New jetty for sailors with dis­abil­i­ties

The Dominion Post - - News - Jared Ni­coll jared.ni­coll@stuff.co.nz

The launch of an all-tide jetty will help dis­abled sailors en­joy Porirua Har­bour.

Mem­bers of the Sail­abil­ity Welling­ton Trust, New Zealand’s largest sail­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, en­joy sail­ing at Seav­iew in Lower Hutt and Evans Bay in Welling­ton.

How­ever, their abil­ity to get out on the wa­ter had been lim­ited by the tides around the Ti­tahi Bay Boat­ing Club at Porirua Har­bour.

On Sun­day next week, the trust will un­veil a $250,000 all-tide jetty, topped off with a visit from the Amer­ica’s Cup. The jetty will al­low sailors to be low­ered into or raised from boats, which have heavy cen­tre­boards, us­ing small hand­driven cranes.

Dou­ble-leg am­putee Dar­rell Smith, 55, grew up sail­ing in the area but did not join the trust un­til ‘‘about when my last leg came off’’ seven years ago.

‘‘I had a birth de­fect – not enough blood flow – so I knew this was com­ing since I was a kid. They were chip­ping away toes from the age of about 21,’’ he said.

‘‘But I’m still here and I’m out sail­ing, so it’s all good.’’

Smith uses a wheel­chair now, and is fo­cused on help­ing oth­ers get out on to the wa­ter.

‘‘When you’re in a chair all day, your days can get pretty long. So for these guys to get out­side of their lit­tle box for sail­ing or horse rid­ing or what­ever, it makes their whole week.’’

Some first-timers were ner­vous at first, so the key was to pick and choose which sailors went with which skip­per, he said.

‘‘The last thing we want to do is freak them out or get them wet or get them scared.

‘‘They get out of these boats and they’re laugh­ing, com­mu­ni­cat­ing – dif­fer­ent kids al­to­gether.

‘‘The amount of par­ents we have in tears here be­cause they never thought their kids would be out do­ing this sort of stuff . . .’’

Trust chief ex­ec­u­tive Don Man­ning said the all-tide jetty would al­low more peo­ple to en­joy the pro­gramme.

Cur­rently, about 70 vol­un­teers look af­ter 190 sailors, with 90 more on a wait­ing list.

‘‘Our sailors have got all sorts of dis­abil­i­ties,’’ Man­ning said. ‘‘Dar­rell’s is pretty ob­vi­ous. Some of them are not so ob­vi­ous.

‘‘You might get a guy like me who comes along who’s got a learn­ing dis­abil­ity or autism or an in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­ity.

‘‘On the [jetty] open­ing day, one of the peo­ple giv­ing away flow­ers is Natalie. She is vis­ually im­paired.’’

The Amer­ica’s Cup will be on dis­play at the Ti­tahi Bay Boat­ing Club dur­ing the launch from noon to 4pm on No­vem­ber 18.

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