Wheelyboat Trust: The charity that provides accessible boats
The Wheelyboat Trust designs, builds, funds and supplies specially designed powered day boats that enable disabled people to participate in a variety of waterborne activities.
The registered charity was founded in 1984 and its base is in Petworth.
Andy Beadsley has been director of the charity since 2002, he said: “I started using Wheelyboats shortly after they started to become available.
“We were called The Handicapped Anglers Trust at the time (we changed our name in 2004) and disabled anglers were our original principal beneficiaries.
“I took over as director in 2002 by which time we had supplied 81 Wheelyboats, most of them to trout fisheries.
“We had just replaced the original Mk I model with a new and improved Mk II. In the intervening years, a further five new models have been developed and we now supply three distinct models – an angling boat and two multi-purpose craft with a third on the drawing board.
“We have just delivered Wheelyboat number 214 to a project at a watersports centre in Co Armagh.”
It provides boats all over the UK including locally in Petworth, Lamberhurst, Lymington, Chichester Harbour, and Wey & Arun Canal Trust in Loxwood.
The boats operate on inland and inshore waters and are used for powerboating, powerboat training, nature watching, pleasure boating and angling.
Andy said: “We don’t operate Wheelyboats ourselves, instead we help groups and organisations acquire them so that they can provide the service to their members, beneficiaries, service users, visitors, etc.
“We supply them to Sailabilty groups, sailing clubs, watersports and activity centres, SEN schools, canal trusts, fisheries and groups set up with the specific aim of operating their own Wheelyboat.
“We provide a unique service by raising funds to help operators meet the cost of acquiring their Wheelyboats.
“So much so that with our help, the cost of acquiring a Wheelyboat should never be a barrier to a project going ahead.”
The three models currently supplied are made in GRP (glass fibre) by its boatbuilder Jim Coulam. Each one has roll-on, roll-off access, open and level cockpits and drive-from-wheelchair helms.
The multi-purpose models are fully fledged inshore powerboats with top speeds approaching 40mph.
He said: “Long gone are the days when we had to compromise looks and performance for accessibility – the latest models have outstanding handling and capability, are extremely versatile and have gorgeous lines.
“For disabled people, the freedom to participate in outdoor activities, such as boating, alongside their family and friends is hugely beneficial to their mental and physical health and well-being.
“Lack of access for disabled people to these activities has isolated many from enjoying what the rest of us simply take for granted.
“We have an excellent track record of bringing new Wheelyboat projects to fruition that have a considerable impact on the communities they serve.
“We need to know where Wheelyboats are needed so if you know a group or organisation that could operate one let us know and we will be delighted to work with them to help them acquire one.
“We also supply them to individual disabled people for their personal use.”
Wheelyboats bring positive and significant benefits to people’s health, well-being and life experiences.
You can find out more information or donate at www.wheelyboats.org
Or text WHEELYBOAT to 70085 to donate £5.