New wheelchair-accessible powerboat launched in Scotland

Wheely Boat Trust members with the wheelchair accessible boat on banks of the loch

A purpose-built wheelchair-accessible powerboat has been launched on Castle Semple Loch in Renfrewshire, Scotland, enabling disabled children and adults to access and enjoy the waters of Castle Semple Loch independently and safely. 

The wheelchair-accessible powerboat has been launched by UK charity The Wheelyboat Trust and Castle Semple Centre, an outdoor activity centre located within Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park.

The new boat is a Coulam Wheelyboat V17. The specially designed Coulam Wheelyboat V17 is The Wheelyboat Trust’s latest model and the most versatile Wheelyboat to date. It has a bow door which lowers to form a ramp for roll-on, roll-off wheelchair access. The large open cockpit provides access to all corners of the boat and the drive-from-wheelchair helm enables people with even the severest of disabilities to drive the boat. 

Castle Semple Centre already has one Wheelyboat – a Coulam Wheelyboat V20 – which was launched in 2015. This was the first V20 to be launched in Scotland, and it has proved so popular with disabled visitors who can now take part in accessible powerboating, powerboat training and pleasure boating activities, that a second Wheelyboat is needed to keep up with demand. 

The Wheely Boat Trust

Andy Beadsley, director of operations at The Wheelyboat Trust says: “Wheelyboats are a lifeline for anyone with a disability of any kind, as users can board safely and independently rather than being manhandled into the boat which is not only unsafe but also undignified.”

“Before Wheelyboats, those who are mobility impaired or have additional special needs simply haven’t been able to experience life on the water due to lack of access. As a wheelchair user myself, I know first-hand the numerous benefits that being able to take part in activities that able-bodied people take for granted can bring. Wheelyboats not only offer physical access to lochs, lakes and rivers but they are enormously beneficial for positive mental health and well-being, too.”

Last month a naming ceremony took place to christen the centre’s second Wheelyboat. Kyle from Corseford School (a local specialist school owned and run by charity Capability Scotland that provides care and education for children with complex additional support needs) named the new boat Lightyear after Buzz Lightyear, his favourite character from the Toy Story franchise. Now, Kyle, alongside his family and friends, will be one of many now able to explore the 2.5km long freshwater loch which boasts medieval ruins and is home to numerous bird species too.

David Hill, chief instructor at Castle Semple Centre, adds: “We estimate that 250 people per year will benefit from our second Wheelyboat, so to be able to offer the opportunity for that many people to take part in activities they previously couldn’t, attain recognised qualifications such as Powerboat Level 1 and 2 certificates or become a Powerboat Instructor is hugely positive for locals and visitors alike.

“We are immensely proud to be home to Scotland’s first ever Coulam Wheelyboat V20 and even more so now her sister boat, the Coulam Wheelyboat V17 Lightyear is available for public use, too.”

Castle Semple Centre offers activities for all levels of ability, from sailing and canoeing to orienteering and archery. The centre has its own Sailability group (sailing for the disabled) and was the first venue in Scotland to be accredited an Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Sailability Centre of Excellence. It also offers Powerability, an RYA course that encourages disabled people to gain powerboat qualifications with the aim of all who qualify being able to operate Wheelyboats as a safety boat during Sailability sessions. 

Acquiring this second wheelchair-accessible powerboat would not have been possible without the generous support from Hugh Fraser Foundation, The Merchants House of Glasgow, The WA Cargill Charitable Trust, Hugh Stenhouse Foundation, JR Gibb Charitable Trust, The Meikle Foundation, and several individuals who also donated.

To date, over 220 Wheelyboats have been supplied to all corners of the country, helping make water-based activities accessible for all. 

The Wheelyboat Trust relies on donations from individuals and organisations, and their work could not continue without the ongoing generosity they provide. To help get more disabled people out on UK waters, text WHEELYBOAT to 70085 to donate £5. 

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