Sailing, supping or water skiing. It is also possible if you are blind or in a wheelchair. The SailWise foundation organizes water holidays for people with disabilities on the island of Robinson Crusoe. Participant Julia: “I come every year and it feels like coming home here.”

    “It’s going really fast! I was in the front of the boat and we flew over the water, very cool,” says Noor van Tricht. She has just returned from a sailing trip on the Loosdrechtse Plassen. “It’s really fantastic here”, adds fellow participant Jetty Meijer. “You don’t get that feeling of freedom anywhere else in the world.”

    The uninhabited island of Robinson Crusoe in the Loosdrechtse Plassen has a special story. It is not freely accessible to tourists, but entirely in the hands of the SailWise foundation. For about 45 years they have leased it from the municipality of Wijdemeren and people with disabilities come along to enjoy a few days of sailing pleasure.

    “A large part of the boats has been adapted and the house is fully equipped for people with disabilities,” says Anja van Balen. She is one of the administrators on the island. Together with her colleagues and a large group of volunteers, she ensures that almost anything is possible. “It has to be safe, but we encourage participants to push their limits.”

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    “Even with the greatest limitation, you can learn to sail.” – NH News / Rachel Morssink

    And that means, for example: not being able to see anything and still learning to sail. Or: being completely paralyzed and just rock hard waterskiing on a surfboard, chasing the speedboat. And that takes courage, Esmoreit Douwes Dekker knows from experience. “I knew nothing about sailing, I thought it was terrifying. The first time I told my home front in advance: if I send out an SOS, you must come and get me, if necessary by helicopter.”

    She is visually impaired and has now become a fanatic sailor. “I prefer to come several times a year. It is so cool and there is so much laughter.” Sailing has given her more self-confidence, also in everyday life. “I now dare much more, I can do much more and I undertake much more. You meet other people with disabilities here and you learn a lot from that.”

    SailWise

    The SailWise foundation has been organizing holidays for people with disabilities for almost 50 years. In Friesland, Enkhuizen and therefore also on Robinson Crusoe on the Loosdrechtse Plassen (from April to October). There are various trips: for example for people with an intellectual disability, with a physical disability or for people with acquired brain injuries. Participants pay half of the travel sum, the rest is paid from donations.

    Volunteers who can sail and/or care are always welcome. This winter a large-scale renovation of the accommodation at Robinson Crusoe will start. Anja van Balen: “The house is quite outdated after 25 years. We are going to refurbish it and make it more sustainable and even more accessible.”

    After lunch everyone chooses what they want to do. Sailing, surfing, canoeing, supping, swimming: the managers write names on the board for all boats. And once on the water, many participants lose their limitations.

    “In normal life I am in a wheelchair,” says Julia Kruijer, who prefers to be in control while sailing. “But on the boat, I get out of my wheelchair and then I’m actually no longer limited.” Jetty can attest to that. “Everyone is equal on the island, you are not checked. That is very nice. I walk even better here, that is the strength of Robinson Crusoe.”

    Bahamas

    These participants can therefore recommend it to everyone. “I’ve been coming here for twenty years and I don’t want to be any other way,” says Jetty. “Even if I got a free three-month vacation to the Bahamas, I wouldn’t do it. I’d rather come here.” And that goes for Esmoreit as well. “Do it! Even for the biggest doubter or the faint of heart, like myself: just do it, it’s crazy here!”

    Gooie Islands 🏝️​

    ☀️​ In this mini-series ‘Gooise Eilanden’, NH Nieuws tours islands around and in ‘t Gooi. Both in the Randmeren and the IJmeer and Gooimeer, as well as in the Loosdrechtse Plassen and even in the Vecht. The episodes are online and can be seen on NH Throw.

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