We were recently invited onboard Wetwheels Solent, a catamaran designed to take disabled people out into the Solent in search for some fun and freedom, and have been fortunate enough to invite some visually impaired adults and their carers from our community, for what was truly an amazing afternoon out on the open water.
Wetwheels, who are based in Gunwharf Quays were established in 2011 by Goeff Holt MBE DL. Currently, Wetwheels are funded to take veterans out for trips, and if you or a loved one are in the position to take advantage of this opportunity, contact Wetwheels Solent directly for more information.
Goeff has very kindly provided some more information and history about the charity, which you can read below.
Introduction – Geoff Holt MBE DL
There is something very special about being on the water – being at sea offers unparalleled freedoms.
Paralysed from the neck down in an accident at the age of 18, I have maintained the belief that anything can be achieved given a positive approach.
In 2009 I took on my biggest challenge, sailing unassisted across the Atlantic in a world record voyage. The 3,000 mile journey took four weeks to complete, sailing a purpose-built 60ft catamaran ‘Impossible Dream’. I was only able to make that dream a reality with the incredible help from many wonderful supporters. That teamwork was integral to the next stage of my life with The Wetwheels Foundation.
When I founded Wetwheels in 2011 and launched our first fully accessible boat, I had a Vision – for as many people as possible, to access and enjoy the open water.
Importantly, everyone is an active participant, rather than simply a passenger. This provides the opportunity to learn seamanship alongside peers, friends and family, whilst improving wellbeing and increasing self-confidence.
After an extremely challenging year, we have weathered the Covid 19 storm with some fantastic support. For many disabled people however – myself included – the impact of the pandemic will last longer and be more profound, than for most. We believe more than ever, that Wetwheels plays an important part in many lives, allowing everyone to experience the magic of the water.
At the heart of this is a sustainable model, which also enables as many to access these life-changing experiences without funding or cost being a barrier. We seek Partners who share our pursuit of excellence and passion for making a difference in our communities and to be part of our journey.
I was honoured to receive the Yachtsman of the Year Award in 2011, kindly supported by Panaetius and presented by good friend Sir Robin Knox Johnston, and that connection is a lovely echo from the past.
We have had great success – but there remains a lot more we can achieve. I hope to meet you soon and that you are inspired to join us.
Background to Wetwheels
Wetwheels is a 9-metre catamaran made by our partner Cheetah Marine on the Isle of Wight with twin Suzuki 300 HP outboard engines capable of driving her at 40 knots. Each boat is equipped with the latest, state-of-the-art marine electronics provided by Raymarine.
Wetwheels Solent, based in Portsmouth, made her debut in 2011, followed by Wetwheels Jersey and Hamble, launched in May 2016. Wetwheels Yorkshire, based in Whitby and Wetwheels South East, located in Dover launched in 2018, with Falmouth in 2020.
This growth has widened our coverage, building towards a UK wide fleet – and we will have our 7th boat in Edinburgh by the spring of this year.
In 10 years, we have taken over 35,000 disabled people on voyages of discovery. Our participants are of all ages and have a broad range of impairments and conditions.
80% have never been on the water before as the opportunity simply did not exist before Wetwheels. We have more than 50 delivery partners, including schools, care homes, regional charities and disability support groups. We are open to all and raise funds to ensure we are financially accessible to disabled people, as well as physically accessible.
Our trips on board are staffed by specialists who have vast experience, knowledge and are highly respected in the marine industry. Wetwheels is regarded by the government’s Maritime & Coastguard Agency as the Subject Matter Expert in taking disabled people to sea on powerboats. Our skippers and crew are highly trained and experienced in supporting disabled people in a maritime context.
Values and aspirations
- Life enriching: Delivering high quality, educational and fun opportunities working with disabled people.
- Inspiration: For the boating and wider community to think positively about disability, achievement and true accessibility.
- Looking ahead: Support for the development and use of the latest innovation in technologies, and wherever possible promoting the sustainability of our Oceans for recreation and for future generations.
- Learning: Developing maritime leadership and entrepreneurship with a view to possible work experience and career development, and a commitment to continuous improvement of our services
- Transparency: In our methods of working, finances and operations.
- Reliability and Trust: Always maintaining safety, quality and financial prudence.
- Celebration: Of our successes, our achievements and of those who come onboard, and taking away special memories and new skills.
- In 2018 we were delighted HRH Princess Royal, who has always been hugely supportive and has a true passion for the ocean, was confirmed as the Royal Patron of The Wetwheels Foundation.
All funding generated from our corporate partnerships enables us to provide trips and thrilling experiences for many profoundly disabled people. This can also help with new boats, the professional management of the organisation via training and further events and fundraising.
“Wetwheels has provided inspirational experiences on boats and on the water for many with complex disabilities.
The trips provide a thrilling time and young people learn new skills which help them gain confidence. We have known Geoff for many years – he has given our staff motivational talks, supported our own services, and our young people went on Wetwheels as one of the flotilla of boats in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant for the Queen: an unforgettable experience.
Wetwheels works hard to provide experiences to those who would be very unlikely to have the opportunity
Whetwheels Barrier free boating for everyone.