SAN DIEGO — The hopes and dreams of many disabled sailors who participate in Challenged America programs are currently being poured into a gleaming classic wood-hull Grand Banks 42 trawler yacht, now being renovated at Nielsen-Beaumont boatyard.
The soon-to-be flagship of the organization, also to be named Challenged America, was donated to the group by Tom Nielsen of Nielsen-Beaumont almost two years ago.
Challenged America, formed in 1978, provides sailing lessons and boating experiences for disabled veterans.
Nielsen, his crew and several Challenged America volunteers have already put hours of work into the cosmetic reshaping of the old boat. But with a lack of additional manpower and funds, organization president Urban Morales and director of donations Dave Hopkins came to the conclusion that they might have bitten off more than they could chew.
“I’m sure you can imagine the work and money involved in restoring such an old woody, and we’re probably about 80 percent there,” Morales said. “The engines are running, and the previous deck structure has been removed and replaced, along with the interior.
“What most know as a wonderful cruising and liveaboard power trawler is now completely one level, with only the forward V-berths able to accommodate anyone for a sleepover,” he said
Modifications, such as converting the deck, and several upgrades to the vessel have been made to allow full access to disabled passengers, especially those in wheelchairs — from the stern all the way forward to the steering station.
“We are currently waiting for donations of electronics, powered davits for lifting of heavy/motorized wheelchairs and other lifting needs in non-accessible docks, and a laundry list of other items,” Hopkins said. That list includes adding the latest in accessible technology for the disabled, such as a talking GPS and other navigational aids.
“As an all-volunteer organization, with the volunteers working hard to finish our flagship, it’s taken more time than expected — and, of course, more donated funds from the delays and special equipment needs,” Morales said.
Plans are to bring the Grand Banks 42 to Challenged America’s dock at Sunroad Resort Marina on Harbor Island in January, where they’ll finish up the interior work, along with rewiring and furnishings. Challenged America will be hauled out and a new coat of environmentally friendly bottom paint will be applied prior to arriving at the Sunroad dock.
Morales hopes to have the Grand Banks 42 completed in the first quarter of 2014. Once that happens, the motoryacht will be used as a classroom platform for lessons on seamanship, basic Captain 101 courses and navigation.
“(We’ll) take program participants out whale-watching, fishing and (on cruises) for other needs, such as to give those who are still in hospitals a day out on the water,” Morales said.
The flagship will also be used as a committee boat for races and regattas, a standby medical vessel, a media/photography boat, and a platform for friends and family to watch their Challenged America sailors
For more information, visit challengedamerica.org.