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Review of Activities in 2022


Our aim is to enable all members of society to participate in watersports. Our centre at Baltic Wharf, Bristol has specialist boats equipped to cope with all needs from the fully able to those with very complex needs.  We cater especially for children and adults living with disabilities (physical, learning or cognitive), long term health conditions, and/or are from disadvantaged backgrounds. Water-based activities offered include sailing, rowing, powerboating and motor cruising, canoeing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding and raft building.  Shore-based activities include boat building, Disability awareness and First Aid courses, and use of indoor fitness equipment.


With activity levels significantly affected by covid lockdown closures and restrictions for the previous two years, we were finally able to return to normal in 2022. Demand for all our activities remained strong, particularly during the peak season May-September.


Participants visit as individuals, in family and social groups, or with their school, support group or other type of community or social group.


In 2022 we welcomed over 9,500 participants.  Of these;

  • Over 20% declared a disability/long term health condition
  • Almost 55% were young people aged 8-18 years
  • Just over 20% were aged 50+ years
  • Almost 10% came from a (known) BAME background
  • Over 2% came from a (known) disadvantaged area


We aim to reach a target of 50% of participants who identify as having a disability, long term health condition, suffering loneliness or isolation or socio-economic disadvantage, or other traditional limitation on accessing watersports.


A combination of grant income and a sound financial position allowed us to continue offering fully/part funded, or internally subsidised, watersport sessions throughout the year to many groups.  A Sport England report published in April 2021 recognised that the pandemic had most negatively impacted on the activity levels of many of the people that we aim to reach – women, young people aged 16-24, over 75s, people with disability or long term health conditions, and those from Black, Asian, and other minority ethnic backgrounds. The benefits to mental health of outdoor exercise and water activity are also well documented and we know that participants (and our volunteers) often value the support and social side of our activities as highly as the physical benefits.


Our fully funded projects included watersports for children with long term health conditions (and their close family), sailing for ethnic minorities, sailing to improve mental health, watersports for disadvantaged children and SEN schools, watersports for young people at risk of homelessness, sailing for those aged 50+ years, rowing for the visually impaired, and Harbour cruises for those living with dementia.


In addition to individuals, and social/family groups we also provided watersport sessions for:

  • 5 SEN schools
  • 17 mainstream schools/higher education settings
  • 17 support groups – with support areas including homelessness, mental health, disability, adoption and fostering, bereavement, domestic abuse, autism, vulnerable young people and


  • Specialist support services – Child and adolescent mental health unit, providers of specialist short break services, professionals supporting NHS brain injury units
  • Other community groups including 13 Scout, Cub or Brownie units, and several environmental groups working to clean up Bristol harbour.


Our weekly drop in Sailability/Paddleability/Powerability sessions for those requiring additional support ran throughout the year and welcomed over 400 participants throughout the course of the year.


There were many highlights in the year.  One was the return of the School Games after a 2 year break due to the pandemic.  This gave almost 70 SEND pupils from 8 schools the opportunity to learn sailing, rowing and paddlesports over a 6 week period, culminating in a Regatta where pupils represented their school against the other schools – an opportunity often denied SEND pupils.  Another highlight was working with local charity Caring in Bristol supporting young people at risk of homelessness, which generated this heartwarming quote: “I always thought Bristol was a dirty city and it has been really nice to see it a different way, I love it when we are out in the boat and people walking by wave!  It makes me feel like a celebrity when normally I feel like people look down at me”.  We were also proud to enable Abdul to be only the second blind person to complete an RYA Powerboating Level 2 qualification, with financial support from Yeo Valley Lions and specialist resource support from the RYA.  And a huge environmental highlight was receiving funding from the Quartet Megawatt fund to allow us to replace an end-of-life petrol outboard engine with a rechargeable battery electric version which has proved very popular with instructors and participants.


Grant funding is vital to allow us to continually replace and upgrade our boats and equipment.  In addition to the funds for the electric engine, we also received grants towards the purchase of 2 second hand Access dinghies and 2 new double hander sailing dinghies.  Other funds supported our volunteer co-ordinator, and enabled us to implement a full upskilling qualification training plan for instructors and volunteers.


The financial security of the charity has been greatly helped by grants and donations from amongst others:


Grant providers:

  • Avison Young/Groundwork
  • RYA Sailactivity
  • RYA Tackling Inequalities
  • RYA Foundation
  • True Colours Trust
  • Whirlwind Trust
  • Quartet – donor directed funds, Resilience Fund and Megawatt Fund
  • Nisbet Trust
  • Bristol Age UK
  • Scobell Trust
  • Ulverscroft Foundation
  • Trinity House Foundation
  • Newby Trust
  • National Lottery Community Fund



  • Alun Griffiths contractors
  • Portishead Sailing Club
  • Yeo Valley Lions

and a number of other individual supporters to whom we are very grateful.

We are also extremely grateful to our permanent and casual staff who have demonstrated flexibility and taken on additional responsibility as needed during the year. We continue to recognise the extraordinary contributions made by our dedicated volunteers, who assist participants on the water and shoreside, help maintain and enhance our watercraft and Centre throughout the year, and spend many hours restoring old donated boats for ultimate sale to raise extra funds.


The Trustees are aware that the pandemic has necessarily meant that much of the available grant funding has been redirected towards those organisations providing front line covid relief.  Many of the grant funding streams accessed by All Aboard in recent years having now ended. We continue to seek new grants to fund activities for our participants with additional needs, disability or disadvantage. We remain reliant on the generosity of our donors to cover on-going shortfalls, while also recognising the need to continue to develop new sources of income and to cultivate more relationships with philanthropic individuals and organisations to support our charitable work.


History and Charitable Purpose

All-Aboard was set up initially as Avon Schools Sailing Association, by a small group of dedicated teachers who wanted to introduce their pupils to sailing.

These children were brought down weekly by their teachers, from state schools around Bristol and Bath, and taught to sail after school. Over the years, the number of children increased as did the number of sessions and WESSA West of England School Sailing Association, was formed. The ethos was the same, to encourage, support and facilitate those young people who would normally be denied the opportunity to access the water. During the 1980s we were offered the opportunity to take over the Bristol Sailing School, which allowed us to channel any profits from the school back in to support the growing charity.

In 2004 Bristol Sailability was born. This allowed us to offer sailing to those who were denied access to the water by means of disability or sensory impairment. From the small beginnings of a Drascombe lugger being donated by Children in Need, we have grown to a premier Sailability Centre, catering for a wide range of abilities, from children with complex needs to a development pathway up to Paralympic standard. We have also developed in our understanding of a sliding scale of ability so that as far as possible our sailors with impairments are supported within the mainstream of our organisation.

In 2013 we have taken a further leap forward, by becoming one of the first Charitable Incorporated Companies in the country. This has allowed us to widen the scope of our work to include, canoeing, rowing and boat building, as well as the profile of the people who we work with. We are now charged to work with the whole community within Bristol and the surrounding area to use watersports as a medium to improve the life experience, health, physical and social opportunities for all in a truly inclusive organisation.


To promote for the benefit of the inhabitants of Bristol and the surrounding area the provision of recreational facilities for the participation in water sports and such other related activities, of individuals who have need of such facilities by reason of their youth, age, infirmity or disablement, financial hardship or social and economic circumstances or for the public at large in the interests of social welfare and with the object of improving the condition of life of the said inhabitants.