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Leadership Sheboygan County Group supports SEAS

For one the groups that recently graduated from the Leadership Sheboygan County program through the Sheboygan County Chamber, they decided to support SEAS for their group project.  The group, Bailey Dolson, Jeremy Dekker, Chris Weber and Amanda Ehlenbeck, researched several organizations to support and felt the needs at SEAS with it's Adaptive Sailing program was a great fit. After reviewing many options on how they could best raise the most money with the least amount of expense, so more funds come back to the program, they set up a Go Fund Me page which they will promote to reach their goal of $5000.  The amount is designed to provide scholarships to individuals with an interest in learning about sailing, to teach them about sailing and ultimately having them sail.

You can help them reach their goal by sharing this post with your friends and making a contribution yourself.  A little goes a long way, especially when SEAS goal of having 100+ people with adaptive needs learn about sailing and/or sail this summer.




Video: Steve Heronemus sails again

For those who have been following the Steve Heronemus story this video tells the tale of his latest voyage. Its more than sailing, more than overcoming challenges, its about three generations bonding through sailing. The video is followed by a transcript and finally a gallery of pictures from the event.




Narrator: In January of 2015 Steven Heronemus a sailor who has lived with ALS for over 10 years, joining forces with SEAS to launch an adaptive sailing initiative with a focus on the disabilities rendered by ALS. Its ultimate goal to help those with life altering disabilities experience the freedom and joy of sailing.

On September 4, 2015 using only a bite switch coupled to an autopilot and two touch pads for sail trim Steven Heronemus took his 83 year old father for a sail in a twenty three-foot sonar off the shores of Sheboygan Wisconsin. At the time. he had no idea it would be their last sail together because twelve days later his father unexpectedly passed away.

To Steven the quiet afternoon sail was a joyful return to something he loved. To his father it was one of the most beautiful gifts he could have received from his son. And to other sailors with disabilities it would further inspire SEAS to explorer develop and refine the human interfaces necessary to provide any disabled person access to the wind and water.

On September 23rd the day after his father’s memorial service Steve took his son Matthew for sail as a tribute to his father the man who taught him to sail.

Description: SEAS Team adjusts the boat to Steve.

Steve Orlebeke, Director of Engineering Harken Inc: After we sailed last time it was pretty obvious that the bite switches on the flexible arm were moving around too much because we had to readjust them a couple of times, so I built a more solid bracket that is attached to the head rest. So when the head rest moves, the switches move exactly the same amount and I think that that will work a lot better for Steve. Seems like it’s working so far but we will see how it goes.

Description: Steve’s son Matthew boards the boat and is asked what he thinks of all this to which he replies “exciting”. Matthew is instructed to keep his dad’s chair positioned at a 45 degree angle to the front of the boat that way he can still see his sails and still see the water.

Nick Chadwick, SEAS: A little farther away from the break wall Steve so we don’t touch the bottom of the boat, perfect. Steve at Harken made this new mount for the bite switches that connect to the head rest so it’s very stable now for Steve. That’s the one change since the last time, and then we also have the same cushion that Steve has in his wheel chair a Roku cushion and he’s now sailing and should be able to stay out much longer this time. The sensitivity on one of the buttons that actually trim and ease, the round disk buttons that we have on the chair, one of them was not as sensitive as it was the last time, so we basically managed to jury rig another switch to get him sailing today which he is now using his index finger which seems pretty responsive,

So, this morning before we came down to the yacht club we stopped at the Windway office an met with Aaron and Bob, and Bob is working on this sip-puff joystick that Steve will be able to put is his hand just like he uses his wheel chair joystick in the hope that we can just that one joystick with his one hand to push away to trim in and pull towards to ease and then port and starboard.

Description: Support crew leaves the boat and Steve and his son begin to sail alone.

Steve Orlebeke, Director of Engineering Harken Inc: Well I think definitely we need to do some work with the hand buttons and figure out exactly the right buttons, the touch pad that Nick pulled out of the trailer seems like a pretty good solution. With all of these buttons none of the stuff we are buying is IP rated for this kind of environment so it’s going to be a challenge to keep things from corroding and dealing with moisture, but we will get it figured out.

Narrator: Nobody goes looking of ALS, it just happens. An invariably fatal neurological disorder that attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscles such as those in the arms legs and face. The condition which over time ceases the very things that we take for granted. The ability to walk, dress, write, speak, swallow and even breathe. Yet over 6,000 people are diagnosed with it every year, and over 30,000 people live with it at any one time. Steven Heronemus has beat the odds despite his inability to talk or even breathe on his own continues to work with SEAS in an effort to bring the joy and freedom of sailing the disabled people everywhere.

