Sailing into action for disabled earns Greg top award

Sailability efforts earn top award for Gold Coast volunteer

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"I FELT I HAD TO GIVE SOMETHING BACK": Greg Wright receives his 2019 Gold Goast Volunteer of the Year award and (left) the new pontoon boat for Sailability.

"I FELT I HAD TO GIVE SOMETHING BACK": Greg Wright receives his 2019 Gold Goast Volunteer of the Year award and (left) the new pontoon boat for Sailability.

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New pontoon boat allows disabled clients to enjoy the water like everyone else.

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IT WAS Kenneth Grahame in The Wind in the Willows who wrote "There's nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."

Sailability skipper and 2019 Gold Goast Volunteer of the Year Greg Wright might add that it's even better when you're serving the community at the same time.

Greg, 74, received the award for his efforts raising funds and overseeing construction of a special pontoon boat for Sailability.

The volunteer organisation, which has been operating on the Gold Coast for 20 years, gives people with disabilities the opportunity to experience the joy of sailing in both big and small yachts.

The new six-metre vessel, aptly called Freedom, has a capacity of 10 - three wheelchair users, five other passengers and two crew - and is used for clients who want to get out on the water but not necessarily sail.

FREEDOM TO SAIL: Clients, carers and crew enjoy an outing on the Broadwater aboard the new pontoon boat. New volunteers are always welcome.

FREEDOM TO SAIL: Clients, carers and crew enjoy an outing on the Broadwater aboard the new pontoon boat. New volunteers are always welcome.

It replaces the1950s-built African Queen, whichGreg said clients found hard to embark and disembark.

"It was too awkward; there was nothing to hang on to," he said. "The boys really had to sort of catch people as they got in!"

So he set to work. "I've been in the marine industry for years so I rang a few people and managed to raise about $50,000 from various groups," he said

He reached the goal in only two months, thanks to donations from local businesses, Lions clubs, charities, banks, local councils, individuals and more.

While Greg said he felt honoured to receive the award, he stressed it had less to do with his powers of persuasion than the fact that people could see a real benefit in the project.

Built by a local pontoon maker, Freedom has a highly stable platform and a flat floor ideal for wheelchairs, which are secured by restraints similar to those used in modified taxis.

It makes you feel good that you've done something for the community. I've had such a great life in the boating industry I felt I had to give something back. - GREG WRIGHT

Powered by a 60-horsepower outdoor motor, ittypically tootles along at about 16 knots. A sun top protects clients from the elements

Since its launch earlier this year,it has been getting plenty of use, making about five 45-minute trips each sailing day. (Altogether, Sailability typically takes out 70-90 clients daily, with about 50 volunteers on hand.)

Before retiring, Greg spent decades in the marine industry in Sydney and on the Gold Coast - loving every minute of it, he said.

So when his wife Karilyn spotted an ad in the local paper seeking skippers for Sailability, it was a perfect fit,

"I really couldn't have done anything better. It got me back into sailing again, which was good, and it gives you a lot of pride and satisfaction when you come home after doing a day out in the water with the clients.

Greg's latest project has been getting a new support vessel built.

Called a rigid inflatable boat, or RIB, these vessels are required whenever a Sailability yacht is out on the water. He's very happy with the result - "it's terrific and has turned out to be a damn good boat".

Sailability sails from from Southport Yacht Club at Hollywell every Tuesday and has a training and maintenance day every Thursday.

But it's not limited to Greg's part of the world. He said Sailability operates all over Australia "and does a fantastic job".

It is always looking for volunteers, especially skippers, who Greg said were often in short supply.

Other opportunities include promotional work, such as talking to people at expos and NDIS displays.

"These guys put so much time and so much effort into making it work like clockwork for the clients. It's great."

READ MORE:Sailability brings joy to clients, volunteers and family members alike

READ MORE:Sailing apprentice-ship teaches lessons in life

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