skip to main content



No such thing as “I can’t sail”

By David Pine

Sailability – the name says it all. This very special Wellington-based organisation teaches people with a disability – any disability – to sail a boat.

Speaking at Plimmerton Rotary on 27th October, Sailability Club Captain Don Manning explained that regardless of the type or severity of a person’s disability, it was possible for them to learn how to sail a boat single handed. The effect on the disabled person, their families, and the volunteers who cared for them, was unbelievably positive.

Don first became involved when, at the age of 14, he was chatting to another lad called Simon who lived nearby. Simon had cerebral palsy. Don was already an accomplished young sailor, and Simon expressed interest in learning how to sail.  Don approached the local boating club, whose response was: “Oh no, we could never do that – it’s far too dangerous.”

This was the catalyst for Don and some other like-minded people to create Sailability Wellington, an academy devoted to teaching people with disabilities to sail. Their biggest hurdle was to raise funds to purchase and adapt sail boats. “Our boats are different from normal small sail boats. “With our boats, the keels are fixed in position – they’re not adjustable. And the keel is extra heavy so that the boat won’t capsize. This makes our boats safe for use by disabled people, with some help from one or more of our volunteers who are usually on board with them.”

Often it was necessary to adapt the controls on the boats, to enable sailors who had little or no use of their hands to steer the boat and to adjust the sails.

Sailability’s equipment included radios, transport facilities, and cranes to lift the sailors in and out of the boats, as well as the boats themselves. The total cost was now around $500,000. “We can’t keep up with demand – we have more disabled people on our waiting list wanting to learn sailing than we have funds available to provide facilities for them. At the moment there are about 100 on the waiting list.”

The academy had expanded into two separate sites around Wellington Harbour and was about to start operations from a third site in Porirua Harbour.

Don was clearly passionate about Sailability and the way in which it enabled the sailors to forget about their disabilities for a while. “When they’re sailing, they’re not aware of their limitations. When you see the look of sheer delight on their faces, as well as their parents, and our volunteers, it makes the whole thing so worthwhile. We shed a lot of tears, that’s for sure – tears of joy.”

For further information, and to find out you can help, please visit or call Don on 027 249 4275.


RYLA 2016
Steve Lawton of Harbour City Rotary visited Plimmerton to inform us of progress with RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards) 2016. There is an improved website with a special section on ‘A Rotary Club’s guide to RYLA’ which aims at employers in the clubs.  Members need to be aware of local businesses and local bodies which may have employees the right age to attend RYLA.

Two new members were welcomed into Plimmerton Rotary. Bryan Waddle, a Whitby resident of some years who has also been a guest speaker on at least two occasions in the past in his capacity as a cricket commentator, and Connie Palmer who has lived in the area for 27 years and teaches at Aotea College as Dean of International Students and an ESoL teacher.

Melbourne Cup Night
November 3 – 4.30 –  5pm at the Cruising club for placing ‘bets’  and watching the race, then dinner at 6pm followed by our guest speaker. There will be a hamper for raffle.

Rotary Friendship Exchange
This friendship exchange is to a district in Southern  India for 3 weeks in February 2016. Talk to Peter Lillico if it sounds like something you would like to do.

Children's Christmas Party
Helpers are needed for the party for Porirua children at the Police College on Saturday 21 November 2.30 to 4.30 pm.  Please contact Ian Turner.



+ Text Size -

Skip to TOP

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the server!