Testimonials from Sailors
TERRY JENNER – Sailor
From utter frustration to learning to cope, what a wonderful journey thanks to Wealden Sailability
It was Tuesday 13th April 2010 and we had been driving for about an hour, the entire journey made me feel so tense and tired at the same time. We got lost a couple of times before finding the entrance to the Sailing Club. As we turned off the country lane my heart started to relax, the entrance was lined with trees and there were sheep in a field, then came a hundred or more tall masts leading down to a variety of small boats and dinghies. I was anxious but still excited. We parked and looking through the wind screen I could see the lake and a hive of activity. People were bringing boats around from the boat yard, boats where being slid in the water and masts were being raised. I was so excited maybe this was what I needed to turn my frustrations and anger around.
We got out the car and I seated myself in my wheelchair and started wheeling myself towards the boat house with my wife, Angela by my side. Around the corner came Barbara as I now know her to be. She is an amazing woman, she was bubbly, happy, helpful and so, so welcoming. Barbara made us both a cup of tea and began by pointing out who Brian Stanley was and told us about Sailability and as people passed by Barbara told us their names. I tried so hard to remember everyone names (I struggle so much to remember anything). There was a huge mix of what I would call brilliant volunteers, carers and disabled people all excited about sailing. Everyone seemed just so positive and happy about what was going on. Brian Stanley came over introduced himself and started briefing us about the whole set up and who we would be going sailing with. Brian was calm and caring, this really shone through. I had been going through waves and waves of depression, pain and anger for the past 2-3 years and yet after talking to Brian I could already feel some pressure relieving of my head and chest.
Barbara helped us find the right life jackets and we were escorted down to the jetty.
Another man called Brian (a great character and teacher) slowly helped me along the jetty, at one point my crutch slipped and it made my heart jump, luckily for me, I was not going to be baptised by the lake just yet. After a couple of minutes I had travelled the 20 meters or so up the jetty and was now on the pontoon, I tend to look down so I can see where my crutches are going, I was in for a shock. I stopped about two feet from the boat and looked straight a head. There in front of me through my eyes was a fine looking yacht. It had a huge white sail and a blue hull, to me this could sail the ocean (I know dream on, don’t forget I am a novice). I later found out this was a Stratos and holds approximately 5 people including the crew. It was decided in the interest of safety and because my right leg is my disablement I had to try and negotiate myself into the boat, without putting myself through horrendous pain. I managed to sit on pontoon and shuffle into the boat, the rest of the people all climbed aboard and then we set sail.
It was a weird first experience of a boat. I had never been on anything in water without some form of diesel motor chugging along. There seemed to be no noise and yet we where moving, it was that “silence is golden” moment. I started hearing the water, I could feel the wind on my face and I could see the sail with a wonderful bow in it. It was amazing, it took my breath away, then literally it took my breath away as Richard the helmsman (a totally top sailing teacher) announce to Dave (crew) that we where going to tack in “3, 2, 1” I saw Dave fly across to the other side of the boat as the boom swung round, brushing my hair as it passed overhead. In that blink of an eye, I was smitten, I wanted to sail, I wanted to sail everywhere. We sailed around the lake for about an hour it was such fun.
We stopped around 1.30pm for a bite to eat and drink. But we don’t actually stop enjoying the sailing. Everyone is telling tales of the mornings sailing. The volunteers answer any of your questions you might have on why your dinghy did a certain thing.
After everyone has been fed and watered, Brian rounds up the sailing volunteers and everyone heads towards the jetty. One by one we are called down to get on the boats and within 15 minutes everyone is back on the water. We spent the afternoon sailing around the lake and at around 4 o’clock all the boats come in. The volunteers got the boats out the water and put them away, ready for the next Sailability day. I can’t do a lot to help but when you look at volunteers faces they are laughing and joking while getting the job done. Now Angela (my wife) helps to put the boats away too. It is this wonderful team effort that makes this happen for so many others.
