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A day out with the charity Sailing for the Disabled

by Gaynor Portlock 5 Aug 2018 16:33 BST
A 48ft Beanatau Oceanis adapted for the charity Sailing for the Disabled © Gaynor Portlock

While in the Isle of Man, Beverley and Gaynor Portlock from Liverpool Yacht Club and Sailing Yacht Salty Lass took the opportunity to join the crew of Pride of Mann III a 48ft Beanatau Oceanis, and the charity Sailing for the Disabled. This is Gaynors story.

We had met Arne the chairman of Isle of Man Sailing for the Disabled in Peel when we were bringing Salty Lass down from Troon to Liverpool on her maiden voyage, so we arranged to come out with the charity on Tuesday 12th June following the 99th Isle of Man midnight race. The children from the special needs unit of Castle Rushen High School were set to arrive at 10:15am, so we arrived at the yacht one hour before hand to discuss the outline of the day and have the safety briefing.

Soon the four children arrived with their teacher Kerry. All the children were excited and wanted to be helmsmen, but initially they needed to listen and sit in the cockpit while Pride of Mann III manoeuvred out of the harbour. As soon as we were in the outer harbour Caleb one of the children helped on the winch to bring out the main sail, while the other children Molly, Evan and Mikolaj saw the first pod of dolphins.

During the sail, we were all fortunate to see several pods of dolphins along with other wild life like gannets, seagulls and jellyfish. Every time we saw a pod of dolphins we all strained to see the elusive creatures and enjoyed the magic together when we were rewarded with a sighting. During the sail to the mooring just south of Laxey, Caleb, Molly and Mikolaj all had a go at being helmsmen, while Evan took it easy and looked out for wildlife.

While we sailed to the mooring I chatted to Kerry their teacher who told me that over the last five years in addition to using the sailing to deliver biology and geography lessons, the school has been using the sailing to help develop the children in a variety of different ways, from improving language, listening skills as well as giving them coping mechanisms to deal with challenges. For some children, it has also given them a life-long hobby, as they have gone on to access the service as adults.

I also chatted to William, one of the volunteers who started as a mate, but through training provided by the other volunteers he has progressed to a local skipper. For him, he has been able to enjoy sailing and help others.

On the approach to the moorings just south of Laxey bay, Beverley had the privilege of helming the yacht onto the mooring while I helped at the front of the yacht picking up the strop that was attached to the top of the buoy. Once safely moored on the buoy, we enjoyed lunch with a cup of tea.

On leaving the mooring I was asked to helm, with the help of Caleb who joined me on the twin helm. The winds had picked up and were so strong on our return that we sailed just south of the light house and discussed the Peregrine Falcons that nest on the cliff face just below Marine Drive. Although we all looked, we failed to see them, soon it was time to return to harbour where I handed over the helm to William who guided the yacht into port.

It was a fantastic day and I will always remember the smile on Molly's face.

Pride of Mann III

Pride of Mann III has been especially adapted for Sailing with the Disabled, as it has a ramp that can go over the swim platform to allows access for wheelchairs.

It has a movable cockpit table so that there is room for a wheelchair in the cockpit area. And a special rail and chair which allows access to the downstairs area, as well as one cabin and toilet that have wide doors so that there is wheelchair access to these rooms.

Becoming a member of the charity costs just £10 per person and they take out people in wheelchairs as well as people with learning difficulties. If you are interested in helping support the charity in any way or wish to become a member, then please look at the visit the website: www.sftdiom.com

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