There are numerous stories in Rotary about how the vision and determination of a few people can lead to extraordinary outcomes. This is one such story.
In 1999 the Rotary Club of Williamtown NSW (chartered in 1996) determined that the youth of Medowie, near Newcastle, would benefit from additional recreational activities. The nearby Grahamstown Dam was under utilised by the community and sailing was selected.

The Club, as a community service project, restored five second hand catamarans. A storage compound, storage shed and containers were organised to house equipment. In 2000 it was proposed that the focus of this endeavour be changed to provide an opportunity for disabled people to experience sailing. The Rotary "sailing project" was handed over to the community to manage. On 1st February 2001 Sailability Port Stephens was granted branch status by Sailability NSW, and the Grahamstown Sailing and Aquatic Club was incorporated to manage the venture.

Sailability Port Stephens grew with the continued support of the Rotary Club of Williamtown. Additional boats and equipment were obtained and interest from schools and disability organisation increased. Sailability later organised regattas with participants from NSW, Victoria and Queensland attending.

Today Sailability Port Stephens has 20 sailing craft, mainly the non capsizeable, non sinkable Hansa dinghies and is struggling to meet the demand for its services. During the summer months three sailing programs are run each week, with 40-50 sailors, mainly with disabilities, participating in the sailing experience. Servo assist equipment is used to allow even the most severely disabled to experience the joy of sailing a boat on the dam.

Several Sailability club members have followed the pathways available, allowing them to compete in State, National and Olympic racing competitions, including the Paralympics and Special Olympic World Summer Games.

The Rotary Club of Williamtown's current project is to replace the pontoon on Grahamstown Dam as the old one was damaged by a storm. This large project has been made possible with funds received from District 9670 Rotary Foundation Grant, a Federal Government's Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development Grant, as well as funds from the Rotary Club of Williamtown and Sailability Port Stephens. The new pontoon is expected to be installed in the coming months.

Thanks to the continued support from the Rotary Club of Williamtown, Port Stephens Council, the Hunter Water Corporation and a band of volunteers and supporters, Sailability Port Stephens has been able to provide successful sailing programs for over 15 years. A number of members from the Rotary Club of Williamtown are also office bearers and members of Sailability Port Stephens.

For further information on how your Rotary Club can become involved in Sailability as a community project please email Past President Frank Bardsley: