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August 17, 2021

Float Your Boat: encouraging people to talk on the waterways

After 10 minutes on a canal boat trip what is there to do but talk?

Sat on bench seats facing each other that’s very inviting, and there’s lots to talk about: the buildings of Leeds seen from the water, what used to be there, passers-by, the trees, the wildlife (was that a heron? And after that you might talk to each other about yourself, and other things…

This was the vision of Trevor and Alan from Canal Connections when they set up the Float Your Boat project, with funding from Time to Shine. They’d seen it happen to people before. They wanted to offer older men a chance to volunteer on the boat – we know men are more likely to get involved if they can ‘help out’ – so that they could run regular canal cruises for older people, and as part of their intergenerational work.

Read the Float Your Boat end of project report.

Some things worked: groups loved to come for a trip, and a great group of chaps got together and worked their way through some quite onerous qualifications to be able to skipper the boat. They got back a sense of self-worth and purpose.

Some things went not so well: boat problems and berth problems meant they couldn’t run as many regular trips as they wanted, and that meant they didn’t have the regular passengers, so they couldn’t see the progress in people’s lives they hoped for. The weather too – it turned out that even hardy older people from Yorkshire didn’t want to go on boat trips in the rainy winter weather!

Then there was Covid-19. No way to do anything for so long as putting lots of older people in an enclosed space simply wasn’t possible. One good thing though was time for the boat crew to develop the skills they needed to talk to the young crew from Bradford, and getting together, to build some ideas for the future.

And the legacy – well there’s Tulip, a canal boat ready for more adventures with the citizens of Leeds and West Yorkshire. There’s a new partnership with Yorkshire Water, and some great ideas to have a go at once we’re allowed to sit close together and chat on Leeds’s waterways.

Find out more about the adventures of the crew in the Float Your Boat end of project report.

Jessica Duffy
Time to Shine Learning Facilitator