Steady as she goes... boat returns to water

A huge boat was winched back into the Northampton stretch of the River Nene yesterday after a safety check.

The St John Ambulance boat Northamptonshire Crusader, which provides free day trips to disabled people, the elderly and special schools, had been on dry land for a week undergoing inspection.

A 200-tonne crane was drafted in yesterday for the job of returning the vessel to the water after it passed a safety test with flying colours.

Repair work had also been carried out while the boat was parked next to the town lock in Becket's Park.

Dan Reid, St John Ambulance boatswain, said he was glad the 42-tonne boat had been returned to the water.

He said: "I am very pleased everything went according to the plan. We provide free trips for the elderly, disabled people and people with special needs throughout the year as part of our caring in the community project. We have been operating for 14 years from Becket's Park."

The Northamptonshire Crusader was winched out of the Nene on April 21.

Mr Reid said he would like to thank Northampton Borough Council for allowing the boat to be parked on the side of the river while the tests were done.

As the boat carries passengers it needs a certificate, so it has be inspected every two years.

The price of carrying out the latest examination has cost the charity about 8,000.

The underside of the boat was painted while it was on the bank and a full paint job will be carried out soon.

The vessel is specially designed and constructed to carry disabled people and has about 2,000 passengers every year.