14 October 2019

Rebuilding confidence on the canals

The temperatures have dropped, and the season is slowing down but it’s not over yet. This month, for the first time ever, there will be two canal boat trips for under and over 18s with our friends CanalAbility in Essex.

The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust Widening Access Trip Launched in 2016, these trips give young people with more severe mobility issues or who don’t yet have the confidence to join a Trust sailing trip the chance to get all the same benefits of being on a boat with others who have been through similar things. There is a smaller group with more one-to-one support.

Red Watch CanalAbility boat The young people get to enjoy five days cruising the rivers Stort and Lee, passing through the beautiful Rye Meads Nature Reserve, on CanalAbility’s specially-adapted, wheelchair friendly 67ft canal boat, Red Watch.

More sedate than sailing,  U18 trip lead, Dan Taylor, explains why this works: "A canal boat feels slightly more contained and stable than a yacht and there's only two directions you can go. But the trip is still active, including the young people doing the locks, winding up the paddles and pushing open the lock gates.

"They helm the boat for periods of time, you haven't got the wind so you've got to concentrate all the time on where you're going and what you're doing, and they do line work as well, helping the boat manoeuvre away from the side. Even chilling out on the foredeck is all part of the experience.

The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust Widening Access Trip "The overriding thing that gets said about this trip is the young people love it because it goes at their pace. Sailing has to go at the pace of the wind and the tide and before it gets dark, but on this trip we can say 'Do we have to be there by then?' Do we have to set off at this time?' It's more relaxed and that works."

Doesn’t it sound idyllic? We can’t wait to welcome the young people on board starting with our first canal trip for those aged over 18 on Monday (21 October).