Prolific in London


OYT South bulletin 29th June 2017

In this Bulletin
Sections which have changed since last time marked *

* Voyage news

The last newsletter was almost a fortnight ago and a crew of young Londoners from the charity Ambition, Aspire, Achieve was heading to Ramsgate. They arrived in the early hours of Saturday morning and had the rest of the day in port before sailing round to Queenborough (Sheerness) on the Sunday.

Monday became a real highlight of the voyage as they took Prolific up the Thames, past all the sights, right into the heart of their home city. Thanks to the generous support of HMS President Royal Naval Reserve Unit, we had possibly the best berth in the whole of London, right next to Tower Bridge with spectacular views.

Several AAA parents, staff and one of their Trustees came along for their end-voyage debrief on the Tuesday and the crew went home that day after a thoroughly successful experience - the charity has already reserved dates to sail with us again next year! Big thanks to sea staff Andy, Peta, Rooby, Holly, and special congratulations to what may be a record haul of successful sea staff assessments for a single voyage: Tom Mallett became a newly-qualified third mate; Glyn Collins, an experienced mate who has had several years away from OYT sailing, requalified as a third mate and should quickly step up to 2M with a little more time on board Prolific; and Dom Coleman was upgraded to second mate!

From that point, Prolific’s team of staff and volunteers had a busy programme of maintenance combined with visits to the boat, mainly in intense heat. HMS President’s hospitality was second to none - not just the use of their showers, but also their ice machine!

Tuesday was HMS President’s Employer Engagement Night: with unit members all being reservists, they generally have full-time jobs elsewhere but with employers who are prepared to release them not only for training but potentially also for deployment overseas. So occasionally the unit holds social evenings to recognise the commitment of reservists’ employers and families, and the OYT South team were delighted to be invited - and to have a chance to show a lot of guests around Prolific. There was a tremendous amount of gold braid on board at various points, but perhaps not as much as there might have been since one of our volunteer mates had announced quite casually a few weeks earlier: “By the way, my sister’s married to the First Sea Lord.” Sadly he wasn’t available to visit us on this occasion!

Wednesday was a day of maintenance, meetings, shopping and even more sweltering temperatures, and in the evening we were delighted to host a summer party for our very generous sponsors the Graham High Group, who not only pay for a number of places each year for disadvantaged and vulnerable young people, but have also sponsored items including oilskins, lifejackets, crew handbooks and the vessel tracking system. It was a great social evening and we met some lovely people.

On Thursday we hosted a lunch for the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, and later in the day we were visited by a number of other donors and supporters before a party in the evening which included many friends and family members.

Huge thanks to all the sea staff who helped with all these events: Andy, Mark, Peta, Holly, Glyn, Dom, Tom, Caz, Mollie, Patrick, Emma, Annant, Oli and Brian.

On Friday we were joined by an adult crew who left almost straight away in order to have a favourable tide down the Thames in the afternoon. They ended up in Queenborough on Friday night before heading for Harwich on Saturday and then on Sunday making the passage across the North Sea. They arrived in Den Helder on Monday and took a day off there due to bad weather. They decided on an expedition to the island of Texel but while their sea navigation is impeccable, some of the team do struggle when let loose on shore and there was a complex saga of missed ferries and confusing bus rides. However, all apparently made it safely back to Prolific in the end, and they set off again yesterday morning in the direction of Cuxhaven. Huge thanks to sea staff Mark, Peta, Vince, Patrick, Emma, Dom and Annant.

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* Vessel tracking as we head for the Baltic

Prolific will be in some interesting cruising grounds over the next couple of months. Don’t forget you can always see where Prolific is sailing by using the vessel tracking page on our website, generously sponsored by the Graham High Charity. This updates every few hours. If you are really keen and want up-to-the-minute vessel positions and more information, there are various apps for smartphone users (not always free) - MarineTraffic is a good option.

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* Annual Report
OYT South’s Annual Report for the last financial year is just being published - do have a look. It includes much more than just the financial statements and official accounts - there are plenty of tales from last season and enough quotes from clients and young people to warm the hearts of anyone who has supported us in the last year. We have also included tributes to John Laing at the end of her time with OYT South. The printed edition will be available from the office shortly - do contact if you would like copies to give to anyone, especially new potential clients and donors. And certainly feel free to email the link to anyone you think might be interested. OYT South and our staff, volunteers, members and supporters have achieved some fantastic successes in the last year and we rely on everyone who reads this to help us spread the word!

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* Volunteer sea staff needed

The following dates have not yet been confirmed as bookings for anyone so please let us know if you can help to fill any of the gaps. Although we are running with extra sea staff this year, we definitely want to fill any spaces - please don't think we might not really need you if we already have a good team on board, because we definitely do need you!

