Sunday, May 22, 2011

Set Sail in Boston!

I paid a visit to Community Boating in Boston on a gray day recently, to check out their brand new dock and catch a glimpse of their Universal Access Program in action. Wow! The new dock is fabulous - broad, spacious, clean, with a comfortable (and to code) grade from the boathouse to the boats. Most amazing of all, there is a designated slip for the adaptive sailboats. New dock, new program, same great price!

Community Boating (CBI) has the ideal location for learning to sail in Boston, right on the Esplanade and the Charles River, where the tide and commercial traffic pose no issue. Kids and people with disabilities are a high priority for this sailing organization now in its 8th decade of operation. So is affordability - membership dues are still $1 for the season - though of course donations are always welcome!

The Universal Access Program makes use of modified Mercury and Sonar boats to accommodate sailors with disabilities, although many use other small sailboats on site and move beyond both the program and the Charles to earn various sailing certifications and sail in Boston Harbor. Community Boating has both a wheelchair on site and a Hoyer lift.

Marcin Kunicki and Paul Bottom lead the program with great enthusiasm and support from numerous volunteers. They shared stories with me of exciting moments and accomplishments of sailors with autism spectrum disorders, learning and communication disorders and visual impairments before we greeted their only appointment of the day, a young man who is physically passive and in a wheelchair. His mother and nurse were not daunted by gray skies, cool temperatures and the possibility of rain. They were thrilled to be back for their second sailing experience. I'm sure, as with so many new sailors who have started with CBI in the past few years, they will become regulars.

Adaptive sailing runs seven days a week through October 2 at CBI. Summer hours start May 23: Monday - Friday: 10am-5pm, Weekends: 10am-3pm. To get started, call CBI at 617-523-1038.

There are two other sailing organizations in Boston that offer adaptive sailing. Piers Park Sailing and Courageous Sailing Center both operate using Boston Harbor. At Piers Park in E. Boston, you can also learn to sail and train for the Paralympics. At Courageous Sailing in Charlestown, cruising and racing mid-sized boats is a primary focus of their harbor program.

If you are interested in the history of adaptive sailing and competition, check out the 3rd annual Robie Pierce Regatta taking place this weekend in Long Island Sound.

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