By Seth Daniel
There might have been more picturesque ships with old time riggings that spoke of yesteryear in the Sail Boston contingent last weekend, but there was no boat more inspirational and packing more healing power than that of the fully-accessible Impossible Dream – which returned to the Charlestown Marina as part of Sail Boston, ferrying patients from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital for excursions into the Harbor all week.
On Friday, several patients used their wheelchairs to get onto the boat, joining the crew and coordinators Deborah Mellen and Harry Horgan – who made a journey to the Navy Yard last summer as well, a visit so successful that it cemented their plans to return for Sail Boston this year.
“This ship is all about realizing the impossible and sharing positive experiences with people,” said Horgan on Friday after a trip out on the Harbor with about seven patients from Spaulding.
Both Mellen and Horgan said they were overjoyed to be part of Sail Boston, and most importantly to share an experience with Spaulding patients that many thought was impossible while receiving treatment.
One of those patients was Charlestown’s Paul McDonough and his wife, who have lived in Charlestown more than 40 years.
McDonough said he has been in Spaulding a few months after having a stroke, and when he heard about the opportunity for the Impossible Dream excursion, the old sailor from Charlestown didn’t waste a breath before heading out to the dock.
“I’ve been laid up in Spaulding a couple of months after having a stroke and I love to sail, so when the opportunity came up for a sail on this accessible boat, I definitely wanted to be part of it,” he said. “I’ve sailed a lot and it felt good today to get our there and it will feel good to get back out on the water when I get out of Spaulding this summer.”
McDonough said he has plans to sail with a friend in July to Martha’s Vineyard, and Friday’s excursion was a great warm up.
Meanwhile, Heather Wood was also on board, and she said she had been on last year as well.
Wood works in the Spaulding in Charlestown at the office for the Greater Boston United Spinal Association, which is a non-profit for those with spinal cord injuries.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to be in this boat on an excursion during Sail Boston and in a wheelchair,” she said. “I didn’t think it was possible at one time. This is my second year. I’m super excited they are back for Sail Boston and grateful for the opportunity to sail on the water.”
The Impossible Dream was built 2000 by Englishman Mike Brown, who had been paralyzed while participating in extreme sports. Brown owned a sports clothing company for extreme sports. After becoming paralyzed, he commissioned the boat to be designed so that it was fully accessible for a quadriplegic person. After it was completed, he sailed across the Atlantic Ocean numerous times with only a personal care attendant. When he was tired of his sailing trips, the folks at Impossible Dream were able to purchase the boat.
Based in Florida, they sail up the East Coast every summer to find partners in adaptive sailing programs who wish to take advantage of the boat. In Boston, they found Spaulding and Charlestown Marina and Sail Boston, and both Horgan and Mellen said they made the absolute correct decision in returning to Charlestown.