Newly donated equipment and cutting-edge programming allows physically challenged sailing enthusiasts to enjoy boating on the water.
For many years, individuals with physical limitations who have a love of the water or who longed to try sailing, were forced to sit on the sidelines and watch while others enjoyed the freedom and exhilaration that comes with sailing the waters of Green Bay. Mike Stapleton, U.S. Sailing Certified Instructor and founder of SailAnyWay, Inc. felt compelled to get those would-be sailors out on the water …solo.
In 2011, Mike formed a non-profit sailing school named SailAnyWay, Inc., which focuses on a program which is so effective it can even get quadriplegics sailing on their own. The program uses the Access Liberty, a rare type of sailboat that is capable of accommodating people with physical disabilities. Three of these boats were purchased from an accessible sailing program in Canada and are being used for the new operation here in Door County. SailAnyWay’s boats are specially designed to resist capsizing and outfitted with steering mechanisms which allow those with physical limitations to guide the vessels on their own.
The Access Liberty is a trailerable dinghy specifically built for accessible sailing. The boat is 12 long’, weighs 160#, has a 160# keel, a furling main and self-tacking jib. The boat is ideal for the sailing conditions in Door County and is an international one-design eligible to compete in regattas all over the world.
“We’ve witnessed some amazing feats,” says Stapleton. “One quadriplegic sailor was limited to the function of only one pinkie. He steered the boat with an electronic joystick that allowed him to steer and trim the sails with that one finger. Another participant was legally blind, and yes, she sailed solo with the aid of radio communication. The word cannot has been removed from our dictionary!”
In order for many of these sailing participants to actually enter their boats, some modifications needed to be made at the Marina. First, Mike Cole, owner of Iron Works Construction in Baileys Harbor was contacted to install several sleeves underneath the decking to support a lift which aids in getting sailors in and out of their boats. Cole also donated his services to fabricate one of the actual lift mechanisms.
“I’m impressed with Mike Stapleton’s passion and the time he has put into this project,” says Cole. “It gave me great satisfaction to help make Egg Harbor’s beautiful Marina accessible to sailors with limited mobility.”
Egg Harbor Marina Manager, Nicole Krauel, has been busy training her staff on how to use the new lift.
“We’ve seen the need for this project and understand the value of Mike’s programming – now we have the facility to make it happen.” says Krauel. “Our team is very excited to offer these opportunities to make our marina accessible to all!”
For additional information on this marina project, contact Egg Harbor Village Administrator Joshua Van Lieshout at 920.868.3334. To learn more about sailing classes for the physically challenged or to volunteer during the sailing sessions, visit www.SailAnyWay.org.