After more than two years of planning and fundraising, the Disabled Sailing Association has set sail, giving those with limited physical abilities to opportunity to experience the job of the open sea.
Nanthini “Nina” Dooha, who was left a quadriplegic after a car accident five years ago, was one of the sailors aboard three boats that set out from Pattaya’s Ocean Marina Yacht Club March 25 as part of the “Freedom Sailing” project spearheaded by Kevin Scott and supported by the association, which began its efforts by selling hot dogs at a boat show stand in December 2015.
Initial plans called for Nina to pilot a customized SV/14 yacht by blowing into a straw or pushing a joystick with her chin. However, the boat was not ready and, instead, she joined her father and association President Peter Jacob, plus another member and others aboard a “platu”, a small racing yacht named after the small, fast fish found in the Gulf of Thailand.
Such boats are being modified for people with disabilities and proving ideal for the job. They have a stable keel and, after two or three trials, have been easily adapted to suit their new crewmembers. One is now being modified further to include the air tube and joystick controls.
Nina’s boat was accompanied by the “Nirvana”, a catamaran provided by Malcolm Canning, which carried 20 passengers and a photographer, and another platu captained by Nathan Masopust with four passengers aboard.
The group sailed for about an hour, with moderate winds providing a small challenge to the sailors, but nothing that couldn’t be handled with basic skills.
In the end, the group’s first expedition was considered a success and a precursor to more days when those who are physically or economically challenged will be able to sail Thailand’s local waters.
The volunteer effort has no formal funding, so anyone wanting to support the Freedom Sailing project can contact Scott at [email protected] or visit the project’s page on YachtsInThailand.com.