SEAS the day! Help make someone’s dream come true. Make a financial or in-kind contribution to SEAS today.

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Update: Steve Heronemus Sails Again

Wednesday, September 23  

Yesterday Steve Heronemus made it out for another sail using the adaptive equipment the SEAS and Harken team developed, but it was more than just a second sail with the new equipment. The sail was both a tribute and the continuation of what is now a Heronemus family tradition.


On Friday, September 4, Steve Heronemus was able to do something he had been unable to do for over a decade, go sailing. Before being diagnosed with ALS, Steve had spent time sailing on Lake Michigan with his father, Dick Heronemus. The SEAS and Harken teams developed an adaptive solution for one of the Sail Sheboygan Sonars which allowed Steve to skipper and trim so Steve and his dad could share a sail together yet again. Tragically, on September 16th Dick Heronemus passed away.

The funeral service concluded on Tuesday and Steve and family remained in Sheboygan to attempt the second sail the next morning. Light winds, too light to effectively sail, kept the boat at the dock but the time was spent discussing future upgrades to the equipment. Planned improvements include the incorporation of a Sip Puff system and other electronic upgrades. These talks were followed by lunch at the Sheboygan Yacht Club where Dick Heronemus had been a longstanding member.


After some troubleshooting at the dock the team launched in the early afternoon in a light southeast breeze. Just feet off the dock Steve had already taken control of the boat and continued to maneuver out of the harbor with the support crew standing by. As they reached the lighthouse the SEAS support team left the boat to Steve and his son Matt to sail on their own together. A new tradition had begun, and as SEAS board member Tryg Jacobson said, “The torch has been passed”.


With the support crew following on a radar equipped safety boat and the rest of the family following on another powerboat Steve and his son were left to sail together on their own for nearly two hours before the wind died enough that the support crew jumped back on board to help with the return trip to the dock. It was another successful trip and a step toward a broader program. IMG_1108 Three generations have now taken advantage of the possibilities opened up with the new equipment. The equipment has enabled a man to once again enjoy his love of sailing, but also allowed a family to share that experience together and in times of pain. This is about more than adaptive sailing.IMG_1109

Steve Heronemus Sails In Memory of His Father

Today Steve Heronemus was able to get out for another sail on the recently adapted Sonar. The moment was bittersweet as Steve's father, Dick Heronemus, passed away last week. The SEAS team made a point to give Steve the opportunity to hit the water today following his father's funeral services yesterday. Our thoughts are with his family during these difficult times.  






Steve's Voyage - New Video

Adaptive Sailing Success Story Steve has had ALS for over 10 years. Prior to contracting ALS, Steve sailed with his father Richard Heronemus who was a very active member of the Sheboygan Yacht Club. He is an accomplished sailor. Despite his disease he continues follow sail boat racing worldwide. It is his passion, which makes this particular journey quite meaningful.

As Steve's ALS has progressed, Steve may have lost nearly all of the ability to use his arms and legs, but certainly not his will to sail. He has a slight use of his middle left finger and has enough shoulder movement in his right shoulder to activate switches to steer the boat. He also has the use of his jaw, which will enable him to activate bite switches to trim and ease his sails. Both the steerage and trim systems were inspired by Steve Heronemus, and collaboratively developed by Steve Orlebek at Harken and Nick/Rich/Matt at Windway.

Sailor overcomes ALS



Contact: Matt Wierzbach


September 4th, 2015




SHEBOYGAN, WI - The Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan (SEAS) took a major step forward in their adaptive sailing program. Steve Heronemus, a sailor with advanced stage ALS was able to sail on his own thanks to a collaborative effort between SEAS, Sail Sheboygan, Harken, and an extensive team of dedicated individuals. The collaboration has not only given Steve an opportunity to enjoy sailing again, but it is a major step to providing enriching experiences on Lake Michigan to a new group of individuals.


Today was the result of a nine month project that began with Tryg Jacobson meeting Steve and being inspired by his story. Tryg, a long time sailor himself, was inspired by Steve and questioned if it were possible to develop an equipment package to get Steve sailing again. From that idea came a long series of e-mails and phone calls and the development began.


The first challenge to overcome was how to safely and comfortably get Steve on the water. While the idea of purchasing a new boat specifically for this project was originally posed it was quickly dropped in favor of adapting a Sonar currently in the Sail Sheboygan fleet.  Sonars are a stable boat often used in adaptive sailing programs and major events such as the Paralympic games. The use of a Sonar allowed the project to move forward immediately.


