It’s summer and ever since I was a little-bitty boy, I can remember this time of the year being filled with days on the water. In a boat with my dad, fishing until reaching terminal sunburn. It was my favorite place to be. In 1984, I was diagnosed with FSH Muscular Dystrophy and my very athletic body began to break down over time. I realized rather quickly that I may never own and operate my own boat one day. Or so, I thought. What are the options? What is actually available out there from tooling around in a pond to roaring in the open ocean? This article will give you the tip of the iceberg on this very hot topic. Ready? Let’s go!
On many occasions I have written about fishing in ponds. For a disabled angler, they represent one of the very best solutions for getting your fishing fix. If you had a boat however, you could access these amazing holes with even greater precision and thoroughness. But, let’s be real. A wheelchair and a john-boat aren’t exactly complimentary to each other. There are inherent dangers in attempting to DIY a solution.
Custom Pontoons Boats. I spoke with Joe Collier who is their designer. They specialize in building work platforms set over pontoons on just about any scale you can fathom. I have selected them specifically for this part of the article because of their boat called, The Bass Sniper. It comes in a 10, 12 and 14 foot editions. Made specifically for trolling around a pond, the 10 footer can support up to 740 pounds of weight. Ramps are not included but can be purchased separately. Interesting tidbit – They have built floating classrooms for Penn State University and Fire Truck Boats.
Hotwoods Compact Pontoon Boats. I spoke with the owner, Dan and I love that they broke out of the mold a long time ago to rethink how pontoons can and should be utilized. Most boats like these are made with large round pontoons and then weld a platform on top of that. The typical pontoon is usually very wide in diameter and does not make for an easy transition sometimes at the water’s edge due to their height. Hotwoods created smaller diameter pontoons and use four of them for greater stability and weight differential. The diameter of these pontoons is only 12” making for a much easier transition. They offer two different styles of boats depending on how economically minded you are. The Lil Sport is 12’10 x 5 and has a plywood deck for less of an impact on the budget. They offer a 15’ x 6’ Fishin Sport also with plywood decking. If strength is what you desire, then you can go with their Allumisport series. Same lengths and widths as before but the deck is all aluminum welded. Interesting tidbit – You can add a small outboard to these boats with 10-15 horsepower being the maximum and venture onto a lake. You can even get one powder coated for duck hunting which is nice.
In both of the previous two companies, the layout of the deck is intended to be wide open. If you desire storage or rod-boxes, any of these things can be added or customized later.
It is also noteworthy that to enjoy a lake, many of your current pontoon boats can also be customized at your request. Just simply ask your local Tracker Boats dealer or visit Bass Pro Shops to inquire about any changes to a current layout that you might like.
Okay, it’s time to jump into the deep end of the pool. Remember those WWII videos showing the boats landing the men on the beaches of Normandy? The Higgins boat had that wonderful drop-down front end and could transport men, tanks, etc. That same concept is now being used to build some incredible boats that are also handicapped accessible.
Koffler Boats of Eugene Oregon makes landing craft boats with a ramp that can extend from there. The boats are originally designed for the great northwest where getting heavy equipment such as ATV’s or Tractors to remote locations can prove difficult. With their landing craft front end, this becomes relatively easy. If you have always wanted to take the family camping on an island this boat fits the bill. They also make a drift boat if fly-fishing is your thing. It too has a landing craft style front where a fisherman can roll into the boat and can drift fish with the best river anglers in the world. Options are endless on any of the boats offered through Koffler and a true wheelchair accessible boat would need to be customized.
Munson’s Model 34-24 Sport is a 34 footer. The beam is 12 feet wide allowing for plenty of space on the deck coupled with incredible stability. Although the boat pictured is a mono hull, you can get the boat in a catamaran style that is even more stable than a mono. Powered by twin Yamaha 250 horsepower outboards and 250 gallons fuel capacity, you can stay on the water for a very long time.
Catamaran Coaches in Florida who makes custom wheelchair accessible boats and yachts. Instead of it being a Catamaran, it is a Trimaran (3 hull design) for even greater stability in big water. The only words you will ever hear John say is, “Yes we can do that!” They make a deluxe wheelchair accessible boat already for as low as $60-$80,000. The options however are truly limitless.
Hopefully I have at least gotten your brain to begin thinking that your days on the water aren’t as limited as you once thought. Never give up! Where there is a will, there really is a way!