Peter Le Marchant
Peter Le Marchant died very young in the early ‘70s. His sister Clare searched for some time to find the best way to commemorate his life On a trip on a friend’s canal boat in 1973, she hit on the idea of building a boat for the disabled. That friend was a founder Trustee and, having resigned as a Trustee, took over the running of the Trust in 2002.
The first boat was a 40’ narrowboat called “Matilda”. She carried her first 12 passengers in 1976.
As a result of the success of that first year, the Trust was formed in early 1977.
Various new-buildings followed, every time with improved facilities for the safety and comfort of the passengers. After a few years we realised that we could offer much better facilities if we operated broad-beam boats, which are 4 feet wider than narrow-boats.
We have three boats:
- “Symphony” – the day boat, carrying 26 passengers every day between April and October, weekends included.
- “Serenade” - the holiday boat, taking 10 passengers for 4-night holidays.
Both are broad-beam boats, 65’ long and 10’6” wide. Both have full-time Skippers who hold Boatmaster’s Licences and are trained in First Aid.
- “Melody” – a 65’ narrowboat, available for weekly hire by a family or group with a disabled or seriously ill member.
All the boats are fully equipped for the maximum safety and comfort of our passengers, with hydraulic lifts, wheelchair friendly toilets and showers, full central heating, resuscitation equipment.
Last year we carried nearly 4,000 passengers of all ages (5 has been the youngest; 108 the oldest) and every disability.
“Symphony” and “Serenade” are the total responsibility of their Skippers, who maintain, repair and paint them during the winter, when they are surveyed by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency. They are also responsible for maintaining “Melody”.
Staff and Volunteers
The two Skippers are our only full-time staff. Both the General Manager, one of whose principal responsibilities is fund-raising, and the Administrator, who runs the office, are part-time. We also have a number of Volunteer Skippers, also fully-trained to MCA Regulations. This gives the full-time Skippers time to concentrate on other important work, such as maintaining ”Melody” and other jobs around the base.
We could not survive without the loyalty of our sixty or so Volunteers who provide the crew for “Symphony” every day. A large number of these have been with the Trust for over 20 years, and turn up regularly, rain or shine, on whichever is their chosen day. They also help out when “Serenade” is used for day trips.
Day trips and holidays
We used to give free trips, but now have to charge a nominal sum per head, partly because some groups would book and not turn up and partly because we felt that we should be seen to be helping ourselves and not be totally dependent on donations. We also sell souvenirs on board, a useful source of income.
After deducting the charges for passengers, the day trips cost about £23 per head, all of which comes from voluntary donations, some from individuals, some from groups and some from grant-making trusts and foundations. We are always grateful for any help, knowing that it is such a worthwhile cause.
Our watchwords are “Safety and Security”. Our aim is to provide a “day of brightness”. We know from letters and testimony received that the trips are very therapeutic, particularly for those with mental problems, and we want to ensure that we can continue our valuable work because we know that it is appreciated by those who matter – our passengers.
The Peter Le Marchant Trust is company limited by guarantee.