The first Beatrice

In 1966 a group of North Staffordshire boaters began using their own boats on an annual excursion for children with disabilities. From 1976 the Stoke branch of the Inland Waterways Association raised money for a purpose built vessel, working with the Prince of Wales’ committee. Under the Rainbow Trust, a charity could raise the money for materials and the apprentices at Cammel Laird Shipyard on the Wirral would build the boat.

This first Beatrice was launched by Princess Anne (later styled the Princess Royal) on 5 July 1978 and served the Charity well, until she was retired in 1998.

The Lady B and building a new Beatrice

The first Beatrice was replaced in 1998 by the Lady B, kindly built by apprentices at JCB Ltd, and named by Lady Bamford.  She also served us well but, at 45 feet long, she was a bit short for our purposes.

A new Beatrice was built in 1999 by Marque Narrowboats of Eccleshall, fitted out by Canal Cruising Ltd of Stone.  She was 70 feet long and was first used as a holiday boat for families with children with disabilities. She was named by Janice Burton MBE, the Paralympian gold medalist. After a couple of years Beatrice was shortened and converted to the present day-trip boat.

Beatrice today

Beatrice is now 56 feet (17 metres) long, with an airy, large windowed cabin and toilets equipped for those with disabilities. The large foredeck is easily accessible from the bank and is perfect for sitting out on a good day. An electric lift takes those in wheelchairs, or who cannot manage the steps, from the foredeck to the cabin. She can accommodate 12 passengers on each trip, three of whom may be in wheel chairs,  or four if the party is a little smaller. Large powered wheelchairs may not be able to get into the cabin. Please check with us when booking.

The crew, a qualified skipper assisted by a trained crew member, is responsible for the effective and safe running of the boat.  There are at least 6 locks on most of our trips and we are happy to involve passengers in their working.  Groups are responsible for the care and behaviour of their own members.  If children help with the locks they must be accompanied by both a teacher/carer and a crew member.

The boat has a small galley with a kettle, a fridge and a microwave.  Groups should bring their own refreshments and take away their own rubbish. It is often possible to stop at a pub or cafe during the trip, depending on the time available.

First Aid: Beatrice has a comprehensive first aid kit, including a defibrillator and trauma kit. Our skippers are first aid trained, but we expect that a teacher or member of support staff will take the lead for children or members of an organised group. 

Keeping Beatrice up to scratch

Beatrice was launched in 1998 and was beginning to show her age. We’ve now completed a process of thorough refurbishment. Over the past six years we have made many improvements, with a new engine, floor, toilet, cabin seats and central heating system. In the winter of 2018-19 we had a new lift, better disabled facilities in the bathroom, work on the cockpit, and some changes to the electrical system.  We also replaced the tired front-deck chairs. In the winter of 2019-20 the boat’s hull was grit blasted and given top-class blacking. We have also undertaken cosmetic improvements to the cabin woodwork. Beatrice is now ready for another 20 years of service.