John Laing with tent and scaffolding - and Special K with sander

Annual refit and maintenance


Details below are an archive page for a refit period hat is now OVER. if you are interested in future winter refits, details will be added here when available but you can also email for more information.


The 2015-16 vessel refits for Prolific and John Laing will run from Monday 2nd November 2015 through to Friday 25th March 2016.

The aim of the the refit is to get our vessel into a good and safe condition so we can continue our work as a charity sailing with up to 450 young people every year, many of them disadvantaged or vulnerable in a wide variety of ways.

We need as many volunteers as possible - both a full-time team, ideally of four people, plus casual volunteers on weekdays or specific planned volunteer weekends:

7-8 November
28-29 November
19-20 December
(this weekend is specifically for junior sea staff and bosuns aged 16+. We will need a few adult volunteers who MUST have DBS clearance, to help support and supervise them)
16-17 January
12-13 March

Email if you would like to be involved with any of these weekends.

We're not planning a refit weekend in February as we hope to see everyone at the shorebased training weekend.

It’ll be a busy winter and there is a lot to do so we really hope to see all sea staff for a day or two at least, plus as many other volunteers as possible..

If you haven’t been to refit before, please note that you should be aged 18+ though it is occasionally possible to take 16 and 17 year olds with the refit manager or skipper’s permission, especially current or potential relief bosuns. No experience needed as there are plenty of unskilled jobs, though skilled help is always welcome too. Food and accommodation provided for volunteers subject to space in the refit house.

If you are taking a gap year, not working over the winter, looking to build your skills, maybe hoping to move into a career in the marine industry - why not think about applying to join our full-time team over the coming winter? Details here.

Sea staff looking to sail next season: please note that where several people apply for berths on the same voyage, people who have been involved over the winter - helping with refit, undertaking training (see below), raising money, finding young people to fill berths etc. - will normally be given priority over people who haven’t been involved.

We will also need donations, from major funds to small items of refit equipment like binbags, gloves and cable ties? See here for a list of equipment needed.

Refit volunteers
Why do such an extensive refit?
What do volunteers do?
Who can help?
What does the refit cost?
Priority sea staff bookings
Refit location

As far as possible, all our vessel refit and maintenance is carried out by volunteers.

In 2014-15 we had 485.5 volunteer days worked over the winter, plus 175 staff days, giving a total of 660.5 days’ work to get John Laing in such good condition - a fantastic effort for which we are all tremendously grateful. Based on average wages for general boat maintenance, all our volunteers put together did about £50,000-worth of work.

This record goes back for many years. In 2009-10, 439 days were worked on the refit (279 by volunteers), and in 2010-11 (with a bigger refit and several months out of the water) we had 665 days worked during the refit, 152 by staff and 513 by volunteers. In 2011-12 (another refit carried out largely with the vessel in the water) we had 620 days worked, 173 by staff and 447 by volunteers. In 2013-14, we had 707 days’ work, including 534 days by volunteers. And In 2013-14, we had a record 719 days’ work over four and a half months, including 547 days by volunteers - the equivalent of one person working a five day week for more than two years (with no holidays!)

Most people come to the refit for a weekend or a few days, but some come for longer - and a few core-team volunteers get involved full-time.

Refit details will be advertised in the weekly newsletter each week, including locations and contact details.

We hope to see all sea staff each winter, plus anyone new who would like to join our volunteer sea staff the following year (it’s the best way to meet us, and new volunteers who come to refit get priority when we allocate scarce training berths), as well as any others who want to support the charity. Skilled or unskilled - we have a huge variety of jobs.

If you are available to help, we often have spaces available in the refit house; and we also welcome anyone who doesn’t need accommodation.

Why do such an extensive refit?

OYT South has a long history of big refits to John Laing, an aging steel vessel which needed a lot of work just to keep rust at bay. Our new vessel, Prolific, has a low-maintenance hull which should entirely change the character of our refits, though she has equipment that will still need annual testing and servicing, and we'll have a rolling programme to keep her in good condition and up to date. However, the 2015-16 refit - OYT South's first Prolific refit - is much bigger as we want to bring her up to condition, test and check everything, and make some modifications to fit the way we work.

An OYT South vessel needs to pass rigorous inspections every year under the MCA Small Commercial Vessels Code to be allowed to carry out sail training for young people.

What do volunteers do?

We need both skilled and unskilled volunteers. Jobs on board range from those which require an experienced marine engineer through to those which can be tackled by anyone prepared to wield a sheet of sandpaper. There is really no need to worry if you have never worked on a refit before, or have limited practical experience  - there will nearly always be something you can do. Even simple things like helping with shopping and cooking for the refit team frees up others to work on board. There are also items which can be taken off the boat and worked on at home, in your own time. Oilskins need to be washed and any tears stitched up; someone has to sort through the medical kit and list anything which needs replacing; charts have to be corrected and kept up-to-date.

If you can come for more than just a day or two, it will be greatly appreciated. People who do a lot at the refit will get priority when sea staff bookings are taken for popular voyages in the following season.

We provide food and accommodation for everyone who books in to help.

Who can help?

Provided there is room, we welcome offers of help from anyone: sea staff, crew members, parents, group leaders, employee volunteering programmes, shorebased volunteers, longstanding OYT supporters and people who are new to the charity - including both skilled and unskilled refit workers.

The only significant restriction to this invitation to volunteers is based on age. Generally, to come to a refit, you should be aged 18+. Volunteers aged 16 and 17 may be allowed to the refit at certain times, at the skipper's or refit manager's discretion - this is because someone needs to be available to supervise you, for safety reasons; but 16 and 17 year olds who have previously sailed with us and are hoping to be relief bosuns next season should certainly make an enquiry about coming along.

What does the refit cost?

Normal annual refits of John Laing would cost up to £50,000 each time - this first OYT South refit of Prolific is much bigger and correspondingly much more costly - see here for making a donation.

Priority sea staff bookings

Volunteer sea staff are all expected to come to the refit for at least one weekend over the winter. Those who help will get priority in the following year's sea staff bookings over anyone who doesn't turn up; and those who give the most help will get the first chance of booking on the most popular voyages.

Unlike some other sail training organisations, OYT South does not charge sea staff for each voyage – mates pay a flat rate sailing fee of £100 (£70 concessions) plus annual membership of £36, and can then sail as often as they like. A weekend or two at refit is the price you pay for such cheap sailing opportunities! We cannot keep our boat in good working condition unless people come and help.

Refit location

For 2015-16, Prolific is being refitted in Saxon Wharf, Southampton.

The refit manager is Andy Viney. If you are interested in volunteeing at refit - for anything from a weekend or the occasional day through to longer periods - weeks or even a month or so - please email Andy at

“I’ve loved it and I’ve made lots of friends – it was brill.” Lianne, 15