Boat charity helps disabled people 'feel like a captain for the day'

Wetwheels is helping extend the horizons for disabled people after launching its first boat in Scotland.

A charity that gives people with disabilities and impairment the chance to sail on the water has launched its first boat in Scotland.

Wetwheels breaks down barriers by taking wheelchair users, people living with dementia and many others for a day out at sea.

The charity gives unique experiences for people with disabilities, including those with complex challenges and impairments, by providing fully accessible and purpose-built powerboat trips across the UK.

The first Wetwheels specially adapted powerboat was officially christened by the Princess Royal, the charity’s patron on Wednesday.

The boat, which is based at the Edgar marina in South Queensferry, is the latest addition to the Wetwheels fleet – with six vessels in operation throughout England, including in Portsmouth, Falmouth, Jersey and Whitby.

It will be operating across the east coast of Scotland, with passengers given the opportunity to steer the vessel as part of the experience.

One of the people benefitting from the scheme is Peter Finlayson who has cerebral palsy.

His parents often take him sailing themselves and say the benefits of taking people with disabilities out on the water is huge.

Peter’s mum Janet said: “He just loves being out on the water and being active out there and enjoying sights he usually wouldn’t get to see.

“It just breaks down another barrier.”

In 2019 Wetwheels provided trips for more than 6,500 people.

It aims to support 12,000 people every year to participate in a Wetwheels experience across the UK by 2025, including 1,000 in Scotland alone.

The founder of Wetwheels Geoff Holt MBE is quadriplegic and is paralysed from the waist down.

He said he wanted to invent something that anyone could do.

He said: “It’s about that feeling we get as human beings just to forget about things for a while, to get out onto the water, onto our blue spaces, maybe feel a splash of water on your face – for a minute be the captain of the boat – and I think it does our mental health and wellbeing the power of good.

“Scotland is home to some the finest sailing waters in the world, and we have worked very hard to bring our Wetwheels experience north of the border to allow people with disabilities to enjoy these unparalleled sailing opportunities.

“Our own research tells us more than 80% of Wetwheels’ participants have never previously been on the open water.

“By removing perceived barriers and allowing people with many obstacles in their lives to experience the mental and physical benefits that the sea can provide, we aim to give people a sense of new-found independence, and hopefully a new hobby to enjoy.”

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