Belfast Lough Sailability
This review is especially helpful for those who have or use the following: Wheelchair
The Wednesday Evening session was very well attend with over forty visitors, people with a wide variety of special needs and their families. The BLS volunteers greeted my family making us very welcome. The four of us were fitted with life vests and we were asked what type of boat we wanted to go on, we opted for one of the Hawk keel boats, six man sailing boats, two volunteers sailing and four passengers. It was a beautiful evening and a wonderful hour of sailing. There were lots of volunteers on hand, who were very friendly, welcoming and helpful. Each had a role, from meeting and greeting, registering, guiding to pontoon and boat crews. BLS facilities are very good, there is seating around picnic tables and tea/coffee available if you have to wait. The BLS cabin is beside the Carrickfergus Sailing Club clubhouse which has full facilities and access. The parking at BLS is very good, plenty of space and close to the cabin, marina and harbour.
Transport & Parking
Parking is very good, plenty of space and close to cabin and marina. The site is just off the main Belfast to Carrick road next to a large supermarket and a hotel.
Access extends beyond ramps and toilet facilities to the very real practicalities of getting people with a variety of needs onto boats. A lot of thought has been given to this; Sea Rover is a motorboat with a drop ramp to allow wheel chairs to wheel aboard and anchors to fix the chair, there are hoists to lower those with mobility problems into sail boats and volunteers trained in lifting and handling. Most important is the mindset of the volunteers, there nothing which is too much trouble.
The toilets are in the Sailing Club clubhouse, 15 metres from the cabin. The clubhouse was rebuilt a few years ago and so the toilets are modern and fully accessible, spacious with room for a carer. They are very clean. If needed a volunteer can lead you to the toilets.
There were lots of volunteers each very friendly and helpful. Good organisation to greet, register and kit out with safety gear and then onto boats.
Anything else you wish to tell us?
BLS's strength is the people who volunteer. They range in age from 17 to 70 and are very professional in their approach. I reckon that they can get about 30 people on the water at a time between the variety of boats. I was there with my sons; one a wheel chair user the other with autism and I was very satisfied with they way that their needs were met. There were also people who were blind and others with learning difficulties both children and adults.