A very busy couple of weeks since the last bulletin, with three voyages to report on.
The first was a mixed voyage, with a small group from a school in Kingston and the numbers made up by a variety of individual bookings. Many of them had sailed before, in either dinghies or yachts, so there was a high level of competence. They sailed from Southampton to Cowes, Yarmouth, Weymouth and back to Southampton. In Yarmouth they played rounders and Princess Craig flew his kite, dive-bombing several people in the process. Skipper Dave Carnson bought himself a longboard and proceeded to skate everywhere, to the slight consternation of onlookers who were worried that he might kill himself. Luckily first mate Helen Acton is a qualified skipper so no-one needed to panic. Anyway, they had a few days of great weather and the mizzen staysail and cruising chute were in use for the first time this season. The sea staff said it was an excellent week with yet another really enthusiastic crew – so enthusiastic that during clean-up, one of them noticed that our kettles were full of limescale, and endeavoured to solve the problem….using limescale-removing toilet cleaner. As a result of this, the boat now has a pair of brand-new shiny kettles, which is a great improvement all round.
This trip was followed by an adult familiarisation voyage primarily aimed at new volunteers who are thinking of becoming sea staff. Skipper Wolf came back on board after a break (thanks to Dave and Hels for running everything so successfully in his absence). It may be a good thing to have him back at sea since he has recently become a pin-up in Camberley, Surrey, and there are signs that some of his fans may be becoming obsessive….You may recall that in the autumn we received a generous donation from the manufacturers of Toilet Duck to help us install new toilets on board John Laing. The company asked for photographs as proof that the work had been done, so we recently sent off a set of three: old toilet, new toilet – and Wolf enthroned, with a satisfied smile and only a copy of Yachting Monthly between himself and the world. Almost immediately I received the a highly enthusiastic reply from Toilet Duck: “I think I will include this gorgeous chap on our notice board – it will brighten up our day………..” Hmmm, I sense a fundraising idea here. Have the members of OYT South’s new fundraising committee seen Calendar Girls?
Anyway, back to the familiarisation voyage. We really hoped to be able to get to France but we were thwarted by the weather – very damp and with strong winds usually from the wrong direction. We spent some time doing sail hoists, reefs, tacks and gybes in the Solent, where we were joined by Tony Salmon and a friend, driving around in a RIB in a torrential downpour, who realised that John Laing offers a) shelter and b) extensive tea-making facilities. And so the Café Laing was born – tea and coffee 50p a mug to anyone who can come alongside at sea without scratching the paintwork.
Continuing dreary weather meant that it wasn’t too painful spending a substantial part of the trip doing training in harbour, as we covered everything from how to teach the Competent Crew syllabus through to doing the weekly checks and a detailed introduction to John Laing’s engine (thanks to Chris from Contact Marine). Comedy highlight was Phoebe’s quiz, designed to test all the things they had learned. Part of the quiz ensures that they have learned where everything is stowed on board, but most people thought the question “Bring me the mizzen staysail” was asking a bit much, since it was then stowed in the sail locker underneath most of our larger sails, and it normally takes a team of people and much grunting to extract it. However, they reckoned without bosun Gizmo (formerly known as Kat) who calmly shifted all the sails on her own and returned with the mizzen staysail as if it was nothing out of the ordinary.
Finally on the Saturday we emerged into bright sunshine and a good breeze, and managed some excellent sailing, going from Gosport, round the south of the Isle of Wight, past the Needles and back up to Ocean Village.
The purpose of the voyage was to identify new sea staff, and this was a great success, with a number of people earning sea staff recommendations and plenty of evidence of some very promising new recruits – as well as the rediscovery of a long-lost third mate in John Snowden, who hadn’t sailed for many years but is now well and truly back in the OYT fold and keen to stay there.
The voyage ended with a lunchtime visit to OYT South’s home from home, the Pilgrim House Chinese Restaurant in Southampton. I shall have to draw a veil over what took place there, for fear of embarrassing the participants, but I can reassure everyone that we have not been banned from the restaurant: rather the reverse. Indeed, I fully expect to find the waiters coming down to Ocean Village to welcome the boat in after every voyage, and laying out a red carpet direct from the boarding ladder to our table in the restaurant, as a slight over-ordering problem left us all frantically ringing everyone we knew in the area to see if anyone could come and help out.
The most recent voyage, which ended today, was, however, the most rewarding of the three. The group came from Teenage Cancer Trust Units in Leeds and Manchester: eight teenagers plus four adults (including medical staff). They sailed from Southampton to Gosport, then aimed for Cherbourg through the eastern Solent, but were thwarted when the weather turned against them, with lots of people sick and a horrible fog. However, there were no complaints from the crew, however ill they felt – nothing was going to stop them putting maximum effort into the voyage, and the sea staff all had huge respect for them. They eventually sailed to Poole, where they had a morning in harbour and did lots of RYA training. Then on to Weymouth, an excellent sail in vastly better weather, singing along to Take That’s Greatest Hits and dancing on deck in the sunshine. Another morning in harbour gave everyone time for a good look around, followed by a sail back to Ocean Village, arriving at 1am so everyone could experience night sailing. This gave one crew member an experience to treasure, seeing his first shooting star.
