Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sensory Saturday: Sailing!

Ahoy! This week we were incredibly fortunate to set sail with The Heart of Sailing Foundation. Linda Johnson, the director for the program was one of my fellow Fortune 52 honorees. You can read her story here:

LM, Bear and I set sail on a beautiful breezy morning aboard the beautiful sailboat Tanzanite. Captain Joe and his crew were there to welcome us and give the boys a crash course in sailing. They were both little captains, taking turns wearing the captains hat and steering the giant wheel. LM was especially interested in the compass and learning how to navigate.

When it came time to hoist the sail, both boys helped pull the line (this puts the "heavy" into heavy work for sure!) -- with a look of pride they watched (and heard) the beautiful sail open and fill with air. We explored all the parts of the boat, the cool cabin, the helm and the bow. The wind was blowing, the waves were crashing ... the trip was perfect.

Towards the end of our 2 hour trip LM leaned over the side and watched the water as we sailed through. Completely relaxed, lying on his belly,the boat rocking, trailing an extended hand through the waves - this was the picture of sensory peace.

I expected to have a fun afternoon, but never thought it would be as therapeutic as it was. Linda was kind enough to send me a list of the therapeutic benefits of sailing. As you'll read - it covers ALL of the sensory bases! I can attest to each and every one. What a wonderful sensory experience this was!

Therapeutic Benefits of Sailing

reprinted from the Heart of Sailing Foundation


  • Improves balance: While adjusting to the motions of the boat, whether sitting, standing at the helm, moving around the boat, or bracing to hoist the sails

  • Improves strength: Through hoisting the sails; pulling lines to adjust sails

  • Improves fine motor skills: When learning knot tying

  • Improves eye-hand coordination


  • Provides vestibular stimulation: From the combined forward motion and rhythmic movement of the boat on the waves

  • Increases sensory awareness:

  • Auditory: Sounds of the engine as we motor out of the marina to the quiet of sailing under wind power; the soothing sounds of the waves lapping on the boat

  • Tactile: Feel of the wind; including determining wind direction with eyes closed; warmth of the sun; varying textures of the boat deck; close proximity to others in a relatively small environment

  • Visual: Focus on object on the horizon to steer the boat properly; attention to watch for hazards in the water; all the new sights of being on the water including the sun sparkling on the waves, shorebirds and fish

  • Olfactory: Well, sometimes you can smell those fish, but usually just the good old salt sea air

  • Taste: bring a snack along for this one (we did actually taste the salt water when it sprayed!)

  • Improves spatial awareness: Small environment in the cockpit requires awareness of personal space and boundaries; judging how far the sail is up when hoisting the sail; spotting objects on the horizon

  • Provides relaxation: The gentle rocking of the boat with the motion of the waves, the quiet gentle sounds of waves lapping and the warmth of the sun all stimulate the relaxation response


  • Provides social interaction

  • Provides experience with teamwork

  • Improves communication

  • Improves confidence/self esteem

  • Improves ability to transition to new experiences.environments

  • Provides atmosphere for family/group bonding


  • Improves focus and attention span

  • Provides environmental awareness

  • Provides sense of adventure, exploration and use of imagination

For more information on The Heart of Sailing Program visit:


  1. How awesome!! It was before we knew M had SPD but I remember how tranquil she was when we went on a glass bottom boat in Mexico. She loved the waves and the rocking. She wasn't scared at all.

  2. Thanks for the comment Jen - I have to admit, I was a little nervous thinking what if it's sensory overload and/or he gets scared? It was totally the oppisite though!