04 Feb

We have had a couple of amazing weekends. Last week we manged to find the skilled, volunteer welders to put a new roof on NB Capricorn, help us with future welding projects, raised some much needed cash, and lots of new people joined the Facebook page. It was amazing, we are still partly reeling from it.

And now things have got even better.

We have another boat! An amazing, beautiful, immaculate boat with all her fixtures and fittings.

 In the early days, we were stunned people would give us boats - any boats. People don't often give away  a decent boat. But then came NB Daisy - our whopping, 70ft flagship boat - we need to re wire her and fit a shower room - more on that next week. 

Hot on her heels was NB Clover - she needed work and we are nearing the finish line with her.

 NB Capricorn came along - looks awful on the outside but reasonable on the inside - as long as we keep the water from coming in through the roof! But that new roof's now going to happen - we'll keep you posted but she's likely to go to a yard on Oxfordshire by lorry, to have the new roof fabricated.  

NB Atalanta was also in beautiful condition and also with all her fixtures and fittings - again, her outside paintwork needs attention and is a priority this spring.

We have Canute - she's more suitable as a weekend or day boat, and has become the project of a local young man, who wanted something to hone his skills on something.

Now NB Sammy B has joined the fleet. She is an amazing gift and we couldn't be more honoured to receive  her. Andy and I have known for some weeks that Sammy B was coming to us but had to keep it under our hats until the owners had let family and friends their decision, and we were more than happy to do that.  But it's great news to give you - after last week, we thought we'd peaked!

So what happens next? We've explained a bit about the boats we need to work on this year - we'll need your help, please. Most of you are boaters, you know boats need constant maintenance and that's one reason why boats are regularly seen at HQ  - we need to keep them floating. For Sammy B, and Atalanta  the next move, after a  thorough inspection by us and putting any niggles right, then the hunt will be on to find veterans  to take up residence in them. You would think this it the easy bit - it isn't and it's where we need to rely  on the expertise of other charities - ones which will continue to support veterans on our boats, help them with finances, physical and mental health, work, benefits and so on. This isn't an area we know anything about - we know boats, we aren't people-experts.  We have to be very strict about not even considering anyone with known drink or drugs problem. That sounds harsh, but it's for the veteran's safety as much as that of our boats - we were burnt over this in our early days and nearly had a boat sink. Things go wrong on boats, it can be cold, wet and miserable, stuck in ice in winter with no water and an overflowing Elsan,  or as hot as a sweat box in summer, with engines over heating.  Boating is wonderful when it goes well but when it doesn't, we can't risk someone turning to the short term "feel-better" of their choice. We need people who can cope, even thrive on these challenges. So what we will be doing in the coming month or so is letting appropriate charities know we have boats available, and set them on the task of going through their clients, to see if there is someone either with previous boating experience, and/or with a desire to live on a boat.

This is where NB Daisy comes in. After her wiring and shower room are fixed, she'll be used as an assessment boat, for veterans hoping to have the loan of one of our boats. If they've never lived on a boat, can they cope with the small space, the movement, having to conserve batteries, keep on top of fuel levels and tanks of water? If they can, then they'll be taught to handle the boat they are being loaned, lock safety and so on, before being allowed to take the boat away from HQ. 

This will all take time. A couple of the committee are retired but the others all work full time, so we can't work flat out every day. Boats won't be hurried, canal movement is slow. Boats will go out when they and the veterans are as safe as we can make them - sometimes we'll be able to shout about this, sometimes, respecting the privacy of our veteran's, we'll have to be quiet about it. But either way, be assured, your work, support, and donations are incredibly worth while, you are helping get people off the streets, even if it's hard to see where it's going - so whether you promised to run up some curtains, scrape paint, black a hull, fit a shower or donated an entire boat - thank you, from the bottom of our hearts and those of the veterans you help. 

Lizzie Lane


The Forces Veterans Afloat Charitable Trust

4th February 2024

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