Two members of Dart Sailability enjoyed a final trip out into Start Bay, up to Dittisham and exploring Old Mill Creek with only one short shower and plenty of sunshine.

Disabled sailors enjoy a Dart Sailability tripDisabled sailors enjoy a Dart Sailability trip

The members who have been able to take advantage of the opportunities to get out on the water, despite current restrictions, have welcomed the chance to get away from the constraints of lockdown and commented on the many physical and mental health benefits it has provided.

For some, it has been a much-loved highlight of their week.

Dart Sailability would normally have finished sailing at the end of September but extended operations into October to try to make up for the loss of sailing earlier in the year due to the pandemic.

Thanks to hard work by the management team in reviewing Government and RYA guidance, developing a risk assessment and producing new procedures, it was possible to start limited operations at the end of July.

Since then, some 14 disabled sailors together with their carers, when needed, have taken advantage of opportunities to sail in the new Drascombe longboat Kanata and enjoy trips on the river in the landing craft Farries Flyer.

Numbers each time have been limited by the rule of six but operations have been extended from the normal two days per week to as often as possible thanks to the flexibility and efforts of a team of volunteers.

Unfortunately, it has not been practical to provide the usual racing in Hansa dinghies due to the restrictions but procedures have now been developed that will hopefully allow all types of activity to proceed next season even if current restrictions continue.

Dart Sailability have operated from Noss Marina since its formation in 1997. However, development of the marina meant that operations in October had to be conducted from the slipway at Royal Dart Yacht Club.

It is unclear whether operations will be able to continue from Noss next year. Premier Marina have announced their intention to start charging full commercial rates from next season.

The group are exploring possible alternative operating bases and sources of funding to ensure it can continue to provide opportunities for sailors with any type of disability to enjoy boating on the River Dart.

New members and volunteers are always welcome. Training is provided for all to RYA-recognised standards.

Any offers of donations or sponsorship will be very gratefully received.