Autism On The Water

Founded by Murray MacDonald, Autism On The Water (AOTW) is a registered charity dedicated to increasing awareness of the autistic spectrum through sailing and boating in general. Murray has autism – a lifelong developmental condition which affects how people communicate and interact with the world as they see it. One in 100 people are autistic and there is estimated to be around 700,000 autistic adults and children across the United Kingdom. 

Autism On The Water also aims to encourage autistic people to access sailing which can help increase confidence, problem-solving and social skills. AOTW aim to demonstrate that there are no barriers to stop or prevent the sport of sailing from being accessible to all. 

Throughout its operations, the charity has helped over 120 autistic people access sailing whether as a simple sailing outing or a relaxed trip through the beautiful Crinan Canal in the Argyllshire district of Scotland.

Sailing into a brighter future

Murray comes from a family of Scottish sailors. Originally having disliked the sport of sailing, Murray became a regular competitor in his youth and found that sailing would become something he grew to love, and even change his life.

In his own words, Murray discovered how to manage and accept his autism for the benefit of both himself, and others. Sailing had taught Murray many skills and he felt that he could help others.

Autism On The Water believe that sailing can benefit autistic people with the following skills:

  • Confidence
  • Problem Solving
  • Social Skills


The South Coast Adventure

GJW Direct are proud to be the headline sponsor for Autism On The Water's brand-new campaign entitled "The South Coast Adventure". In 2022, AOTW are embarking on their biggest adventure to date as they bring their yachts to the south coast to provide opportunities for others to experience what Autism On The Water works toward and tries to achieve for local communities.

Their Hunter 707 and Colvic Victor 34 will travel from Scotland to Swanick and operate from the south coast to participate in both the 2022 Round the Island Race and Cowes Week regattas.

Their Colvic Victor 34 “Confidence” will be providing free sailing outings to young people on the autistic spectrum as well as sponsors, supporters and special guests. You can read more about part 1 of the South Coast campaign here.

Autism On The Water yachts

The charity owns two yachts – a Hunter 707 which is a small racing yacht that is campaigned across Scotland, and a Colvic Victor 34 yacht called Confidence.

Confidence was purchased in late 2020 after a remarkable fundraising effort which saw the charity raise the funds to purchase the yacht in 27 hours!

Confidence is the charity’s main yacht that provides free sailing trips to all ages on the autistic spectrum. The boat is fully equipped for 8 passengers and two crew and has the bonus of having indoor steering for young people to still experience sailing from the shelter of the cabin. 

Murray's story

It was a cold, wet and windy night in Edinburgh in November 2016 – a Sunday night where it was just too miserable to go out anywhere. In a flat in the south of the city, as a keen sailor, I had started to construct a Facebook page about my experience – I had no plan, no money, no ambition and certainly not a clue at the time as to where this Facebook page would be in a few years’ time.

Throughout my sailing career, I found that sailing had become a life changer in the way of how I managed and accepted my own autism. After attempts at University and College were found to not be for me – I decided to research other sailing organisations across the country that provided for people with autism, but there was nothing specifically for autism. It was one of the reasons that I unexpectantly set up Autism On The Water...

Read Murray's Story


What is autism? 

Autism, also referred to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a life-long developmental condition which affects the way the brain stores and processes information. It is a neurological condition which can impact sensory processing. Autistic people may behave, communicate, interact, and learn in ways that are different from most. This can also contribute to difficulties adapting, social interaction, problem-solving and skills with confidence. Autism affects people in many different ways and so it is known across the world as a wide spectrum. There are around 700,000 autistic adults and children across the United Kingdom. For more information about autism visit The National Autistic Society.  

Find out more

Whether you live in their base of Scotland or on the south coast of England, Autism On The Water encourage you whether autistic or not, to find out more about what they do.

The links below will direct you to third party websites. We are not responsible for the privacy policies or the content of such websites or contact. You should check the terms and policies applicable to each such website or contact.

  • AOTW Website

    Visit the Autism On The Water website to find out more about their work. 

  • AOTW Facebook

    Stay up to date with the South Coast Adventure on the Autism On The Water Facebook page.

  • AOTW Email

    Contact Autism On The water to find out more or get involved.

Volunteer with Autism On The Water

Autism On The Water would not be able to operate on the water without the hard work of volunteers. They are looking for new volunteers to join their team, particularly with their new Cruising yacht program. They are looking for people with the following skills:

  • Preferred sailing experience - although not essential
  • Qualifications such as RYA Day Skipper, Crew Competent or any form of qualification relating to sailing or boating.
  • Willing to undergo a full PVG disclosure check
  • Experience with boat maintenance
  • Knowledge of the autism spectrum - not essential as we will teach you as much as we can!
  • First aid qualification or experience
  • Experience in preparing risk assessments and other administration duties
  • Good communication skills and a willingness to learn

If you would like to volunteer with Autism On The Water please click the button below and send across your CV, copies of relevant qualifications and a covering letter to AOTW.

Contact AOTW