Sailing provides new lease on life for bipolar sufferer

Sailing provides new lease on life for bipolar sufferer

DEREK Burton credits two ‘old muckers’ as the reason he is still alive and has a new lease on life.

Mr Burton has Bipolar, which he remained undiagnosed with for sometime.

“I was estranged from my family because of it, but since the diagnosis they are now back in my life,” he said.

“I love all my four children Simon, Ashley, Bradley and Georgina and my grandchildren.

“Simon has a son Ryan and Ashley has a daughter Mya.”

After his house was re-possessed four years ago, he became homeless and fell victim to the uncertainty and danger that comes with a life on the street.

He was beaten up, set on fire, run over riding a bicycle and has had numerous suicide attempts.

Having always wanted to sail, Mr Burton bought a yacht about 18months ago, but due to a broken ankle, shoulder injury and shattered knee, sailing seemed out of the question.

His yacht remained on land at the TCYC hard stand on Point Peron Road.

Through the club he met two veteran yachties, Les Cooke (82) and John Gorbould (76).

To help him gain some sea legs, the pair converted his yacht and are teaching him to sail as a disabled sailor.

“I have never allowed myself to have friends,” Mr Burton said.

“But you need them, they make all the difference.”

“In Yorkshire terms they are good muckers (best friends).”

“They are very calming, extremely nice people”

“Les has seen me suicidal. I have had 18 attempts.”

“They have gotten to know me so well that it has stopped me from committing suicide.”

“It’s helping me, although I wonder if it’s the sailing or just British grits or both.”

The yacht was named after Mr Burton’s cat, Opal.

“The yacht is called Opal’s Red Witch, I sewed pictures of my cat onto the sails,” he said.

“She too has stopped me from committing suicide many times.”

Mr Cooke had done most of the work on the yacht.

“He just needs to take his mind off his condition,” Mr Cooke said.

Mr Gorbould along with TCYC executive officer Rod Veerhuis had seen a transformation in Mr Burton’s life.

“The yacht club has been very helpful for Derek,” Mr Gorbould said.

“He had that many injuries. The poor sod couldn’t do much.”

“He bought the boat and we decided to help him modify it.”

“Now he won’t need to go up front in choppy seas.”

“The idea is for him to be independent and get others like him interested.”

“It has been a massive transformation for a person who was cabin bound,” Mr Veerhuis said.

“He has a registered mooring for the boat. With the mooring being further out he’ll learn the hard way first.”

“He will have to paddle out and learn to get on the boat himself.”

As part of his training, he will also learn to sail without an engine.

“I’m going to be a yachty,” he said.

“When I get out there I can just relax. I think my illness is getting into control now.”

Mr Burton intends to live on the yacht once it is moored.

Mr Burton also wanted to pay tribute to his mother, Patricia Burton’s (83) whose breast cancer has spread to her brain.

His advice to others facing mental illness is to find out who you are.

“Once you understand who you are, you get on with your life and your needs,” he said.

“Everyone is special. Knowing who you are keeps you calm.”