Avowed man-about-town and dedicated socialite Mik Scarlet was surprised to find that he was thoroughly at home at the helm of a two-person yacht skimming across the water.
In my life I have had the good fortune to try some amazing things. I have flown a hang glider and abseiled down a 17-storey building, despite being really afraid of heights, been scuba diving and skiing but something that has always appealed to be is boating. Oh yes, a life on waves is something I have fancied trying for years, so when a chance came up on a recent trip to Norfolk I jumped at it.
During a work trip to the area I paid a visit to the Nancy Oldfield Trust, based in the heart of North Norfolk, and discovered that they had just taken delivery of a new accessible sailing yacht, one which I was offered a chance to sail. I was soon on a small motor boat being taken out to a pontoon where I was hoisted into the two-man yacht, and with instructor Stephen by my side, I was suddenly sailing on Barton Broad. Within minutes Stephen was informing me I seemed like a natural and saying he was amazed to find I had never sailed before.
It was such a rush, as the small boat shot across the water surrounded by beautiful landscape. The sense of freedom caught me by surprise and I was struck by the confidence that being in control of such a yacht gave me. The speed was something I was not ready for, and as the boat banked, allowing water to lap into it, I was a little worried. Stephen told me this was fine, a sign of just how fast we were going. Tacking one way and then the other, I found myself flooded with adrenaline and excitement.
Far too soon my experience was over but I was hooked and am going back very soon. The trust provides sailing, motor boat trips and canoeing for people of all abilities, and has a 10-bed fully accessible self-catering bungalow if you want to stay near the action. But what’s available in other parts of the country?
Where to go sailing
To be honest if you are disabled and fancy giving sailing a go you are spoilt for choice. One place to start is RYA Sailability. They run training courses and clubs all over the UK, and offer the chance to go both sailing and motor boating. They also run competitions and if you are really blessed with boating skills they are the force behind our Paralympic sailing team.
Down in the South East of the UK, we have the Disabled Sailing Association who allow disabled sailors the joys of sailing on the sea on crewed yachts.
Just along the coast to the west in Hampshire there is the Disabled Sailors Association who also offer larger yachts as well as smaller yachts and dinghies.
In Rickmansworth Sailing for People with Disabilities is a voluntary organisation that has specially adapted boats on offer, with the promise “You want to sail – let’s work out how you can do it safely!”
Another place to try is Sailing For All that has all manner of boats available for all abilities.
The Gwennili Trust gives you the chance to try everything from cruising to yachting, and runs training sessions.
On the Isle of Man there is Sailing For The Disabled and to be honest I could spend the rest of this article just writing a massive list of places all over the country that offers disabled people the chance to sail.
If you fancy hitting the high seas and sailing on a tall ship, the Jubilee Sailing Trust gives you the chance to join a working crew on giant rigged ships that sail to exotic destinations.
Sailing might not be for everyone but if you do find the idea appealing trust me, if you try it you’ll love it. I know I did. I might even see you out on the water.