sailing. Because sailing is a Paralympic sport, there are many opportunities for regatta competitions for new and experienced captains. And there’s always the amazing and friendly day of sailing that doesn’t entail a competition. If you haven’t tried it yet, add it to your bucket list as you won’t be disappointed!
Eileen Andreassi, CTRS
Director, Therapeutic Recreation