July 1996 was the date Sailability North Sydney was inaugurated with sailing divided between Milson’s Point and Manly, off the boat ramp at Little Manly Cove. The plan was to split into two when the areas were able to support independent groups. The boats were housed at Pittwater and transported by road.
During 1998 sailing was abandoned at Milson’s Point because of difficulties in rigging, launching and retrieving boats, and the name was changed to Sailability North Sydney / Manly.
At Manly the operation was moved from Little Manly to the beach adjacent to the ferry wharf at Manly Cove. The fleet of three boats were now stored in the corner of the boatroom at Manly Yacht Club. Soon a fourth boat was added through the good auspices of Manly Council.
Regular fund-raising days took place on Manly Corso, selling second-hand clothes, discarded books, and plants grown by volunteers.
Monthly sailing days were held off the beach, with a great deal of financial, administration and hands-on help from Manly Sunrise Rotary. They sponsored a fifth dinghy, and supplied a President, Treasurer, and many helpers.
Also in 1998 Manly Sailability was incorporated into the MYC Handbook Calendar and had a paragraph in the information pages.
In April 1999, the idea of building a floating pontoon at Manly Yacht Club was broached, at an estimated cost of $35,000. The structure to be totally built by volunteers seemed like a pipedream, but plans went to Manly Council and Maritime NSW, and slowly, the dream became a reality.
Slowly the structure took shape on the deck, and on a wet windy night in August 2001, at 10.30pm during the highest tide of the year, it was gently coaxed into the water, and guided by ropes into position between the piles.
During this period, sailing had continued from the beach, with rapidly rising membership, and the inclusion of groups at regular sailing days. It was necessary to increase Saturday sailing to fortnightly, and to cater for schools and community groups, sailing was introduced once a month on Wednesdays.
At that time President of MYC, successfully submitted the ambitious pontoon project for the “Volunteer Project of the Year” award sponsored by the NAB. The prize money contributed towards the cost of the Accessible Bathroom. There was also an infusion of funds from the Master Builders Association, and a fundraising evening called “Accessibility for Sailability” with the end result, a state of the art Accessible Bathroom, completed in February, 2007.
Due to sometimes choppy conditions on Manly Cove and the limited storage, the specially designed Access 303 became the preferred boat. Another prize from Active Australia for the “Best volunteer project” enabled the purchase of another Access 303, bringing the fleet to six.
Sailing had now been transferred to the new pontoon, and this presented an accessibility challenge from upstairs road level, to pontoon harbour level. Manly Council was approached, and negotiations began for a walkway between the two levels of Manly Yacht Club. It took 10 years and much persistence but eventually with the help of a Sydney Foreshores Grant, the access way was completed and opened in 2009.
A versatile Safety Boat is one of the most important boats in the fleet, and in 2005, the Paul Newman Foundation provided a Grant for $21,000 for a brand new Safety Boat.
It was named “Charlie’s Chariot” after dedicated volunteer, Charlie Powell, who’d been the Safety Boat driver, fundraiser, trailer builder, pontoon builder, and most frequent volunteer. . Throughout the existence of Manly Sailability, members have been actively involved in Australia Day Regattas, State and National Championships, and in 2009, the World Masters Games, where members won Gold and Silver medals.
The Access Association held their State and World Titles at Middle Harbour in 2012, with Manly Sailability providing significant Race Management expertise in both events.
With more new sailors and volunteers than ever, training has become a priority. A set of tutorials has been produced and are available on the website for all to view and study.
Manly Sailability is in excellent shape for the future.