• Local program helping veterans use sailing as therapy

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    BOSTON - Sailing can be a great way to relax and connect with nature, but for some veterans, getting out on the open water is much more than a recreational activity.  It’s part of their therapy.

    A picture-perfect day on Boston Harbor is something Navy veteran Bill Black doesn’t take for granted.

    “Nice and quiet.  You shoot the breeze with a few friends, and anybody can hear you," said Black.

    Black has back issues and some PTSD from his days in the service.

    The Bedford VA and Piers Park Sailing in East Boston have joined together to offer a sailing program for veterans of all capabilities.  

    “For veterans who have been through really stressful experiences, this is a unique platform for them to feel empowered because they get to take control of the boat, and also to be able to get that effect that the water has on the human mind,” said Alex DeFronzo, executive director at Piers Park Sailing.

    Over seven weeks, the veterans learn the art of sailing with the goal of getting certified to go solo at some point.

    That accomplishment can have a huge impact, according to recreational therapist Joe Grimard.  He says sailing can build confidence allow veterans to “deal with problems in a much easier way, because it removes the stress from everyday life.”

    Jim Murray was in the Air Force for 20 years and said this program “beats the hell out of being on the couch!”

    Murray suffers from hearing loss after being around loud jets for so many years.  He believes the program helps calm veterans and gives them a chance to share in the camaraderie of fellow veterans. 

    This is just one of many adaptive sailing programs offered by Piers Park Sailing.  

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