Speaking for myself and I suspect many others there is a natural something that happens within. After my second visit I had started talking to Angela on the way home in the car about what I would like to do. Her simple answer was ask Brian Stanley. I had gone from passenger to crew in a blink of an eye, I had barely opened my mouth and said “please could I have a go at crewing” when a sheet (aka to the rest of the world a rope) was passed into my hands. Both the helm of the boat and the crew help you to learn the basics of the task given. The Sailability Volunteers want you to progress and become confident. You are not held back in the slightest, if you want to sit there and enjoy being a passenger that’s great, if you want to learn and do more this is also great. You are never judged on your ability. After my fourth or fifth session with Sailability they told me they had been planning something new for me. It was to go out on an Access Dinghy with an instructor. I was very much up for it, it was my choice, if I did not want to do this, there was no pressure.
The first time I saw the boat I thought awwhh isn’t it small and cute, now can someone please put it back in the bath where it belongs. In the boat and waiting for me was a volunteer called Nikki. Nikki was wonderful, another superb calm and encouraging teacher. After about an hour in the dinghy with Nikki we had decided that the following week I could have a go, solo, in an access boat, I have never looked back. On one occasion I managed to fill my dinghy three quarters of the way up with water. Even though the boat was sluggish it still sailed but did not sink. It made many of us laugh, it made me happy and still puts a smile on face when I think back. On shore the volunteers (who are extremely knowledgeable) they talk you through sailing tactics, nobody minds how many questions you ask, we talk through any problem you might have on or off the water.
Wealden Sailability in a month turned my thinking around, I started feeling much better in myself, I could feel my depression had improved, and every Tuesday is like Christmas Day to me, I look forward to it the moment we leave home. Wealden Sailability in my eyes could not get any better, the scenery is beautiful and calming, the volunteers are amazing, they are patient with everybody and there is not a sailing problem they can’t beat. If they don’t know the answer to a sailing problem they work it out. They are happy to teach you how to sail and it doesn’t matter if you are a slow learner like myself, no one judges you.
In the past three and half months of coming to Sailability I have never taken anything for granted, it is like a drug which gives you highs but never the lows. The highs are meeting the volunteers, highs of meeting other disabled people, highs of seeing everyone and the calming effect the lake and its surrounding have on me is so much better. I am not so angry, I have stopped attacking things at home. I still get down but never at Sailability and never to the levels I used to reach. Wealden Sailability has helped reduce my depression, reduce my anger issues and even given me a truly wonderful social life. I can never thank Wealden Volunteers enough, they are all just fantastic.
Before I found Sailability, I was lost, not in the literally sense, I felt I had so little going for me. I was always fed up and constantly thinking, if only I could have done this or that. This type of thinking made me very miserable and depressed for large periods of time and I would find myself moaning at the people who I love the most. I have met many people with similar or worse disabilities who have learnt to deal with it. They get on and live their lives to the full, and I have finally started to let go of my problems and start looking forward rather than constantly looking back. I have to be honest,at last I feel I have a handle on my life and I can direct it the way I want it to go. Sailability has helped me so much, other family members have commented on how much better I seem to them since joining Sailability.
If you are disabled and want to get out or looking for a hobby, want a smile on your face, then come along to Wealden Sailability.
PETER WAGNER – Sailor
My name is Peter Wagner. I am nineteen years old and have cerebral palsy which affects my fine and gross motor skills. I am unable to walk unaided and use a wheelchair to get around. I am currently an undergraduate student of Brighton University, studying for a Degree in computer games development and have helped in the production of this website for Wealden Sailability.
In 2009 my parents having spoken to Brian Stanley of Wealden Sailability, asked me if I would like to learn how to sail. I must admit that to begin with, I thought that I would not be able to sail a boat due to my disability, but I was prepared to give it a go.
When my father and I arrived at Sailability for the fist time in April 2009, we were met by Brian Stanley and Bob McCormick, two great people who have put a lot of time and effort into running Sailability. They introduced us to all the other instructors and volunteers as well as the group from Pepenbury. Everyone was very friendly and I started to relax and look forward to the opportunity of getting onto the water.