Dates marked tbc have been offered to someone but not confirmed (e.g. they may not have got permission from employers to take leave for the voyage) so please bid for them if you wish and we will let you know as soon as possible if there is space for you or not.

24-29 Sept - 2M
30 Sept - 3 Oct - additional 3M - preferably someone with experience in Prolific
4-8 Oct - 3M or additional 2M - this voyage includes the ASTO Small Ships Race so we want a strong team!
9-13 Oct - bosun, mate or trainee mate tbc
16-20 Oct - 3M; and trainee mate
25-29 Oct - additional 3M
30 Oct - experienced watchleaders for day sail

NB dates given are when young people are on board - we generally need sea staff the day before (except for weekend voyages). All voyages start and finish in Southampton unless otherwise stated.

Bear in mind that we are carrying extra sea staff in Prolific's first season so if we appear to be advertising for someone in your role on dates you have already accepted, don't worry - it's unlikely we have forgotten you; but there is space for someone else as well.

If you can help with any of these, please email

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* 2017 voyage programme - berths available

The current vacancies list is as follows but where anything is marked on this list as "tbc" it means that someone has asked for that berth but their booking is not yet formally confirmed - please ask us now if you would be interested in taking a "tbc" berth if the other booking is not confirmed:

7-14 Aug: Szczecin (Poland) to Cuxhaven (Germany) - 7 nights - 1 berth available - age 12-25 - £625pp - starts with a day at a Tall Ships festival.
15-22 Aug: Cuxhaven (Germany) to Ipswich - 7 nights - age 12-25 - £470pp - up to 4 berths available

The full sailing programme for 2017 is available here, including latest availability for our Baltic Adventure. If you would like to sail in 2017 as a young crew member, please do think about it NOW and contact

Nineteen out of 21 remaining voyages are already fully-booked or at least reserved this year (though there are still some voyages which have been provisionally reserved subject to funding or to a group getting enough people - any spare places will be released as soon as we know that anything can't be confirmed).

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* Day sails 16th and 17th September - would anyone like to sail?
We are hoping to be able to run a couple of day sails in Prolific on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th September.0930-1700 from Ocean Village. These day sails are primarily for adults though we can potentially include a few young people aged 11+ if they are coming with an accompanying adult. But primarily these days are for supporters, donors, current and potential clients, teachers, youth workers, perhaps former crew members, staff and volunteers who haven’t yet had a chance to sail in Prolific, families of young people who have sailed with us … basically any adults who wouldn’t normally have a chance of doing a full voyage but who would like to come and see the boat and perhaps find out more about what the charity can offer. To apply for a place, or to suggest anyone else we ought to invite, please contact

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* 2018 draft sailing programme

We have been working on a draft sailing programme for 2018, and consulting regular clients and new potential group organisers to see when they would like to sail. We are now looking at changes to the first draft in order to suit as many groups as possible, and once we have finished working through that we will publish the programme and start taking bookings. If you are thinking of organising a group booking (up to 12 people) in 2018, please let us know - email We will ensure there are voyages available for individuals as well as groups and that will be clear when we publish the draft.

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Winter refit core team needed
We haven’t yet finalised plans for Prolific’s winter refit 2017-18, but if you are planning a gap year, or you are between jobs or for any other reason potentially available for several weeks or months this winter, might you be interest in joining our full-time refit team? More details here, including an initial expression of interest form. Plenty of our previous refit volunteers have gone on to great jobs in the marine industry - it really helps to have maintenance experience as well as good sailing skills when applying for sailing jobs! And any refit volunteers who want to sail in Prolific can be offered berths as watchleaders, bosuns, or relief engineers. So it’s a great way of developing useful experience, contributing to a good cause, securing free food and accommodation for a few months, and having a positive experience with a fun group of people! If you fill in the online form we can keep in touch with you as plans for the winter become clearer.

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maintenance days 2017 - help needed
The remaining list of 2017 maintenance days is as follows - please put these dates in your diary and come and help on any of them if you possibly can:

Wednesday 23rd August - Ipswich
Sunday 24th September - Southampton

Email to let us know you are coming so we can plan jobs and make sure there is food on board for all helpers!

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* Financial appeal

Big thanks this week to Rob Harwood for a generous donation!

We need a regular flow of funds to cover at least three major areas: bursaries for young people who could not otherwise afford to sail; vessel maintenance and equipment; and staff salaries - please help, or pass on our details to anyone you come across who might make a grant, large or small.

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.

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New leaflets for OYT South
OYT South now has a new set of publicity material - much-needed as all our previous leaflets only featured John Laing and not Prolific - big thanks to Mike and Jess from the Marine Advertising Agency for lots of hard work. They are available here as pdf files and you can also get printed copies from the office - please do use them to help spread the word about OYT South.

