A vintage vessel is being given new life along San Diego Bay.
The vessel, originally built in the late 1960s, is being renovated and retrofitted to accommodate the blind, disabled veterans and seniors with special needs.
"This is a community project," says Urban Miyares, co-founder and president of Challenged America. "Merchants and their employees on the tidelands are contributing their own time pro-bono to assist with the building of the boat."
"We wanted to get involved with something where our company can really give back," says Tom Neilsen, co- founder and co-owner of Neilsen Beaumont Boatyard.
The boat will be named Challenged America.
To make it wheelchair accessible, the deck of the boat will be flattened. The main cabin entrance will be widened all the way to the steering wheel – allowing the possibility for all to steer.
"We are working on technology for the blind to be able to electronically communicate and navigate while at sea," Miyares said. "It's innovation in progress."
These technological advances mean Challenged America will be able to take disabled veterans, those who are going through rehabilitation after surgery or seniors with Alzheimer's and their families out on San Diego Bay for whale watching and other activities.
Nielsen Beaumont Marina, which was established in 1979, not only donated the boat, but their employees are also working on the alterations - from painting to tuning up the engines to later installing the technology when it is ready.
"A lot of people have come to me and said that they were interested in working on it. We're going to put together a team," Neilsen said.
The project end date is yet to be determined, but the cost in modifications, excluding the technology, is projected to be close to $50,000 – with a good portion of the materials being donated.
"It's an old boat that we are bringing back to life," Neilsen said. "Its exciting to see a boat come back from the dead."
Challenged America is a non-profit, all volunteer agency pioneering in the realm of adaptive sailing opportunities for adults and children with disabilities, located on Shelter Island. It is one of five charity programs that are part of the Disabled Businesspersons Associations.
Challenged America volunteers have dedicated their efforts to introduce sailing as a therapeutic and rehabilitative activity. Providing the opportunity for recreational activities has given those with disabilities the ability to develop new skills and passions.
"Hopefully we can get them from the powerboat to the sailboat," Miyares said. "This gives them an introduction to the water and the benefits of the lifestyle."
Challenged America also helped launch the VA National Summer Sports Clinic, where wounded warriors can take part in sailing competitions. The 3rd Annual event will take place in San Diego in September.
The Grand Banks 42 will be used, if restoration is completed by September, to take family members out on the Big Bay to watch the wounded warriors as they sail, and to accommodate the media.