Shootin’ the Breeze… with Paul Elgood, Development Director at The Wheelyboat Trust

Paul Elgood

AAS: Can you share a brief background to The Wheelyboat Trust for those who have not come across it?

PE: Our work enables people with any disability across the UK to enjoy waterborne activities in specially designed wheelchair accessible boats, called ‘Wheelyboats’. Since the charity was founded in 1984, 228 Wheelyboats have been supplied to sailing clubs, fisheries, SEND schools and outdoor education centres across the UK and beyond, allowing thousands of people to enjoy water-based activities like never before.

AAS: We interviewed The Wheelyboat Trust’s Director Andy Beadsley in 2015. How long have you worked at the Trust and what is your role?

PE: I have worked at The Wheelyboat Trust for four years now. Earlier this year our long serving Director Andy Beadsley indicated that he wanted to start thinking about retirement, so I was really pleased to take on a joint role with Andy where he became Operations Director and I have become Development Director. My role involves raising vital funds for each boat, liaising with beneficiaries and helping plan each launch. Andy is highly respected in the sector and it is great to have the opportunity to work alongside him. Working for The Trust is more a vocation than a job – Andy rightly calls it his life’s work.

AAS: what is the most rewarding part of your role?

PE: Every new boat is a journey. From the first meeting with a new group, seeing each donation generously coming through, the boat taking shape at the boat builder’s factory, through to delivery and, of course, the big launch. We work in partnership with the local groups on the ground and it is highly rewarding when a boat project reaches completion and then we see the beneficiaries out on the water enjoying themselves.

AAS: Are Wheelyboats accessible to all disabled people?

PE: Yes, Wheelyboats provide wheelchair users, and those with other mobility issues, the freedom to board and operate the boat independently and safely. Every Wheelyboat has a bow door that lowers to form a ramp, which allows roll-on, roll-off boarding from a pontoon or jetty. They give everyone the opportunity to participate in outdoor water-based activities because of this step-free access to the boat. With a Wheelyboat no-one is left on the bank watching others enjoy themselves.

AAS: A Coulam Wheelyboat V17 was recently launched on Castle Semple Loch in Renfrewshire. Where else can we expect to see Wheelyboat launches soon?

PE: New Wheelyboats are due at Loch Venachar in Scotland, Debdale Outdoor Education Centre in Greater Manchester and at Chesil Sailability in the South West – as you can see the charity enjoys good UK-wide coverage! We hope these boats will be launched in spring 2024 when there is a full summer ahead to enjoy them, and we are busy fundraising for the next set of boats too.

A recent launch at FS Bulwark Naval Cadets in Leicestershire, showing how easy the step–free access is for those in a wheelchair
Image: Travis Eato

AAS: How can All at Sea’s readers find out the location of their nearest Wheelyboat?

PE: Very easily, just go to our website,, where there is a list of locations.

AAS: do you think the boating industry is doing enough for boaters with disabilities? What would you like to see?

PE: There is always more to be done. 40,000 lakes and reservoirs throughout the UK by and large have no accessible boating facilities, and of the 2,000 miles of waterways cared for by the Canal & River Trust, so far there are only 14 Wheelyboats which operate on these waters. We will continue working with organisations and charities across the country to ensure that as many disabled people as possible can access and enjoy the UK’s waterways.

AAS: it is fantastic to have the support of well known names – such as comedian Peter Kay who launched a Wheelyboat last year and patrons like Jeremy Paxman. Is there someone you would love to have involved?

PE: We are very lucky to have high profile supporters who freely give their time and support, and we are grateful to them all. They can really help bring attention to our work, which also involves raising the total funds for each Wheelyboat. It is also about finding new organisations whose beneficiaries want to get out on the water and without a Wheelyboat would not be able to. We would be delighted to hear from anyone who would like to help us provide more Wheelyboats!

AAS: the Wheelyboat Trust was originally called the Handicapped Anglers Trust. Are you an angler?

PE: I have not been angling since my school days, but the roots of the organisation are still very much in angling as that is how it all began. The C16 Wheelyboat is our flagship angling vessel found at many fisheries across the county. I really like the versatility of Wheelyboats – people can use them for fishing, whilst others use them to enjoy a day out, improve their health and wellbeing or to be out socially with friends and family.

AAS: the Wheelyboat Trust relies on donations. How can people donate?

PE: Absolutely, and we are extremely thankful for the generous support we receive. To donate any amount, please visit
AAS: are people able to volunteer with The Wheelyboat Trust, and if so how?

PE: Please get in touch if you are interested in volunteering opportunities with us, there are also lots of voluntary roles within the many organisations that have a Wheelyboat across the country. Wheelyboats can be found at an array of places including outdoor activity centres, cadet groups, sailing schools and fisheries. Many rely on – and welcome – dedicated volunteers, and are always looking for more help.

To discuss obtaining a Wheelyboat for public or private use or to find out more about The Wheelyboat Trust, visit

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