The sun shone, the breeze blew and the rain stayed away (sort of!) – that’s pretty much all you can ask for April!
The 2019 trip season got off to an awesome start last weekend (12-15 April) as the first Over 18s of the year headed to Essex Outdoors Bradwell, while 12 volunteers – including five of whom previously sailed with the Trust as young people – got ready for the summer by undertaking on-the-water training in Cowes and Largs.
At Bradwell, the young people, who had all sailed with the Trust before, enjoyed four days of sailing, abseiling, archery, high ropes and laughs as they caught up with old friends and made new ones as part of the Trust’s Return to Sail programme.
For two of the young people, 21-year-old Dylan Smith from Nottingham and Bridlington’s Katie Holland, 22, it was their second Trust experience having both sailed for the first time last summer, Dylan in Cowes and Katie in Largs.
Katie, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma aged 17, said: “When you’ve got cancer you can’t do things because you’re ill and that knocks your confidence. You lose part of your identity because you’re just ‘a cancer patient’.
“On the Trust trips you’re given so much responsibility and ways to do things for yourself, rather than having people do things for you, and that builds confidence. The trips have helped me to re-find my identity away from being a cancer patient and it’s made me more confident in who I am and what I can do.”
Dylan, meanwhile, is legally blind with six percent vision, as well as living with other long-terms effects of the treatment he had for a brain tumour when he was 11.
He said: “Because everyone had had similar conditions to mine, there was a mutual understanding of each other. I didn’t have to explain about my eyesight or my voice, for example, because they just knew. After 10 years of explaining it, it gets boring.
“After this trip I feel so much more confident because they know how to treat people with brain and cancer conditions. I didn’t have much experience of that before, but now I feel more accepted.”
While all that was going on on the East coast, up on Scotland’s Firth of Clyde and down on the Solent, on-the-water training was in full swing on the Trust’s specially adapted yachts purchased by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. This was a great refresher weekend to help ready volunteers for the season ahead.
With Emily Caruso skippering from Cowes, the volunteers crisscrossed the Solent over three days, taking in stops at Portsmouth, Beaulieu and Lymington before heading back to Trust HQ.
Meanwhile in Largs, the Simon Bradley-led crew sailed across the Firth to Port Bannatyne on the Isle of Bute, before crossing back to Kip Marina to the north of Largs and ‘home’ on Sunday morning.
Jane Prowse, a two-time trip volunteer, joined the training in Largs. She said: “A huge thank you for setting up a really brilliant training weekend and also massive thanks to Simon and Mate, Bill (Brown), who were really brilliant. The weekend taught me such a lot and reassured me about my role on the trips in the summer.”
After more volunteer training at the end of this month, we launch full on into trip season with the first Over 18 first time trips of the season in Cowes and Largs, plus Scotland Longer Cruising and the Round the Island Race, in June. Bring it on!