The Island Trust’s inspirational course
PUBLISHED: 10:23 27 March 2017 | UPDATED: 10:23 27 March 2017
Chrissy Harris sets sail with a charity which is helping young people develop though life on the ocean wave
Hanging around with a group of teenagers in a confined space for a week might not seem like much fun. But sat aboard a traditional wooden sailing boat with Josh, Ben, Owain, Adam, James, Liam, Tyrone, and friends is a pretty uplifting experience. These 14- and 15-year-olds have just returned from six days at sea with The Island Trust, a Plymouth based charity that provides confidence-boosting sailing adventures to some of the country’s most disadvantaged youngsters.
Groups are taken out and - quite literally - shown the ropes as they learn how to work as a team, often in extreme weather conditions.
For most, it’s an experience they never forget – and that’s clearly going to be the case for Josh and his pals.
We sit below deck, moored in Plymouth Yacht Haven’s marina, as these pupils from St Illtyds School in Cardiff take part in a team debrief and tell skipper Rebecca Morley what they have learned from their trip of a lifetime.
“I realise now that I can do new things without thinking that I can’t,” says Josh Boalch, 15.
“It’s been so amazing. And the best part was seeing dolphins!”
There’s also talk of exploring Falmouth, barbecues on the beach, a party plus an early dose of seasickness that meant some team members were laid low during their 101-mile trip.
“That was the worst part for me,” says skipper Rebecca. “But you lot powered through and have shown so much confidence and done so well this week. I’m so proud of you all. You’ve worked so hard.”
Class teacher and assistant Year 11 head John Healey, is also in good spirits, considering he has just spent seven days on a boat with his pupils.
He tells his fellow shipmates: “I took away a group of individuals. But I really feel as though I’ve brought back a team. It’s such a proud moment for me.”
The mood below deck is incredibly buoyant and you get the impression that these lads will go home with a totally new perspective on life.
“That’s the idea,” says Roger Crabtree, charity trustee, who has been on the deck, listening to these inspiring accounts from the Island Trust’s latest sailors.
“We had a mum say recently that her son has been a different boy at home since he came along on a voyage. It’s all about giving personal drive to young people.”
Roger says the trips aboard the trust’s fleet of three sailing vessels provide youngsters with a lesson in teamwork on a traditional boat across the open sea.
It’s a world away from what many of the recruits - some of whom have learning difficulties, behavioural issues or come from areas of deprivation - are used to.
“There’s something about the sea – you are in a completely alien environment,” says Roger. “Many of them have never been on the sea. We have pupils from a school here in Plymouth who have never been to the beach. This is the society we live in. It’s just that they’ve never had the opportunity.”
“I just love seeing the development of the kids,” says skipper Rebecca. “You ask them to do something at the beginning of the week and you just get a load of blank stares.
“But, like it was here yesterday, I barely had to say anything. They just got stuck in.”
Managing disagreements and mood swings is all part of the job, and, as Rebecca says: “There’s no room for sulking on a boat.”
But most of the sailors leave their troubles at the shoreline and thoroughly enjoy their week, so much so that many come back again.
“They would never get these experiences if it wasn’t for organisations like this,” says John Healey, as we clamber back onto dry land.
The Trust has an ongoing commitment to fundraising and this particular voyage was funded in partnership with Reardon Smith Nautical Trust.
To find out more, or to make a donation to the valuable work that the charity does in support of disadvantaged/disabled young people, see theislandtrust.org.uk
Devon’s own world-class professional sailor Conrad Humphreys has just joined the board of trustees at the Island Trust. He says there are so many benefits to being aboard a sailing boat. “There are lots of ways you can work with young people but a boat environment seems to break down barriers to communication,” says the Plymouth-based round-the-world yachtsman. “Sailing is one of those rare activities that can really achieve results. It’s a sport like no other. You actually have to work together.”
The Island Trust: celebrating more than 40 years of adventure
The Trust was set up in 1973 by Richard (Dick) Lloyd MBE.
He is passionate about traditional wooden boats and ‘strives to address the inequalities in access to the benefits of sailing’.
The charity has three traditional sailing vessels, called Moosk, Pegasus and Tectona.
The youngsters that come to sail are aged between 14 to 18, but can be as young as ten or up the age of 25.
Over 400 were welcomed on board in 2015
The Trust is committed to helping young people with a range of disabilities, as well as those with educational or behavioural issues and those from inner city or deprived areas.