Care Afloat – Towpath Talk, December 2014

Carole McKenna from Care Afloat recently attended a NCBA Trainers Course held at Skipton.  Derek Stansfield, NCBA Director of Training, took the opportunity to find out more about Care Afloat and persuaded Carole to write the following article for inclusion in the NCBA pages of Towpath Talk.


Care Afloat is a long standing member of the NCBA.

Established by its Director, Danny Curran some 23 years ago, it specialises in working with disenfranchised and challenging young people and has had considerable success in helping hundreds move on to more positive futures.

With 70 staff, it’s not all about boats but the vessels play a vital role, complementing Care Afloat’s other provision including small Residential homes, registered school and therapeutic resource. We are always on the lookout for skippers and crew committed to using boats as catalysts for the personal development of our young people.

The first stage of our programme is definitively unique. With three narrow boats, our new wide beam boat and an ocean going yacht, we are able to offer each young person a month spent aboard one of these vessels as a member of a crew. In this environment, those caring for the young person can form the relationship of trust essential to any developmental process – and give the young person experiences and challenges often entirely foreign to them. Our Registered Mobile Facility and narrow boat Waterworks offer this opportunity over a more extended period of time.

Waterworks is a 71’ X 6’ Narrow Boat, She is one of the largest boats on the canal network of Great Britain.. She was built in steel in the Cammel Laird Ship Yard (Monk Ferry Trust) by young people in 1986

We believe she is the only floating registered children’s home in the country.  Waterworks has been registered as a Children’s Home since January 2005.

Staff aboard are experienced carers and qualified skippers and have many years’ experience of working with young people over periods of time in the very different environment aboard a community afloat. This provides a level of consistency different from ‘normal’ residential care and allows time for longer, more adventurous trips.

As the canal system is linked throughout the country, the boats can operate in most areas from Liverpool to London, from Leeds to Llangollen.

Built in the same shipyard at the same time as her sister ship Waterworks, Charmaine has almost identical specifications, with one main difference – she is fully accessible to wheelchair users.

To reflect Care Afloat’s commitment to the local community, Charmaine has 3 main roles:

  1. As a ‘Day-boat’ for up to 12 able-bodied/wheelchair users on a reduced or sometimes no-charge basis.
  2. As a back up to Waterworks for emergency placements or for any young people who need her special facilities .She is also a replacement for ‘Waterworks’ in case of breakdown/maintenance.
  3. As a holiday provision for up to 6 individuals.

Our oldest boat and at 38 feet, a cosy environment and real chill out space.

… is the latest acquisition for our Mobile Provision. At 57’ long and 10’ wide she is our most spacious boat. She can cater for individuals, groups of up to six and has full wheelchair accessibility. Fully central heated she can operate all year round regardless of the conditions

All the boats offer a unique experience for young people to live in an environment away from their normal everyday lives, allowing time to reflect while gaining new experiences and skills.

Young people aboard have the opportunity to gain new skills while working towards a nationally recognized Qualification. National Community Boats Association Community Crew Course (CCC).

  • Benefits of the Complete Crew Course include:
  • Increased self esteem
  • Increased confidence
  • Improved communication skills
  • Safe use of boat equipment
  • Understand how to operate locks correctly

About the Author:

Derek Stansfield
Chair of National Training Committee, Advisor & Senior Trainer (North East)