Riverboat Trips A Resounding Success!

11 June 2013

Sail 4 Cancer has organised weekend sailing trips for youngsters for eight years now, and the inspiring, confidence boosting formula of these weekends is well proven.  However, we wanted to find a similar activity for the 11 to 14 year age range.  The solution?  River boating!

With the help of The National Community Boats Association we have recently pilot tested a couple of inland boating experiences – one on the River Thames (with the River Thames Boat Project) in October 2012 and one on the Staffs and Worcs canal near Wolverhampton (with The Wharf Narrowboat) in May 2013.

Judging by the feedback, both trips can be counted as a resounding success, with 100% of the youngsters responding saying that they felt the trip had made a positive difference to their health and wellbeing – and that they would definitely come back for more.

On the Thames trip the crew were divided into “galley slaves” and “deck crew” (taking turns at each).  The deck crew learned how to lower and secure the fenders and how to throw the ropes over the bollards as Venturer (the riverboat) approached them in the locks.

Having taken up the slack they then had to take the rope round the on board bitts, ensure that the boat moved as little as possible as it rose in the lock and be ready to secure the rope to the bitts if necessary.  Once underway the young people took it in turns to steer the boat under the supervision of skipper Peter. This included the use of the throttle and the horn as the river was alive with rowing boats.

Down below the galley crew’s activities included making a new hat for the skipper, producing a stills film from pictures taken on cameras that had been made available, preparing lunch and making flapjacks. At the end of the day the crew were asked, if they had the opportunity would they come boating again? The response was an enthusiastic and unanimous ‘yes!’

The Wolverhampton trip in May benefitted from perfect weather and the trip commenced with a welcome barbecue for the families, before the adults were kicked off the narrowboat and the youngsters could settle down to choose both the route they wanted to take and the off-boat activities – and to learn all about driving the boat, working the locks and the other aspects of life on a traditional narrowboat.

The youngsters chose to travel towards Penkridge with a trip to the cinema that evening followed by a fish & chip supper. The following day they decided to visit a local crazy golf course, plus they made toffee apples for a dessert. On the third day they took part in a sugar craft activity, learning how to make sugar butterflies and flowers. They also welcomed Paul Treble of National Community Boats Association who was visiting to see how they were all getting on.

The feedback from the youngsters and their parents – and also medical staff who nominated some of the youngsters – is excellent.  These weekends are extremely well thought out and yet seem as relaxed as the pace of life on a river.

Commenting on their trip, the youngsters said:

“Me and my sister think that it was really fun to meet other people and make friends with them. The food was delicious and nice we also enjoyed steering the boat because we have never been on one before. The crew was nice and kind especially Bob who made us all laugh and smile the whole way.” Laura & David

“I tried out new things that I was worried about and they turned out to be fun.” James

“I’ve just met Simone’s mum on the ward and she is absolutely raving about the riverboat trip!  Simone has tried a few trips before but has found them challenging and has only been able to reflect on the positives after a period of time has passed.  However with this trip she came home absolutely thrilled with the weekend and really enjoyed herself.  Many thanks to the crew and the support staff.  Simon’s mother said they were all wonderful too and instantly made the atmosphere one that was relaxed, happy and welcoming.” Cheryl

Sail 4 Cancer would like to say a huge thank you to both organisations for giving the youngsters such a fantastic time and to Paul Treble of National Community Boats Association for researching it all so well and finding two excellent organisations to take these youngsters away from the day to day problems they have living with cancer. It gives them a huge confidence boost. We cannot thank you enough.

Riverboat Trips A Resounding Success!
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