Impossible Dream Sails to Cuba

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on February 04, 2016 # Assistive Technology, Quality of Life Grant Spotlight, Travel

When it comes to overcoming adversity, Deborah Mellen and her fellow volunteers at The Impossible Dream Project prove that an individual living with paralysis can conquer any challenge, whether it is on land or sea. “I never even thought of sailing before my injury, let alone after,” said Mellen, a paraplegic, and founder of the Impossible Dream Project. “My surgeon brought me over to Shake A Leg and I became a volunteer, sailing the smaller boats until we got the Impossible Dream.”

The Impossible Dream is a universally accessible 60 foot sailing catamaran. She was created by Mike Browne, a paraplegic from the U.K., so he could sail independently. After ten years of sailing, Mike was looking for an organization that could use the boat to serve people living with disabilities.

“The boat is absolutely beautiful. It was built from the ground up for someone living with a disability. With the smaller boats, you usually have to leave your chair ashore and get strapped in,” explained Mellen. “The Impossible Dream boat is universally designed with ramps, lifts, and extra space to get around in a wheelchair. We also have four cabins and two bathrooms that are completely accessible. We plan to get more advanced technology on the boat for higher-level injury quadriplegics so they can participate in driving the boat and other duties.”

Now, Mellen and her team are taking the Impossible Dream down to Cuba from Key West to participate in the Conch Republic Cup against 50 other boats with the only crew to have sailors living with disabilities. During the race, the group will also be visiting the local communities in Cuba to raise awareness and provide resources, such as the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation’s Paralysis Resource Guide.

After the race is over on February 6, Mellen and Horgan plan on revisiting their summer trips from last year to the Bahamas and up the eastern seaboard. In the Bahamas, Impossible Dream members will revisit Every Child Counts in Abaco, a special school for children with specific special educational needs. As they work their way from the Bahamas up to New York, Mellen and other volunteers will also visit different foundations and coalition offices to bring them onto the accessible boat.

“Last year, we had around 400 people on the boat throughout the trip, and it was amazing.” Mellen said. “We can’t wait to do it again this summer.”

The regatta began on January 28 near the Key West Harbor with the start of the Michele Geslin Memorial Cup which finishes the next day at Varadero Beach, Cuba. The Regatta will then hold buoy races in Varadero.

The Cuba coast Challenge ran from Varadero to Havana on February 1. Another Day of buoy races will be held in Havana February 3. The final leg of the regatta will be the Havana to Key West Cup starting at 5 p.m. on February 5. The race will officially finish on February 6 with the awards dinner at Dante's in Key West that night.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.