When the north-westerly winds are blowing, the sailors from Sailability Wellington head for the shelter of Porirua harbour. No one wants to miss a day’s sailing.
Sailability Wellington, an organisation that makes it possible for people with disabilities to sail, now operates from three bases in Wellington – Seaview Marina, Evans Bay Yacht & Motor Boat Club and, for the past year, from the float plane jetty on Porirua harbour.
The organisation’s 62 volunteers support more than 200 sailors, but there are more than 80 on the waiting list. To meet demand, particularly in the Porirua-Kapiti region, Club Captain Don Manning is working hard to boost its capacity even further. He is fundraising to build a new jetty at Porirua, next to the Titahi Bay Boating Club, because the existing jetty can be used only at high tide. A new jetty will cost $150,000 and give them access to deeper water and longer sailing hours – and a calmer sailing option when the winds are too high for comfort on Wellington harbour. The jetty will also be available to local sailors.
“We would love to see it in for February next year because there is a Sea Scout jamboree being held on Porirua harbour.”
Don says that for the past 15 years his organisation has made it possible for sailors with disabilities to leave their limitations on shore. Once they get on board the emphasis is on what they can do – helming a yacht solo or taking part in a regatta. In an average year, each participant will get around 30 days of sailing. A number of sailors who volunteer with Sailability Wellington also have disabilities.
“Some people are scared of the water and we help them overcome it,” he says.
“When they sail solo for the first time, we have their parents and caregivers on the wharf and generally they cry. The mothers and grandmothers and fathers, who have all got tears in their eyes, are looking at us saying, ‘I am amazed that you would trust our son or daughter or granddaughter with an expensive boat’.”
The yachts are all modified for extra stability, with lead in the keel, but it makes them much heavier to handle than other yachts. In 2015 the IHC Foundation contributed $25,000 to purchase a sea crane and sling, buy a container to store boats, and cover engineering and other costs associated with the jetty project. In 2016 the Foundation granted another $25,000 to increase the number of volunteers and Club Captain hours.
Don says the Sailability Wellington Trust is bigger than the average yacht club. It owns 23 modified yachts, two safety boats, three shipping containers for storage, VHF radios and 100 life jackets – all funded by subscriptions, donations and fundraising.
IHC Foundation Chair Sir Roderick Deane says the Foundation is delighted to support the excellent work done by Sailability to enable people with intellectual disabilities to experience and enjoy sailing.