Our Mission

At Sailing Fascination, we want each of our students to believe that their disability is only as limiting as their desires by providing free sailing lessons to students with all ranges of disabilities. Having a disability does not have to keep any person from enjoying time on the water aboard a sail boat!

Our Goal

Is to increase the quality of life and bring hope and joy into the lives of everyone who comes aboard with disabilities.

Who is it for?

  • All types of physical disabilities.

  • PTSD and other Trauma

  • Developmental Disabilities

  • No sailing experience necessary!

About Us

Our non-profit foundation was built on the principle that having a disability does not have to keep any person from enjoying time on the water aboard a sail boat!

Manned by a crew of two 30-year sailing veterans, including the Captain who is handicapped himself, Sailing Fascination’s desire is to increase the quality of life and bring hope and joy into the lives of those with disabilities.

“I can teach anyone with a disability to sail. Don’t worry about a missing arm, an inability to stand or walk, or a lack of vision. In sailing, you only need the wind at your back and a spirit of the sea,” claims Tom Tolbert, President of Sailing Fascination.

At Sailing Fascination, we want each of our students to believe that their disability is only as limiting as their desires.

Our Story

Since 1996, Sailing Fascination, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization, has provided free sailing lessons to over 500 students with a range of disabilities. Anyone with spinal-cord injuries, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, post-polio conditions, quadriplegia and other physical conditions, as well as anyone with developmental disabilities are welcome to come weekly for classes. 

In 2013 Sailing Fascination expanded their reach to include war veterans struggling with the effects of PTSD. All our students need is an enthusiasm for learning and the desire for an increased quality of life.

With no prior experience needed, the Foundation teaches students everything from boat safety, sailing terminology and concepts, steering, tacking, running down-wind, crewing and perhaps most importantly, confidence-building.

“The idea is that students are experienced boat drivers by the time they leave us, the program is really about them spending time at the tiller, not just being a passenger.”
-Tom Tolbert, President of Sailing Fascination explains. 

1

SAILBOAT

30

Years of sailing experience

500+

students have set sail

35

Volunteer Skippers

MEET OUR TEAM

We have an incredible duo steering our ship!

Tom Tolbert - President (Sailing Fascination)

In 1997, Tom assumed the position of President of Sailing Fascination shortly after being a student of the program himself. An avid sailor for over 30 years, as well as a bicyclist, tennis player, Hollywood stuntman and successful businessman, Tom’s wind was taken out of his sails in 1994. An aneurysm, the type of which only 10% survive, changed things.

Tom needed to relearn the most rudimentary physical tasks all over again, and to accept a lifestyle change from the way things used to be, but one that certainly would not keep him down. Now,

Tom walks with a cane, has a bit of slurred speech and has lost much of his right arm and leg mobility. Nevertheless, through sailing, he finds and gives inspiration about what life can hold for people with handicaps.Tom doesn’t make any money volunteering his time every week. Instead, he does it to empower those who have handicaps. According to Tom, “Probably 75% of our students have never been in charge of any apparatus. They still haven’t been in charge of a bicycle, car, anything. This is a first for them, and seeing one of them smile is a really big deal for all of us.”

John Byerlein - Volunteer Skipper (OASIS Sailing Club)

During the summer of 2007, John played an instrumental role in keeping the Foundation afloat after the co-founder, and acting skipper, had to leave his position for health reasons. John, who is the longest-standing skipper at the OASIS Sailing Club, spearheaded a relationship between OASIS and Sailing Fascination to provide volunteer skippers in order to keep the Foundation going.

John is no stranger to the sea. From his 1944 oath to become a Cadet through his 34-year active and reserve Coast Guard officer assignments, he has loved the sea and its lore. Trained on 8-ft Sabots through coastal cruising sailboats, he volunteered as a Nautical Museum docent while he taught Lido-14 sailing in Newport Beach’s KIDSCENE program. He still sails over 50 times a year, conducts seaworthy training and mentoring of OASIS members, and acts as Club Maintenance Officer for its sloops.

OASIS Sailing Club now provides over 35 volunteer skippers on a rotating basis to assist in the Foundation.