Sails Ocean Sails (or SOS for short) is a self-funded charity that started in 2005 to redistribute used sails from Australia to fishing people in the Pacific. Many of the recipients have relied on the outboard motor since the Second World War, losing some of their sailing knowledge and traditions along the way.
Founder Peter Gately says that a number of fishing boats are stranded at sea on a regular basis after their motors break down or run out of petrol. They are unable to return home and drift for days or weeks at a time.
“A sail allows them the chance of returning to their coastal village, and offers them a sense of security,” Peter says.
The program has visited fishing people in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, Timor sea and in Africa, and has taught the art of sailing and safety at sea in Maritime colleges while in-country.
“The director of the Maritime school in Tonga has asked for assistance,” Peter reports. “I have agreed to visit the Island next March, and take over sails, equipment and instruments to give to his students and the fishermen.
“I am hoping that some of your readers may be prepared to donate some used sails such as jibs or small mains, life vests, etc, that I'll be able to carry on the plane to Tonga.
“I was fortunate enough to carry 33 sails on a trip to Samoa in 2006 and hope to do the same this trip, with support from the Australian sailing community.
“The fishing people really appreciate the quality of Australian Sails and enjoy the learning experience of erecting a sail on their boat – they are immensely proud of their achievement, and amazed at the generosity of the Australian people.”
We think this is a terrific initiative and ask that anyone with unwanted small sails gets in touch with Peter so they can be put to a very good use.
– Roger McMillan, editor