Two wheelchair users are celebrating today having
passed their powerboat exams. The pair become only the 2nd and 3rd disabled people on record to pass
their RYA Level 2 powerboat exam whilst remaining seated in their
electric powered wheelchairs. The achievement was made possible by
using Wetwheels, a fully accessible vessel based at Gunwharf Quays
Tim Clare from Windsor, paralysed from the chest down
following a motor accident 30 years ago and Anna Pettman from
Southampton who has the degenerative disability Freidrichs Ataxia
and has been in a wheelchair much of her life, both passed the
two-day course which involved a day of classroom theory and a day
on the water, learning boat handling and navigational skills.
Nick Kincart, Principal at the Boatability Powerboat
Training School in Portsmouth who delivered the training to Tim and
"Training physically disabled people should be no
different to any other training however, with both candidates
full-time powered wheelchair users, it was essential that we used a
vessel they were capable of controlling safely under my
instruction. Fortunately, the way Wetwheels is configured, this
proved to be no problem at all, in fact it was very simple.
We covered the theory aspects of the training
shore-side for day one and spent extra time concentrating on the
handling characteristics of a twin engined boat, especially
considering Wetwheels has two Suzuki 300hp engines to play with.
We had to get it right first time. With her powered
steering and fly-by-wire controls she proved very easy to control
for Tim and Anna.
I had no doubt that Tim and Anna would cover most of
the course with very little problem apart from MOB [Man Overboard],
Mooring and Anchoring which will show as an endorsement on their
licence. With the layout of Wetwheels and her light controls
it proved no more difficult than teaching an able bodied person.
Their slow boat manoeuvres were executed near perfectly and I
had no hesitation in passing them".
Anna, herself a keen sailor who has sailed many miles
at sea commented;
"It was very empowering driving the boat and you are
on a par with other water users with no worrying about steps or
dropped kerbs. I am now hoping to develop my powerboating as well
as my sailing."
Tim, who also sailed many years ago before his
accident and is regularly found flying an adapted aircraft,
"The offer to get back on the water in Wetwheels to
complete an RYA Power Boat Level 2 course was a opportunity I could
not refuse. Firstly for the challenge and enjoyment of taking
on something that is inherently difficult for anyone with my level
of disability; second, it shows other disabled people what is
possible if approached with some determination and to help change
those preconceptions of disability. The course, although
daunting, as there was much to learn, was achievable and enjoyable
owing to our excellent instructor, Nick. I was extremely
chuffed and proud when Nick offered his hand to congratulate both
myself and Anna on passing the course. I look forward to
pursue my boating skills further by taking on the next
Geoff Holt, himself a wheelchair user and founder of
Wetwheels spoke of his delight at the news;
"One of the criteria when we had Wetwheels built was
that she should be able to deliver training to disabled people. Due
to the lack of accessible vessels, training is often denied to
disabled people. Some years ago Nick Kincart from Boatability
trained me for my RYA Level 2 powerboat license so it was a proud
moment indeed to see Wetwheels, along with Nick's excellent
tuition, enable two powered wheelchair users the opportunity to
achieve something considered by many to be impossible - just think
for a moment what they have achieved. Two people, almost completely
paralysed, unable to walk and barely able to move their hands, have
just demonstrated that, with the right equipment and training, they
can drive a immensely powerful vessel, safely and with competence.
That is amazing. In fact, they are probably now more qualified than
many motorboat users in our waters. Is it any wonder I am so
proud of them both? I'm chuffed to bits".