On my first day as I had never been in a sailing dinghy before, I went out on the water in an Access 303 with an instructor called Meg. She is a great character with a great deal of sailing experience and a marvellous sense of humour. I had a great time and when we came in for lunch had learnt a considerable amount about how a boat sails. We went out again after lunch and by the end of the day I was very keen to take up sailing as a hobby.
Over the next three weeks I went out on the water with a number of the other instructors all of whom were keen to pass on their knowledge and experience. On my fifth visit to Sailability I was allowed to sail solo in an Access. I was thrilled and felt perfectly safe as the safety boat was close by just in case I needed some help.
“P” – Sailor
For me, sailing has been an amazing experience and I would recommend to anyone to participate whether it is for therapeutic purpose or just for fun. I have gained many skills from doing sailing, the obvious one learning the ropes and being able to sail a boat, but I have also been able to improve my confidence when meeting new people. I’ve met some very inspirational people whilst doing sailing, who have taught me some valuable life lessons. Another thing that I’ve found beneficial whilst taking part in sailing is team building with the staff and patients at Cygnet. We have had to learn to trust each other and sailing is just a nice, fun thing to do together.
I am extremely grateful to the volunteers at the sailing club that enable so many people to take part in a sport which is great fun and has so many positives. I would urge anyone to use the sailing club to their full advantage as you will find it very rewarding and fulfilling to do.
P, age 17.
Cygnet Hospital Godden Green
Michael – Sailor
Sailing was fun, challenging and gave me a positive outlook during a difficult time. I found something I could enjoy as a new hobby. It was a way of making new friends and enjoying fresh air. I enjoyed the experience and it was one of the best things I’ve done.
Cygnet Hospital Godden Green
Nash College – Sailors
Three Cheers for Wealden Sailability
Nash College offer a range of courses for young adults 19 – 23 years and a new day course for adult 23 years and beyond. Our College were very excited 2 years ago when we discovered Wealden Sailing for the disabled.
We have just completed our second sailing season with a wide variety of students attending; from students with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties to Students with Autism.
Three groups of students have attended for the whole year and showed progress in many areas of learning. Wealden Sailability also very kindly supported a group of new students from Nash in an additional sailing event, our Learner Voice Day, a taster day for students who have never sailed before and needed a taster to see if they would like this to be an activity that may be available to them on their College timetable.
Wow! what a successful day we had. The sun was shining the wind was ideal making sailing conditions perfect. The volunteers at Wealden Sailability were amazing and really pushed the boat out every time!!!
There were a total of thirteen students attending on the day, three sailed in the morning then exchanged with another three students in the afternoon. All day students managed to fit in two sailing sessions in the day. All students spent time waiting for their turn in a positive and appropriate manner as they shared the centre with other community users.
Some students chose to relax and enjoy the sensory experience and environment by a beautiful lake in a countryside setting with friends.
Other students sailed in a Martin boat with a sailing instructor; all held their heads up high and made the most of the wind in their hair and the breeze on their faces loving every minute. Some sailed a two-seater access boat with a sailing instructor, at times involved in steering the boat via a joystick and pulling ropes to help control the sails, clearly loved every minute wanting ‘more’.
The final group of students shared a Stratos boat with a 1-1 support worker and two sailing instructors. They joined in with handling sailing equipment, moving within the small area of the boat to sail, and thrived on the exciting yet calm surrounding, sitting into the boat and seated comfortably on a bean bag. They reaped the whole sailing experience with the sun on their face, the wind in their hair, and the calm sensation of bubbling rushing water passing by; a whole sensory delight.
Nash College would like to thank the volunteers at Wealden Sailability for their dedicated time, recognition of individual student needs and sensitivity to student needs.
The College and students look forward to another exciting sailing season on our return to college in September.
Testimonials from Volunteers
BRIAN McCORMICK – Volunteer
I Joined Wealden Sailability at the outset some three seasons ago now. Since then I have seen it grow from strength to strength now owning its own specially adapted boats for the disabled, a specially made pontoon extension and a crane/hoist to get wheel chair customers in and out of the boats.
Since the beginning, the number of helpers have increased considerably. It has been bit by bit but what has happened is, the volunteers have come to really enjoy their Tuesday at the club and have come to realise what fantastic difference we make to the lives of the disabled/disadvantaged and indeed have built a wonderful rapport with them.
