The Charity was the brainchild of Richard Kenyon. His idea was to provide a centre and facilities where anyone with a disability or who was socially disadvantaged could experience and participate in water based activities on a day or residential basis. His Mother Nancy and Father Oldfield had supported the setting up of a Trust so that his ideas could come to fruition, and accordingly the bungalow in Neatishead, known as "Roanoke", was purchased to provide a base for the organisation. Richard, had, on his own raised an extra £80,000. A Trust Deed was compiled and the Charity was formally registered in 1984. The NOT became a company limited by guarantee with charitable status in 1998. At this time Robin Slatter was appointed as Warden, later to be called Centre Manager.
In the early days, Richard ran NOT with a few keen volunteers. By 1987 NOT activities had grown considerably and Ted Fenn, Roger Daniel, Anita Vinall and Eric Barrett joined the team. Ted and Eric worked on a seasonal basis until 1991, when Eric left, and Terry Read joined. With a continuing increase in the number of visitors, the Trustees found it necessary to employ all staff on a permanent basis working full time. Nevertheless, the need for keen volunteers still remained.
In 1987 Nancy Bee joined the fleet of sailing craft and canoes and was originally used as a floating base on Barton Broad. She subsequently became so popular in her own right that in 1991 a converted houseboat was purchased to replace her as a floating base. In fact, the demands on Nancy Bee continued to grow to such an extent that a second motor cruiser, Maureen Kenyon, joined the fleet in 1996: a third, the electric boat, White Admiral, was ultimately built to the Trust's specifications and purchased in 2004. As well as motor cruising, sailing and canoeing the Trust's activities included bird watching, fishing and environmental studies.
An extension to the bungalow was undertaken and opened on 21st May 1999 by the then Chairman, Major General David Lloyd Owen: this made a huge difference to the size of the bungalow and enabled parties of up to 10 residential visitors to be accommodated.
In 2000 it became apparent that Richard's failing health made it difficult for him to direct and manage the organisation on his own, so an Executive Committee was formed. This meets more frequently than the Board of Directors and provides very important guidance and support for the Centre Manager, as well as establishing a future strategy for the Trust. Richard Kenyon died in 2003.
Today the Centre Manager, Stephen Bradnock is supported by three senior Instructors: Colin Savidge and Mark Elson who work all year round, and Charles Hare-Winton who covers the Summer months, and a network of around 40 volunteers, some who are sailing instructors and others drive the three motor cruisers, which go out every day of the year. Volunteers also support the office functions alongside a paid administrator and finance officer. Since 2016, Ruth Owen is employed to manage a project called Changing Tack, which aims to encourage vulnerable people to enjoy the activities we offer.
In 2014, a generous donation from Norwich Mencap and a legacy from Neatishead resident Edwin Barton have enabled the Trust to update and improve the facilities in the bungalow, and also to pave the driveway from the gate to the slipway. A new reception area and classroom have been made by converting the garage which was no longer needed for boat maintenance since the construction of the new boat shed in 2012.