The Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors (BAADS) seeks to make all aspects of sailing accessible. To fulfill this mission, we offer weekly small boat sailing, keelboat sailing, and Veterans sailing out of South Beach Marina, adjacent to AT&T Park. In addition to our weekly sailing programs, BAADS hosts and participates in a variety of regattas and informal races both locally and internationally. To find out about racing opportunities, visit our race page.
Our keelboat fleet includes five keelboats, each specially rigged and equipped with adaptive features to make sailing the San Francisco Bay possible for people with disabilities. Additionally, we have 23 Access Dinghies, ranging in size from 8 to 14 feet long, all of which are specifically designed for people with disabilities. Some of these are equipped with servo motors so that people with severe physical disabilities can sail solo.
We serve approximately 50 participants each weekend. Our participants range in age from eight to 80 and include people with mental, physical, and developmental disabilities. Some participants have never sailed before and some have been sailing all their lives. Through our sailing programs, participants learn to sail by themselves in the dinghy program and as part of a crew in the keelboat program.
We run all our programs through volunteers. Our board has thirteen people, and our volunteer base supplies anywhere from 3 to 10 volunteers per weekend. Our volunteer base is our lifeline–our programs couldn’t function without dedicated people who are reliable and have at least some knowledge of sailing and equipment. We invest a significant amount of time and effort in recruiting, training, and retaining volunteers. Learn how to become a volunteer at our volunteer page.
Throughout its 28 year history, BAADS has been supported by individual donations and donations and grants from organizations like Kiwanis Club, APL, America One Foundation, St. Francis Yacht Club, and The Cove Foundation. To learn more about how you can help, visit our donation page.
A Short History of the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors
The Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors (BAADS) started as the open water arm of the Lake Merritt Adapted Boating Program in Oakland. Upon learning that many of the Lake Merritt students wanted to sail on the San Francisco Bay, Glo Webel, the Director of the Adapted Boating Program dedicated herself to organizing a sailing program for sailors with disabilities. Having worked with the Lake Merritt Program since 1981, Glo was the ideal person to pull the group together as she was passionate, generous and determined. In 1987 and 1988, Glo worked with a core group of Lake Merritt sailing students which included Dave Stuart, Howard Robinson, Mary Ann Hiserman, Curtis Austin and Mary Holton. The mission of BAADS was simple — striving to make all aspects of sailing accessible regardless of disability. The goal was to build a sailing program based on the energy and talents of the users themselves, and not be a publicly supported social services program which would be at the mercy of the political and budgetary whims.
BAADS became a reality when, through the generosity of Everett Pearson, a new Freedom Independence boat, the Manatee, was shipped from Rhode Island in 1988. Gary Mull, the late East Bay naval architect, designed the boat specifically to meet the needs of mobility impaired sailors. The original arrangement was for BAADS pay for the boat as money was raised, but in 1988, fundraising proved all but impossible. Grant Ross, with a young disabled girl named Nyri Scalon, made a film of the Manatee sailing down the Sacramento River. The motive for making the movie was to raise awareness about sailing for persons with disabilities and, to raise money for BAADS. Since it was not a commercial success, Grant continued to take a major role in maintaining the Manatee, investing both his time and money in keeping her and BAADS afloat.
Dave Stuart and Glo Webel prepared the necessary paperwork for BAADS to become a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. BAADS applied for charitable status and was officially incorporated in 1989. Dave, Glo and their fellow compadres scoured the Bay Area for support and money to fund the boat, birthing and equipment. The first BAADS commodore was Howard Robinson, a local sailor who auctioned his own skiff and other equipment to raise money to pay BAADS expenses. Small grants were received from IBM and the San Francisco Sailing Foundation, but it was clear that BAADS was barely keeping afloat.
The tide turned when Ed Mackin suggested to BAADS new commodore, Dave Stuart, that BAADS move to San Francisco and affiliate with South Beach Yacht Club (SBYC). Ed was a member of SBYC and said that the yacht club had a commitment in it’s charter to support community-based sailing activities. With the wholehearted support of SBYC’s board and membership, the Redevelopment Agency Commission of San Francisco agreed to provide a free slip for BAADS. SBYC invited BAADS to be part of its membership and to share it’s clubhouse and facilities— BAADS had finally found a home.
BAADS blossomed in 1990 when skilled, excited and enthusiastic new members came aboard. Margot Lynn began developing a sail training program and Sachi Itagaki started the newsletter, Ahoy. But BAADS really took off when long time supporter, Dave Izant contributed his beautiful Erickson 27, Endless Time. ET, as she was affectionately known, became the flagship and served the fleet well throughout the 90’s.
