Continuing the theme of introducing our members and the people behind community boating I asked Bob Ratcliffe a few questions about how he got involved with The Wharf Narrowboat Training Programme in Walsall.
“I first got involved in community boating about 14 years ago. I had a boatmasters licence and was running the usual public trips on our trip boat The Wharf for the local Authority Walsall Council, but I also had a smaller tug boat which was being refurbished using young children who were on Alternative Education at a local school for a long term project .
I was looking for a qualification for them as part of their course and the CCC course fitted the bill. I quickly underwent my CCBM course and became a mentor so that I could deliver the CCC under the umbrella of an ATC. From there I continued with my Trainers certificate and we became an ATC in our own right. As word spread other schools and agencies were interested in accessing both the boats and project work.
Soon i was working a five day week just for schools and doing weekends on the trip boat. I needed to restructure and took on sessional staff and volunteers in order to cope with the various specialist fields in Boating, Education, Youth offending and Outdoor Education. At the same time the then Director of training (Paul Bryan) invited me to become a senior trainer and asked me to sit on the training committee. This was about 10 years ago and I have been involved in that role ever since helping to develop the trainers course as it is now along with Derek Stansfield the current chair of the NTC, Patrick Titman and Banny Banyard both senior Trainers and NTC members.
Currently we use our boats for varied uses getting paid by schools to deliver Alternative Education programs (we now deliver over 35) and of course we also get paid to deliver trips of various sorts for birthday parties etc. Our voluntary arm which is Friends of the Wharf use the boat to deliver our social aims to various groups who cannot afford commercial rates, in addition to help get funding to keep the two boats afloat as Walsall pulled out of any funding four years ago and we now have to cover all our own costs including wages. The Friends of The Wharf also take the boat to gatherings to promote both ourselves and NCBA. The boat is used as a resource for NCBA to use such as Sail 4 Cancer, Trainers Courses or NTC meetings at minimal or zero costs. It has taken a long time to get to where we are and I still have the same staff both paid and voluntary that I developed all those years ago. We are now on our next development stage and have just taken over a small canal-side Training centre that will be used to offer additional services such as disability respite work and expand social service provision.
If I had to give advice to someone who is interested in community boats and boating it would be a simple statement.
“Take the first step to what can be a life changing and rewarding vocation.”
I know I’m glad I got involved when I did and will stay with it for as long as i am physically and mentally able to. To see one child change their life around because “we are there” makes it all worthwhile.”
This weekend (2nd – 4th November) Bob is hosting an NCBA Trainers course for the NTC (National Training Committee). The NTC has a waiting list of 10 candidates for trainers courses which will be run as soon as dates are confirmed, with one venue in the South and One up in the North (The Trainers course requires four candidates who need to meet pre course criteria). The NCBA Trainers course will be the first ones to use the new training centre.