Sailing Angels

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Transporting John from the car to his wheelchair.

Teaching children how to respect people with disabilities is as important to us as teaching them the Pythagorean Theorem. Earlier this school year, our home schoolers met John Fair III, an after-schooler who comes to us twice a week for reading tutorials.  John has Williams Syndrome, (WS) “…a genetic condition that is characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities.  These often occur side by side with striking verbal abilities, highly social personalities and an affinity for music,” learn more.   John has also been paralyzed since he was 12, when a procedure to correct his Scoliosis (which is an unnatural curvature of the spine) went terribly wrong.  

Heading to the dock. About to sail away
Heading to the dock. About to sail away

SAILING ANGELS

Thanks to the generosity of an angel named Captain Dave McCabe and his organization, called Sailing Angels, we were able to take John on a sailing trip from Kemah and Seabrook, TX.  Sailingangels.org is a non-profit organization, located in the greater Houston area, that provides a unique sailing opportunity for children with special needs. During the two and a half sail, those who are able, help raise the sails, learn a bit about knot tying, and steer the boat.

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Captain Dave & John

To prepare for this field trip, the students began with a lesson about people with special needs. Specific to John, we visited his website John Fair III.org and read his story. Then the children and I memorized a post from his web site titled Wheelchair Etiquette. 

Here’s what it says:

  • Be prepared to offer assistance to people with limited use of their hands, wrists or arms.
  • Ask for permission to touch a person’s wheelchair, it’s part of their personal space.
  • Keep the ramps and wheelchair-accessible doors and parking spaces unlocked and unblocked.
  • Wheelchair users are not equipment, do not use their wheelchairs for personal use.
  • Always speak directly to the person with a disability.
  • Do not exclude wheelchair users from activities.
Chase and John headed to the boat.
Chase and John headed to the  boat.

We also learned a few nautical terms:

1. Aft – The back of a ship. If something is located aft, it is at the back of the sailboat. The aft is also known as the stern.

2. Bow – The front of the ship is called the bow. Knowing the location of the bow is important for defining two of the other most common sailing terms: port (left of the bow) and starboard (right of the bow).

3. Port – Port is always the left-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow. Because “right” and “left” can become confusing sailing terms when used out in the open waters, port is used to define the left-hand side of the boat as it relates to the bow, or front.

4. Starboard – Starboard is always the right-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow. Because “right” and “left” can become confusing sailing terms when used out in the open waters, starboard is used to define the right-hand side of the boat as it relates to the bow, or front.

5. Leeward – Also known as lee, leeward is the direction opposite to the way the wind is currently blowing (windward).

6. Windward – The direction in which the wind is currently blowing. Windward is the opposite of leeward (the opposite direction of the wind). Sailboats tend to move with the wind, making the windward direction an important sailing term to know.

7. Boom – The boom is the horizontal pole which extends from the bottom of the mast. Adjusting the boom towards the direction of the wind is how the sailboat is able to harness wind power in order to move forward or backwards.

8. Rudder – Located beneath the boat, the rudder is a flat piece of wood, fiberglass, or metal that is used to steer the ship. Larger sailboats control the rudder via a wheel, while smaller sailboats will have a steering mechanism directly aft.

9. Tacking – The opposite of jibing, this basic sailing maneuver refers to turning the bow of the boat through the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other side. The boom of a boat will always shift from one side to the other when performing a tack or a jibe.

10. Jibing – The opposite of tacking, this basic sailing maneuver refers to turning the stern of the boat through the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other side. The boom of a boat will always shift from one side to the other when performing a tack or a jibe. Jibing is a less common technique than tacking, since it involves turning a boat directly into the wind.

During our sail, Captain Dave taught James and the older boys how to set the sails and how to steer the boat.

20150520_125746 20150520_130446    20150520_125458As for me, I just relaxed and had fun.

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After the sail, Capt. Dave presented the students with wristbands, medals, and a Certificate of Sailing.

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It was a day that none of us will soon forget.  For more information about TAMS and ED Homeschool, visit us at www.tamsanded.com. We teach tolerance and diversity with hands-on and real-world activities. Our home school is for students who thrive in smaller classroom settings. We teach. We challenge. They learn.   For our students, the world is their classroom.

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