Touching legacy

FREMANTLE Sailing Club vice commodore Robert Thomas died in a tragic sailing accident in February, but his legacy lives on through the Community Sailing Initiative.

Designed to give young people at risk a taste of maritime life, it was set up by yachties David Nelson and Tony Henderson, but it was Mr Thomas who donated the 10.9 metre yacht for community events and the club’s training program.

Over the past 12 months the initiative has run sailing activities for more than 140 people from various organisations, including The Dropin Freo, Richmond Wellbeing, Neami National and Lorikeet Centre/Mental Illness Fellowship.

“All have reported that participants have benefited from the experience through the sense of achievement and engagement with the natural environment,” Nelson says.

• Jacob Davis, Ron Greer and David Nelson. Photo by Jenny D’Anger

Recently Mission Australia came on board and the first batch of fledgling sailors took to life—or at least a day—on the ocean waves.

“They are loving this, they’re so excited about coming here,” MA staffer Jacob Davis says.

The young adults come from varied backgrounds, some are referred by the courts, and all are part of MA’s drug and alcohol program.

“Some have experienced homelessness, but not all,” Davis says.

“Some struggle to have a place to call home and some come from temporary accommodation services.

“We get people from the western suburbs and from the eastern suburbs; from all walks of life.”

“The outcome we are looking for is better physical health, and improved mental health and improved relationships at home, along with improved confidence in living.”

Meeting as strangers, the crew of young adults learn the skills needed to sail, including working as a team and trusting each other.

“We aim to get them splicing and doing knots, some maintenance and poring over charts,” Nelson says.

Plotting a course for Carnac Island is on the cards as a graduation.

“It’s like life – if you don’t know where you are going to come unstuck.”

by JENNY D’ANGER

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