Every winter we carry out a refit to our vessel Prolific to ensure that she is in a good and safe condition for voyages the following season - and we need plenty of help!

Annual refit and maintenance

Winter refit 2023-24

The aim of the refit is to get our vessel into a good and safe condition so we can continue our work as a charity sailing with up to 450 young people every year, many of them disadvantaged or vulnerable in a wide variety of ways.

The boat is normally based in Southampton and we will be looking for plenty of volunteer help! There are certain times when there is a lot to do, with labour-intensive jobs such as sanding and painting, and the end of refit when we need to put everything back together, so we really hope to see all sea staff for a day or two at least, plus as many other volunteers as possible.

If you haven’t been to refit before, please note that you should be aged 18+ though it is occasionally possible to take 16 and 17 year olds with the skipper’s permission, especially current or potential relief bosuns. No experience needed as there are plenty of unskilled jobs, though skilled help is always welcome too. Food and accommodation provided for volunteers subject to space.

If you are taking a gap year, not working over the winter, looking to build your skills, maybe hoping to move into a career in the marine industry – why not think about applying to join our full-time team for a month or two? Details here.

Sea staff looking to sail in the following season: please note that where several people apply for berths on the same voyage, those who have been involved over the winter – helping with refit, undertaking training, raising money, finding young people to fill berths etc. – will normally be given priority over people who haven’t been involved.

We will also need donations, from major funds to small items of refit equipment like binbags, gloves and paintbrushes – please email refit@oytsouth if you would like to know what is on the skipper’s latest wish-list!

Refit volunteers
Why do such an extensive refit?
What do volunteers do?
Who can help?
What does the refit cost?
Priority sea staff bookings
Refit location

As far as possible, all our vessel refit and maintenance is carried out by volunteers.

If we are working over a full winter, we regularly have over 500 days’ of volunteer labour on board each year – a fantastic effort which enables us to keep the vessel in good condition for safe sailing with young people; allows volunteer sea staff to become familiar with the workings of the boat and her equipment which can be invaluable on subsequent voyages; and above all allows us to spend more of our money on disadvantaged young people. If we had to pay for all the winter refit labour it would cost the charity tens of thousands of pounds each year.

Most people come to the refit for a weekend or a few days, but some come for longer – and a few core-team volunteers get involved full-time.

Refit details will be advertised in the weekly newsletter each week, including locations and contact details.

We hope to see all sea staff each winter, plus anyone new who would like to join our volunteer sea staff the following year (it’s the best way to meet us, and new volunteers who come to refit get priority when we allocate scarce training berths), as well as any others who want to support the charity. Skilled or unskilled we have a huge variety of jobs.

If you are available to help, we may have somewhere for a few volunteers to stay; and we also welcome anyone who doesn’t need accommodation.

Why do such an extensive refit?

Prolific is the charity’s major asset: we have to keep her in good condition in order to offer safe sailing. We take a huge pride in the condition of our boat; we want to make sure that she stays in service for very many years; and we want to do everything possible to avoid shortening or cancelling a voyage because of problems with the boat. The way to do this is a thorough and careful refit every winter, with a solid programme for testing and servicing equipment; a rolling programme of replacements; and every effort made to keep the vessel in good condition.

Any OYT South vessel needs to pass rigorous inspections every year under the MCA Small Commercial Vessels Code to be allowed to carry out sail training for young people.

What do volunteers do?

We need both skilled and unskilled volunteers. Jobs on board range from those which require an experienced marine engineer through to those which can be tackled by anyone prepared to wield a sheet of sandpaper. There is really no need to worry if you have never worked on a refit before, or have limited practical experience – there will nearly always be something you can do. Even simple things like helping with shopping and cooking for the refit team frees up others to work on board, and sometimes an area of the boat needs a really thorough clean before the technical team can do their magic – and probably another thorough clean after they have finished. There are also items which can be taken off the boat and worked on at home, in your own time. Oilskins need to be washed and any tears stitched up; someone has to sort through the medical kit and list anything which needs replacing; charts have to be corrected and kept up-to-date.

If you can come for more than just a day or two, it will be greatly appreciated. People who do a lot at the refit will get priority when sea staff bookings are taken for popular voyages in the following season.

We provide food for everyone who books in to help, and we will offer accommodation if needed, as long as we have space.

Who can help?

Provided there is room, we welcome offers of help from anyone: sea staff, crew members, parents, group leaders, employee volunteering programmes, shorebased volunteers, longstanding OYT supporters and people who are new to the charity – including both skilled and unskilled refit workers.

The only significant restriction to this invitation to volunteers is based on age. Generally, to come to a refit, you should be aged 18+. Volunteers aged 16 and 17 may be allowed to the refit at certain times, at the skipper’s discretion – this is because someone needs to be available to supervise you, for safety reasons; but 16- and 17-year-olds who have previously sailed with us and are hoping to be relief bosuns next season should certainly make an enquiry about coming along.

What does the refit cost?

This varies enormously depending on the work being undertaken, but maintaining a boat is always an expensive task – see here for making a donation.

Priority sea staff bookings

Volunteer sea staff are all expected to come to the refit for at least one weekend over the winter. Those who help will get priority in the following year’s sea staff bookings over anyone who doesn’t turn up; and those who give the most help will get the first chance of booking on the most popular voyages.

Unlike some other sail training organisations, OYT South does not charge sea staff for each voyage – mates pay a flat rate sailing fee of £100 (£70 concessions) plus annual membership of £36, and can then sail as often as they like. A weekend or two at refit is the price you pay for such cheap sailing opportunities! We cannot keep our boat in good working condition unless people come and help.

Refit location

We are normally based in Southampton.

If you are interested in volunteering at refit – for anything from a weekend or the occasional day through to longer periods – weeks or even a month or so – please email

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How you can help

Become a non-sailing member

Booking a Voyage

Guide to booking a voyage

Tracking our boat

Find out where we are sailing

How to sail with us

Ocean Youth Trust South is an adventure sail training charity which takes young people aged 11-25 to sea in our 30-metre vessel Prolific.

Individual Voyages

Voyages for people aged 11-25

 Group Voyages

Introduction for adult leaders

Adult Voyages

Voyages for people aged over 18