SAILING FREE: Gosford Sailability co-founder Denis Critchley (centre, with hat), with volunteers at a recent working bee ready for the new season to begin.
SAILING FREE: Gosford Sailability co-founder Denis Critchley (centre, with hat), with volunteers at a recent working bee ready for the new season to begin.

Please step onboard for sail-ability

GOSFORD Sailability returns to the water tomorrow (September 24) and, while they have lots of eager participants, they still need volunteers.

Co-founder Denis Critchley said Gosford was the first branch of Sailability in NSW, forming in 1994.

Completely volunteer-based they work with about 40 people each week with any type of disability, the elderly, and financially and socially disadvantaged.

Volunteers are all Seniors, and do everything from teaching participants to sail or sailing the boats themselves, to helping with the rigging, maintenance, assisting participants with safety gear and getting to and from the boat, to preparing the post-sail barbecue.

"You don't have to have any experience to volunteer - we marry your skills and knowledge to what we need, and if you want to learn to sail, we can teach you that too," Denis said.

"Some of our volunteers, including myself, are disabled and I'm able to take people out on the water.

"It's pretty marvellous: for a start for some people it's the only opportunity they have to get on the water.

"But it's also about getting them into a new environment, away from their parents or carer and giving them that new experience and confidence."

A long-time sailor, who represented Australia in competition, Denis had thought he would never sail again after a back injury left him using a wheelchair.

He still remembers the feeling of freedom when some mates got him back onto the water, and it's a feeling he loves sharing.

"It's almost a religion," Denis said.

"It's just so relaxing and takes your focus away from everything else."

He went on to represent Australia at the 1996 Paralympics as well as at international regattas around the world, so you never know where an introduction to sailing could lead.

Sailability's boats are all purpose-built, easy to sail and designed to ensure everyone's safety.

It costs $10 per person for a half hour sale, and operates Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am-12.30pm at Gosford Sailing Club.

To find out more or to volunteer email sailabilitygosford@gmail.com or phone 0433 283487.