Come Sail Away, Come Sail Away, Come Sail Away With Me!

Jerry O’Dovero (Quadriplegic, Paraplegic, Disabled)

Last Sunday I went sailing with my friends Jackie and Kip. Kip has been sailing for most of his life where as it was Jackie’s first time. On the (I think) 28′ Catalina were Jackie and Kip, Christina and Alex. Since Christina and I are disabled, Alex was the skipper (captain) and Jackie and Kip were the crew. Kip has been sailing forever (his brother owns a 32′ Catalina), so he understood the skipper. But Jackie was amazing. She was pulling ropes and cranking the grinders or what ever they are. Unlike motorized boats, sailboats are free of cost to operate. That is once you leave the harbor. They have a motor to safely move about in the harbor when you’re near other boats, some costing $100,000’s. But free does come with a price, you have to operate the sails. I haven’t been around boating people too often, but like skiers and campers they’re some of the nicest people. Christina was telling me they have a smaller boat called a dinghy. It’s completely set up for the disabled to sail (alone). Christina, who has sailed the dinghy alone is confident I could sail it alone as well. I have no desire to sail alone, but it feels good when people believe in you.

Sunday’s keelboat as its called usually leaves at noon out of the South Beach Marina. But this summer they are having the America’s Cup races here in the San Francisco Bay, so we left a little earlier. It’s funny, but probably no one outside the sailing world would know of the America’s Cup if it wasn’t for ¬†the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) loosing the Cup in 1983. The America’s cup was started in 1851 in England. But the first winner was the America schooner¬†America. So for some reason they starting calling the America’s Cup. It might have something to do with the fact that the NYYC never lost a race for the America’s Cup until 1983. The skipper defending the America’s cup for the NYYC was Dennis Conner. I actually remember when he lost the cup, because it was the first time it ever happened. The Australian’s won it. 4 years later Dennis Conner won it back.

Since then they’ve been tweaking with the rules for the boats ever since. This year they’re racing catamarans. They’re so fast they are dangerous. One man has died this year in the bay when their boat flipped. When were were out Sunday, the race was going on. At one point our boat was less than 100 yards from Italy’s racing Catamaran when it circled the buoy. Then it was gone. I bet there were 100’s of boats out in the San Francisco bay last Sunday.

After a couple of hours circling up and down the bay so we could get a glimps of the America’s Cup boats, we sailed to Angel Island. From our boat, we could see an army garrison that was built during the time of the civil war. In the early 1900’s the island was an immigration station, much like Ellis Island in New York. The island now is an historic land mark. Sailing on the bay can be quite chilly, so sailing along side the island gives you a break from the cold wind in the middle of the bay.

If someone with a sailboat asks you if you want to go sailing in the San Francisco bay and you turn them down you are an idiot. It’s exciting and fast sailing when you’re flying with the wind and your jib sail is full of wind. The bay is constantly windy, so you get the fun of tacking back and forth. they are usually dozens to hundreds of boats of all shapes and sizes there to admire. And you often have to get out of the way of the huge ocean going cargo ships, but don’t worry, you can see them coming for a long ways off. you have plenty of time to sail out of harms way.

Oh, before I forget, bring a jacket and sunblock. it get COLD and the sun reflects off the water.

Now I went sailing on a sail boat owned by a non-profit organization called Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors (BAADS). They’re web site is I joined as a member earlier this summer. It’s a wonderful organization and as most if not all non-profits, they operate from donations. if you want to donate to a wonderful organization that helps me and others enjoy sailing, their website has a link for it.

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