History of the ABA
formerly Boats for the Handicapped Association
Cllr Stocks wearing her Council regalia
In 1985, Councillor Mildred Stocks, Founder and President of the Association, was elected Chairman of Hart District Council, and for her chosen charity decided to raise money for a project which would interest and involve people across the whole district.
Following meetings with many members of the community, Mildred was approached by two canal enthusiasts, David Gerry and David Millett, who explained the problems facing elderly and disabled people accessing the day boat John Pinkerton operated by the Surrey & Hants Canal Society.
Having experienced life in a wheelchair for some 6 months in 1971 herself, she appreciated the limitations facing those whose disability severely limited their mobility and in particular the ability to visit and enjoy the countryside. Thus the idea of providing a day boat designed to provide wheelchair access took shape.
|Mildred Stocks under way|
The project was launched in July 1985. Through a contact at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough it was agreed to build the new boat with the help of their Apprentices and Youth Training Scheme personnel, a government initiative providing young people with the opportunity to learn basic skills in Metalwork, Woodwork and Electrical work.
Various fund raising activities took place, including the involvement of the 2nd Battalion King Edward Vll Own Gurkha Rifles (The Sirmoor Rifles) based in Church Crookham, who presented Mildred with a cheque for £2000 – every Gurkha having given a £1.
|Madam Butterfly being launched in 1995|
After 9 years of fund raising, the Association achieved their aim to provide a holiday boat on the canal. In July 1995 Madam Butterfly was launched at a cost of £63,000. Prunella Scales and Timothy West attended the naming ceremony as Patrons.
In 1997 it was decided that a replacement craft for the Mildred Stocks was required. The Association applied for a Lottery grant and obtained £34,750, to which the Association added £l0,000, and the new day boat Dawn was ordered in July 1998, and launched in April 1999.
|Dawn being launched in 1999|
The design details of Dawn were prepared by one of the Association's disabled members, using computer design facilities at Farnborough College of Technology, who together with BAe Systems also supplied technical support and reprographic services.
In the year 2000, following consultation with interested parties, it was decided that the Charity should be renamed to recognise a wider disability user base. At the AGM in March 2001 the membership approved the change of name to Accessible Boating Association (ABA).
A New Engine for Dawn at 10 Years Old
|Dawn at Barley Mow|
|Dawn's new engine 2009|
The majority of our clients using Dawn are charities themselves, providing much needed services to the disabled and elderly. ABA has trained their volunteers to operate Dawn on the many trips they make each year.
As an example of those we serve, ABA volunteers get great pleasure from working with “Parity”, a local charity for disabled children and young adults. To see the youngsters' faces after a trip on Dawn is a joy, and makes the work all the more worthwhile.
Madam Butterfly, our holiday boat, was launched in 1995 and entered service the following year. In the intervening years she has allowed countless families to have holidays together with their elderly or disabled loved ones. The hydraulic steering is particularly welcomed, as it allows the disabled person to steer the boat from their wheelchair and become an active member of the crew.
MB also doubles as our training boat for the National Community Boats Association, where our trainers hold courses for our own volunteers, and other outside charitable organisations who require a Certificate in Community Boat Management (CCBM)
Out of season, our dedicated team of volunteers maintain the boats and update their equipment, particularly items required for our elderly and disabled clients. This year alone they have completely replaced the flooring in the main cabin, and rebuilt the bed and storage system. One of the projects that we have had in mind for some time is to replace Madam Butterfly's outdated engine with a new model that meets current emissions standards. Unfortunately due to the current financial restrictions, and a relatively poor season last year due to closures on the Canal, it was placed on hold.
|The new engine being fitted to MB|
ABA Celebrates 25 Years
Husband and wife canal-boating ABA patrons Timothy West and Prunella Scales, attended a celebration at Colt Hill on Friday 16 September 2011 to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of the ABA. Greeted by current President and founding chairman Mildred Stocks, they toured the boats and met many of the volunteers who contribute so much to helping the charity serve the local community.
|Madam Butterfly and Dawn dressed overall||Mildred Stocks (L) and Chairman Ken Blockwell (R)
presented a framed picture to our patrons
|A good turnout for the occasion||Our patrons looking at the new display boards|
|Ken Blockwell and Prunella Scales handing over
a commemorative plaque to attach to the boat
|ABA volunteers with our Patrons|
Mildred Stocks and Prunella Scales
|Our patrons with ABA President MIldred Stocks
and past chairman Tony Carter
A dedicated team of skilled volunteers maintains the ABA boats. This year it was time for Madam Butterfly to visit the dry dock for a repaint below the waterline and a change of propeller shaft.
|Graham fixing the propeller to the new prop shaft||Shiny repainted Madam Butterfly|
Annual Maintenance 2013
This year it was Dawn's turn to visit the dry dock for an external strip and repaint, change of propeller shaft, change of rudder bearings, and other maintenance work.
|The engineering team hard at work||A new coat of paint below the waterline|
2016 Season Report
Dawn had 83 trips during the season and Madam Butterfly 5 plus 3 day hires. In addition to this we ran 9 trips on Dawn which could be booked on an individual basis rather than having to hire the whole boat. We plan to run more in 2017. We ran Santa Cruises again this year in conjunction with Galleon Marine, which were very successful.
Once again we were very grateful for the generous contribution from the Basingstoke Canal Scout Challenge.
The sudden death in February 2017 of our long-term Bookings Manager, Peter Bridle, has robbed the Association of an incredibly loyal and dedicated volunteer who made a very significant contribution to the day-to-day operations of the charity over many years. He has proved to be a hard act to follow and is sorely missed. Our sincere condolences go to Liz and his family and friends.
For further information about the ABA please contact the Honorary Secretary.
See contacts page for details.