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5 February, 2021

Charity left high and dry

Sailability, a beloved Cairns Charity that enables local people with a disability to experience the joy and freedom of sailing, is searching for a new home as their association with Cairns Yacht Club (CYC) at the Cairns Marina has come to a sudden end.

By Tanya Murphy

Sailability Cairns founding member Don Tennant, president Jeff Crofts and volunteer skipper Adam Howarth are looking for a new home for their boats.

Since Sailability Cairns’ foundation in 2014, the charity utilised part of the CYC storage shed near the Salthouse at the Cairns Marina, as well as their access ramp and pontoons, allowing easy wheelchair access for participants in their twice-weekly volunteer-run sailing programs.

However, last month the CYC issued Sailability Cairns with a notice to accept new terms at a significant increase in cost, or vacate the facilities by January 31.

“Sailability was started by members of the CYC and we’ve had great support from members of the CYC over the years. But their latest terms and conditions are outside the legal parameters we are obliged to operate under as a charitable, deductible gift recipient and the financial cost is untenable. Sailability has had no choice but to decline the terms,” said Sailability Cairns president Jeff Crofts.

Over the years a number of Cairns organisations and businesses including Rotary, Ports North, Seaswift and others have thrown their support behind the entirely volunteer-run charity, sponsoring their nine boats, which are specially designed to accommodate people with disabilities.

Sadly these boats are now sitting high and dry in storage space donated by the Cairns Cruising Yacht Squadron on Tingira Street, Portsmith, as committee members search for a new operating location.

“As far as we know, there are no other facilities with the same easy wheelchair access and safe beginner-level sailing conditions as the ones we have just vacated, but we are open to any suggestions,” said Mr Crofts.

He said they were actively looking into locations that could be adapted easily to make them appropriate for use by people with a disability, and were determined to get their boats back in operation as soon as possible.

Volunteer Skipper Adam Howarth said sailing with Sailability had “saved him” when he experienced mental “shut down” after being injured in an accident. In five years since joining, he’s gone from a novice to a skipper who teaches sailing to others.

He said it was sad to see Sailability brought to a standstill.

“It’s sad for a lot of people because it gets them involved in doing outdoor activities,” he said.

“There are a lot of people in wheelchairs and it helps get them out of the house. We take people from the Endeavour Foundation and ARC disability services and when we take them out they are ecstatic. It also gives me a chance to get away from my house and get out onto the water, which has helped me a lot as an
accident survivor.”

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