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Sailing The Seas

A Youth Workers Perspective

To encourage young people to build on their confidence, group work skills and raise aspirations, I decided to take a group on a five day sailing residential. Researching the experience beforehand it certainly looked like the type of activity that would help young people build on these skills. What I hadn’t accounted for was it being one of those lifetime experiences you never forget, but also the mental strength needed to accomplish this kind of residential.

Everyone embarked on this journey with excitement and nerves. Five days sailing, how hard could it be? The Captain said the sea was rough and did we still want to do a night sail? Sitting in the comfort and safety of the dock of course we did! We wanted the best experience ever! Within five minutes of leaving the dock it was apparent what she meant, the boat was being thrown around and I was sure we would be engulfed in one of the crashing waves. We were put into different crews to sail, my crew and the third crew were off duty so we were sent to tie ourselves in our bunks. Firstly getting up into my bunk was a task in itself, once up there I panicked that my feeble knot wouldn’t stop me from rolling out, luckily for me the young people were also panicking about the same thing and to our relief a member of the sea staff came over and checked us all. Within seconds someone asked for a bucket, within minutes the poor sea staff were running up and down our bunks tying buckets to our beds. Rolling about in our beds I don’t think anyone got much sleep and I wondered what I had got us all into.

I was woken up with my crew, I wasn’t sure of the time maybe 3am, the ship was still being bashed with waves and all my crew were ill with sickness. Managing to roll out of bed I will never forget the determination of the young people, they couldn’t stand straight and were falling and bashing into the bunks, still with their heads in their buckets. One of the sea crew had to physically dress them in their oils and put their life jackets on. Climbing up to the deck our hearts were pumping as we struggled to clip ourselves onto the safety rope.

Once outside the tiredness and the constant movement of the boat made it feel like a dream, the night sky was amazing I don’t think I have ever seen stars so bright. The waves seemed unreal like something you see on the movies, sometimes so big they would get us wet or knock us off our seats!

The trip went on and days blurred into each other as the ship sailed to Scotland. Young people helped sail, cook and clean and lack of sleep and space got to everyone, but everyone still mucked in even if they moaned while doing it.
Stopping off at Holy Island we took the dingy to land which weaved in and out of the Sea Lions basking and swimming there. Young people couldn’t believe how close we were to them.

By the last day the atmosphere had changed it was lighter, more positive, maybe because we were headed home, maybe because most had found their sea legs. The fear had gone and big waves crashing onto the boat were met with laughter and excitable screams. Young people had smiles on their faces and were volunteering to raise the sails and refused to go off shift. In fact everyone stayed up all night and sat and chatted about the week. Even the bad bits, the scary bits and the boring bits didn’t seem so bad.

Many thanks to everyone taking part and special thanks to Ocean Trust North and The Dulverton Trust for funding this experience, I think we had the time of our lives!

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