Back in early March, Sail To Prevail, began emailing folks who may want to participate in the annual PVA/Veterans’ Weekend. Ms. Patty Brdar, Executive Assistant for Sail To Prevail and a member of the team since 2010. Patty is a wiz in organizational skills. Patty would normally be up in Newport for the Summer Programs but was not able due to Covid-19. However, working remotely from Florida, she was able to ensure commitments from most everyone who registered to participate. She even had a waiting list. Don’t you just love technology?

Ms. Patty emailed me about the upcoming Sail To Prevail PVA/Veterans weekend which would, with luck, still go off. Between March and July 25th, there would be some changes. What is usually a two day event, it would be only one. What usually had been 2 sessions each day, to allow a larger number of veterans to participate would only be one extended session. The Annual Commissioning and early evening “meet & greet” of sponsors and supporters would not be allowed due to State COVID regulations.

Paul Callahan, founder and Chief Operating Officer, truly wanted to host this annual PVA/Veterans event. As stated, the event would limit the number of veterans. However, this would allow those in attendance to stay out for nearly four hours if they so wished. There was a limit of four to a boat, 3 veterans and/or caregivers and one sailing instructor.

There were 6 Sailing Instructors. The Head Sailing Instructor was Jackie Morrison. Jackie started working for Sail To Prevail last summer, and she feels it was the best decision she ever made. She instantly fell in love with the staff and the amazing participants and enjoyed the opportunity to sail around Newport again this summer! Jackie was responsible for organizing the participants and Sailing Instructors into boats. Our young instructor was Huck Whittemore.

I shared a boat with Chapter member Paul Raiche and his wife Barbara. The sailboats are 20 feet long and have 2 adjustable seats for persons with disabilities, which was great for Paul. The dock has several areas where a hydraulic lift can be moved between boats to assist with loading and unloading those who cannot climb in or out on their own.
Paul manned the tiller, or as it is unofficially referred to as “Captain the Ship.” That was fine with me. While I was willing to do whatever was asked, I did let them know in advance that I suffered a new injury last year, and it would limit my ability to move from port to starboard adjusting the sails as we moved through Narragansett Bay. Besides, I would get to take photos. It really was a very beautiful day weather wise, which included a decent breeze to move us from dock, to bay and back again.

We learned that our sailing instructor, Huck Whittemore, is only 17 and a soon to be senior in high school. Huck stated that he has been sailing since the age of 10. His young age was no barrier to assisting Paul in navigating through the Bay, through some crowded areas and back to the Sail To Prevail dock. Huck was very knowledgeable in all aspects of sailing.

We had two first-time sailors at PVA Day: Ms. Carin Klipp, and Mr. Paul Hanley. Paul had this to say: “Sunshine, sails, and good people!” Another Chapter member and long time attendee Wayne Ross. Wayne, a quadriplegic and Air Force Veteran shared his note he sent to Patty: “I had a wonderful time on Saturday the wind and weather were super. I have been to most of the PVA sailing days over the past 11 years, and I can’t remember a nicer day. Thanks to the steady breeze we covered more ocean than ever before and went all the way to the big bridge, the house on the rock, the open ocean, Goat Island and the inner harbor. Debra Freed, the former executive director of the NEPVA, was there along with some other folks I’ve never met.” Another long time attendee was Roland Filion who hails from Rhode Island. I do not believe anyone had a poor day.

Because of my injury, I had let Patty and Jackie know that I would not be able to stay out more than 3 hours. Paul, Barbara, and Huck were very good about going in early. They dropped me off and planned to go back out for another hour. I was grateful to learn that I was not the only one who needed a bathroom break. Huck took the opportunity as did two other boats.

I commend Ms. Patty Brdar, Ms. Jackie Morrison and, of course, Mr. Paul Callahan for making the necessary arrangements and commitments to keep everyone as safe as possible. I do not know or believe anyone has contracted Covid-19 from this event. Depending on how things go, Sail To Prevail will again be a participant in the annual New England Summer Sports Clinic next year. We truly look forward to a return to a full PVA/ Veterans Weekend event in the Summer of 2021.

P.S., The couple on the waiting list went sailing another day, compliments of Sail To Prevail, and “they had a blast”!

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