It then was a challenge to find a seating solution for Steve who would not be able to sit in the boats original moulded seats. The solution came from a contact SEAS Program Director Matt Wierzbach made at the US Sailing Programs Symposium. Magnus Liljedahl from Team Paradise out of Miami had constructed what he called a “Lazy Susan” bench for the Sonar to be used for the foredeck position at the front of the boat. It was decided to build a version of the “Lazy Susan” in Sheboygan and Sail Sheboygan Bosun, Nick Chadwick, set to building with help from Tony Orlebeke and Britt Voechting. It was this chair that was used in June to give Steve his first sailing experience since before his ALS diagnosis. While the chair provided the opportunity to experience sailing as a passenger the goal still remained to develop a way for him to control the boat himself.


SEAS Executive Director Rich Reichelsdorfer and Tryg then brought in Steve Orlebeke and his team from Harken in to work toward developing the system required for Steve to operate the boat on his own. Harken out of Pewaukee Wisconsin specializes in marine technology and their electric winch proved to be the ideal solution to replace the manual role of sail trim. The winch, when hooked up to electric switches can trim and ease the sails to their proper position, something Steve is unable to do without their help. They modified a marine autopilot to allow steering in using a similar set-up, all led forward to the chair.


Despite foggy conditions this morning the weather cleared enough by 11 AM for the team to get out onto the water. Five support boats followed the Sonar out onto Lake Michigan filling roles from safety boat and video to a spectator boat for the family. After Steve had familiarized himself with the boat the support staff and boats backed off and Steve was able to sail alone on the boat. After sailing for around an hour on his own his father, tears in his eyes was the first to rejoin him on the boat.


After returning to the dock many of those who had worked on the project gathered for a short ceremony in which Steve was presented a new award, named in his honor, to be presented for the advancement of adaptive sailing. The boat will be available for Steve to sail for the remainder of the season before the team takes another look at the system over the winter to refine the system.


Combined with a blind team leaving for the Blind Fleet Racing World Championship in Chicago next week this has proven the commitment set last year by SEAS to develop an Adaptive Sailing Program here in Sheboygan. Breaking barriers to sailing and providing opportunities to enjoy the water for all those interested is not only a dream but now a reality.



SEAS is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Your contributions are recognized and are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by the United States Tax Code. Thank you for supporting SEAS mission.


The Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan exists to establish Sheboygan’s waterfront and boating programs as best in class for offerings and facilities, while enhancing our county’s already stellar attractions.


SEAS works to advance the sailing and water sport facilities on Sheboygan’s waterfront and marine education generally in order to provide more services at a reasonable cost.  We strive to maximize the impact of our donors’ dollars by expanding awareness, training, and opportunities in marine and conservation activities through education and strategic outreach.  SEAS also provides financial assistance to similarly engaged non-profit organizations.

For more information on SEAS please visit

SEAS Adaptive Sailing Advancement

st This video documents the sea trials of adaptive sailing advancements in outfitting a sailboat to allow a man with ALS to sail again.  Check it out.


Testing Adaptive Sailing Innovation

wire In the summer of 2015, S.E.A.S. in collaboration with Harken Inc. and Steven Heronemus, made an important advancement in adaptive sailing. Using touch pad technology to trim a Harken powered winch and a bite switch linked to an autopilot, the team developed a means by which a quadriplegic sailor could sail again.


Ten years ago, Steven Heronemus was diagnosed with ALS and slowly lost the use of his arms and legs. With only the slight ability to use his left middle finger and his right shoulder, Steven was able to steer and trim a SONAR. In this test video, Rich Reichelsdorfer of S.E.A.S. steers the SONAR in a variety of wind conditions tacking and gybing over a period of 30 minutes. This was done to prepare the boat for a 16 mile sail by Heronemus.

S.E.A.S. is about maritime education, safe boating classes, for sail and powerboats. We’re about supporting organizations and clubs that fit nicely into the parameters of our mission. And we’re about sponsoring educational and entertainment programming that will bring about public awareness and interest in Sheboygan’s amazing maritime heritage and the well-being and accessibility of our most valuable asset—the incredible waterfrontup and down Lake Michigan’s western shore.


The Lazy Susan!

Britt is the first to test the chair under sail. Our version of the Lazy Susan, a design first started by Team Paradise in Miami, is ready for its first students. The design is ideal for an individual with limited mobility to experience sailing in its true form. The chair rotates allowing for the crew to remain on the high side (or low side if its light!).