Why volunteer for OYT South?

Our volunteers say that being involved with OYT South brings enormous benefits - from new skills and friendships through to the satisfaction of making a real difference to young lives

See here for how to get involved as a volunteer with Ocean Youth Trust South.


Here’s what some of OYT South’s volunteers say about their involvement with the charity:


“I first sailed with OYT South as a teenager, after which I was invited back for volunteer training. Sail training is a really powerful force for good. I’ve seen first-hand how young people with poor track records of behaviour on paper are completely different people on the water. Young people can be completely captivated and engaged by sail training in a way you don’t see with any other activity. Never judge a book by its cover! The ability of young people should never be underestimated, you just need the right key to unlock their imagination, and sail training is that key. I’m so lucky I had the opportunity to sail with OYT South as a young person and now as a volunteer. Sail training has developed me as a person in numerous ways and I credit it with the leadership, confidence and communication skills that I now use in my day to day job as a Paediatric Radiographer.”

Tom, volunteer second mate


“I first got involved with the Ocean Youth Trust in 2005: it seemed an easy way to go sailing in a big yacht with a very good skipper and other volunteers and it was all free! There was the issue of the boat being full of teenagers, but I would put up with that hopefully.

First day of first voyage: I love this! You get to work with some interesting / challenging / difficult / wonderful / inspirational / amazing young people and find the joy of helping them find new horizons, grow into their characters, find strengths they didn’t know they had, enable new friendships, abilities as individuals and in teamwork, and just have a great and rewarding time, with a lot of smiling and laughing. 

Oh yes, the great and rewarding time, smiling and laughing is me too.

…and you get to go sailing in a big yacht with a very good skipper and a wonderful bunch of volunteers, but that’s just a bonus.

18 years on and sail training with young people is the only sailing I do now. Why would I do anything else? I don’t think any other aspect of youthwork or sailing provides this level of achievement or reward, for both the young people and the volunteers.”

Glyn, volunteer second mate


Simon, volunteer trainee mate


“I first sailed with OYT South as a teenager, on a voyage organised by the MACS charity which supports young people born without eyes or with under-developed eyes, after which I was invited back for more training. Volunteering for OYT South permanently lives on my CV and I spoke about it in one of my competences which got me my current role with the Civil Service, as a statistician with HMRC. I can also definitely think of things I found challenging when I first sailed and when I first started training as a bosun. I think overcoming those challenges and learning to think about obstacles differently has been the major factor in making me resilient in my day to day life and giving me the courage to make the most of opportunities, especially for things where a visual impairment might appear to present a major barrier.”

Niamh, volunteer bosun


“I originally got involved with OYT South when I came as crew when I was 15 and was hooked straight away. I then came back as a volunteer, through a variety of roles of the boat from bosun to first mate. Taking young people out of their normal environments and challenging them to do something completely new gives them such a learning opportunity and a clean slate, with many surprising themselves with what they find they can do. Now as a volunteer first mate, I love that I am able to help develop not just the young people but the other volunteers as well. Seeing people’s confidence increase, finding they can do things they never thought they could do, and forging new friendships is such a wonderful feeling; being able to contribute to creating the environment where this can all happen is what keeps me coming back. “

Miranda, volunteer first mate


“I came across OYT South whilst looking for a way to indulge – in retirement – my love of sailing, without the overheads of boat ownership.

Having worked in offices all my life, I had no experience of working with disadvantaged young people, something that I was very apprehensive about. OYT South made the transition less daunting. At first, I was a member of a watch – along with a small group of young teenagers – under the leadership of a very experienced OYT South volunteer watch leader. As I became more confident, I took over responsibility for tasks and teenagers. On my initial voyages I learned about Prolific, her systems and processes. More importantly I learned how to work with a broad range of young people – many of them from disadvantaged backgrounds. To my surprise it turned out less scary than I feared … actually, I had a lot of fun and found it very rewarding.

I am biased, but sail training seems to be one of the best means of developing the life skills of young people. It puts them into an environment unlike any they have experienced before. Yes, they learn something about boats and sailing, but just as importantly they get to live at close quarters with others. They learn how to achieve things by working as part of a team. They develop skills in food preparation and cooking (using fresh ingredients). They even learn how to clean the heads (toilets). All these things they may never do in their home environments. Most importantly they build their own self-confidence whilst developing soft-skills that employers value; team-working, problem-solving, tolerance and respect for others, and leadership.”

Martin, volunteer second mate


Andrew, volunteer relief skipper


I got involved in OYT South by chance. In the autumn after graduating from an engineering degree, I stumbled across the website with an advert on it asking for help over the winter refit. I had some experience with sailing from university. I thought at least It would be something to do for a few weeks. A handful of days later I found myself meeting a stranger in Southampton central, with no idea of what I had gotten myself into.

