More and more people with disabilities are attracted to sailing. Some are totally independent; others need a lot of help. You don't need to be a sailor or a paramedic to help someone get afloat. If you simply enjoy messing about in boats, we offer you a wonderful excuse to continue doing just that!
Join the Team
Most worth-while activities are more successful with a team. Sailing for people with disabilities is no exception. Sailors and helpers work together to enjoy a common sport. The reasons why people volunteer to help are as numerous as the helpers themselves. So too is the range of ages from young students to the retired.
Two student helpers say, 'The reason we help is that we love boats. So if you enjoy sailing, why not help others to sail too?' With little love of water, one reluctant wife says, 'I realised that if I was ever to see my sailing-crazy husband, I had to join in. Nowadays, I worry in case he should give it up I'd miss the fun and the friends.'
Good communication is the key. Potential helpers sometimes feel uncomfortable when meeting people with disabilities for the first time. This need not be a problem. The most important thing is to look, listen and ask so as to learn what sailors need. Identify key people. There will always be people around to advise you about what needs doing. Find out who they are and make yourself and your experience known to them.
Do I need special training?
No. But it's useful to learn about safe lifting at an early stage (see Chapter 5 Access to Boats).
What level of commitment is expected of me?
That's up to you. And you can decide once you are involved. But remember, a promise of help will be relied upon someone's sailing could depend on you!
What is there for me to do?
Transporting disabled sailors to the venue; helping sailors move around the shore; launching, rigging and retrieving boats; handling trailers; fetching and carrying; assisting with transfer into and out of boats; washing boats; enjoying the fun and social interaction.
Can my sailing experience be used?
Absolutely. Coaching will always be welcome.
Are other skills useful?
Yes. But none is essential. If you are a paramedic, handy with tools or experienced with bar work etc., your skills will be welcomed. Do I have to be physically strong? No. There is work for everybody.
Will I be insured?
Personal insurance is up to you. As with many leisure activities, there is an element of risk. Helping could involve lifting and proximity to water. Most clubs and boat owners have third party insurance. It is your responsibility to check.
What's in it for me?
Loads of fun! Sailing often takes place in lovely settings. Somehow, it seems to attract crowds of super people. So, come along and see for yourself. You may get cold and wet and muddy, or hot and sticky and sunburnt; but we can promise you a lot of fun!