The first event of the Scottish Region's new season took the form of a visit to the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and trip on Scotland's only Solar Powered boat.
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park was designated in 2002 and covers 720 square miles. Within its boundaries are 20 "Munros" (mountains over 3,000 feet in height) and 20 "Corbetts" (Mountains with a height of between 2,500 and 3,000 feet). There are also 22 large lochs and numerous smaller ones, along with 50 rivers and large burns (a Scottish term for a stream). The Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park also includes two Forest Parks, the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park in the Trossachs and the Argyll Forest Park in Cowal.
The Solar Powered boat, "Bàta Grèine", at Balloch, Loch Lomond.
© John G. Fender 2011
The Solar Powered boat is called the "Bàta Grèine" (pronounced "bah-tuh grain-ya") and means "boat of the sun". The boat was built in Germany by Kopf SolarDesign GMBH and is a twin hull catamaran design with a length of 42 feet. With a top speed of around 8 knots, the boat can run for more hours on battery power. It has 24 solar panels to recharge the batteries and only needs to be plugged into the mains twice a week to fully recharge the batteries.
The batteries weigh around 8 tonnes and act as ballast making the boat very stable. The boat is powered by two 18Kw motors, and is a twin-screw design. There is also an auxiliary generator powered by a bio-diesel engine. By having a screw on each of the catamaran hulls, the boat is extremely manoeuvrable and can turn in it's own length. The boat is fully accessible and can accommodate up to four wheelchair passengers.
The boat is partly funded by the Mobility in National Parks Project (MoPark). This project is aimed at examining ways of enabling visitors to National Parks to be able to explore them in environmentally friendly ways. The Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park is one of eight in Europe taking part in the project. Other funding has come from Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Enterprise Dunbartonshire, the National Park Authority, Scottish Enterprise Forth Valley and the Interreg 3b European Programme.
This project has opened up new opportunities for mobility impaired people and as part of the project new facilities have been built on Inchcailloch Island. These include new paths, a floating pontoon, state of the art composting toilets, a countryside ranger base and boardwalks. This island is part of the Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve and attracts around 20,000 visitors each year.
The project also includes the provision of two solar powered golf buggies for use at Loch Katrine. These buggies are used to allow visitors to explore the loch side and are particularly suited to those with limited mobility. As part of the project, hand held audio guides are being developed and the CILT members were able to participate in the trial and give feedback on their experience of using the audio guides.
Institute members on board the Bàta Grèine at Balloch (William Mykura, Donald MacCuish, Richard Taylor, Alan Carmichael, John Fender, Dave Court, John Yellowlees, William Murchison, Tom McGuire.)
© John G. Fender 2011
There are two types of audio guide being tested. One is the same type that is found at many visitor attractions and the other is based on a PDA. The PDA version has additional interactive materials, photographs and information. The MoPark project also contributed to the purchase of solar-powered golf buggies at Loch Katrine that are used to improve accessibility for groups and especially those with mobility difficulties.
During the two-hour trip around Loch Lomond on the boat, the party of Scottish Region members were given an outline of the MoPark project and had the opportunity to visit the bridge or control cab. This features a fully electronic control system and all the information about the boat that the captain needs is displayed on a computer screen.
Members also were able to use the audio guides to find out about the various islands in the loch. The vessel was surprisingly stable and was extremely quiet. When not being used for tours, the vessel is used as a workboat for various tasks on the loch, including wild life surveys and the removal of rubbish from the islands.The vessel was surprisingly stable and was extremely quiet. When not being used for tours, the vessel is used as a workboat for various tasks on the loch, including wild life surveys and the removal of rubbish from the islands.
The Scottish Region would like to thank Nigel Brooks for enabling the visit to take place and to Robbie Donaldson, the skipper of the "Bàta Grèinee" and to our guide for the afternoon, Gunar Scholtz who explained much about the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and who patiently answered all of the questions members had.
Further information on the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park can be found on their website: www.lochlomond-trossachs.org
Report by John Fender.
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