I stayed for the entirety of that winter’s refit and became intimately familiar with the boat, especially her waste water systems!! I decided come back to volunteer several times during the following season. The experiences I had, and friendships that I developed, over that first year in the big scary world really sustained me to keep going and certainly gave me something interesting to talk about during job interviews.

In my short time with the charity I have both seen and felt the amazing positive effects that sail training can have on the lives of young people. I was very nervous before my first trip, having had little to no experience in youth work. But the reward of seeing the progress that that group of teens made in a few short days, between the initial briefing and saying goodbye will always bring me back. Knowing the background of some of the young people that OYT works with, and seeing their resilience and transformations in this unique environment, with all the ups and downs that can come on a voyage, is often humbling. I’ve certainly found that I have learned at least as much about myself, from the crews, as I have taught them about sailing.

Iori, refit volunteer and bosun


Low sun seen from Prolific's deck Volunteer watchleader Phil Loutsis

I love sailing, and getting to share that with youngsters has been both super rewarding and (selfishly) loads of fun. I’ve developed new sailing skills too! Being on the bow of Prolific as some new sailors got a close glimpse of dolphins playing the waves was a privilege.

Phil, volunteer third mate


I received my sea staff recommendation for the Ocean Youth Trust in August of 2021, I have sailed a frustrating total of 999 nautical miles with the Trust (Only 1 away from a thousand!), 888 of which have been as a member of sea staff. The sea for me has always been something of a Venus fly trap, once I caught onto the sea, I was doomed to the madness it often holds. My first voyage with the charity, in 2018 without a shadow of a doubt changed my life, whether for better or for worse, I’m yet to determine. I have made friends the likes of which it is impossible to make anywhere else, worked with some interesting and inspirational sea staff, and have learned things about myself that I would never have known were it not for the sea. For example, as I learned at 2am on the way to Guernsey, coffee, or anything with caffeine in it, is your friend, the maximum number of fish fingers you can eat at once without being sick is 19 (demonstrated to me by a skipper) and it is possible to sleep anywhere, upside down, or both, and many, many more humorous and serious things.

I struggle to believe that it has only been only two years since I started volunteering with this amazing charity, thus far, I have sailed with some amazing young people, I have been able to watch friendships form that will last a lifetime and people go from complete strangers to an outstanding team. And all through this, I have received advice, information, and help from an endlessly supportive, kind, and knowledgeable group of people who are always keen to help others in their own time. I am now in a position, largely thanks to the lessons and skills taught to me by OYT south, where I have an opportunity to spend part of a season in Hong Kong, sailing on their boat Spirit of Outward Bound. I look back on my time so far with OYT South and realise exactly how much of a lasting impact every person, from crew to sea staff have played in my life. I can’t recommend sailing enough, even if you only go once, it might just change your life.

Harry, volunteer bosun


Lucinda, volunteer watchleader


“I was nominated for the MDL award in 2019 by my form tutor and received the award in March 2020. I was scheduled to complete the voyage in April 2020 (I would have been 13), however, due to the pandemic, it was cancelled and I thought the opportunity had gone. In 2021, the MDL voyage was rescheduled and I was fortunate enough to be able to join the voyage in August (I was 15).

I am incredibly grateful to MDL for funding my first voyage – without it I would not have discovered OYT South and likely would have never gone sailing! I think it’s impossible to fully put into words the experience of sailing for the first time on Prolific, having never done anything similar, but I know that the MDL award and a voyage with OYT South really is life changing (however cliche this may sound!). More specifically, the voyage genuinely gave me the opportunity to build my confidence, going from being anxious about spending a week with people I didn’t know in a new environment to not wanting to leave (despite suffering from sea sickness!) as well as enabling me to discover the joy of sailing. I cannot express enough how much the MDL award and OYT South can have an impact on young people including myself!

After my first voyage I didn’t even think about volunteering – I just knew that I loved the voyage and wanted to go back! During my second voyage in July 2022, talking with other crew and staff I discovered that you could train with OYT South and become a volunteer. I was immediately interested in this as I wanted to sail / learn as much as possible, whilst also knowing that this would help me keep sailing cost-wise. I earnt my sea staff recommendation on this voyage, returning in October 2022 and April 2023 (kindly sponsored by OYT South) to work towards being a bosun by shadowing. I then completed a voyage as sea staff in July 2023. One of my reasons for volunteering is I know first hand how impactful a voyage on board Prolific can be and I want to support this amazing charity in providing voyages to other young people.

Having taken part in several voyages, I have met a range of people who have different reasons for being on a voyage and who all benefit from it differently. However, more broadly, I think a voyage offers escapism – a chance to forget everything that is going on off Prolific and just have a great time. At the same time, I think that this opportunity gives young people a chance to get involved in sailing and learn new skills outside of a school environment – whether these be soft or technical skills. Due to my own experience with OYT South, I am now considering studying marine engineering / naval architecture at University – something I didn’t even know existed before!”

