Here is another amazing story to share with you about the good people of our boating world. Steve Heronemus was an avid sailor of the Wisconsin waterfront until he was diagnosed over 10 years ago with ALS. Losing all motor capabilities and having a sharp mind must be amongst the most frustrating and difficult illnesses, especially when pastimes like boating and sailing with your family slip out of physical reach.
So when the folks at the SEAS (Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan) reached out the the Heronemus family to see if they were interested in getting Steve involved in a new endeavor with their existing Adaptive Sailing Program, they jumped at the chance. Steve Orlebeke, Director of Engineering Harken got involved and invented a touch pad and sip/ bite system to operate the auto pilot. And off went Steve. And hopefully other ALS patients in the future.
From the SEAS Blog: On September 4, 2015 using only a bite switch coupled to an autopilot and two touch pads for sail trim Steven Heronemus took his 83 year old father for a sail in a twenty three-foot sonar off the shores of Sheboygan Wisconsin. At the time. he had no idea it would be their last sail together because twelve days later his father unexpectedly passed away.
To Steven the quiet afternoon sail was a joyful return to something he loved. To his father it was one of the most beautiful gifts he could have received from his son.
And to other sailors with disabilities it would further inspire SEAS to explorer develop and refine the human interfaces necessary to provide any disabled person access to the wind and water.
On September 23rd the day after his father’s memorial service Steve took his son Matthew for sail as a tribute to his father the man who taught him to sail.
The story is about a whole community – the sailing community of Lake Michigan and beyond and the friends and family of the Heronemus’ – and even more so about the family who was able to sail together again in a very timely way. Three generations of Heronemus men were able to sail again – so regardless of how the program takes off – and we have faith that it will – already magical things have transpired and a sailor gets to sail once again.