Reaching Further into the Local Community – Towpath Talk, February 2017

Derek Stansfield continues his series of article on the diversity and potential impact of NCBA members in the community with a look at the East Manchester Community Boat Project and their exciting developments.

The East Manchester Community Boat Project (EMCBP) aims to provide both an educational and a fun based activity package, free of charge, for children and adults who may be disabled or disadvantaged.

For over 20 years, narrowboat “Community Spirit” provided a free day out to many thousands of disabled, elderly or infirm passengers including two wheelchair users.   Unfortunately, the boat could only accommodate manual wheelchairs as electric wheelchairs presented a problem with both weight and size.

Exciting Developments

Eighteen months ago, the project team carried out a major consultation with over 60 user groups to ensure that they continued to reach out and be fully inclusive to all in the community.

Because of the requirements identified, it was decided to sell “Community Spirit” and to design and build a new boat that would incorporate all those needs, including interactive state-of-the-art technology.   “Community Spirit” was, in fact, sold to Wakefield Scouts, who are also an Accredited Training Centre of the NCBA.

The new boat, called “Community Spirit 2” and to be launched in the spring of 2017, will have:

  • large ramps to allow easy and comfortable wheelchair and passenger boarding
  • a wider entrance hatch and a new lift to ensure all wheelchairs can safely board with ease
  • lower and larger viewing windows
  • the capacity to accommodate up to two electric or four standard wheelchairs in the main open plan cabin
  • a wheelchair position on the foredeck from which wheelchair users will be able to steer the boat using a unique remote steering facility
  • open-plan flexible seating
  • a comprehensive state-of-the-art sound and wi-fi system.

“Community Spirit 2” will be able to carry 15 people, three of whom will be crew.   Skippers hold the NCBA Certificate of Community Boat Management (CCBM) which allows them to skipper a boat with up to 12 passengers.  It will be a day boat and is not designed for overnight use.

EMCBP’s constitution commits them to providing access to “Community Spirit 2” free of charge, and they can only meet this aim thanks to the generosity of their sponsors, various grants, ongoing fundraising activities and, of course, the willingness and hard work of the small group of enthusiastic volunteers.  EMCBP have offered many and grateful thanks to all their supporters who kindly donated to the new boat fund which was obviously a successful and inspiring campaign!

EMCBP are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to join the project.  If you can spare as little as four hours each month, and would like to spend some time in the fresh air on the local canal network, then visit the EMCBP web site at

Much of the maintenance of the boat will be done by the skippers and crew, as is the administration, so if your area of expertise is in any of these areas you would be more than welcome.

If you are well informed about the local canals, wildlife or local history and would love to tell others about them then think about becoming a volunteer with EMCBP. They have information packs about these areas for their passengers’ enjoyment on board “Community Spirit 2” and someone to answer questions and generally help people who show an interest would be warmly welcomed.
In respect of recognised qualifications that are legally necessary to skipper or crew a boat such as “Community Spirit 2”, EMCBP will subsequently provide full training to those who give their time – you decide how much or how little time you give!

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