SOMETIMES a really good thing can come out of a tragedy.
Not always but, in the case of the newest training boat at the Whitsunday Sailing Club, it has.
The Norbert G was launched into the water on Monday in front of a crowd of happy volunteers, who had worked tirelessly to get the boat to this point, as it was not always this shiny and bright – or even seaworthy.
The boat’s wetting followed an emotional launch ceremony, next to the sailing club boat ramp, attended by the many people responsible for getting the new training boat into the water, after many years of work.
The story of the Norbert G goes back to 2014, as told by Marlene Manto, at the launch ceremony.
“We moved here in 2014 and bought a boat, as you do in the Whitsundays, and Norbert being Norbert, he bought a doer-upper,” Ms Manto said.
“’We have plenty of time’ he said. I’ll work on it in my spare time. The boat sat in our yard for some time, with the intention of something happening, until Tropical Cyclone Debbie covered it in leaves and rubbish, in 2017.
“Norbert was on the management committee of the VMR, doing marketing and media, which tended to take up all his time.
“Then, in September 2017, he decided at 60 years old that he wanted to learn how to fly a glider and he booked a five-day course, near Toowoomba.
“Unfortunately, he only made it to day two – a freak accident killed both Norbert and the pilot on impact.”
Ms Manto said the boat ‘still sat there’.
“I didn’t know what to do with it. So, I went to the VMR and the president Mal Priday looked at it and said ‘it’s not going to be easy to sell, especially for you, who doesn’t know anything about boats’.”
Mr Priday suggested to Ms Manto that she donate it to the sailing club to use for sail training, including training young people, to encourage them to get out on the water.
“I thought ‘perfect’ and I gave it to the club on the condition it would be renamed the Norbert G,” she said.
It was then that the five-year job of bringing the boat up to scratch began, which was a labour of love from all sides and hampered by COVID.
Ms Manto thanked everyone at the sailing club for their help, including those who worked tirelessly on the boat itself and those who helped fund-raise and worked ‘behind the scenes’.
“The plan was always for Norbert and I to get out on the Whitsunday waters, and now he has,” Ms Manto said, before popping a bottle of champagne to toast Norbert Gross and all the helpers.