Sections which have changed since last time marked *
Mark’s newsletter left John Laing in the little island of Suomenlinna, close to Helsinki. Still in company with our friends on board Pegasus and Black Diamond, we set off to cruise the Finnish islands - an incredibly beautiful area of wooded rocky islands and narrow channels in between - sometimes so narrow that it was like taking three ocean-going vessels for a walk in the woods. We were often the biggest boat to be seen and if the trees had overhung the channel any more we would have had branches caught in the rigging. John Laing took the lead and most of the burden of the navigation, with the others following behind. The destination for the first night was the little island of Rodjan, where we found a peaceful anchorage - at least, it was peaceful until our crew and Black Diamond’s started having rowing races round Pegasus. We also had to cope with skipper Wolf repeatedly singing Monty Python’s “Finland, Finland, Finland” song without really knowing either the words or the tune.
Then it was another day of weaving our way through the islands and more tricky navigation for the first part of the day. When things got a little more straightforward in the afternoon, we were ale to hand the job of navigation over to some of our crew. Our goal for the day was the island of Nagu, the only place on our itinerary which John Laing and Black Diamond had also visited two years ago, as we were particularly keen to go back. It seems they felt the same way about us: I phoned ahead a couple of times so that the harbour master knew our ETA, and each time they sounded more excited, and desperate for reassurance that we hadn’t changed our minds and decided to go somewhere else! Ben masterminded quite a tricky park alongside Pegasus, with a lot of people watching.
Nagu is a small place but it has a few shops, showers, saunas, bars and a beach, and we all had plenty of free time to explore. I went into a bar and mentioned that two years ago, someone had made me a fantastic cocktail there. The barman said “Yes, that was me, shall it make it again?”, which seems pretty typical of the standard of service you get in Nagu!
We all had a good night out and a lie-in the next morning, as we’d decided to stay another day. We set up RYA Competent Crew training sessions for those crew members who wanted it, and a few of us from the three boats also took a ferry ride to the nearby island of Seili. It was interesting to see the area from a ferry - you are much higher up than on the deck of a yacht, and the view is totally different. Seili was beautiful: wild flowers, old houses, a lovely church, woods, incredibly beautiful bays - and right at the end of a lonely woodland path, a totally unexpected café selling tea, coffee and icecreams.
After another good night out in Nagu, it was time to get away from civilisation again, and the three boats headed for another quiet anchorage off the island of Klamppi, again with a team of crew members in charge of navigation. We hadn’t been able to do much actual sailing in the islands because the channels were so narrow, but near Klamppi was a stretch of open water so John Laing and Black Diamond enjoyed some good sailing and tacking practice.
At the anchorage, Black Diamond tied alongside us, with Pegasus a few yards away, and we invited everyone on board John Laing for a party, as it was the last night for a while with just the three of us. Next morning we made our way to the festival in Turku, with a final team of crew members working on the navigation.
Turku had the two fleets moored either side of the river, with stalls and bars set up on either side. John Laing’s crew celebrated our arrival with a massive water fight before tidying the boat and getting ourselves organised. In the evening we had free time to explore.
We had planned a relaxing next day, and so it turned out for many of the crew; but for skipper Wolf, a spanner was thrown into the works by a call from the race organisers: could he do the official speech on behalf of the captains at the Captain’s dinner that night? It is a real honour to be asked to do this - there are 120 captains in the fleet, and only four are asked to do speeches at the four festivals each year. So a sizeable chunk of our day off was taken up with speechwriting. The dinner itself was in Turku castle, an imposing building where the captains and invited guests listened to some sea shanties before moving upstairs to two impressive dining rooms. Luckily the speeches come at the start: first the mayor of Turku, and then Wolf. He had to do a lot of formal thanks to the festival organisers and sponsors; then he had a funny section, which went down well, and he finished with a toast to Asgard II, a popular member of the Tall Ships fleet which very sadly sank - with no loss of life - in Biscay at the end of last year’s race series. Everyone was glad of the opportunity to remember Asgard II, so the speech ended to great applause, and then we could relax and start enjoying the evening.
After the dinner, many of us were invited on board Thalassa, one of the square-riggers, for another party, where Phil Beer of Pegasus (and Show of Hands) led the singing.
Next day was the first spell of really bad weather since the start of the cruise, which sadly meant a very rainy crew parade and crew party, but our crew was still in very high spirits for their final day. All those who hadn’t already got it earned their RYA Competent Crew certificates; Emma Burrows completed her third mate’s assessment; and several other crew members were recommended to come back as a trainee mates or bosuns. They were a great group and we hope to see most of them on board again in future. Many thanks to the sea staff for this voyage: Wolf, Liz, Caz, Ben, Andy, Di and Emma, plus occasional visits from our other skipper James who did the cruise in company partly by land and partly in a variety of vessels.
