OLD friends gathered at the Gosport Cruising Club to commemorate a very special event.
On Saturday, blind veterans from across the UK ventured to the mariners club on Weevil Lane to thank them for their continued support, gifting them a brand new bench for their decking area.
The local mayor attended the unveiling of the bench along with other locals and club members.
For more than 20 years the club has provided an annual sail for blind veterans, who frequent the site to go out on to boat rides and enjoy the harbour.
Saturday proved to be no different as Commodore Steve Medley explained.
He said: ‘It’s been a tremendous day so far. We’ve got 25 vets here today and it has been fantastic as always. The boats have sailed to Southsea, Hayling and even the Isle Of Wight.’
Club member Jerry is a favourable captain, as his boat includes a mini bar so he can offer the vets a tipple of whisky as they enjoy the trip around the coast.
The blind vets presented the club with a teak bench which now sits in pride of place on the upstairs deck.
Steve said: ‘I knew we were getting something from them but this is just so generous, and for it to be made from teak is a lovely nod.’
The relationship between The Gosport Cruising Club and The Blind Vets began in 1995 when club member Nora Sinclair, who also worked in the catering department at HMS Daedalus, mentioned to a colleague that she would like to host an event for the Blind Vets at the club.
With the help of then organisations secretary Elspeth Grant, around six people attended the first sail and were taken out on boats and offered a snack and a drink.
Nowadays the annual trip involves a team of around 40 people, including the veterans and assistants. HMS Sultan offers the group a place to stay during their visit and has all of the facilities they need.
During their annual trip, the vets spend a week partaking in all sorts of activities planned by the Blind Veterans Holiday Camp organisation. Patron Kevin Rixon said: ‘I’ve attended the camps every year since my involvement in 1966. I haven’t missed a single one. We get to go on motorcycle rides, go gliding, and even play crazy golf! The club has been so supportive.’
On the relationship, Steve said: ‘It’s something we’re all so proud to be a part of. We all love sailing and the sea and to be able to offer the experience to the vets is always an absolute honour.’