Sailors With Disabilities - Wright of Passage program

The donation of a Herreshoff timber ketch in need of a bucket load of TLC –created the catalyst for Sailors with disABILITIES to seriously consider a long-held dream of building a program “Wright of Passage” that would create career paths for our client base, particularly around young people having difficulty with life for all kinds of reasons.

To achieve a career path– we gained commitment from TAFE to deliver the formal training at Meadowbank and Woolwich Dock came on board to provide the venue – so the dream has become reality and she is now in place ready for work to begin.

This Wright of Passage program and all it entails, caused me to think this time - have we bitten off more than we can chew! The restoration of this lovely old 1975 timber Herreshoff ketch built in Sidney British Columbia and how can we fit this into SWD programs – do we have the skills and resources both financial and man power?

What are the necessary components for a successful outcome and what are we trying to achieve in this program?

A recent article about Richard Bennet reminded me of the infamous 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race and the challenges it presented to my crew of disabled sailors. One of the crew, a competent sailor 12 yr. old Travis Foley dyslexic has made me think what has age got to do with anything? Why do we put these rings around inclusion or exclusion? And why do we get swallowed up by a bunch of lawyers who have never been to sea. I digress, recently I saw Travis in Qld he has a wife, two children and employs 4 people and if you ask he will tell you “SWD turned his head around”.

Vinny Lauwers a paraplegic who started sailing with Sailors with disABILITIES and went on to be the first paraplegic sailor to sail solo, non-stop around the world. These guys and girls remind me of what’s possible when we work together of what we can achieve, what is there for us all to share.

I could go on with a list as long as SWD’s 24 years and there are as many stories like these of the nearly 50,000 people who have been through our programs. While these thoughts are true this is not solving our problem …

How do we turn these Herreshoff ketch bones back to be the glorious lady of the seas she once was?

The aim is for a bunch of young people and volunteers with industry support to restore this old girl at Woolwich Dock. But then what? The Wright of Passage program is much more ambitious than that, the point of this program is to facilitate a pathway for employment for young people into the boat industry who are crying out for people with good attitude. This program will be run in two components the first commencing in February and the next in June/July. Whilst the first quota is almost full there is space in the second intake. At the end of 2018 having got her into a sea worthy state, the young people complete their Wright of Passage by sailing our ketch in January for Hobart town for the 2019 Wooden Boat Festival. She will then go on to become our ambassador ship sailing the east coast of Australia delivering our other programs. The secret of this is she will be crewed as much as possible by young people who are relevant to our client base. The concept of young people mentoring young people improves our outcomes considerably.

What we need from AFLOAT readers is support in this ambitious program to give our youth who are struggling with life, an optimistic attitude to their future, the right and responsibility for a successful Wright of Passage.

How can you help?
We need:
• Volunteer time – all volunteers are welcome especially tradies with a bit of time, even if you think you don’t have the appropriate skills we will find you a job!
• Appropriate resources – for the ketch’s restoration- e.g. tools, wood any stuff you think might be ok
• Tax deductable donations to assist in the delivery of this project- on line
• Linking young people, you may know to join the Wright of Passage program send to us ring 0421725170 or email

For more information: