Voyage notes

Notes for volunteer sea staff before you join your voyage

Sea staff

Notes before you join a voyage

Volunteer sea staff booked to sail on a voyage will get an email with joining instructions a few weeks before sailing. This will include details such as joining and leaving times, where the boat will be, who you will be sailing with and anything else specific to that particular voyage.

In order to make that email a bit shorter, some of the general information that applies to ALL voyages and rarely changes is now covered here instead, with a link in the email.

1) Joining times: Please check when you are meant to be joining and leaving your voyage and let us know straight away if you have any problems. There are lots of jobs to do on board between voyages and while we can sometimes cope if one person needs to join late or leave early, it can be impossible if several people are not around when expected – especially if we have a maintenance issue – and we may need to readvertise a sea staff berth to find someone who can be around for longer. This can include a maintenance day immediately before or after your voyage.

2) Sea staff assessments: skipper and first mate assessments need to be booked and planned in advance, but Bosun, 3M and 2M assessments can be completed over more than one voyage so it’s always worth signing off as many sections as possible even if you aren’t ready to complete the full assessment. Please be pro-active about your own progress – the skipper and first mate have a lot to think about but if you make sure you have a copy of your next assessment form with you and you are specifically asking to try and get some sections signed off, they are much more likely to focus on helping you to make it happen! There are fewer qualified people the higher up the ladder you climb, so if you want to sail more than once or twice a year, it’s much more likely to happen if you can get qualified to a level where you aren’t competing for a berth with so many others.

Skippers and first mates: do look out for anyone who might be able to make a step up. Give them extra training if you have time, sign off sections of an assessment if appropriate, and please keep the Staff Skipper and the office team informed about anyone with potential, what stage they are at and what they need to do next. If someone has stayed at the same level for a while without making any progress, do have a chat with them about what they want and what they can do about it. Some 2Ms really don’t want to move on, often because they prefer a role working directly with a watch of young people; but 3Ms should generally be thinking about the step up to 2M which is basically an identical role but with more confidence and familiarity with the vessel and our routines.

3) Kit list: there is a kit list for young people here but sea staff might like to check it to make sure they haven’t forgotten anything. Please note that since 2021, because of Covid, we are not providing bedding on board – you must bring your own.

4) Pre-voyage training: All OYT South sea staff and volunteers MUST do some Safeguarding training, updated every three years. We work with some very vulnerable young people and any of you might be in a position to prevent serious harm if you can spot the signs and take appropriate action. The other compulsory qualification is Food Hygiene. If you already have a relevant qualification, the office needs the details for our records; if not, we offer straightforward online courses.

Then there are qualifications which are either recommended or required for sea staff at different levels, from first aid through to Yachtmaster qualifications. OYT South’s office will contact you about any qualifications required at your level where we don’t have a record for you or where something is about to expire – PLEASE ensure you have everything you need well in advance of your voyage as you may not be able to sail without the necessary tickets and if you leave it too late and we can’t easily find a qualified person to replace you, it puts the whole voyage in jeopardy.

OYT South can help sea staff with affordable access and recommended providers for a huge range of courses from Essential Navigation to Yachtmaster Ocean – please contact for details, or ask the skipper on board for advice.

Anyone gaining or renewing a Commercial Endorsement (mainly skippers and first mates) needs to do the Professional Practices and Responsibilities course. This can be arranged through ASTO – just email  with your  first name, surname, and email address and stating that you are a member of OYT South. Please copy in the email so we can confirm with ASTO you are a member – ASTO will only enrol you once we have confirmed this.

Sea staff who have commercial endorsements, especially skippers and first mates, MUST carry your ML5 or ENG1 medical with you when you sail.

5) The Voyage Handbook – now split into different volumes – is available in the members-only section of the website – email if you need a password.

6) Maintenance days – roughly half a dozen times a year we have a planned maintenance day in between voyages, and we expect the sea staff on the voyages immediately before and after to include this day as part of your booking. If you can’t stay for the maintenance day we may ask you to book a different voyage.

