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Access-ability Sailing FAQ and Policies

What is Access-ability Sailing?

"Access-ability Sailing" is a type of "Adaptive Sailing". As in other Adaptive Sports, we at the Downtown Sailing Center (DSC) offer the boats that can provide access to sailing for people with disabilities. Our Saturday morning sailing events are an open house for all people who live with a disability and want to go sailing, and we call this event "Access-ability" Sailing.

When is it?

The events are held every other Saturday morning from 10:00 AM until12:00 PM. We start sailing in mid-April, and events end in the Fall. 

How much does this cost? (I heard sailing is expensive!)

This event is free to anyone with a disability.

Why is the Downtown Sailing Center offering this?

We, at the Downtown Sailing Center, believe wholeheartedly in our Mission, and that "Sailing is for Everyone"! We recognize some people need support along the pathways to getting on boats, and we are committed to this goal. We also acknowledge that people living with disabilities are often excluded from the community, and we aim to change that.

How do I attend?

We ask that you please register for any events you would like to attend so we know you will be sailing with us. You can find the event registration either on our calendar, or on the Adaptive Sailing page. This event is on a first signup, first served basis, so please sign up early! 

What if I have registered and can't make it?

That is no problem! We understand that things can come up. However, please let us know as soon as possible if you cannot sail; your boat is reserved for you. We usually have a waitlist, so we want to give others a chance to sail. You may cancel your registration yourself, or if you need assistance, you can reach out to a staff member. Our email is info@downtownsailing.org or call 410-727-0722.

Are you going to ask me what my disability is? (I'm kind of a private person...)

We do not need to know what type of disability you have; however, we will ask upon registration what accommodations you believe you may need to sail with us. We want to ensure that you can safely access our docks and boats with as much support we can offer while removing potential barriers. 

Can I bring someone with me?

We welcome family members, partners, children, guardians, caregivers, and friends; anyone you would like to bring. The maximum number of people our largest boat can accommodate is 4, so please limit your onboard guests to three. Anyone who does not want to sail but would like to relax on the shaded dock is also welcome!

Who will be helping out at the sailing events?

We have an amazing team of dedicated and experienced volunteers who help with everything from getting you ready with a PFD (lifejacket) to providing assistance on and off the boat. 

What if I haven't sailed before? (I'm nervous!)

Not to worry! Each boat has an experienced Skipper and Crew to handle the boat and make sure you have a safe and enjoyable time. They can also explain how everything works and can answer any questions you have. If you are sailing on a Dinghy, all you have to do is ask and we can provide you with a Sailing "Buddy" who will come along and give you pointers so you can learn to sail the boat or just give you a boat ride. We also provide a safety boat in the dinghy area in case anyone needs assistance and to make sure you don't stray into any unfamiliar areas.

What if I can't swim?

There is no requirement to know how to swim; we want to remove that barrier to access. We DO require everyone who participates to wear a PFD (lifejacket). (Also, we do not allow anyone to swim in the Inner Harbor!)

What safety protocols do you have in place?

Volunteers, skippers and the director of the program always carry VHF radios to communicate with one another and there is always someone on hand who is First Aid/CPR certified. In addition, we keep 2 AEDs available (one at the dock and one on the safety boat). PFDs are required to participate, and escorts are available to make sure you safely get to your boat. Our lead operators on the Hoyer lift are long-time volunteers and have been trained on its use. Each skipper has been checked out on the basic maneuvers required to handle a keelboat safely (some are even certified instructors), and the safety boat operator is there for you. Anyone who remains at the dock is there to keep lookout over the area to be sure sailors don't encounter problems. Here is a link to our Emergency Action Procedures. Finally, if the weather and/or wind forecast appears at all unsafe, we cancel the event.

How do I know what boat to sail on?

When you register, you will see descriptions of each boat and you can choose the type you prefer. 

The boats we offer:

  • Hansa Access 303 Dinghy - a one- to two-person sailboat specifically designed for people with limited mobility or who require trunk support. They are easy to sail, perfect for learning and can be sailed solo, or with a family member, friend or sailing "buddy". 
  • Sonar 23 keelboat or Freedom 20 keelboat these boats are easily adapted and boasts roomy cockpits for comfort. Seating can be added for trunk support if necessary. You will sail with a skipper and 1 crew, and we encourage you to haul a line or two and take a turn at the helm!

How do I get in and out of the boat?

If you need transfer assistance, we have a team of experienced volunteers who can provide that help. We own a manual Hoyer lift at the dock for the keelboats and dinghies, or we can provide manual assistance, as directed by you.

Are the boats going to flip over? (I can't swim!)

This is a common question! No; our boats are all "keelboats", meaning they have a large fixed "keel" or heavy weight underneath them to prevent them from flipping over (or "capsizing"). They can, however, "heel", or tilt when the sails catch the wind. This is part of what propels the boat. Your skipper can help you understand and learn about this concept. 

What happens if I fall in love with sailing and I want to keep learning? Can I come back?

We love it when people fall in love with sailing! We offer memberships and instruction for anyone who is interested in sailing more regularly, and you are welcome to come back to Access-ability events as often as you like. If there is a free moment, there is always someone available to provide a "chalk talk": a quick descriptive lesson on the dry erase board located on the dock. Also, this year we are introducing a pilot Adaptive racing program on the Hansa 303Ws. Please email rena@downtownsailing.org if you are interested in learning to race (even as a beginner!).

What if I hate it, and I want to go back to land?

Please don't hesitate to let your skipper know that you would like to go back to the dock! If you are on a dinghy, we have a safety boat which motors around to provide assistance, and you can let them know to tow you back to the dock if necessary. We understand that sailing may not be everyone's cup of tea, but we are glad you are willing to try it. 

What if the weather is bad?

We monitor the weather at all times at the DSC, so if it is determined that the weather is not conducive to a safe sail, we will cancel the day before the event. When you register, please to be sure to enter the correct email address so that someone can contact you if necessary.

Where do I go?

We are located at 1425 Key Highway at The Baltimore Museum of Industry. (When on Key Highway, look for the large green crane, pictured on the map below.) Our docks are just North of the large, green-covered pavilion along the shoreline. Click here for directions.

When you arrive for Access-ability sailing, you will check in at the table located at the entrance to our docks (marked with an "X" on the map). Here, you will fill out a liability waiver (once per year) and be fitted with a PFD, then escorted to your waiting boat. 
Please use this aerial guide as a reference: 


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The Downtown Sailing Center

Est 1994
1425 Key Highway, Suite 110, Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 727-0722 • info@downtownsailing.org

Liability Waiver

A strong community is a healthy community - if you feel sick, please stay home!