First fully electric accessible hire boat launched on River Avon
The first fully electric wheelchair-accessible hire boat has been launched on the River Avon in Warwickshire.
The new Coulam V17 Wheelyboat by Avon Boating is the first self-operated accessible hire boat on the Avon. The boat is designed for local disabled people, their friends and families, and the many disabled tourists who visit each year, enabling wheelchair users of all ages and abilities to independently access and enjoy the waterway that runs through the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon.
Funding support comes from Stratford District Council and national charity The Wheelyboat Trust.
Gerard Walmsley, director at Avon Boating, says: “For a long time, we’ve wanted to be able to accommodate wheelchair users – or indeed anyone with more complex mobility issues – on our hire fleet. I’m delighted to say, with the purchase of the Coulam V17 Wheelyboat, we can finally offer this service.
“Our customers see first-hand the many benefits that being out on the water and in the fresh air can bring. We can’t wait to see locals and visitors alike, including those who have never been out on the river before, enjoying all this iconic waterway has to offer. We would like to thank everybody that came together and offered us the advice and support needed to make this dream a reality.”
The V17 is said to be The Wheelyboat Trust’s most versatile Wheelyboat yet. They are suitable for use on inshore waters such as lakes, rivers and canals, and are perfect for pleasure boating. The boat’s Torqeedo Cruise 2 outboard runs very quietly, can reach a top speed of over 30mph, and is capable of a full day’s boating without needing to charge.
Every Wheelyboat has roll-on, roll-off access, an open and level cockpit, and their drive-from-wheelchair helms enable anyone in a wheelchair not only to board easily and move around safely but drive it too. All Wheelyboats are handmade and fitted out to order by Jim Coulam of Coulam Boatbuilders in Lincolnshire.
The new boat was officially launched last week (20 September 2022) by The Wheelyboat Trust’s director Andy Beadsley. He says: “Wheelyboats are a lifeline for anyone in a wheelchair or who has mobility issues, as they no longer need to be manhandled into a non-accessible boat, which is not only unsafe but also undignified. Thanks to the watertight bow door that lowers to form a ramp, anyone in a wheelchair can simply board and move around a Wheelyboat easily and independently. We are delighted that disabled locals and visitors to Stratford can now enjoy the River Avon in the same way that able-bodied people already do.”
Cllr Chris Kettle, legal and community safety portfolio holder, was also at the launch. “Following the extreme challenges of covid and the resulting very difficult time financially for so many local businesses, we are thrilled that Avon Boating is providing a great service to tourists and locals alike, and has prioritised accessibility for all with the launch of this new boat,” says Kettle. “And, by choosing the use of electric power it’s also reducing its carbon emissions which is fantastic. Their approach goes a long way to support the council’s policy on inclusivity and climate change, and we are very happy to issue a licence to this vessel.”
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