Wheelchair Accessible Yachts, Suitable Dinghies and other Equipment of Interest to Disabled Sailing

click to enlarge


Report by wheelchair user Mike Wood, who has a spinal injury at C6/7, paralysed from chest down with partial use of hands, good triceps and biceps and some lats. Dinghy sailing since 1988 and yacht sailing since 1995 Mike designs, modifies and builds yachts and dinghies for disabled people and has a sailing program that provides over 2000 sailing places a year for disabled people.

Email....       mikewood@disabledsailing.org

WEBSITE - http://www.disabledsailing.org/dsa%20web/pages/scott%20bader.html

I am biased "Verity K" was designed and built by my charity in 1995 because I, and many of my peers kept being refused by the organisations that claimed they provided for disabled people when in fact they only provided for the easy ones to help. Verity K is still giving good service, She was built to test the special equipment required, and disabled peoples reactions to proper sailing,

She is 35 feet long, has a deep, safe centre cockpit, a very strong splayed bilge Keel, full ocean-going capabilities but still has under 5 foot draught, for use rivers, canals and shallow coastal water. She has all modern equipment fitted, including, full galley, central heating, fridge, satnav, self-steering, and an extensive range of safety devices.

The most startling aspect of the design is the ease of access. There is a gangplank concealed in the hull that comes out onto the quayside to allow a section of the hull and deck to roll out. This gives wide easy access to the cockpit for anybody including wheelchair users.

The cockpit is also the subject of considerable redesign, the starboard seating has been removed and the helm is fitted to the rear cockpit wall. This gives ample space for wheelchair users to work in the safety of the cockpit and also allows access to the lift fitted in the doorway to the saloon. The lift area also has steps for able bodied .

The interior can sleep five people in three separate cabins. For comfortable and safe sailing, a minimum crew for the yacht should be one able-bodied qualified sailor and then one able-bodied person for each disabled person on board. Verity K was designed as a family sailing cruiser and remains so even with the redesign

Entry to the saloon is via a stairway, which has a wheelchair lift built into its sides. The design of the hull allows a very spacious saloon and there is space for a wheelchair to turn and use the galley, table, seating and navigation equipment. There are harness fix-points at each of these stations and throughout the yacht.  The forward cabin, is suitable for disabled persons who do not need to use a wheelchair all the time. The saloon will convert to two berths and the rear cabin is wheelchair-friendly.

The head is in the corridor to the aft cabin and is easily wheelchair-accessible with room for a wheelchair and assistant if required. It has a holding tank for a marina. There is enough space in the aft cabin to turn a wheelchair. Although the berth height is a little above wheelchair seat-height, it should cause no problems with transfers  Apart from all the normal safety equipment.

Verity K’s splayed bilge keel allows her to remain up-right if beached or grounded, this and her deck stepped mast will allow her to sail or motor in places, difficult for yachts of similar size. Below decks has been designed with wheelchairs in mind and the extra space adds to the comfort of these already superb craft.

All the controls are run back to the cockpit, and can be reached from the helm. Roller reefing on all three sails (cutter rig) minimises deck work which is a great safety factor.

There is plenty of space for a person to use a normal wheelchair on the yacht, but it is difficult to wheel about when under sail. The yacht will probably have to be bought up into the wind and motored if the necessity arises for that person to move about.

Sailing the yacht will be in the traditional manner from the cockpit. The main helm is mounted on the seating at the rear of the cockpit and there is a second steering position that can be used by an instructor to override the main helm or be used from the hatchway in really bad weather.

Apart from giving good weather protection, the centre cockpit also allows a disabled person an all round view, enabling them to be at the helm at all times. There is a clear 50-inch turning area in the cockpit with two fix points for wheelchairs, and standard seating on the port side. Self tailing winches are fitted as well as easy to read audible instruments there will be tactile surfaces for those with vision problems.

Verity K is available to any disabled person or group who has sufficient qualifications and is acceptable to the charter manager, with no restriction on where she sails, or how long the charter may be, although practical provisions for onward cruises must be made if she is not returned to her home port. There may be a fee for use of the yacht, which in certain circumstances will be waived or assisted, and a qualified Captain/crew/carer will be provided if required.