Sailing is a great way to get active, support your mental health and connect with people. Whether you’re seeking an adventure or a tranquil cruise, there are many sailing initiatives around the UK offering disabled and able-bodied people the chance to enjoy the freedom of the open water together.
Pete and Stephanie Nash started sailing after Pete had a bleed in his brain in 2005. “Pete was very active but that all changed overnight,” says Stephanie. “His therapists helped him to walk and talk again, but his mobility is limited, so we started looking for new things to do together.”
The couple got in contact with the Gwennili Sailing Trust. “We partner with other organisations on the south coast of England to run day-sailing, cruising and race programmes for individuals, families and organisations,” says Skipper, John Douglas. “We’re completely volunteer-based meaning we keep it as affordable as possible.
“We often charter a 35-foot catamaran, which is fully wheelchair-accessible. People get as involved as they want. Some just want to relax or chat and enjoy the experience. Others are quite active in sailing, so they'll help with slipping lines, helming the boat, adjusting the sails, keeping watch, and we give them some informal teaching at the same time.”
“The social scene is good,” explains Pete. “There's always a group. It's fun and keeps me active.” It’s benefited Stephanie as a carer too. “It’s changed my life,” she says. “I trained to be a skipper and now organise all the day sails for Gwennili. I love bringing people out on the water. They open up when they realise there's something else out there they can do. Everyone goes away with a smile.”
Stephanie and Pete recommended the experience to fellow stroke survivors Thelma Keleher and Judy Brinkman. “I attend the Stroke Association’s New Milton Group with Pete,” says Thelma. “When he suggested I come sailing, I said ‘Yes, please!’ It’s just wonderful. The boat is easy to get around. I get to talk to others, which helps my aphasia, and even have a go at helping on-board if I want.” Judy agrees. “This was my third trip and it was lovely. I enjoy everything about it. I love my experiences on the high seas!”
Find out more
Visit our hobbies and leisure activities after stroke page for advice and tips.
For more information, visit Gwennili Trust’s website. They’re part of the Royal Yacht Association’s (RYA) Sailability programme, which supports and encourages people with disabilities to take up sailing. You can find opportunities near you by visiting the RYA’s Sailability programme page.