Not all of our sailors have full use or strength of their arms or hands. In these cases, a device called an “Autohelm” can be easily fitted onto a Martin 16 sailboat. The Autohelm has a small, almost effortless joystick – similar to a video game control – that can be used to steer the boat. In addition, a windlass (winch) can also be fitted on to the boat and both sheets can then also be controlled with a touch of the fingers – left or right for steering, forward or back to ease or trim sails.
Amazingly, the boat can be even further adapted: the Autohelm system can be controlled by an incredible, sophisticated straw system called the “sip 'n puff”. As the name indicates, instead of controlling the helm and sails with hands, the sailor uses his or her breath. By just inhaling or exhaling gently into the straw, the rudder will move left or right and the sails can be let out or drawn in. With this amazing design, high-level quadriplegics – those with no movement below the neck – can independently sail the boat.