With the help of supporters and sponsors, including The Boat Works, Sailability will replace a 1960s, 5.5-metre Savage power boat, known as The African Queen, with the new, custom-built 6-metre pontoon boat, Freedom from Runaway Bay Pontoon Boats.
Based at the SYC base at Hollywell on the northern Gold Coast, Freedom will accommodate three clients in wheelchairs and joins the Sailability fleet comprising two yachts, Hope and Spirit, a smaller Clipper yacht, 14 solo dinghies and two two-seaters.
Greg Wright, Vice President of Sailability Gold Coast said the new pontoon boat is ideal for people who prefer the stability this style of craft offers, as opposed to the lean and movement of traditional sailing vessels.
“Our missing is to provide ‘Freedom on the water, regardless of ability’,” he said. “The new boat Freedom is ideal for our clients who want to get out on the Broadwater and cruise the canals of the Gold Coast in complete comfort and safety.
With her sturdy twin hull, Freedom is spacious and stable, powered by a Honda 80hp engine, designed for wheelchair access and three wheelchairs, with enough room for 10 people in total and with adequate sun protection.
“The idea for the boat was prompted by the fact that our current power boat, The African Queen, is not easy to step down into for even the able bodied and it was felt that an easier vessel to board would make a boating experience more appealing to a wider group of people.
“Freedom will take clients on 45-minute cruises on the Broadwater and canals, sight-seeing, enjoying the views and the marine life, the wind and sea spray – which most of us take for granted,” Greg added.
The largest Sailablity organisation in Australia, the Gold Coast branch works with around 70 clients each Tuesday, up to a maximum of 100, assisted by 50 or so volunteers at a time from a team of close to 100.
Clients come from organisations such as Sport & Recreation, among other groups. Some have previous on-water experience while most are new to boating.
“They all love being out on the water, the peace and feeling of movement that gives them. Their faces light up.
Some find it soothing and go to sleep, they all love the change of scenery. Volunteers too benefit from being involved. They feel they have done something worthwhile that makes a difference to lives.”
Greg said the organisation was fortunate to have active sponsors like The Boat Works who supported their endeavours financially and with the donation of professional services.
“We are very grateful to The Boat Works for its donations, which previously have allowed us to expand our Club facilities and resources. This year, our boats have benefited from the expertise and labour from the tenants at The Boat Works, such as Print Image Designs who have wrapped the exterior of Freedom in time for its official launch on 6 March.”
27ft Spirit is currently at The Boat Works for routine maintenance ahead of a busy period in the lead up to Easter and the Commonwealth Games.
One of Sailablity Gold Coast’s customers, Brendan Hain will be the final Queen’s Baton bearer on 4 April, setting off from the Pontoon Bar at Southport Yacht Club in a Liberty class Hansa Dinghy, the baton secured to his mast. Brendan will sail into the Broadwater before heading back to the Pontoon Bar for a well-earned drink. Freedom will be a support vessel with Sailability volunteers and fellow sailors onboard to toast Brendan’s success.
Other supporters include Board Meeting Surf Charity, Runaway Bay Lions Club, Southport Yacht Club, Beth Longland, Roylind Pty Ltd, Councilor Cameron Caldwell Div 3 and Councilor Kristyn Boulton Div 4, Bendigo Bank and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.
Shane Subichin, General Manager at The Boat Works said they were thrilled to help Sailability Gold Coast in its aims of introducing the disabled to boating, sharing their passion for the water.
“Boating is a big part of my life and all the team and tenants here. It’s very satisfying to know our tenants’ skills and our facilities help Sailability use their boats to provide access to the water for so many people, who otherwise would not experience how uplifting a day on the water can be.
“Freedom is a beautiful looking boat and quite unique. It will be a wonderful addition to their fleet. We are proud to see her and know hundreds of people will be able to enjoy boating now, many of them for the first time.”