A small pink yacht which sailed into Carrickfergus Marina last week was helmed by a very special 19 year old girl!
Natasha Lambert, who has athetoid cerebral palsy, had just crossed the infamous North Channel from Portpatrick in Scotland. Her condition means that the messages from the brain do not arrive to the muscles, getting lost somewhere along the way.
As a result, Natasha needs help with all types of things including a wheel chair and a walking frame but the best bit of kit she has is her boat.
The yacht is a Mini 6.50 and dad Gary, an electrician, has totally redesigned the system of controlling the twin rudders and sail trim. At sea Natasha wears a helmet, with a flexible pipe attached. By puff or sip, or suck and blow, air pressure controlled switches adjust the sail trim. With her tongue Natasha can reach another switch, which alters the blow pipe to steering mode. So sails set and course laid Skipper Tash is on her way for another adventure.
On board with her is Phil whose role is to hoist sails, which is physically beyond Natasha. That is his only contribution to sailing the boat. Of course he is there as backup if help is needed and to supply food and drink on the voyage - a voyage that could not happen without a support structure. The land base is a motor home and a couple of tents. On the water ‘Miss Isle’ is accompanied by a RIB. There are usually seven or eight helpers involved to keep the whole show on the road.
On the Carrickfergus stopover, courtesy of the marina staff, the team used the excellent facilities provided. Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has always supported disabled water sports. Local Charity Belfast Lough Sailability operates out of Carrickfergus Marina offering water based activities to people with disabilities.
On Wednesday, Carrickfergus Marina staff and well-wishers were there to wave ‘Mill Isle’ off on the next stage of the journey. There will be a few stops along the way as Natasha climbs a mountain on each of her voyages. So, if you happen to be up the Mournes and run across someone with a walking frame – stop and pass the time of day.
You can follow Natasha’s adventures at