• 08 February 2019

Black Santa sends Matthew to Sea!

Wheelchair–bound Matthew Davis from Carrowdore took an exciting sea voyage in 2018, with the help of funding from the Black Santa Sit–out at St Anne’s Cathedral.

Matthew, who also has Asperger’s Syndrome, is the son of Revd Colin Davis, rector of Carrowdore and Millisle.

He and his cousin Ross signed on as crew on STS Lord Nelson for a 10–day experience at sea with the Jubilee Sailing Trust. 

The ship, with 10 permanent crew, signs on 40 crew each voyage – 20 with a physical disability and 20 able bodied who buddy the former.

Lord Nelson and Tenacious (square riggers) are the only tall ships in the world where every aspect of shipboard life is accessible to all. 

Special features include speaking compasses to enable visually impaired crew to navigate, joystick assisted steering for those with mobility issues at the helm and fixing points to help wheelchair users get around the ship when at sea. 

Volunteers can climb the mast; set the sails; helm the ship; learn navigation skills and cook in the galley. They can also undertake Leadership at Sea training under the watchful eye of a crew member.

Although the Trust sails all around the globe, this particular voyage was from Southampton to Belfast by way of Cork 

 “Matthew had a fantastic time on board ship,” says Colin. “It was a tough experience in many ways because everyone has to muck in and take their turn on the watch, but he really rose to the challenge and has matured through it. We’re so grateful he got this amazing opportunity.”

Matthew has been in a wheelchair since the age of 14 when he collapsed at school with paralysis from the waist down. Eventually he was diagnosed with transverse myelitis,an inflammation of both sides of one section of the spinal cord. He has made a partial recovery but is still unable to walk.

A former pupil of Mitchell House School, Matthew now attends SERC where he studies IT. As well as a taste for sailing, he also loves to play wheelchair basketball and plays in the Irish League Squad for the Knights Wheelchair Basketball Club.”

A grant from 2018’s Black Santa Sit–out will again support the work of the Jubilee Sailing Trust with three people from Northern Ireland set to benefit in 2019.