Youth Work at Sea
Teaching young people to sail isn't our aim but a byproduct of their amazing adventures. Instead, we provide a safe and supportive space where people can see the direct achievements of working, living and communicating as a team and develop the skills they need to become self-aware, self-confident, and resilient adults. The unique environment of an offshore sailing yacht is the best place for a person to learn about themselves, other people, and the world they live in.
Compared to shore-based activities, the challenges, risks, and rewards of sailing offshore are very intense and real and offer accelerated outcomes over other youth work interventions. On a small boat at sea, participants have no choice but to live and work together, communicate, overcome difficulty, and take responsibility. Perhaps for the first time, participants learn that they have value as part of the crew and realise that their efforts can achieve something.
Our residential youth voyages encourage teamwork and participation in an occasionally tough but safe environment: through storms, wet weather and living in very close quarters. Whether changing sails during rough conditions or baking for a crew of 16 in a tiny galley leaning over at 30°, they learn life skills that can't be taught on land, where it can be all too easy to walk away!
The participants onboard, whom we call trainees, are responsible, under the guidance of our professional sea staff, for everything that the boat and crew require, from cooking and cleaning to steering and maintaining navigational records. If the crew don't or can't work together, the ship doesn't sail!
After a voyage with Morvargh Sailing Project, all participants feel they can now find ways to solve problems and achieve things they put their minds to. There is a dramatic increase in the number of participants who now believe that if they work hard, they will get what they want and can now understand and better reflect on the why and how.
Around a quarter of the young people who sail with us receive a Watch Leader recommendation to return and train with us as volunteer crew members. This allows them to support other young people and work towards nationally recognised maritime qualifications that can often lead to a career at sea.
One of the unique aspects of the organisation, which is key to its longevity and success, is that the organisation is volunteer-based. Our Watch Leaders will become the Mates and Skippers of the future, giving younger trainees, even more, to aspire too.
Sail training takes many of the components of other land-based, outdoor adventure activities– such as overcoming challenges to achieve goals, working as a team, being isolated from the outside world and learning new skills– but with factors that can potentially make the impacts stronger. While elements of these factors are shared with other experiential activities, the specific challenges and unique physical environment of sail training can result in a distinctive experience.
(ASTO Theory of Change 2018)