My name is Tom Power, as a medically released Veteran, I have had the privilege of being introduced to a foundation called Soldier On. They assist ill/injured Veterans to improve their quality of life through sport. It was through their efforts that I was given an opportunity to go on a Sailing camp in 2015. The Sailing camp was hosted at the Charlottetown Yacht Club. Instructors were Ellen MacPhail of WaveSkills Sailing School as the primary instructor, along with Grant Gordon, a well-respected and very experienced sailing instructor, safety boat operator Scott Stevenson and numerous other individuals who brought this camp together. This camp was the first Canada wide Soldier On initiative using keelboats.
When I arrived on location I was introduced to my fellow course mates, we comprised of 10 Veterans representing the Maritimes and Quebec. During the week-long camp, we were taught basic skills of sailing which would be used by the students on the water. I’m embarrassed to admit I was very hesitant and did not feel I would get anything out of this camp. I was very wrong, the compassion and acceptance from the facility and participants were overwhelming. While on the water, we were a team all working towards the same goal. Teamwork was a great loss to me when I released from the Military. My mind was focused on gaining speed from the sails instead of the demons in my head and the painful ringing in my ears was muted by the sound of the wind and water interacting with the boat. My Life had just pivoted. After the camp Ellen sent a photo of me near the bow, I remarked that it was the first time I smiled in a very long time.
After that camp, I went home with a new purpose. I felt a desire to expose other Veterans to what I experienced. Looking at boats, it was apparent that my budget was not going to work for a couple of years. In December I was coming to grips of the situation and quite frankly losing steam, it was during this time I received a call. The caller turned out to be from a Medically released American Marine from Waldoboro Maine. He informed me that he was aware that I was looking for a sailboat. I was baffled, as our conversation continued, I learned he was injured, had a 30-foot C&C boat that he was unable to use and wanted me to have it to use and enjoy. My mind was blown, I decided to meet with him at his residence, as I drove into the driveway I saw the boat for the first time, it was a surreal moment. I met the owner, I was very humbled. This boat has always been in his family and I could tell this was going to be a delicate handover. I promised to take care of the boat like we take care of our brethren, no one left behind. So here we are; an American Soldier handing over a Canadian built boat to a Canadian Soldier that will be repatriated back to Canada to help Canadian Veterans.
Being on the hard for a number of years, the boat needed some work. To my delight, the Belmont Boat Works of Belmont Maine would be stepping in. They were very gracious to donate storage inside their facilities, they handed me the keys to the business, gave advise when I was struggling and helped accelerate the work that needed completion. This was my first real taste of the beautiful sailing community. While working on the boat in Maine, I was training and competing in the 2016 Invictus Games held in Orlando Florida, I’m proud to say we came away with a Bronze in my event. I flew back home in May of that year and applied fitting name on the transom, she was named “Invictus”.
To date my fondest memories would be sailing Invictus home, up the Maine coast, marvelling at the coastline. Every night after I anchored, I would crawl into my berth and be amazed at where I was and what I was doing but the trip was not without its many challenges.
I have since carried out an extensive refit on Invictus and continue to sharpen my skills while attending various courses. I sail to give myself a sense of command, my vessel and I are a team, something that was lost to me when I released from the Military, another reason why I sail is that I want to give my fellow Veterans the same joy that I get from sailing. This year, the Soldier On Sailing camp is once again being held in Charlottetown and I hope to be in attendance with Invictus. I want to show everyone that we still are capable of being extraordinary. My goals are to continue improving my skills with courses offered by Sail Canada and Ellen MacPhail, hoping to one day to be able to instruct new sailors. My other desire is to extend an open invitation to all ill/injured Veterans, come enjoy my boat on the water and see what is possible.
by: Tom Power
Fredericton Yacht Club
Read more about Tom’s exciting adventure bringing Invictus home from Maine here.