Camp Jabberwocky campers and counselors wheeled smoothly onboard a 60-foot catamaran yacht for a day on the ocean last Saturday, August 13. Once the captain got them out of the harbor, campers were able to raise the sails, steer, and drive the boat across the smooth and sunny waters of Vineyard Haven.
The wheelchair-accessible vessel is named the Impossible Dream — with the “Im” aptly crossed out in paint on the boat’s side. It arrived in Vineyard Haven Harbor on Friday, August 12, for a cocktail reception hosted by local championship sailor Charlie Shipway. Mr. Shipway discussed the benefits of adaptive sailing — sailing on boats adapted specially for the transportation and comfort of disabled people — and his hopes of starting an adaptive sailing program on Martha’s Vineyard.
On Saturday, Camp Jabberwocky campers set sail on the Impossible Dream with the help of Sail MV’s Brock Callen, Jabberwocky counselors, and Harry Horgan and Deborah Mellen from Shake-a-Leg Miami, the Florida-based boating facility for the disabled that adopted the Impossible Dream a few years ago. Thanks to the vessel’s adaptive features, such as wheelchair-accessible ramps and ample space to wheel around the boat, the campers didn’t need much help once they reached open water.
“We go on various boats, but Impossible Dream was one of the coolest handi-capable boats I’ve ever seen,” said Jabberwocky volunteer Andrew Ditges in an interview with the Times. “Usually we have to carry lots of campers onto boats, which can be a challenge, but we didn’t have to do that this time. The cabin is designed so that wheelchairs can be wheeled right in, and every camper who wanted to drive the boat for a couple of minutes was able to,” he said. Mr. Ditges added that the experience was especially rewarding for campers with cerebral palsy who are completely capable mentally, but not physically.
Jabberwocky camper Peter Bradeen said that he enjoyed every part of the trip. “I helped out with the driving,” he told The Times.
The Impossible Dream was created by paraplegic Mike Browne with the goal of allowing those in wheelchairs to sail around the world in an adaptive vessel. According to the Impossible Dream website, impossibledream.us/, their joint mission with Shake-a-Leg Miami is “to engage the global community and inspire people with disabilities, wounded soldiers, disadvantaged youth, and their families to improve their independence and quality of life.”
Today, the Impossible Dream is traveling along the East Coast to increase awareness about what’s possible through adaptive sailing. Along the way, the team visits programs such as Camp Jabberwocky to allow people with special needs and their families to go out sailing. The boat will dock at various ports throughout New England before returning to Miami this fall.
When asked about the prospect of an adaptive sailing program with vessels like the Impossible Dream coming to the Island, Mr. Ditges said, “We’d be totally on board with it.”