Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Shake-A-Leg Miami: Sailing for Everyone. (Travel)

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Shake-A-Leg Miami: Sailing for Everyone. (Travel)

Article excerpt

I had read about the Access Dinghies from Australia that made sailing possible for virtually anyone and even met Graeme Raynor, their "Johnny Appleseed," but seeing them in action last January was a teal thrill. Shake-A-Leg Miami now has 14 of these colorful, little boats, which can even be sailed with a joystick. Every Sunday afternoon kids of all ages, sizes and abilities converge on the facility in Coconut Grove for basic instruction and a recreational sail. What makes this program so great is that the kids are able to take to the water on their own, guiding the dinghies themselves with twins, were sailing in pairs, the older ones, single-handed. Afterward, they all pitched in to wash the dinghies and put away equipment, an integral part of the sailing experience. For some, this could be the start of a lifelong love of sailing. Shake-A-Leg has a variety of programs these youngsters can graduate to, including competitive sailing in local regattas. And there's a whole fleet of larger boats for them to grow into at this universally accessible watersports facility. At present there are eight 20-foot "Independence" sailboats designed for wheelchair users, as well as three 23-foot "Sonar" sailboats, the type most commonly used worldwide for disabled sailing competitions.

SHAKE-A-LEG'S HISTORY

If you visit the Shake-A-Leg Miami website you will amazed at the extent and inclusivess of their programs. This was not achieved overnight, of course. Harry Horgan, founder and executive director, began the original Shake-A-Leg in Newport, Rhode Island in 1982 following an accident which left him paralyzed. A lifelong sailor, he teamed up with a naval architect and yacht manufacturer to design a boat that would be universally accessible. Now known as "Independence" sailboats, these watercraft cannot sink or capsize and have two special seats, with all lines running into the cockpit. With a capacity of of six, they're also very family friendly.

In 1990 Shake-A-Leg expanded its operation to Miami, where initially it catered only to adults with physical disabilities. …

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