Widespread use of the boat will start when the increased temperatures of spring arrive, with many local organisations booking to take groups of youngsters to the Centre for trips in the new Devon Gig, a 7.62m (25 feet) long sailing boat that can carry 12 people.

Crosby Lakeside has been involved in Sailability activities for several years but this is the largest boat they have ever had that is capable of taking groups out. Funding of nearly £30,000 has come through grants from RYA Sailability, Sport England and funds raised by a previous Mayor of Sefton Council for charitable purposes.

The boat was constructed by Honnor Marine in Rochdale and customised to a specification supplied by Crosby Lakeside. One modification was to provide roller reefing of the jib sail so it can be operated by a wider range of abilities. It has a gaff-style mainsail and mizzen sail as well as the jib.

The boat is versatile because it only needs half a metre of water to float but when the centre plate is lowered, that goes down to more than one and a half metres to increase sailing performance. Overall weight of a standard Devon Gig is 800 kilograms, adding to the good stability afforded by the sail plan and centre plate, and there is plenty of free-board to avoid water ingress when heeling. 

The specifications mean that as well as its regular home, moored afloat on the lake, it should be possible to take people out on the River Mersey, just the other side of the sand dune banking that runs on the seaward side, as it can be towed by a 4x4 vehicle. The vessel’s performance and its engine mean it will be able to cope with the conditions.

“We have never before had a craft that is capable of going out on the Mersey. We will be doing tests to make sure the boat can be launched safely before we take groups there,” said Centre Manager Simon Pendlebury.

One hope is that the boat will be shown during the Mersey River Festival at the Northern Boat Show this summer.

Most of the time, activities will be on the lake with the Gig able to go alongside the Centre’s jetties where there are two hoists to lift wheel-chair occupants aboard. There is space for one wheelchair aboard but moulded seats have been installed to offer support and comfort for those who might otherwise experience discomfort or insecurity.  

Five specialist waterproof bean-bags have been supplied to cope with those people with other needs.“This boat will enable groups of all abilities to experience sailing safely,” said Simon.

The Centre has a fleet of Access boats available, along with a Challenger trimaran. Despite having ten of their instructors trained for delivering appropriate instruction, the opportunities for sailing have been restricted somewhat by the need for one-on-one ratios.  

The new boat will increase the scope of the Sailability programme at Crosby considerably.