Portsmouth hosting UK’s first truly barrier free boating weekend

Disabled people will have the opportunity to take a ride on a powerboat or enjoy a relaxing sail around Portsmouth Harbour and the Solent thanks to the collaboration between two of the UK’s truly accessible boating organisations.

The Disabled Sailors Association, who operate their fully accessible catamaran Scott Baderin Portsmouth, and Wetwheels Solent, who also operate their fully accessible power catamaran in Portsmouth, will be offering all disabled people, including those with profound and complex disabilities, the opportunity to enjoy the Blue Health benefits of being on the water.

The event will be held over 14 – 15 May courtesy of Gunwharf Quays who have made available their marina and facilities, including their fully accessible award-winning Changing Places toilet facilities.

Both boats will be running five trips a day for both days starting from 9:30am. Disabled people can pre-book a 90 minute experience on either vessel free of charge, including one carer, by contacting Wetwheels (07904 997 622) or Scott Bader (07841 675 308). It is recommended that people book early to reserve their slots.

Founder of Wetwheels, and himself a disabled yachtsman, Geoff Holt MBE explained: “Portsmouth is unique in the UK, possibly the world, being home to not only a fully accessible sailing yacht but also a fully accessible powerboat. We wanted to showcase what we do and what better way than to have an event, not only for disabled people in our local community, but also for local businesses and the public to recognise the amazing work both organisations are doing on a day-to-day basis right here in Portsmouth taking many thousands of disabled people out for an experience on the water each year.

“To be honest, it does not really matter whether people prefer to get afloat in a sailing boat or motorboat, ultimately it is about getting out onto the sea, only out there can you forget about your disability truly begin to understand and experience our amazing maritime heritage and precious marine environment”.

Founder of the DSA and himself a disabled yachtsman, Mike Wood MBE continued: “This event is a fantastic opportunity to share the unique boating charities that exist only in Portsmouth. The Disabled Sailors Association are so proud to be a part of this completely unique event enabling disabled people to truly access the water.

“What other activity can offer the tranquillity of drifting about on a quiet sunny afternoon to the steep learning curve of trimming your sails to perfection, the mental agility of navigation and the adrenalin of taking the helm. We have something for everyone and are looking forward to getting you out on the water!”

Both Mike and Geoff are paralysed with high-level spinal injuries and use heavy powered wheelchairs. They are very clear what constitutes ‘barrier free’ sailing or boating and that is any vessel absolutely must include the ability to take all disabilities, including heavy wheelchairs and people with severe and complex learning disabilities.

Contrary to what many believe, the DSA and Wetwheels are the only boating organisations in the UK able to offer this to all disabled people who want to get out onto the open sea. They are also adamant that disabled people should be participants and not passengers which is why both vessels are designed to be steered by their disabled guests.

Yvonne Clay, centre director at Gunwharf Quays, continued: “We are committed to ensuring that accessibility is a key focus at Gunwharf Quays,and are proud to support the UK’s first true barrier free boating event, in partnership with the DSA and Wetwheels Solent. The event will offer amazing opportunities for the disabled community, including the chance to drive the boats from our fantastic marina!

“For those that wish to shop and dine after a busy day on the Solent, we have lifts throughout the outlet and offer pre-bookable Shopmobility Services that provide hands-free shopping at no charge and a free carry-to-car service.”


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