Friday, 03 December 2021

Boat trips for disabled preparing to launch

A CHARITY is about to launch cruises and fishing trips for disabled people on the River Thames at Goring.

Floatability, whose voyages will depart from the Hobbs of Henley’s moorings off High Street and the Goring Gap Boat Club headquarters on the opposite bank, has hired four volunteer skippers who will start training next month.

The first trips should take place in May and will be open to people with mental illnesses or physical disabilities. There could also be “acclimatisation” sessions to get people used to being on the water.

The charity will ferry groups of up to eight passengers,  or up to four wheelchair users with two carers, on a 17ft Pioner Multi motorboat with a crew of two.

The £10,000 vessel, which has an access ramp and detachable canopy, will be allowed to take a full load where all clients come from the same household or support bubble. Otherwise, the capacity will be reduced to allow for social distancing.

Will and Laura Howard, who founded the charity, have booked courses in physical and mental health first aid for its volunteers and bought a spare outboard motor, uniforms and fundraising equipment, including banners and electronic card readers.

These were funded by a grant from the Greenham Common Trust and a sale of donated goods.

The couple are now hosting focus groups with charities including Mind to ensure it is offering the best possible service.

They are also in talks with several celebrities to produce a launch video.

Floatability will operate journeys of up to five hours, some including a lunch stop, while skippers will give talks about the wildlife which can be seen on the river and teach fishing to anyone interested.

The charity hopes to raise more money for a screen to enlarge views for the partially-sighted while the boat club wants to raise £13,000 for a disabled toilet.

Mrs Howard said: “It’s all hands on deck at the moment — one of our newest volunteers is
co-ordinating all the training while I’m up to my neck in safeguarding legislation. We should have everything up and running by May.

“The pandemic has given us more time to seek advice and make further improvements, like putting high-vis tape around edges of the boat for the visually impaired, and we’ve done everything to make it as good as it can be.

“We’ve got all our coronavirus protections in place, like deep cleaning the boat between trips and providing hand sanitiser, and we’re really excited about getting started.

“We still have some positions open which don’t require previous experience so we’d love to hear from anyone who’s interested.”

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