From the Boathouse: Helping the blind to sea



Saturday sees an inspiring happening at the American Legion Newport Harbor Post 291, when eager sailors will take part in the Sail for the Blind and Visually Impaired event. Participants will be able to help steer the boats and adjust sheet and halyard lines while feeling the sensations of wind and motion. The event is sponsored by the Women’s Ocean Racing Sailing Assn. (WORSA) and hosted by the American Legion Post and Yacht Club.

The Women’s Ocean Racing Sailing Assn. began this annual event about 23 years ago with only a couple of boats. As it became popular and organizers needed more boats, the American Legion stepped up to the plate to act as hosts. Now there are more than 40 owners who volunteer their boats and act as skippers for the day. They will sail throughout Newport Harbor, and some skippers might take the vessels onto the Pacific Ocean if sea conditions permit. The winds look favorable this weekend — between five to 10 knots from the northwest or clocking to the west — and a small west swell of one to two feet. I suspect that most boats will stay inside the harbor for protected sailing.

Numerous volunteers will help with the event, and on the shore more will help provide breakfast, lunch, entertainment and escorts to and from the sailboats. This is a high point of the year for many of the visually impaired guests and some will sign up immediately for the next year’s event. For me, nothing can top the smiles when the guest sailors take the helm and feel the wind on their faces.


I have taught blind sailing students in my college classes, and I have noticed that they can really sense the motions of the boat and any changes in energy levels or wind while sailing.

Guide dogs are welcome, too, as a play yard will be set up for them while their owners are sailing.

The American Legion post is bayside at 15th Street on the Balboa Peninsula and is the only post that has an associated yacht club, along with a small marina for members and visitors. Sail for the Blind and Visually Impaired can use your help in these economically tough times, either as a volunteer or with a tax-deductible donation to American Legion Yacht Club. You can find more information online at (949) 673-5002 or

Tip of the week is to mark your calendars for the upcoming Strictly Sail Long Beach when the show returns to Shoreline Village in Long Beach’s Rainbow Harbor. The show starts Thursday, Oct. 24, and closes Sunday night.

I will have more about the Strictly Sail in next week’s column, and you can find more details at Two great boating weekends with two good events for the ragboaters.

Please be boat smart and boat safe. Lastly, please boat responsibly and look behind you before you turn the wheel at the helm.

Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, “Boathouse Radio Show,” broadcasting live coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network. See times at and

Safe voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to