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Chris Ellis Award - win £££s off sailing
If you enjoy a voyage with OYT South and want to come again next year (and are aged 12-25), please think about entering for this award. You can win up to £200 off the price of another voyage, by sending in an account of a voyage you have already done with us. It can be a logbook, diary, story, pictures, video - anything which gives the judges an idea of why you had a good time and would like to come again. The prize is judged at the end of each season and the award can be spent on a voyage the following year. Entries should be emailed to or posted to the office to arrive by Christmas. See here for more details of this award, which was set up in memory of the charity's founder.

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OYT South branded clothing - temporary website problem

T-shirts, hoodies and more are normally available here: - but the company involved (which is not part of OYT South) has encountered a major problem with their web hosting and it may take a few weeks to fix it. Do try the link but if it’s not working, you can call Spyprints on 01983 299314 and they can still take an order over the phone.

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Small boat training opportunities for sea staff
A while ago we consulted sea staff about the need for a small boat so that people can practise skills which aren’t easily learned in Prolific. While we have concluded, that - for the time being - the cost and workload of having a training boat of our own didn’t make that a good option, there was nevertheless a clear demand for access to a small boat. We have therefore made an arrangement with our good friends at the Discovery Sailing Project for the occasional use of their 34-foot Alexander Fairey. The yacht is currently having work done and will be lifted at the end of January and back in service around mid February. She can be chartered by OYT South sea staff on the following conditions:

The person in charge must have a full Day Skipper qualification and a recommendation from Mark Todd or Andy Viney confirming that you are an active member of OYT South sea staff with an appropriate level of competence; and there must be a second person on board with Day Skipper or suitable experience in case the skipper is incapacitated. Additionally someone must have RYA First Aid (or equivalent) and hold a valid VHF Radio Licence. At the moment the price is £250 for a weekend (Friday evening to Sunday afternoon) and £100 per day mid-week. This cost is ‘bare boat’. Cost for gas is included and diesel is charged at an hourly rate, deducted from a £20 cash deposit paid before takeover. The balance will be fully refunded if the vessel is left clean - if not, a deduction will be made for cleaning. Cleaning materials are provided.

Alexander Fairey sleeps a maximum of 8 people so might be suitable for a group of OYT South sea staff to get together and develop boat handling skills and command experience. Anyone interested should contact Clive Fisher at with preferred dates - obviously the boat is used for their own sea staff so the issue will always be about making sure they can fit everyone in.

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Youth Trustee - speaking up for young people

OYT South has a rule that at least one member of the Board of Trustees - which runs the charity - should be in the same age range as the young people who sail with us. The current Youth Trustee is 19-year old student Jack Dignan, who did his first voyage with us a couple of years ago. Jack is in a position to speak up for young crew members, suggest changes in the way the charity operates or to do anything else which will improve the experience of the young people who sail with us. If you are a young person and you have ideas or suggestions for how we can do better, and you want to talk to someone close to your own age, you can contact Jack. If you’re not happy with something and want to know what to do about it, you might want to start by talking to Jack. If you want to get more involved - whether by just doing another voyage, or by training as a volunteer - Jack can point you in the right direction. You can email him at

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Raise And Sail - website for anyone looking to raise money to come sailing
Raise And Sail is a section of this website full of ideas, information and support for young people who would like to raise money in order to come sailing with us. Huge thanks to Fiona Keen and Emma Burrows for putting Raise And Sail together. We hope you will find it useful - let us know how you get on as we can add success stories and new ideas to the site in due course.

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Online navigation training for volunteers and young people
OYT South has been offering basic navigation training through the RYA's Essential Navigation & Seamanship course - do have a look and sign up if you want the qualification.

For those of you who want something a little more advanced, one of our relief skippers, Simon Jinks, is offering online distance learning systems for the theory courses for Day Skipper, Coastal/Yachtmaster and Yachtmaster Ocean. Simon is a great sailor and a top instructor so this is very highly recommended. Details here. He is also offering a one-day Weather for Sailors course. Please note that Simon's website also includes Essential Navigation and the PPI course, both of which OYT South can offer in-house.

With our own courses and Simon's we now have navigation courses to suit everyone from total beginners right up to the most advanced level - please give it a go and do ask for advice if you are not sure which course is right for you.

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Keep in touch with other OYT South people
We are on Facebook at - please do give us a Like! if you were friends with John Laing on our old page ( please do move to the new page now.

We are also on Twitter @oytsouth so please follow us!

Please note that OYT South has a policy that our adult staff and volunteers should not make or accept individual online friend requests with crew members aged under 18. Young crew members can use the sites to stay in touch with the boat and with each other, but not with individual adults.

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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!

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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 - sometimes 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. And there is a video here, made by a crew from the Prince's Trust, to give you an idea of what a voyage might be like!

We have a professional staff skipper and engineer, 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, 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.

If you have any questions, please do email - or contact the office.

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“To be honest I never wanted to come, but I'm glad I did because I have learnt and seen so much!" Charlotte