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Heart of Sailing – Bellingham
Heart of Sailing provides a free nautical adventure to families and groups of special needs children and adults. A well planned sailing adventure with a team prepared to work with individuals with autism and other disabilities provides a unique setting in which multiple therapeutic modalities are addressed and employed simultaneously. Disguised as a family trip on a boat, the therapeutic nature of the sojourn is less obviously “work” to the participants and more obviously a happy occasion to be enjoyed by the entire family and crew. The experience of sailing is not limited to the physical, although for many participants, it is their first opportunity to enjoy the unique sensations associated with sailing: the feel of the wind, the movement of the waves, the sounds as the boat moves through the water, all of which are stimulating and exhilarating. Participants typically range in age from 3-90 (although exceptions are made), and must be accompanied by a parent or caregiver. Participants are fitted with U.S. Coast Guard approved lifejackets and board the sailboats for the simple and basic lessons on boating safety and sailing. Upon departing the dock, the children learn more about the parts and function of a sailboat and are encouraged to participate as crewmembers. While aboard, the children have the opportunity (based upon their abilities) to help hoist and trim the sails, learning the basics of how wind propels the sailboat. Each child has the opportunity to take the helm and pilot the boat, which provides them with a greater understanding of the principles of sailing. While sailing is relaxing and enjoyable, by focusing on incorporating all aspects of the experience – motor-skills, socialization, abstract thought, sensory stimulation, and confidence building; Heart of Sailing is able to maximize the therapeutic benefits of this form of recreation.