James took over John Laing the next day as the outgoing crew left and the next race crew started to arrive. James could not have been more enthusiastic about this crew - he says they were all lovely people who got on brilliantly, had fantastic amounts of fun, and worked together really well. Sadly the weather forecast for the race was not ideal - light winds, where John Laing needs quite a bit of breeze really to get going. They enjoyed the passage out through the islands to the start line, and then raced as best they could considering the conditions, making up for slow progress with saloon table tennis and other fun and games. Interest in the race was sustained by the fact that although the weather was no good for us, it was ideal for Pegasus, which has quite different sailing characteristics and a totally different handicap. Many of the fleet were making such slow progress that the race was finally stopped at sea (with final positions counting, rather than expecting everyone to cross the line) to enable people to use their engines and get to the festival in time. Frustratingly, John Laing was only three and a half miles short of the line when the race ended - but on handicap, this left us 25th in class C. But Pegasus covered herself in glory, winning class B and coming second overall, so there was plenty to celebrate.
Klaipeda, in Lithuania, laid on another great festival, which our crew joined with great enthusiasm, taking part in beach sports and other activities, and a crew parade in much better weather than the one in Turku! Many thanks to all the crew plus sea staff James, Red, Dyfrig, Ben M (who was meant to have gone home from Russia but kept being persuaded to stay on for leg after leg), Ben W, Liz, Tee Hee and Emma – a lot of staff but then two of them were sailing in crew berths….
The race crew then left us, and were replaced by our now-annual joint voyage for young people from the army, the navy and a youth group from Dorset. They enjoyed the last of the Klaipeda festival and then had a fabulous sail - 200 miles in 24 hours - as they headed west. Their first stop was a gorgeous little island, Christiansø - about the size of the Bramble Bank, for those of you who know the Solent. From this base, the locals captured so many British ships during the Napoleonic wars that a British fleet was sent to destroy it. The locals are still very proud of their little fortress.
The next stop was the larger island of Bornholm, still with Black Diamond and Pegasus; and this morning they arrived in Gedser. They are due in to Kiel this weekend for a crew change before the final leg back to the UK. Thanks to sea staff James, Liz, Dyfrig, Steve, Cathy and Andrew.
* Tall Ships photos - and keep in touch with other John Laing people
An amazing selection of photos of our Tall Ships adventures is being posted on Facebook - I recommend that you sign up just to look at them! See here for how to join.
We use a number of social networking websites to allow crew members to keep in touch with the boat and with each other. People can swap stories, post photos and more. For some overseas voyages, we will even set up online groups well in advance, restricted only to people who will actually be sailing on that particular voyage, so that people can compare travel plans and arrange to travel together.
Please note that OYT South has introduced a policy that our adult staff and volunteers should not make or accept individual online friend requests with young people aged under 16. Young crew members can use the sites to stay in touch with the boat and with each other, but not with individual adults.
7-12 Sept, Southampton, £300. Crew aged 12-25. Up to 2 places possibly left.
27-30 Sept, Southampton, £210 - 2 places left. The rest of this voyage has been booked for a group of boys aged 12-13, so they are looking for two others who would fit in and would like to join them.
28 Oct - 1 Nov, Southampton, £260 - 2 places left. Another half-term voyage, with a mixed crew.
Full 2009 voyage programme.
Contact the office for enquiries or bookings, or to join our reserve list.
* 2010 voyage programme
If you can’t find space to sail in 2009, do start looking at 2010. We are still sorting out group bookings for 2010, but it’s not too early to apply now if you want to sail next year.
* Mates’ training weekend
18-20 September, Southampton, £150. This voyage is primarily focussed on advanced mate's training, ideal for first mates and experienced second mates; but we can't have eighteen people all wanting to take charge of everything, so we have opened spare places to anyone who wants to come along and see what it's all about - especially those who would like to pretend to be a teenage novice sailor and give the mates someone to practise on! We had enquiries for all the berths but four have not confirmed despite being chased several times, so next week I shall start allocating places to those on the reserve list. Email me if you would like to be included.
25-30 Aug: space for one more experienced mate.
13 Sept day sail: possibly space for one more experienced John Laing mate
26-30 Sept: second mate
19-23 Oct: one experienced OYT South watch leader for Thermopylae Clipper, and a second mate for John Laing.
24-27 Oct: bosun needed.
Email me now if you can help with any of these!
* Nick Clamp
Very sadly I have to announce the death at the age of 42 of Nick Clamp. Nick joined the Ocean Youth Club Skippership scheme in the mid-1990s, and was involved with 1995-7 John Laing / James Cook World Voyage as a bosun, earning a reputation for spending a lot of time in the bilge! He qualified as a skipper before going out to spend time working for BP in Brazil. On his return he went to Trinity Sailing, where he was Operations Manager and sailed as relief skipper and mate. Four years ago he moved to Scotland. However, he developed a brain tumour and was in a coma for several months. Nick was a lovely, caring, generous guy who will be much missed.
