Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

Sailability – Sailing With A Disability

5 Nov 2009I went to the Sydney International Regatta Centre, which is situated at Penrith Lakes, where the rowing and kayaking took place for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

It was an excursion day for Nova Employment's Transition To Work group at St Marys. We were also joined by the Penrith group.

The Transition To Work program is designed to help year 12 school leavers with a disability make the transition from school students to employees. They learn everyday skills such as personal hygiene, independent travel on buses and trains, money handling, how to behave in a workplace environment and general social and living skills plus much more.

TTW has two excursions a year and as they went sailing last year, they decided to go again this year because it was so much fun. I went along to see what it was all about.

Sailability has been operating at Penrith Lakes since 2002, they operate with the support of AMP, Penrith City Council and the Nepean Rowing Club, among others, also with the help of volunteers and they survive from donations and grants. Their aim was to help people sail who wouldn't normally be able to or just didn't know where to go.

There are around 20 volunteers that work with Sailability, most of them come from sailing backgrounds with one of the volunteers, Lorna Boyle, even winning a gold medal for doubles for the World Masters Games at Dobroyd Point Aquatic Club in Sydney this October.

All together, there are 14 sailing boats, 12 of them are ‘Access Dinghies', that hold up to two people, and 2 of them which are called ‘Walker Bay', hold up to four people. The Access Dinghies cost around $8,500 and the Walker Bay costs $5000. The Access Dinghies are unsinkable and are very hard to capsize.

A wheelchair hoist, which is worth around $5000, has kindly been donated to them, along with 6 slings to assist wheelchair bound passengers into the sailing boats with ease and safety. John Smith, the Commodore of Sailability, says that there is also padding that can be provided to make the ride more comfortable for disabled passengers.

John, who works as a Security Officer outside of Sailability, has been volunteering with the sailing club for years, he loves what he does, he suffered a heart attack and survived cancer, and whilst going through cancer treatment, still enjoyed volunteering. John even takes his 3 year old dog Toby, who he rescued, with him out on the sailing boats, Toby loves it.

Sailability caters to school groups, disabled groups and anyone who may be interested in trying out sailing. They have ‘come and try' days, that are held 1 Sunday a month, where non members can pay $15 to sail for the day at Penrith Lakes, you'll also get some professional sailing advice to help you along, and if you don't get the hang of it straight away, they have a power boat that will come and assist you if you drift too far away.

If you're interested in a ‘come and try' day, go to to see the dates available. If you join and become a member of Sailability, not only will you be helping support a wonderful cause, but for just $30 for an adult membership, you'll be able to attend a ‘come and try' day for only $5 each time. Up to 35 people can be out sailing at once. You can sail alone, with a friend, or with an instructor if you want some extra help. You'll need to make a booking so get on the website and have a look at the full details. They are also always looking for extra volunteers to help out.

If you aren't in the Penrith area, that's fine, Sailability operates all over Australia and all over the world. There is a list of Sailability clubs on the regular website which is, it started in the 1980's in England and now operates in over 15 countries under various names.

Jo-Blogs Comments:

Thank you to all of you that have left comments for this story, it's very good for me to get stories like this out so everyone can enjoy these experiences. I have put together a montage of the sailing trip, if you would like to view it, click here - http - Enjoy! And keep the comments coming!

Quick pose before I get in my life jacket

Could not move in my life jacket

Katie about to take off

Getting ready to winch me up with the hoist

I am sitting on the sling and they hook the cables on to the sling so it can be lifted

Going up

Hanging in the air - it was actually quite comfortable

Lowering me into the boat

View from the top of the hill

Penrith lakes map and Sailability rules

All the boats are ready to go

Bradley and Belinda suiting up in their safety gear

Sailability – Sailing With A Disability

John and his dog Toby getting the boats ready

Kristen and Simon are ready to go

Sailability – Sailing With A Disability

Sailability – Sailing With A Disability

Sailability – Sailing With A Disability

Sailability – Sailing With A Disability

First crash

Matalena and Kirstin

Jessica and Tim

Sailability – Sailing With A Disability

Trish and I

It was so much fun

Our boat was called the Jolly Roger

Kicking back and relaxing

Brett and Blake are ready to go and look very excited

Everyone suiting up in their safety gear

Matalena and Kirstin

Kristin and Simon

Carina and Kane

Johns dog Toby came out to join us

Blake and Brett

Lorna Boyle - Gold medal winner and Sailability volunteer

Lornas gold medal from the World Masters Games this year

The same boat used in the World Masters Games this year

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Previous Comments

David from Penrith posted on 17 Nov 2009
Inspirational! Thank you for sharing a great story and a marvellous opportunity for anyone that would like to sail - regardless of ability. I loved this story!!

kirstin pickard from blacktown Nova posted on 16 Nov 2009
good photos on the website jodie u did a great job from kirstin pickard

kirstinpickard from blacktown nova office posted on 12 Nov 2009
you did a good job on the disc and the website jodie i hope you got my last comment

kirstin pickard from Blacktown Nova posted on 12 Nov 2009
Hi Jodie its Kirstin Pickard from Blacktown Nova and i really thank you for doing the disc and putting the photos on the website. My family and i really enjoyed looking at them and i appreaciate you doing that for me from kirstin pickard

Lorna Boyle from Penrith posted on 6 Nov 2009
Hi, good to read your blog, you did a fantastic job keep up the good work, as a volunteer we see the job that it brings,so hope you see you again soon thanks lorna

Karen McQuillan from Qld posted on 5 Nov 2009
This is awesome Jodie!!!! Looks like you all had a great time!!

John Smith from Sailability Penrith Lakes posted on 5 Nov 2009
WELL DONE hope to catch up with you soon,come down for a sail when youy can.Regard John

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