Not only have we built this rapport with our customers, but we are now enjoying a fantastic friendship and camaraderie amongst ourselves and I can honestly say, I really feel I have made some wonderful friends.
This may well sound a bit cheesy but when the season finishes we all feel as if a little bit of us had died.
I know I speak for everyone when I say, “can’t wait for the forthcoming season.”
If when you read this and feel you would like to help make a difference, do come along and give us a look, remember most of you enjoy good fortune and most importantly good health; there are many out there who are not as fortunate. We do make a difference, so give it a go.
JIM McEWEN – Volunteer
I have really enjoyed being a sailing instructor with Sailability. It is very satisfying to welcome new people to a completely new and inspiring environment for them of wind and waves and to see what enormous enjoyment they get from being on the water with the opportunity to learn new skills alongside others. Sailing can be totally mind absorbing enabling you to forget your landbased life and relax during a day out on a lovely stretch of water.
PETER COULCHER – Volunteer
I have been a volunteer with Sail- a- bility for over a year, and cannot think of a better way of spending a Tuesday. The pleasure that our clients get from coming is fantastic and this is portrayed by the smiles on their faces. It is amazing to see some of them sail solo in only a few weeks. The volunteers are a great bunch of enthusiastic like minded people who want to share the joys and fun of sailing with anyone.
Testimonials from Others
ROGER GIBSON (CEO PEPENBURY)
Promoting active lives for people with learning disabilities is central to the work of Pepenbury. Our involvement with Sailability has been exhilarating for many of the people we support, providing experiences beyond their dreams and opening up new horizons for the future. It will continue to be a firm favourite for a long time to come. Many thanks to Wealden Sailability for all they do.
Roger Gibson, CEO, Pepenbury.
PAUL PANTON (KENT DISABILITY SPORT DEVELOPMENT OFFICER)
Kent Sport Leisure and Olympics Service have been delighted to work with Wealden Sailability. We have seen the growth of the project since early development and the outstanding dedication of its volunteers to provide opportunities for people of all abilities to experience and take up the sport of Sailing.
The project is one of the County’s leading providers for disabled people and continues to go from strength to strength, providing a model of good practice for others to follow.
Paul Panton, Kent Disability Sport Development Officer.
ALEX KING – Deputy Leader, Kent County Council.
Wealden Sailability is very much about people who enjoy the pleasure and excitement of sailing, devoting energy and effort to give disabled people the opportunity to enjoy the water which they would not be able to do without this excellent facility. The energy and effort that goes into making this a real experience deserves serious recognition and support.
Alex King, Deputy Leader, Kent County Council.
David Heard – Chief Executive, Sportability
Sportability works with many Sailability groups around the country and we always find a very warm welcome and a supportive approach for our people. Wealden Sailability is no exception to that. Bob Mac Cormick and “his crew” have now welcomed Sportability groups on two occasions and we are planning more through the summer. Their enthusiasm and willingness to get even the most tentative rookie out and enjoying this sport, not only makes for a fun event but actually changes lives!
Under the guidance of the Wealden volunteers we regularly see people ‘graduate’ from accompanied instruction to solo sailing in the course of a day. The self-confidence, sense of achievement, the sheer joy that this brings cannot be underestimated.
This chimes exactly with our ethos of ‘taking the dis out of disability’.
David Heard, Chief Executive, Sportability
Richard Oldfield – Vice Lord Lieutenant of Kent.
(Presented Queens Award for Voluntary Services – 17th Sept 2015)
It was a great pleasure to come to give the Award. I was so impressed by everything you do at Chipstead and enjoyed the morning immensely – it was so clear that all there enjoy themselves.
Douglas Horner – Deputy Lieutenant of Kent
(Queens Award for Voluntary Services – 17th Sept 2015)
The Award has been earned by you, your volunteer team, the clients and their carers. What was splendidly clear from the day was the whole team’s spirit. The Award was absolutely justified. Well done!
I think that this was quite the best Award occasion, and well done for that, too.