New jetty for sailors with disabilities
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.