Sailing News

disAbled SailOR

disAbled Sailing of Oregon
The strength of Lane County's sailing community (especially the Eugene Yacht Club and the Sea Scouts), and its wonderful aquatic environment sparked the founding of disAbled Sailing of Oregon two years ago. In partnership with the City of Eugene's Specialized Recreation Program we offered solo and accompanied sailing experiences and lessons out of EYC in 95 and Orchard Point Marina last year. We also offered sailing experiences at Haigg Lake for the kids from Portlands Shriner's Hospital and conducted a three day program on Seattle's Lake Washington as part of the 1996 Veterans Wheelsailing.gifchair Games. Our programs have received tremendous response from the press and participants.  However, due to budgetary constraints forced by the passage of Measure 47, the City of Eugene has decided to discontinue support of the disabled sailing program and Waterfest, the annual water festival for the disabled. Regardless of any future actions by our legislative bodies the decision about these two aquatic programs has been made. Ouch! Oregon's disabled community NEEDS these aquatic activities.

Sailing is not just a luxury as some might think. For many disabled people it is the only chance they will ever have at experiencing wilderness. A wheelchair user may never have an opportunity to access the solitude of the Three Sisters Wilderness, but within 30 minutes from downtown Eugene the disabled can experience the awe inspiring power of nature at Fernridge reservoir! Sailing teaches crises management skills, builds confidence and fosters independence. For many Waterfest participants, there is a notable increase in self-esteem and confidence when they find themselves on the water along with other sailors. Participation in this healthy activity is often a catalyst for other positive improvements in the quality of life.
We had hoped to continue the sailing program out of Orchard Point Marina in 1997. For two years the City of Eugene provided the moorage fees and salaries for the disabled sailing program's instructors. Because of the City's decision to discontinue support we are forced to look at ways to cover those expenses ourselves and to maintain services with an all volunteer staff. WWS's disAbled Sailing of Oregon program will try to fill some of the gaps in empowering outdoor activities for the disabled this summer. In the meantime you can help us by letting your elected officials know how valuable the services provided by Sue Harnley and the staff at the Hilyard Center are to our community. You can also help us by donating funds, goods or services to World Wheelchair Sport so that we may continue to provide exceptional service to you and your neighbors.

We are raising funds to purchase the used 15 ft Sunbird sloop so graciously loaned to us by the Disabled Sailing Association in Vancouver, B.C. We also hope to purchase a Martin 16 (see article) and to modify the 21 foot sloop we have use of which is owned by the Boy Scouts. The Scout's boat should be sailable by a crew of two paraplegics after a few more modifications are made.


  • Jiffy reef system (for safety in high winds)
  • Long shaft electric motor (55lbs of thrust, 2 batteries, & remote control motor lift)
  • Roller furler for jib
  • Lazy jacks system for main sail
  • Rigid boom vang * Oval handled tiller extension (for quad sailors)
  • Sail covers & sail bags
  • Various cam cleats deck organizers & 2 small winches
  • Lift - to get sailors in and out of boats
  • Battery operated bilge pump
  • Funds for a new Martin 16 (disabled instructor could teach from this boat)
  • Funds for used Sunbird (( sailable by one quadriplegic with able bodied instructor)


There are many features that make the Martin 16 sailboat ideal for a disabled sailing program. Many other boats were carefully examined before this boat was chosen as our top choice for the program. As observed in a recent SAIL magazine article, design improvements have made the boat exceptionally well  suited to persons with disabilities:

It is designed to be sailed by one person from a seated forward position, with all controls easily accessible from this position . Unlike the older Sunbird,  there is seating for an instructor or companion if necessary. In fact, Coach  Hansen or another quad sailor could teach with this boat . Its joystick steering device and one  sheet sail control allows people with severe disabilities and very limited hand function to sail independently . A 300 pound lead bulb attached to the keel makes it impossible to capsize - a feature which is essential for any sailor with a severe mobility impairment . It is a dry ride (unlike the Sunbird) due to a high freeboard and special spray damping deck flange. It is unsinkable because of multiple buoyancy compartments addition of a breath operated, sip and puff, control makes the boat sailable by persons with severe disabilities. A high level quadriplegic like Christopher Reeve can sail independently using a sip and puff control to activate the automated sheets, rudder and bilge pump on the sailboat.