Richard Skaff took the helm as Commodore in 1991, and provided the much-needed contacts for contributions and support. Laurence Kornfield joined about the same time and took on the position of club secretary for paperwork and bosun for boat maintenance over a ten-year period. In 1992, Laurence’s wife, Lorna, designed a logo and BAADS adopted the jaunty pirate as its mascot. The original disabled sailor with his peg leg, hook for an arm and patch over his eye. During this time, the club was meeting once a month across the street in the community room at the South Beach Marina condominiums. Meetings and events were soon moved to SBYC’S double wide trailer.
In 1993, quadriplegic Kathi Pugh, blind sailor Tom Fowle and their spouses were the first skippers who completed the first certified training classes. The classes were run by Spinnaker Sailing of San Francisco and the American Sailing Association (ASA) provided the certification which established a standard for the skill and safety of BAADS sailors. In the late1990s, Dan Leininger took charge of qualifying skippers and, along with Alison Brooks, made it possible to send out boats each Sunday so BAADS members could sail. Over the years, BAADS has received several grants including a 2016 grant from US Sailing so that our members could be involved in training new sailors ourselves.
In 1994, BAADS purchased a second Freedom 20, the Raven, which BAADS still has today. In 1996, a Ranger 29, the Voyager, was donated which served as our East Bay link at the Berkeley Marina. For more than 10 years beginning in the mid-90’s, Dan Sullivan and Dan Hill played a vital bosun role in keeping the fleet operational. When it became obvious it was too difficult to maintain boats in on two sides of the bay, BAADS consolidated forces at South Beach Marina since public transportation was now readily accessible through Muni. In 2005, the ramps at South Beach Yacht Harbor were made ADA compliant. After more than three years of planning, a small craft dock designed by the SBYC Harbormaster and the San Francisco Redevelopment Commission was completed in the fall 2005. Several years later, cranes were installed to safely lift sailors with mobility impairments into the boats.
In 2006, BAADS acquired 10 Access Dinghies — four 2.3, four 3.03, and two Liberty model boats. In 2007, two more 3.03 Access Dinghies were added and, in 2008, our first Liberty with a servo electric sail trimming and steering system was incorporated into the fleet. Sailors with hand impairments were now able to sail a boat independently using a joystick to control the tiller and sails. Under the watchful eye of our first Dinghy Program Director, Greg Williams, BAADS now needed more on the water and chase boat support. In addition to the weekly group who helped on Saturday, a core cadre of volunteers like John Wallace, Roland Cole and others, had specialized skills to work on the servo controls and keep the fleet maintained. Over the years, significant grants from foundations including America One, St. Francis Yacht Club, and Belvedere Cove have supported the small boat fleet. Beginning in 2008, Jeff Breen took over as director and we now have the largest fleet of Hansa (Access) Dinghies on the West Coast.
Beginning in the early-90s, BAADS members participated in local and national races. BAADS skipper, Herb Meyer, who was active in the local sailing community before he broke his neck during a race, headed up the racing program. For years, BAADS sent teams of racers to Chicago to participate in the North American Challenge Cup for sailors with disabilities. Some of the early skippers racing Freedom 20’s included Herb, John Greener, Ann Siek and others. BAADS encouraged its members to participate in Paralympic and international races in Canada, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Australia. New faces joined Herb and Dylan Young on the international scene including Carwile Leroy and Cristina Rubke, who skippers her servo controls with her chin.
In May 2007, BAADS hosted the first USA National Championship for the Liberty Access Dinghy Regatta with the help of12 Liberties provided by the Access Dinghy Foundation from Melbourne, Australia. David Staley from Australia provided greatly appreciated technical advice regarding how to assemble and rig the boats as well as operating and repairing the servo electric systems. In August 2013, BAADS also hosted the Hansa Access Class North American Championship with more than 45 participants from five countries.
In 2013, BAADS started a veterans program after hosting a successful grant-funded Veterans summer clinic in 2012. In 2014, BAADS added a Racing Program using two Sonars. The BAADS Racing Program regularly competes in YRA races and regularly wins its division in South Beach Yacht Club’s Mid-Winter and Friday Night Race Series. Beginning in 2015, BAADS added dedicated Blind Match Racing clinics and programing to the Race Program.
Now with more than 200 members, the BAADS burgee flies on the Bay every weekend and often during the week. BAADS sailors participate in activities that seemed unreachable just a few years ago; hosting international regattas, competing in local, national and international races, joining club cruises and social events, and of course, just sailing on San Francisco Bay with family and friends. We hope you will join us. See ya on the Bay!
1988-1989 Howard Robinson
1989-1991 Dave Stuart
1991-1993 Richard Skaff
1993-1996 Kathi Pugh
1996-1998 Tom Fowle
1999-2001 Ann Sieck
2002-2005 Herb Meyer
2006-2011 Ed Gallagher
2012-2015 Cristina Rubke
2015-Present Dylan Young
Keelboat program, small boats, and more
Call Sail Mail at 415-281-0212 for sailing reservations, to leave messages or for the latest news.