Rising to the 'Challenge'
Anneke Rader preparing to break a bottle of champagne over the bow of the boat to appease Neptune, god of the sea, in a tradition that goes back thousands of years, according to Steve Hurchick, program director at Challenge Mountain. (Aebra Coe/Saturday)
The boat, made for Challenge Mountain, was christened at the Sunburst Marine area of Harborage Marina in Boyne City at 3 p.m. Monday, July 25. Future clients will learn how to control the boat themselves through the use of adaptive equipment installed on board, according to Mike Hurchick, program director at Challenge Mountain.
"Our goal has always been to help the physically challenged and mentally impaired meet their maximum potential through recreation as well as show our clients that 'if I can do this, I can do anything,'" said Hurchick. "The dream was to build a boat which could be easily sailed by sailors with special needs. It's exciting for all of us it is finished and ready for use."
Boyne City will be one of only a few places for people with disabilities to learn to sail in the Midwest, according to Hurchick.
The christening at Harborage Marina included a blessing by the Rev. Duane Wachowiak from St. Matthews Parish in Boyne City. Then, a bottle of champagne was broken over the bow and the name of the sailboat revealed. Finally, the boat was lowered into the water for the first time.
Anneke Rader, vice president of the board of directors at Challenge Mountain, broke the bottle of champagne over the hull of the newly christened boat.
Rader, who has spina bifida, will be the CM20 Challenge's first client. The board member first participated in Challenge Mountain's ski programs when she was 8 years old.
Close to 30 years later she will be the first to learn to sail the Challenge.
"I've always enjoyed skiing and when I first tried sailing, I absolutely loved it. We're all very excited the boat is finished," she said.
Four years ago, Mike Hurchick and several others at Challenge Mountain began plans to develop the adaptive sailboat.
Dave Lesh, then director of the Great Lakes Boat Building School in Cedarville, discussed plans for the boat with Hurchick and several others; they all agreed the project would be good for both the school and Challenge Mountain.
Ken Workinger, of Tiara Yachts in Holland, helped finalize a design for the boat and the idea slowly became reality with the help of many, according to Hurchick.
"The boat would have to be a manageable size for volunteers to rig and launch, have extremely stable characteristics and have adaptive equipment to enable our friends to also enjoy our wonderful sport," said Hurchick.
This design came to fruition and touched water for the first time July 25.
The Challenge incorporates a joystick remote to control the sails with small hand movements and alternately a "sip and puff" system that utilizes the sailor's breath through a straw to cut sails. All adaptive equipment can be removed for those without such physical needs.
A reclining bucket seat allows the sailor to better see the sails and has a five-point harness for security.
"Anybody with a physical disability can call me and we'll work out a way for them to use the boat and learn to sail without any cost to them, other than getting here," said Hurchick.
Challenge Mountain is seeking clients: injured veterans, paraplegics, quadriplegics and anyone else with a physical disability who would like to learn to sail.
The construction of the boat -- raising funds, donation of materials, labor -- was a community effort, said Hurchick. The hull was built at the Great Lakes boat school as part of their curriculum, then, employees at Irish Boat Shop in Harbor Springs added the keel, rudder and jib boom as well as reworked the mast. Second Wind Sailing just north of Charlevoix recently applied a coat of paint and Ralph Ferraiuolo of Ferraiuolo Signs in Wolverine added the name to the back of the boat.
Funding for the project came from various sources in the community including the Boyne City Yacht Club and Char-Em United Way.
"This is not to mention the many hours volunteers and community members spent making this project happen," explained Hurchick.
Clients come to Challenge Mountain from every state as well as some foreign countries to participate in current programs. Hurchick said he sees this sailing program as a natural expansion of what Challenge Mountain already offers and hopes it will take the organization to a new level. He said he would also like to spearhead plans in the future to secure equipment for kayaking and canoeing at Challenge Mountain and start a Little League team.
For more information on the Challenge Mountain adaptive sailboat or other programs, contact Steve Hurchick at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (231) 582-1186.