Boats blessed at Sailability

Chaplin Marie Gilpin blessing the new boat with Trustee Cherryl Thompson (left) and assisted by sailor Alice Eminson.

The blessing of a new boat for Sailability Tauranga’s small fleet marked a recent milestone in the charity that has become established in the city over the last year.

Starting with borrowed boats, the blessing of the Hansa 303 Karaka marks the third boat owned by Sailablity Tauranga, with a fourth in the works.

Sailability provides sailing experience for the disabled.

To operate it requires not only special boats, but a solid volunteer backing.

The boats have side-by-side in-boat seating, joystick steering and minimal sheets. But it is getting disabled people onto the boats that takes the volunteers’ backing.

“The other resource is volunteers,” says Rhonda Ritchie, ‘the skippers and the dockhands, so it’s about getting experienced volunteers on board.

“To get four boats out we need 15 volunteers on the day,” says Alistair Eagleston, “ranging from catering through to the purser greeting arrivals. There’s dock hands, a boatswain to take charge of loading and unloading on the dock, sailing skippers - there’s one sailing skipper on every boat - and we have at least five people on patrol boats.

“We are very safety conscious,” says Rhonda. “The environment here is quite open and changing so we don’t take any shortcuts.

“Some of the other Sailability groups have the luxury of sailing in enclosed water, a marina area or just an enclosed bay. But we are quite exposed to the elements.”

The ceremony, in front of the yacht club, was attended by the many sponsors who have assisted Sailability Tauranga in its journey, including sailors and supporters.

Two of the current boats are leased and will be returned to the owners soon, making room in the container for the fourth boat when it arrives.

There are different classes of boats for disabled sailing, including a single seater, which may become available as the sailors progress says Alistair.

There is a progression from therapeutic through to sailor, steering a boat, steering under tow, learning to sail and learning to race.

“We’ve got two sailors, one sailing once by herself, and another one is just about ready. They are aspiring to progress.”