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Disabled sailor to conquer East Coast

Jan 1, 2003

A decade ago, Alder Allensworth was given less than a 10 percent chance to live. This summer she'll be enjoying the adventure of a lifetime: from Florida to Maine in a 12-foot sloop.

A rare form of cancer had claimed part of the left side of her face, including her eye. Allensworth was not expected to survive, even after extensive surgery that involved removing her eye. But, miraculously, she survived, and on April 11 she will leave Tampa, Fla., on a 12-foot open dinghy, bound for Maine in celebration of 10 cancer-free years and to raise awareness levels about cancer. Allensworth is headed up the eastern seaboard on a fiberglass Bauer dinghy.

Her vessel, designed for two to three people on inland waters, has been modified for a single-hander working in the rougher conditions that the trip will impose. The mast and rigging were replaced with heavier stock; two-thirds of the vessel was decked over to minimize the dangers of swamping and to provide dry storage space; and 250 pounds of lead ballast was added for stability. An EPIRB and strobe light were among donated safety equipment, and a 3.5-hp Nissan outboard will serve as auxiliary power.

Her 2,000-mile voyage will take her around southern Florida to Miami, and then north, both offshore and via the ICW. Allensworth will speak to supporters along the way; her intent is to demonstrate how disabled people can lead active lives.

"What inspired me is that sailing was something that was very important in my recovery from cancer," she said in an interview shortly before daparture. "I want to reach out to people who are disabled and also to women in general, who may need the confidence to enjoy sailing. This is a sport that has traditionally been dominated by men. "

Sailing Alternatives, Inc., a non-profit sailing program based in St. Petersburg, Fla., where Allensworth volunteers her time, is sponsoring the voyage. The organization uses sailing as a tool for helping disabled people increase self-reliance and develop independence.

Allensworth will be taking a four-month sabbatical from her job as a psychotherapist. Her progress can be followed at: www.sailingalternatives.org.