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

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


“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


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 Loutsis, volunteer third mate



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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