More funds needed to get boat on the water

A CHARITY that works tirelessly to give disabled and elderly people a chance to enjoy the Broads is appealing for one big fundraising push to get their new craft out on the water.

Waveney Stardust urgently needs to find about �25,000 to complete their new custom-built vessel which is fully wheelchair accessible.

On Friday the charity invited Euro MP Richard Howitt to officially name the boat Waveney Stardust II at the Waveney River Centre at Burgh St Peter, where it is in storage.

Plans for the �250,000 boat have been in the pipeline for about five years, but despite being so close to completion the recession has made if difficult to secure funds and more money is needed to kit it out with furniture and fittings.

The charity, which was founded in 1988 and is run by volunteers, has just finished its 18th season with its much-loved vessel Waveney Stardust I. The boat has carried about 45,000 passengers approximately 58,000 miles since becoming operational in 1992 and is the busiest vessel on the Broads.

Demand for the vessel has been so high in recent years the charity decided to commission a second craft.

As well as being fully wheelchair accessible, Waveney Stardust II has lowered windows, a disabled toilet and kitchen facilities.

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Mr Howitt, who is vice-president of the European Parliament’s All Party Disability Rights Group, said: “We need to push the boat out and make some waves for this final fundraising challenge.

“Life out on the water is something that people with disabilities have often been restricted from enjoying but the Waveney Stardust II will open up new possibilities for people regardless of their ability.”

He added: “Waveney Stardust I is the busiest boat on the broads. It carries more passengers than any other boat on the broads. It shows there is a real demand to have this boat running.

“The new boat was built in Lowestoft and kitted out at the Waveney River Centre, so it is a great local enterprise.”

Waveney Stardust chairman Stephen Shepherd said the charity operates seven days a week from April 1 to the end of December each year. It is hoped the new boat will be operational by the start of the new season.

Mr Shepherd said the service is much-valued and added: “Our aim is to open up access to the Broads to people who otherwise couldn’t get out there.”

To make a donation cheques should be made payable to Waveney Stardust and sent to Stephen Shepherd at 19 Gilpin Road, Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, NR32 3NS.