Some of you will know of the immense support given to Ocean Youth Trust South by Marina Developments Ltd (MDL) in a variety of ways, not least providing berths for JOHN LAING. In addition, MDL sponsors six people to sail with us each year: individuals who have been nominated for being exceptionally deserving. Over the years, we have met some truly remarkable people among the MDL award winners, and this is always one of the most eagerly-anticipated trips of the summer.
This year, it began in Plymouth on July 31st. The six award winners were Amir, Damien, Lee, Lawrence, Sean and Simon. They were joined by three crew members from last year: George Harvey plus the return of Harry and Baz, two of the four self-styled “midgets” who provided one of the most entertaining trips of 2003. The crew was completed by three new faces: Tommy, Katie and Chris. Sea staff were Wolf, Dings, Caz, Julia Davies (her first proper trip as relief bosun), Colin Robertson and Tim Deverson, doing his third mate’s assessment.
Everyone was keen to get going so we set off that evening, sailed through the night and anchored in Tresco in the Isles of Scilly on Sunday morning. The crew all got ashore and went exploring but sadly not all the sea staff had the same opportunity, as repairs and maintenance on board took priority. Tresco is a very pretty island but lacks the wild remoteness of St Agnes, where we anchored on our last visit to the area.
Anchor watches that night were more demanding than usual since all the yachts in the anchorage seemed to be swinging to a different tune, and whenever the tide turned there were some worrying moments when the neighbours got very close. Finally, around 7am, another yacht came near enough to touch. We were on deck with roving fenders in plenty of time, and the other crew was also keeping a good anchor watch. They were friendly but slightly stressed, having just realised that they had three tea bags between eight people to last until the end of their trip. Wolf turned pale and trembling at the mere thought of anyone having to survive without TEA, and a plastic bag of Yorkshire’s finest was soon sent across on the end of a boat hook.
The settled weather you need for sailing in the Scillies had clearly abandoned us, so we took the decision to head back east for Falmouth, where we arrived late on Monday night and were given a berth alongside two ships from the Royal Navy’s University units. This gave second mate Colin an opportunity to exercise his officer’s authority as he summoned the duty watch on deck to take our lines.
We were woken early next morning by all the pipes and commands of the Navy’s early-morning routine: commonplace in a naval dockyard but a little startling in a yachting marina. It left us wondering how a marina might regard us if JOHN LAING’s crew made that much noise in the mornings!
We spent some time in Falmouth and the crew got a chance to see the town, do some shopping, visit the fabulous Maritime Museum and play football on the beach. They also worked hard at the RYA Competent Crew syllabus, and we had a great rowing race in which the crew were divided into pairs: one had to row to a distant pontoon, then they had to swap places for the other to row back, and each pair was timed to find the winners.
The dreaded crème-caramel-marmite challenge also took place, and a general high-spiritedness prevailed at all times. Sample dialogue: Skipper (who has been chatting to people on the boat next door after dinner): “How did the washing-up go?” First mate (straight-faced): “Fine, once we’d got the custard off Simon.”
Leaving Falmouth provided another high point as we sailed off the pontoon without using the engine, demonstrating some remarkable teamwork under the gaze of a number of spectators.
We finally made it back to Plymouth at 3am on the last day and it was a slightly weary band which struggled through clean-up and all the Competent Crew testing later the same morning. George, Harry and Baz got their certificates by completing work begun last year, while Damien, Amir and Simon succeeded in finishing the whole thing in one go. Katie already had her certificate, and all the others made good progress and got many sections signed off.
There were some remarkable individuals in this crew; confidentiality prevents us describing the backgrounds of those who were sponsored by MDL, but yet again they managed to come up with some very worthy winners.
Congratulations also to Tim Deverson who did a great third mate’s assessment and impressed everyone by volunteering for all the worst bits and then looking as though he was enjoying himself at all times (anyone who has ever tried accompanying twelve teenagers to a sweetshop and then getting them back to the boat in time for dinner will understand the scale of this achievement). You don’t need to lick anyone’s feet to ingratiate yourself with us, Tim….
Thanks as ever to all the sea staff, particularly those who spent many hours in the engine room. Thanks also to Chris our favourite engineer, who once again opened up a Plymouth branch of Contact Marine when required.
After all that excitement, Wolf went on leave for a while, though there was a bit of a scare when a relief skipper called up and cancelled and Wolf could see his well-earned rest disappearing. Fortunately the wonderful Dave Carnson stepped in at short notice, and a new sea staff team of Dave, Princess Craig, John Parkin, Andy Royse and Tee Hee were ready to welcome the next crew, who came via our link with CHASE Children’s Hospice Service in Guildford. The crew included two group leaders from CHASE, and the rest were brothers and sisters of life-limited children.
Craig says that they had a fantastic voyage, the crew were fantastic, and they went to some fantastic places and did some fantastic things. He also mentioned that a girl in the crew appeared to have a vocabulary consisting of just one word, and he thought this might have been catching. I wonder what the word was?
He also described the trip as “very chilled, cool and funny – less a full-on sail training experience and more of a holiday” – which was evidently just what the group wanted as they all seem determined to sail again. They started with a trip from Plymouth to Fowey, where they had to wait out a brief spell of bad weather; then on to Dartmouth and Salcombe, where they had a beach BBQ and played touch rugby. After leaving Salcombe they anchored again and were treated to the sight of the final of the national fireworks competition between three opposing teams, for which JOHN LAING’s anchorage provided front-row seats.
The return to Plymouth was notable mainly for a rainstorm of such intensity that Craig felt it necessary to wear his shortie wetsuit on deck.
The sea staff were particularly pleased to receive thank-you presents from the crew at the end of the trip. The crew seem to have got to know the staff pretty well in such a short time: Dave was given a skipper’s mug; Craig got a fridge magnet reading: “No coffee, no working”; John got “the most complicated pen known to man”; Tee Hee a bracelet and some shells; and Andy a giraffe battery fan with a spinning nose with blades attached. All highly appropriate and thoroughly well-deserved.
As the first CHASE siblings voyage, this was a huge success and it would be great to repeat it in future. We might also look at taking life-limited children themselves on a voyage – many of them have conditions which mean they can be quite fit enough to sail at certain times.
Meanwhile, the next voyage starts tonight with a crew from Devon and Cornwall police.
Now, a few points for upcoming events: Owing to a cancellation, it looks as though the voyages to St Malo and back (2-8 Sept and 9-15 Sept) are off. We urgently need to sell these berths but we are now looking at the option of some generous cut-price voyages nearer to home. Please do anything you can to help us sell these voyages. Crew members who are not at school during that period: can you sail again? Can you recommend us to your friends? Sea staff and others, please pass the word around. We really do need to fill the boat for these two trips. Call the office on 0870 241 2252 for bookings or suggestions on who to contact.
There are a few other sailing vacancies this season for those who can’t make these trips: Sept 20-24; Sept 24-26 (a weekend and therefore a great opportunity for crew members who are at school or college to sail again); and Oct 15-21.
We also need lots of people – sea staff, crew and friends – to help us at the Southampton Boat Show between September 10th and 19th. If you’ve enjoyed sailing in JOHN LAING, can you spare half a day to come and help us inspire others to get involved? You can see the rest of the Boat Show, meet up with other JOHN LAING enthusiasts, and have a great day out – call the office or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.
Finally, don’t forget the Fundraising Dinner at the Royal Southampton Yacht Club on 17th September. If you want to spend £65 on a very good cause (the money will go jointly to OYT South and CHASE), why not get a meal and a chance to see old friends into the bargain? Email email@example.com for tickets.