The crew were so inspirational that even skipper Wolf started joining in the sail hoists, but was comprehensively upstaged by 13-year old Tom, who managed single-handedly to sweat the main halyard 95% of the way up – further than we sometimes manage with a team of large adults on the rope.
At the end of the trip Wolf awarded seven RYA Start Yachting certificates and four Competent Crew certificates. The group’s reaction to the trip was really positive, with the leaders and medical staff determined to bring more Teenage Cancer Trust groups, happy to recommend us to other branches of the TCT, and in some cases actually thinking of joining us as volunteer sea staff. All the youngsters were keen to come again and indeed extremely reluctant to leave at all.
Wolf says it was an immensely rewarding and humbling experience to sail with a group of young people some of whom were only very recently out of treatment, but who kept going, no matter how tired, determined to join in everything and not miss a moment of the experience. Every single one of this group was incredibly impressive.
Future crew bookings
As promised, I can finally give you the new (cheaper!) prices for the remaining vacant berths, following the success of our appeal against VAT on voyage fees. The following is a complete list of voyages which still have berths available:
JL05-16: 4 nights, 23-27 May, Poole to Poole, £200
JL05-20: 5 nights, 6-11 Jun, Poole to Poole, £250
JL05-30: 10 nights, 16-26 Jul, Cherbourg to Newcastle, £600
JL05-31: 9 nights, 27Jul – 5Aug, Newcastle to Fredrikstad, £585
JL05-32: 4 nights, 6-10 Aug, Fredrikstad to Bremerhaven, £260
JL05-34: 5 nights, 12-17 Aug, Bremerhaven to Ipswich, £325
JL05-40: 4 nights, 12-16 Sep, Southampton, £200
JL05-41: 2 nights, 16-18 Sep, Southampton, £100
JL05-42: 4 nights, 19-23 Sep, Southampton, £220
JL05-46: 2 nights, 7-9 Oct, Southampton, £110 (whole boat group booking available)
JL05-47: 4 nights, 10-14 Oct, Southampton, £210 (whole boat group booking available)
JL05-48: 5 nights, 15-20 Oct, Southampton, £225 (whole boat group booking available)
JL05-49: 4 nights, 21-25 Oct, Southampton, £200
JL05-51: 4 nights, 1-5 Nov, Southampton, £160
All open to ages 12-25 EXCEPT voyages 31, 31 and 32 (15-25) and 46 (15+). Voyage 46 is the ASTO Round the Island Race (competing against other sail training vessels).
Don’t forget that we still have some bursary funding on offer for people who can’t afford to sail – whether you are applying for almost all the cost of the voyage, or you just need help with a small amount, e.g. to cover travel costs, please contact the office on 0870 241 2252, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The main bursary allocations will be decided at the end of April so you need to move quickly if you haven’t yet applied.
The draft 2006 programme is now available on the website at www.oytsouth.org.
Sea staff bookings
The most urgent sea staff vacancies are for a first mate for the following trips: 2-6 May, 9-13 May, 31 May to 4 June, 6-11 June, 12-17 June and 24-28 June – please let me know ASAP if any first mate can help with either of these.
We still have a few second and third mate vacancies in the summer and autumn, so please get in touch if you still want to sail. Also, can all sea staff who might be available at short notice please let me know? Obviously people do occasionally have to drop out at short notice and if I have a list of people who can get away relatively easily, whom I can call in an emergency, it saves me a lot of time.
For sea staff bookings and enquiries, please email me or call me on 07986 354697.
And don’t forget the adult familiarisation voyage from 12-16 September, and the mates’ training weekend 16-18 September – berths still available for these trips.
Dates for your diaries
Don’t forget the next maintenance day on Sunday 24th April in Ocean Village, Southampton – but please call Wolf on 07771 771864 if you are coming, so he can plan jobs for everyone.
Saturday 23rd April was scheduled to be the last day of a voyage; but the group needs to leave a day earlier, so we now have a free Saturday which Wolf is thinking of using as a day sail for sea staff and prospective sea staff: anyone interested can email me or phone Wolf on the number above.
And here are several other forthcoming events – for more information on any of the following, contact the office on 0870 241 2252, email@example.com.
On Saturday 14th May there will be an Open Day on board John Laing, so if you know anyone who would like to have a look around and a chat about what we do, please let us know. If that date doesn’t suit you, there will be further Open Days on 10th and 11th September.
IFOS, the International Festival of the Sea, takes place in Portsmouth this year from Thurs 30th June to Sun 3rd July. OYT South has a stand there and we really want a good mix of adult volunteers and young crew members to chat to people and tell them about what we do. John Laing will be there on the Thursday and Friday, and on the Saturday the crew will be joining for the voyage to Waterford. IFOS itself is a great event and well worth seeing, so we’ll make sure all volunteers get a chance to look around.
On Friday 16th Sept we shall be holding our second annual dinner, raising funds to be shared between OYT South and two local children’s hospices. The event takes place at the Royal Southern YC, Hamble.
The dinner coincides with the start of the Southampton Boat Show, which runs from 16th-25th September. As usual, we have stand at the show and we need lots of volunteers, including a good proportion of young people – please let the office know if you can help.