The Joy of Sailing
The definition of Joy is 'a feeling of great pleasure and happiness’. This is exactly the feeling I experience whilst I am sailing.
Everybody can see who I am when I am sailing... Hannah! Look beyond the disability, crack open the shell and here I am.
Sailing provokes a feeling of thrill. Every person needs to experience an adrenaline rush and the feeling of being alive; I highly recommend you find something that gives you this excitement!
The reason sailing gives me such a joyful feeling is that I become free of my disability and all its restrictions, leaving my wheelchair behind, and therefore being on equal terms with all the other sailors on the water, whether they are able bodied or disabled sailors. Some of you may be familiar with the book 'on equal terms'.
I experience a great joy in sailing when endeavouring to overcome challenges, whether physical, mental, social or emotional. I love that I am pushed to the very limits of what my disability will allow me to do. I love pushing boundaries and breaking down barriers, whether sailing at competitive level or sailing for pleasure.
Myself and the other sailors I work with within the sailing community are all learning from each other on a very steep but thoroughly enjoyable learning curve. I broaden their experiences and they broaden mine. We all enhance each other’s lives.
Sailing gives me something to strive for. I have gained friends within the sailing community. Each and every person whether disabled or able bodied needs to feel that they belong, and are a valued part of society. Everybody has something to give, they just need to be given that opportunity, and when they get it be sure to grab it with both hands!
Open your eyes and your mind and think outside the box. I love what I do and am very privileged to do it.
What Bolton Sailability means to me
I have been a sailor at Bolton Sailability group for approximately 4 years. During that time I have made many amazing friends, who like me are also really good sailors. About 18 months ago, an opportunity arose for me to write a blog post for the charity “Activity Alliance”, sharing my sailing story and experiences. Soon after the charity decided to make a series of short films to showcase different sports that are accessible to people with disabilities. Sailability was one of the sports they wanted to highlight, and they asked me to feature in the film. I was more than happy to oblige! Anything I could do to help to promote this wonderful sport, that ultimately saved my life.
I worked with a local film production company “Viva la Zoom” for several weeks to create the video. We recorded a lot of sailing footage, which was hilarious between the rain and strong winds! They also interviewed me, where I told them my back story. I explained how Sailing has enabled me overcome depression, and give my life meaning and purpose. Viva la Zoom where genuinely touched by my story, and the producer actually said “Hannah, we could make a film about you and your journey”. I thought it was just a passing comment, however several months later they offered to work with me and create a short documentary about me and my life since I started sailing! Of course I said yes - and that is how I ended up on the big screen!
I absolutely loved everything about the film making process, from start to finish. It was great because I could showcase how far I have come on my sailing journey. In particular it was a very special moment when they captured me sailing solo using the servo device, as this is the only time I can truly be independent! I feel like this was very powerful, and I hope that it can show others that you can disprove the stereotypes that surround disability.
I can’t express how wonderful the Sailability community is. From the volunteers who have tremendous patience and willingness for us to enjoy but also progress in our sailing, to the amazing members who despite having their own challenging circumstances, turn up every week to be a part of this amazing sport. We each have our own journey that has led us to Bolton Sailability, but we each have the same passion and love for Sailing. Even though quite a few of us at the club now sail competitively, we always show good sportsmanship.
The friendships I have made have grown bigger than the Sailability group, and we now often meet up to participate in other sports such as climbing, fast car driving and next on the list is skiing, as well as the occasional social meet up at the pub!
Being a part of Sailability is “more than sailing”, it is about being a part of something much bigger.
Letting my dreams set sail
Transportation to a beautiful place on a beautiful vessel.
Sunny breeze blowing gently on my face.
Waiting, waiting to get into the small vessel, that is my sailing boat.
My unique mode of transport, offering me freedom,
and with a thrilling adrenaline rush that I can’t get elsewhere.
The chance to go on an adventure, travel on a journey.
The chance to free my thoughts and clear my mind of all that is unnecessary,
at least whilst being on the water anyway.
Even if only for a short time.
Sailing gives me the opportunity to find peace within myself.
Healing over, rocking from side to side in my little boat, the wind blowing round her sails,
over my face and through my hair.
Water lapping over the side. The feeling is incomparable,
it’s a far cry from the restrictions of my disability.
It’s the stuff dreams are made of.
Sailing, sailing with the wind surging forward through the water.
Having the wind in my sails is just the most beautiful feeling.
My weekly sail allowing me to see life with fresh eyes and more energy.
- Hannah Shelmerdine -
Video Production: Viva La Zoom