The first wheelchair-accessible Coulam 16 Wheelyboat at Draycote Reservoir in Warwickshire was launched on Wednesday 12 April, following a successful fundraising campaign supported by Draycote Fly-Fishers Association and led by one of its members. An established trout fishery for many years, Draycote Reservoir is a 600-acre lowland reservoir near Rugby famous for its buzzer hatches and large grown-on brown and rainbow trout and perfect for fly fishing.
Designed and developed by The Wheelyboat Trust and JM Coulam Boatbuilders, the Coulam 16 Wheelyboat stems from the fundamental desire of disabled anglers and wheelchair users in particular, to have the same opportunities to fish as the able-bodied. The boat is based on Jim Coulam’s 16’ reservoir fishing boat design and has been adapted to provide wheelchair users with step free access on board. With an open cockpit and level floor throughout, the disabled angler can choose to sit at the bow or the stern and is able to drive and operate the boat quite independently.
The unique design features of the boat are not immediately obvious, making it a thoroughly enjoyable experience for disabled anglers. Wheelchair users board the Coulam 16 Wheelyboat via a ramp from a pontoon onto a hydraulic platform that lowers to floor level. Removable handrails around the platform help keep the angler secure and simplify the boarding and disembarking procedure, which means that only one able-bodied helper is required for assistance. The boat has a 6’ beam, low centre of gravity and is very stable. In normal conditions wheelchair brakes are sufficient to hold the angler in place, but D-rings on the floor provide secure strapping points when required.
The project cost £9,200 and was funded by the Janet Nash Charitable Settlement, Draycote Fly-Fishers Association and their members, and Fishery Management (UK) Ltd which has been running the fishery on Draycote since 2011.
Andy Beadsley, Director of The Wheelyboat Trust, says “Angling is an activity that most disabled people can participate in very successfully given the right access and equipment. Our Wheelyboats overcome all the difficulties of accessing waters like Draycote and we are delighted that Ifor and his team have become the latest fishery to operate a Wheelyboat. This is the 180th Wheelyboat to be launched and is a particularly proud moment for me being the 100th Wheelyboat launched since I took over as Director in 2002.”
The Wheelyboat Trust relies on the support of individuals, companies and charitable organisations to fund its activities. Donations can be made in a variety of ways including online at www.wheelyboats.org/donate.html.