7) Passports: Don’t forget to bring your passport, and don’t assume that a particular voyage won’t go cross-Channel unless you have spoken to the skipper and he or she is 100% certain you won’t need a passport. If the weather is perfect we might go across even on a short voyage, and if the young people have gone to trouble and expense to get passports, it’s not acceptable to have to stay in the UK just because sea staff have forgotten theirs. If we can sail without you, we might have to do that! NB Since 1st January 2021, British passport holders travelling to the EU need to ensure that on the day you travel, your passport has at least 6 months left, and it must also be less than 10 years old (even if it has 6 months or more left).

8) Membership and sailing fees: Unless you know you are exempt (i.e. skippers, other paid staff, and anyone who has already negotiated bursary funding – e.g. if you are unwaged) you MUST make sure you have paid your annual membership and sailing donation before your voyage. NB if you have paid for a mates’ training or adult familiarisation voyage in the last 12 months then that included your annual fee – you do not need to pay again. Membership is £36 (£18 for under-25s) and the sailing donation has a recommended rate of £100 per year and a minimum of £70: you can choose what to pay within this band depending on your circumstances and how often you expect to sail with us this year. Call the office on 02392 602278 with a credit card to pay, or see here.

9) Booking forms: We must have up-to-date contact details, next of kin, medical details, dietary information etc for all sea staff. Please ensure you have completed a booking form and keep us updated if anything changes. In the box for the voyage number, just put “sea staff” – then it will apply to every voyage you do.

10) Crew evaluation and record-keeping: Many of the young people you sail with have places funded by generous donors; and even those who have paid for their voyages are still subsidised by donors who pay towards things such as vessel maintenance and salaries. It is absolutely vital that we have information to show these donors what has been achieved on our voyages. We also need the data for group organisers, teachers etc. These include the self-evaluation sheets (Outcomes Wheels) which MUST be completed at the start and finish of every voyage, and brief reports from the skipper and watchleaders. We also need photos; crew comments in the Visitors’ Book, and records of RYA certificates or Duke of Edinburgh award sections completed. This information is essential to our fundraising and therefore to our continuing existence – please don’t forget! Every interesting report to a donor makes it more likely that they will contribute again next year. Sometimes these reports are a condition of the funding – no material for the report could even mean we are asked to pay back the money.

11) Video and photos: PLEASE use the boat camera as much as you can but also send in photos and videos taken on your own phone or camera (Dropbox or WeTransfer is better for large files than email – contact and let us know what you have, and we can work out the best way of getting it to us). But MAKE SURE we have photographic permission for the young people shown (see crew list / booking forms) – no point doing great shots if a young crew member who can’t be shown in photos is clearly visible in every image. Remember the office team won’t recognise the young people so they can’t delete people without photo consent, after a voyage!

12) Future crew bookings: If you come across crew members who really enjoy their trip, please do all you can to encourage them to sail again! The programme is on the website, and there’s the chance of short-notice spaces if anyone drops out – it’s often easier to fill a last-minute place with someone who has been before, since they know what to expect and we can pick someone who was a keen and co-operative crew member who deserves to come again. Crew members will get the weekly bulletin if they leave an email address in the visitors’ book and we can read it – do check, we sometimes lose touch with keen people just because their email address is unclear. When we have short-notice vacancies, we might offer a free place rather than sailing with an empty berth – PLEASE tell us if there is an exceptionally keen and deserving disadvantaged young person in your crew who might like to come again.

13) Chris Ellis Award: Please do encourage entries for the Chris Ellis Award. Chris was one of the founders of the OYC in 1960 and he left a fund to be used to encourage crew members to produce a piece of work based on any OYT voyage. This can be a logbook, a diary, a picture, a story, a film, computer art or whatever. OYT South can award up to £500 a year (to one entrant, or split between two or three individuals) in the form of a discount off a future voyage. We tend to get good entries but not very many of them – please let’s aim to encourage more people.

14) Sea staff profiles: Most of you are featured here. But if you aren’t included, or you want to update your entry, please make sure someone shoots a quick video or takes pictures of you during the voyage. Please also look at your text on this page and send us any additions or amendments. This is important because we know that one of the key barriers for neuro-divergent young people or those struggling with anxiety is not knowing who they will find on board. Your friendly video introduction might make all the difference to someone who isn’t sure about sailing with us.

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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.

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