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post #1 of 7 Old 09-20-2006 Thread Starter
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Question cruising with disabled child

My husband and I have a 7 year old little guy whose severely disabled. He cannot talk or walk and has very little control over his movements. He's happy and healthy otherwise, but needs constant care. We've recently started sailing and we desperately want to take him with us. We have a small trailer sailer right now, (22ft Spirit...very sim to Catalina 22). We've taken him a few times on quiet days. He wears a life jacket (obviously) and we lie him in a berth that's protected on both sides, like a crib with bumpers. He rolls a little when we heel , but seems to love it! The trouble is we are new sailors and we are exceptionally nervous about taking him out on the boat with us. We've heeled "FreeSpirit" over pretty far and we know that it would take a lot to capsize her, but it still scares us. What if we capsized the boat, it would be a nightmare of unknown proportions for us. So, therefore, we rarely take Brenden out with us and if we do, it's only for a short time and on calm days..usually when we're motoring! .

Recently, however, we have been considering buying a bigger boat. We are looking at a Cal 34 right now and it has lots of room and wonderful places we could make a "padded crib berth" for our son. We're still agonizing over if we really should consider taking him on weekend trips, though. We are both very careful sailors, and we're going to be sailing in the relatively protected waters of Northern Lake Huron...Straits of Mackinaw area. But still, we wonder if anyone else out there sails with a severely disabled child or even an adult? Any tips or recommendations? Are we completely out of our minds to even consider cruising with this child? He weighs about 55 lbs now and certainly cannot swim. But we are just going nuts wanting to SAIL. We do have some family who watch him frequently for us..but we hate imposing as often as we want to sail. Any input would be greatly appreciated!
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post #2 of 7 Old 09-21-2006
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Hmm. I tried to post a reply with a link some time ago but I must have done something wrong. Essentially I suggested that if you are worried about the possibility of your little guy ending up in the water, you could put him in an exposure suit which are made in sizes small enough for him.

It is truly unlikely that your current boat will ever capsize and virtually impossible that the cal34 in your waters, short of the loss of keel could ever capsize. So the big challenge is to keep him on the boat (harness and lanyard) and ensure that if he went in he would be warm and safe until you get him out (exposure suit) . www.stearnsinc.com is a manufacturer of child sized exposure suits that self right(face up) I have worn them and they are quite comfy and warm in the water and out. A bit of a task requiring help to get them on and off but with the two of you not so bad.

I have never hesitated to take my non-swimming little niece and nephew sailing in my hughes 25. Life jackets and stay in the cockpit while underway. My sister worries but I know they are safer than when we walk city streets to the park.

Good luck! Post a pic of smiling eyes once he feels the wind on his face!
(Just occured to me that there are disabled sailing orgs on the web...I'll have a look for you)
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post #3 of 7 Old 09-21-2006
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I say if the little man loves it, just take the proper precautions and let him enjoy the brine !

I am sure that you can figure something out to enjoy your passion and your family at the same time. Sounds to me like you are on the right track.

All the best!


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post #4 of 7 Old 09-21-2006
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Try some of these: http://www.boatus.com/links/disabledlinks.asp

Kudos to you for helping the little guy do something offbeat! I'm sure you get some skeptical looks from the naysayers.

Harness & jackline and immersion suit are good ideas. Also, practice overboard drills - first trying to retrieve something expendable (like a piece of bread) then a floating cushion or spare PFD. Getting to the MOB is only half the battle; getting them back onboard a larger boat is another challenge - investigate a Lifesling too.
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post #5 of 7 Old 09-21-2006
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There is an organization in Chicago that take disabled children and adults sailing. I donate to them every time I go to the strictly sail show in ?Chicago. I don't have the information here at work but I am sure I have it home. I will look it up and post tomorrow. I know they will be able to help you protect your little one and still enjoy our sport.

John
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post #6 of 7 Old 09-21-2006
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I goggled it Burnham Park Harbor Sailing Center
Burnham Harbor (one block West of Planetarium)

1362 S. Lynn White Drive

Chicago, IL 60605-2470
Map
For reservations and more information call (312) 747-7684.

They actually teach the disabled to sail and have special boats. I know that is not what your looking for but I am sure they have special things and knowledge that will help you.

John
see below.
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post #7 of 7 Old 09-21-2006
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Might be worth looking at multihulls, as they do sail a lot flatter than monohulls. I have a friend who is disabled and they sail on my tri all the time.

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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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