A 102 year-old former Royal Navy WW2 gunner and an Army veteran were among people with a disability who sailed aboard a specially built, fully accessible Wetwheels powerboat, when the Wetwheels seafaring disability charity made its first visit to Scotland.
Harry Hogg of Corstorphine, Edinburgh who joined the Royal Navy in 1938 and served for the duration of WW2, proudly wore his medals when he was accompanied aboard the Wetwheels Yorkshire 9-metre long powerboat by Royal Scots veteran, Frank McLeod (64) from Prestonpans.
Keen local sailor Peter Finlayson (25) from South Queensferry, who has cerebral palsy, also came onboard Wetwheels with his father Calum.
It’s part of a fundraising drive by Wetwheels, a ground-breaking seafaring charity founded in 2011 by disabled yachtsman, Geoff Holt MBE, that gives disabled people of all ages and impairments the chance to access the water. Wetwheels, of which HRH The Princess Royal is Patron, aims to establish its first permanent base north of the border at Port Edgar Marina on the Firth of Forth in the Spring of 2022.
Both Harry and Frank have sight loss and are supported by the charity, Sight Scotland Veterans. It’s one of many disability organisations that will benefit once Wetwheels has raised the £250,000 needed to establish an operator base at Port Edgar Marina with the necessary manpower and equipment. Wetwheels subsequently hopes to also run a west coast operation at Largs on the Firth of Clyde.
Geoff Holt, who was paralysed in a swimming accident in 1984 and who in 2007 became the first disabled person to sail single-handed around Great Britain, explained: “Disabled people like Harry and Frank face many obstacles to an active lifestyle and particularly in experiencing the sense of freedom and independence you only get on the water. Yet the physical and mental benefits of being on the sea are immense so I am really excited to be at Port Edgar Marina to raise awareness of our Wetwheels charity and to showcase the amazing work we do.
“Wetwheels is unique. There is no other boating organisation for disabled people in the UK doing what Wetwheels does. That’s a very big claim, but as a wheelchair-using yachtsman and adventurer myself, I speak from experience. Our own research tells us that more than 80% of Wetwheels’ participants have never previously been on the open water. For an island nation, that’s a shocking statistic we are determined to change.
“After a decade of successful growth in England we now aim to successfully raise £250,000 to establish our first operation at the fantastic Port Edgar Marina in Scotland, where Wetwheels can continue its mission to positively impact on the health and wellbeing of young and old participants for many years to come.”
At Port Edgar Marina, representatives of disability groups including Sight Scotland Veterans, potential donors and members of the press will have the opportunity to experience a twin 325HP engined Wetwheels powerboat that’s designed to allow active participation on the water in a safe, stimulating and rewarding way. With full barrier-free access, up to ten participants, including three wheelchair users, can board and steer the vessel and learn seamanship, alongside their peers, friends, and families.
Clair Bryan, Director of Services, Sight Scotland Veterans, added: “It’s fantastic that veterans supported by Sight Scotland Veterans have been given the opportunity to have this experience with the Wetwheels Foundation while they have been stationed at Port Edgar this week. Sight Scotland Veterans very much supports and identifies with the Wetwheels Foundation’s mission to create accessible and inclusive experiences for disabled people.
“Sight Scotland Veterans is dedicated to supporting veterans with sight loss across Scotland to not only adapt to life with sight loss, but to live well with sight loss and continue to enjoy new experiences in the community. We would very much welcome a Wetwheels boat being permanently based in Scotland. I am sure other veterans with sight loss we support would relish the opportunity to take a boat trip with the Wetwheels Foundation in the future.”
By visiting Port Edgar Marina, Wetwheels hopes the public and private donors will be inspired to help raise the further 75% of funding still required to ensure Port Edgar Watersports CIC can successfully operate the first Wetwheels Scotland vessel on behalf of the Wetwheels Foundation.
Wetwheels already has six vessels in operation throughout England, including in Portsmouth, Falmouth, Jersey and Whitby. The charity has a vision for at least 12,000 people, including over 1,000 in Scotland to annually experience one of its seafaring experiences.
Notes to the editor
Each of the Wetwheels Operators is a social enterprise, registered as a community interest company (CIC), or the local equivalent (as in Jersey). Operators have the support of the Wetwheels Foundation, a registered charity. Wetwheels is currently applying for OSCR registration.
Wetwheels annual report records that in 2019, more than 6,500 people of all ages participated in a Wetwheels experience. One third were disabled people with profound and complex, often life-limiting, disabilities. No one was excluded from participating.
The range of disabilities of those accessing Wetwheels included, but was not limited to: wheelchair users, people living with dementia, people affected by stroke, people with sensory impairment, behavioural disabilities including autism, people with mobility impairments, people with acquired brain injuries and those living with dementia.
Sight Scotland Veterans (formerly known as Scottish War Blinded)
Harry Hogg (102, of Corstorphine, Edinburgh, is a Royal Navy World War Two veteran who joined up as a gunner in 1938 and served until the end of the war. Harry has sight loss due to age-related macular degeneration – an eye condition which impacts central vision and over time can make things like identifying faces and everyday tasks very difficult. Harry has been supported by Sight Scotland Veterans for 10 years.
Frank McLeod (64, of Prestonpans, East Lothian) served with the Army in the Royal Scots from 1972 to 1980. In 2014 Frank had an accident which left him with permanent brain damage. He now uses a wheelchair. He has no sight in his right eye and has lost a significant amount of sight in his left eye. Frank will be attending Port Edgar Marina with his wife, Elaine.
Sight Scotland Veterans provides free support to ex-servicemen and women affected by sight loss in Scotland to help them regain confidence, restore their independence and make new connections.
Established in 1915, today the charity gives support to all veterans with sight loss, including National Service veterans, no matter if they lost their sight during or after service. The majority of veterans we support have lost their sight through age, conditions such as macular degeneration, and reasons unrelated to their service.
Our outreach and rehabilitation support offering covers all local authority areas in Scotland. The charity also runs two activity hubs for veterans with sight loss: the Linburn Centre in Wilkieston, West Lothian, and the Hawkhead Centre in Paisley, Renfrewshire.
Call 0800 035 6409 to refer a veteran with sight loss for support or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Sight Scotland Veterans is the sister charity of Sight Scotland, Scotland’s biggest sight loss charity. For more information visit sightscotlandveterans.org.uk