This year the East Anglian Sailing Trust (EAST) will celebrate 20 years of providing sailing opportunities on the River Orwell for disabled East Anglians and their carers. To deliver those opportunities, EAST owns and maintains a fleet of keelboats and two support boats. Last season, the EAST keelboats took to the water in more than 100 sessions, more than in any previous season. And this coming 21st season looks likely to be just as busy as the demand continues to grow.
EAST also provides two weekend cruises and a week-long cruise where visually impaired sailors from all over the country live aboard a yacht and get a hands-on sailing experience with convivial, communal social evenings. The yachts are privately owned and this cruising in company programme depends entirely on the generosity of their owner/skippers.
The joy that this brings to our ‘customers’ is clear from the feedback. Here are just a couple of examples.
“You know how much we appreciate you and your marvellous team of volunteers, however I just have to thank you all once again for being so accommodating and delivering another fantastic session. Do not underestimate the difference you all made to those families yesterday. The families were absolutely buzzing afterwards and want to continue to access your services.” – Email from St Elizabeth Hospice
“I am registered blind and was given the opportunity last Friday, May 20 to go for a taster sail with EAST. I love sailing, but for various reasons, have not done so for over 25 years. I was therefore delighted to have been given this opportunity and cannot thank your charity enough for arranging the day. Ian and Barbara made us so welcome and let Katy and myself steer the yacht the whole time it was under sail. I cannot thank them enough for their hospitality, for sharing their knowledge and for all the fun we shared together. It was truly a wonderful day and the weather was on our side too.
Although I’m visually impaired and have a brain tumour, I also do lots of voluntary work and care for my 90-year-old father, so it was marvellous to have a day to myself and go sailing with such a friendly group of people. I hope I can come again sometime in the future.” – Email from Graham Thompson
EAST relies totally on its volunteers both on and off the water (nobody gets paid). There’s not much sailing right now in the depths of winter, but there is still plenty of maintenance work to be done getting ready for the start of the new season. If you can sail or would like to learn, have a yacht or can help with admin, catering or maintenance and want to take part in this rewarding work, please get in touch.
The East Anglian Sailing Trust is based at EAST Waterside Community Centre at Suffolk Yacht Harbour in Levington and it is a Royal Yachting Association (Sailability) Centre of Excellence.
Contact EAST via www.east-anglian-sailing-trust.org.uk or phone 0333 088 3278.