“We began the adaptive sailing program about two years ago at the request of the late Roger Jones, who started the sailing club eight years ago,” said Joe Bohl, adaptive programs coordinator. “Eric Roberts and I work with various organizations like Easter Seals, Reno rec and Sparks rec centers to put together these adaptive sailing days.”
SNCS has four Australian-designed Access dinghies specially made for disabled persons. Because of their unique design and heavy centerboard, they can heel over but they cannot tip over. This year, SNCS plans to install a hoist on its dock at the Sparks Marina to assist in loading and unloading folks who need mechanical assistance with transfers.
Bohl and Roberts are no strangers to adapting themselves. Roberts recently had surgery on his hands but will be sailing again in the future. Bohl broke his back while skydiving in 1987, but has refused to let the accident encroach on his active lifestyle.
“Some guys get hurt and spend 10 years drinking or doing drugs and feeling sorry for themselves,” Bohl said. “I can be a grouchy guy at times, but I know I am better off than most who have free-fallen between 50 and 100 feet. Really, I shouldn’t be alive.”
On mornings when he’s not sailing, Bohl can be seen riding his hand cycle around the Marina.
“Joe and the other volunteers that teach these programs are great,” said Bob Harmon, Washoe county parks and senior services spokesperson. “My 12-year old daughter recently learned how to sail from some of these guys and now she can’t get enough.”
Harmon said he has enjoyed sailing since he was young and has had peripheral involvement with SNCS for years.
“Sailing gives a person a certain kind of exhilarating feeling,” Harmon said. “You become one with the elements … and there’s no reason people with disabilities shouldn’t enjoy that sensation.”
SNCS is a volunteer-based, non-profit group. The club states that its purpose is to teach water safety and boating skills to people of all ages and physical abilities in northern Nevada. Information about sailing programs, volunteerism and donations can be found on their Web site www.nvsailing.org.
The next adaptive sailing day is Aug. 4, with two additional dates on Aug. 15 and Sept. 12. There is a free sailing day open to the general public on Aug. 9.