* Financial appeal
Many thanks to the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths for a generous donation towards vessel equipment; and to Hampshire County Council who, having funded a number of bursary places this year, have just announced increased funding for us in 2010.
We are currently running appeals for refit and bursaries - please donate something if you possibly can.
You can find details of the refit appeal here - all the essential work which allows John Laing to keep sailing. The last refit has been funded but now we all need to take a deep breath and start raising money for next winter!
Bursaries: if you would like to help some specific young people to pay for their voyages - perhaps children with physical and learning difficulties, or homeless teenagers, or young people growing up amidst poverty and even violence, or brothers and sisters of children being cared for by a children's hospice, please email me to discuss it.
See here for how to make a donation - you can contribute by cheque, phone or PayPal, but please do something if you possibly can. Don't forget that if you complete and return a Gift Aid form we can claim back tax on your donation.
* Lifejackets - essential training for sea staff
It is now becoming an essential safety requirement that all our sea staff and volunteers attend a short training course on lifejacket packing. We hope to set up convenient dates to get as many people as possible through this course, but the first one will be on Monday 14 September, 9am to 12 noon, at Ocean Safety in Southampton. There are currently 3 spaces, £20 each, call Wolf on 07771 771864 if you are interested.
* Sea survival course, 6-7 February 2010
We haven’t yet made decisions about the dates or the courses on offer for our traditional February shorebased training; but because of the need to book facilities, the ISAF Sea Survival course has already been set for 6-7 February. This is a really valuable course for all our volunteers, covering use of flares and a practice session in a swimming pool with a liferaft. Strongly recommended. Email me if you might be interested.
* Southampton Boat Show - discounted tickets
Many thanks to John Goode for once again arranging discounted Boat Show tickets for OYT members and their families and friends. The Southampton show runs from 11-20 September this year. If you are an OYT South member who subscribes to this newsletter by email, you will find details of how to get your dicounted ticket there - we can't put them on the website which is accessible to the general public.
OYT South Open Day, Lunch and AGM 11th October
A date for your diary - OYT South will be holding an Open Day and lunch, followed by our AGM, on Sunday 11th October. It will be held at the Royal Southern Yacht Club, Hamble. John Laing will be berthed on the pontoon immediately outside. There will be an excellent three course Sunday lunch in the Yacht Club for a reasonable price, and we invite all our supporters, volunteers, clients, sponsors, suppliers, parents, past and present crew to come along and see the boat, chat to the team, and hear about some big plans we have for the future of OYT South. Tickets will be on sale shortly but you can email me now if you would like to come, and we’ll send you full details as soon as we have them.
Ocean Youth Trust 50th anniversary
A date for your diaries: we have pencilled in the weekend of 16-17 October 2010 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Ocean Youth Trust - hopefully with a dinner on the Saturday and a more casual event on the Sunday. Do keep the date free and we will let you have more details as soon as we can.
Survey - tell us what you think
If you have recently completed a voyage, please help us by filling in our web-based survey. It really helps - we use the data to keep improving our voyages, and to help us raise funds!
New readers' welcome and introduction
If you have recently registered your interest in OYT South, welcome to our e-newsletter, which is sent out almost every week, normally on a Friday. It includes a wide range of news from the boat and from the charity, including details of voyages available for young people; adult voyages; opportunities for adult volunteers both ashore and afloat, and much more. We find that while some people read the bulletin almost every week, many others dip in and out, and read it when it's convenient - which is why some items are repeated. The new items are marked with an asterisk * so that if you did read it last week, you can see which sections you can safely skip.
Please feel free to join in any OYT South activities - nothing here is restricted to long-standing members or people who already know one another. New people are always very welcome!
If you need an introduction to the work of OYT South, you should find a lot of useful information on our website. But essentially, we are a registered charity (no. 1079959) which exists to offer adventure under sail as a personal development opportunity for young people aged 12-25, from the widest possible range of backgrounds. A high proportion of our young crew members are disadvantaged or deserving in some way: many of these sail in groups organised by other charities, youth clubs, special schools and so on, and will fill the bulk of our term-time voyages. But those from more fortunate backgrounds are also welcome to sail, either in groups or by coming as individuals on a mixed voyage. Every year we run a variety of shorter local voyages plus longer adventure trips – including Tall Ships races during the summer holidays. If you are aged 12-25 and hoping to sail as a crew member, take a look here - and this section is also useful for adults who are thinking of organising a voyage for a young person. Adults planning to organise a full group voyage should also see here. Adults who want to sail themselves should see here.
We have a professional staff skipper and bosun, but our watch leaders are normally all volunteers, who combine sailing skills with an interest in working with young people. You can find more information here - how the system works, how to join, and profiles of existing staff and volunteers.
To volunteer for OYT South ashore, please see here. To help with the vessel's annual refit, or with maintenance days spread throughout the year, see here.
It is a very expensive business maintaining a boat, running an office and employing staff. If you want to help us, please become a member of OYT South. Or see here for information on making a donation.