Craig Palmer, who works as a wheelchair therapy technician for Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust, established community interest company CraigSailing after friends at Lancing Sailing Club helped him recover from a depression - triggered by an H1N1 swine flu infection - which left him in a coma and almost claimed his life.
The 55-year-old, who lost his manufacturing business and had to learn to walk again following three months in Worthing Hospital, hopes sharing his love of sailing will now help others having problems with their mental health to rebuild their lives.
“My aim is to give them an opportunity to break out of their bubble,” said Craig, who discovered his talent for sailing as a 16-year-old schoolboy in his native Zimbabwe.
“Before long,” he explained, “they will forget what’s going on at home. It’s not a solution, just an opportunity for them to stop and assess what they want to do.”
Now a Royal Yachting Association-qualified Offshore Yachtmaster, Craig hopes ten crew will join him and his general practitioner first mate for the Solent Adventure around the Isle of Wight from 15-18 March - providing COVID-19 permits.
In exchange for paying £200 each for four days at sea, his crew will benefit from the expertise of a skipper who competed with Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie at the 1995 Laser European Sailing Championships, and who in 2019 conquered 10m waves, gale-force storms and sub-zero temperatures to complete the South Africa to Australia leg of the Clipper Round the World Race.
Craig will offer crew the opportunity to be part of the team of a 40ft ocean-going yacht. He will also be able to draw on the knowledge of a shore-based freelance psychologist if required.
Craig hopes to run another Solent trip exclusively for NHS staff in late summer.
And if all goes to plan, he hopes to charter boats from around the British coastline for further trips.
Anyone who feels they are struggling with their mental health can take part in a CraigSailing voyage. A formal diagnosis of mental illness is not required.
Further information and booking details are available from craigsailing.com.
With thanks to Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust for this story, reproduced from its website.