Madam Butterfly and Dawn are two widebeam boats belonging to the charity Accessible Boating, based at Colt Hill Wharf, Odiham, in Hampshire. The charity, launched in 1986, offers opportunities for disabled people or those with access difficulties to go boating on the beautiful Basingstoke Canal from spring to autumn.
The organisation was formed by Mrs Mildred Stocks, who was chairman of Hart District Council at the time. She wanted to raise money for a project that would interest people across the district. At the time, there were problems for elderly and disabled people accessing the trip boat John Pinkerton, operated by the Surrey & Hants Canal Society, preventing their enjoyment of the countryside. The idea of a day boat offering wheelchair access took shape.
Fund raising activities involved the 2nd Battalion King Edward V11 Own Gurkha Rifles in Church Crookham, Hampshire, and the Brownies and local clubs. In 1986 the day boat was launched and named The Mildred Stocks. Madam Butterfly was launched in 1995. In 1999 a new day boat, Dawn, replaced The Mildred Stocks, 13 years after she was first launched.
Dawn, which travels to Odiham Castle or to local pubs, is a day boat used for two-hour to four-hour trips. She takes six wheelchair users and their carers and has a fully accessible toilet. A trained boatman is available to steer the boat if required. The aft deck is equipped with a safety rail and is large enough to accommodate a wheelchair when cruising. An electro-hydraulic lift allows wheelchair access to the spacious cabin and the toilet and there is a gas hob for preparation of hot drinks.
The cabin windows can be rolled back to gain fresh air on warm days, or kept down to protect against rain. Central heating is also fitted. Because Dawn is relatively small, she can be turned round in many of the wider stretches of canal and does not require a winding hole to turn round in.
Over the last 10 years Dawn has carried in excess of 10,000 passengers on the Basingstoke Canal. The majority of the charities’ clients using Dawn are charities themselves. However, the charity is now running a number of cruises where individuals can book a single seat making a trip more affordable.
Madam Butterfly has given many families holidays with their elderly or disabled loved ones. She has the look and style of a narrowboat but the extra width ensures easy wheelchair access throughout the boat. The hydraulic steering is particularly welcomed, allowing the wheelchair user access to the tiller, thus becoming an active member of the crew.
The Madam Butterfly cruises to Mytchett or, for the more energetic, as far as Woking. Bookings are for one week or longer, but a limited number of four-day cruises are available. She has hospital beds, accessible toilet and shower and facilities for carers. There is storage, bedding, kitchen equipment including china, cutlery and glasses, and gas cooker, electric refrigerator, central heating and dining area.
Wheelchair access is via a wide, safe ramp on to a rear deck. Lifts give wheelchair access to cabin and front deck. Both decks are equipped with safety rails and are large enough for a wheelchair when cruising. A 12 volt point charges mobile phones and a 230 volt supply up to 600W charges wheelchair batteries or runs low-powered medical equipment. The shower room provides a two-pin razor socket and the main cabin has TV and radio. Dismountable hydraulic manual hoist and hoist points are provided in the aft cabin for the hospital bed and in the shower area.
The boat offers sleeping accommodation for up to seven people. While cruising, there must always be two able-bodied people acting as crew, in addition to carers
If you feel the facilities offered by the charity suit you then visit the website www.accessibleboating.org.uk or ring the bookings manager on 01252 622520
Madam Butterfly provides holidays for disabled and elderly people with their carers and has wheelchair access throughout the boat.