Adeana, volunteer bosun


We don’t just need volunteers on the boat:

I came across OYT South many moons ago and got involved with a refit for John Laing and raised funds back in the day! The Trust’s ethos to introduce young people to sailing and all that it encompasses is a passion dear to my heart. Being involved with interviewing potential ‘crew’ in a previous job role was a pleasure and gave me further insight on what a terrific organisation the Trust is. 

Following retirement last year from a Marina environment, I was delighted to secure a volunteering role in the Gosport Head Office assisting with ‘behind the scenes’ Admin tasks and can honestly say I love it. The local and extensive Team are very welcoming and have been supportive at all times which has certainly helped me settle in making my one a day a week contribution something to really look forward to. Tasks are varied including filing, putting voyage details together, checking records and making the tea, bring it on!  

Opportunities to sail on Prolific as a thank you is icing on the cake! Can’t recommend Volunteering enough. 

Dee, volunteer administrator 


OYT South has played a massive part in my self-development over the past thirteen years. When I first stepped aboard John Laing (Prolific’s precursor) aged 12, I would never have imagined myself as a potential Watch Leader. However, five years later I took the leap and joined the Sea Staff team and have never looked back! Volunteering on board Prolific with such a breadth of people is both great fun and extremely rewarding. Every voyage is special and it’s great seeing how the magic of sail training does its stuff! It’s largely down to the self-confidence and teamwork experiences that I’ve gained that I have been able to realise a career as a Warfare Officer in the Royal Navy.

 Will, volunteer second mate


 Graeme, volunteer third mate


I have just started my journey as a volunteer with OYT South having run two trips with schools as a secondary school teacher. It just makes my day when young people get the opportunity to do something so genuinely new, whether it’s helming this magnificent vessel, sitting up on the bowsprit or just seeing the whole horizon. Their faces light up, they stand taller and they can’t wait to share their experiences. They develop team working and leadership skills throughout the week whilst having an amazing time!

I’ve chosen to become a volunteer (and not just run school trips) with OYT South because of the amazing crew that staff these boats. Not only do I learn lots of new things as a sailor but i often learn something new about instructing and teaching. The training provided has been really good (i learned lots about yachtmaster qualifications and how to avoid incidents) and I’m able to fit volunteering around my life (and not the other way around!)

Andrew, volunteer trainee mate


Tori, volunteer watchleader


Becoming a trustee has been a great way for me to support OYT South and be involved, while I’m limited with the time I can spend on Prolific. The OYT South community of staff and volunteers is so positive, empowering and supportive. It means that as well as learning so much, I can help, and that is so rewarding. From trustee meetings and volunteer days, to ad hoc support and specific projects, I can use my business experience to help while learning so much from everyone involved. Im hugely privileged to be a trustee and can’t recommend it enough.

Penny Scott-Bayfield, volunteer Trustee and Chair of the Board of OYT South


I first sailed with OYT South as a teenager as an MDL award winner, after which I came back  to complete volunteer refit weekends to gain knowledge of how to maintain boats and improve my knowledge of how the charity operates. After this I obtained my sea staff recommendation. I’ve seen first-hand how young people who struggle with the school setting and the exam driven orientation are completely different people when operating on the water. Young people can be engaged by sail training in a way you don’t see during school and shows them that sometimes the exam focus orientation of school is not always the be all and end all of life and there is other avenues of life they can excel in.

Rob, volunteer bosun

Jo Clark, OYT South's Volunteer and Memberships Manager
Hi, I’m Jo, Volunteer and Memberships Manager at OYT South.

This role is a new one, created last year, with the purpose of focusing on our interactions with our amazing volunteers, from new recruits right through to seasoned sea staff who’ve been involved with the charity for a long time. Our volunteers are instrumental to the charity’s success in delivering award-winning voyages for young people year after year. When we say OYT South voyages change lives, it’s our volunteers who make this difference; whether that means wielding a paintbrush in refit, or showing someone how to load a winch on a voyage.

I’m excited to be entrusted with this brief, and will continue to focus on ensuring we recognise and reward the time and skills our volunteers give so freely, and on building and improving on the ways in which we ensure every volunteer understands their value and importance to the charity.

I work remotely from my home in the North of England most of the time, and I’m acutely aware that this means I don’t often meet our volunteers face to face. It’s really important to me that all our volunteers know I’m approachable, including being welcome to fire at me any questions they have about their volunteering, however silly or trivial those questions might seem. I’d hate for someone to be anxious about any aspect of volunteering with us, rather than just asking a question. And usually you’re not the first person to ask!

My career background encompasses time in regulatory affairs in the telecoms and IT industry, freelance translation, and work within the education sector. My hobbies include sailing, hiking, and writing.

Jo Clark, Volunteer and Memberships Manager



Donate Online

Click on the button below to donate online using PayPal’s secure service. You can either use your own PayPal account to donate, or you can use a credit card.

Donate Online

Using PayPal’s Secure Service

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