Life on the ocean wave

26th April 2024

Each month we feature stories in Essex Life Magazine about our funds, the support they are giving to local communities and local charities that are benefiting. This month our theme is ‘water’ and here we highlight how water-based activities and sail-training opportunities are helping young people to build skills and self-confidence.   

People of all ages across Essex are in their element in and near water, as the county can boast one of the longest coastlines in England, spanning 350 miles from Tilbury to Harwich.  This wonderful asset means that a wide range of water-based activities and outdoor pursuits are within reach.

Such activities not only bring huge benefits in terms of health and wellbeing, but they can also help improve confidence and skills and provide endless hours of fun.

One such initiative is sail-training on Duet, a 15-metre iconic gaff-rigged yawl operated by the Cirdan Sailing Trust based at Bradwell on Sea, giving young people the challenge of an adventure on the open waves.  The opportunity helps them to discover their capabilities and encourages them to achieve more than they may have thought possible.

Duet was built in 1912 and is believed to be Britain’s longest-serving sail training vessel.  Since she began this role in 1960, Duet has sailed over 300,000 miles and provided a sailing adventure for more than 10,000 young people.

The Sea-Change Sailing Trust received a grant of £7,000 to bring adventure into the lives of young people and vulnerable adults, taking them on educational residential voyages onboard an engineless Thames sailing barge. This helps them develop essential life skills through living and working together as a team.

Judy Harrison, Assistant Executive Officer at Sea Change said: “We work with young people from all backgrounds, but specifically those from more disadvantaged communities.  They participate fully in all activities on board the sailing barge.  Sometimes we think that climbing the rigging will be a challenge for them, but very often learning comes from tasks that many of us take for granted, like using cutlery, or sitting together at a table to eat meals, using a broom or doing the washing-up for the very first time in their lives.

“We constantly see the value of communal living to reinforce learning.  We offer ongoing mentoring to those who thrive on their first voyage, seeing them return frequently for further sailing and learning.  We have an established training programme for young people and adults interested in gaining maritime heritage skills which can lead to employment. This helps to address the critical skills shortage in the Thames sailing barge industry.”

Two Essex-based sea scout groups have also received much needed funding:

The 4th Dovercourt Sea Scout Group was given a grant of £1,500 to buy supplies for their activities and to contribute to the retubing of a sailing rib used by young people in Dovercourt and Harwich.

The 17th Colchester Sea Scouts, a Royal Navy recognised group providing opportunities to over 100 young people from the Colchester area, was given funding  to keep the organisation running during the cost-of-living crisis.

The group’s activities include regularly taking more than 450 young people and adults each year from other scout and guide groups around the country on the water from its Mersea Island base.

 The Stour Blue Water Pass Trust received £7,500 towards the cost of providing water-based activities for young people on the River Stour.

Mark Murrison is a Trustee for the organisation.  He said: “Our aim is to provide water sports experiences for eight to 16-year-olds, particularly those who would not otherwise have the opportunity to take part in such activities.

“We enable them to experience both sailing and water sports, so that they can learn new skills and fulfil their potential as individuals.  We seek to remove the barriers to participating in sailing and water sports and create opportunities that benefit the young people who need it most, especially those from low-income families.

“Our RYA accredited instructors deliver taster and training sessions to develop children’s skills in boat handling. Through experience afloat and a programme of tuition we offer a pathway to confidence, independence and teamwork.”

Pioneer Sailing Trust

The Pioneer Sailing Trust works with young people delivering life skills, apprenticeships and work experience through its vessels and training facility at Harker’s Yard, Brightlingsea.  ECF manages the Pioneer Fund supporting the running costs of the Trust.

The Trust was set up 25 years ago this year.  Initially it was a restoration project to get the wreck of the 1864 deep sea Essex smack, Pioneer, sailing again.  She was relaunched in 2003 and sailed with her first group of young people in 2004.

Rupert Marks, chairman of the Pioneer Sailing Trust said: “The trust creates a motivational environment to help build confidence, practice and develop life skills, foster aspiration and gain qualifications.

“The marine environment has an incredibly positive impact on young people and it brings the chance to unlock potential they might not have known existed.  It is an ideal platform from which to explore new things, introduce opportunities and develop confidence, self-esteem and resilience.”

In 2012, the first Harker’s Yard rowing gig was launched as part of the apprenticeships project and now there are currently 24 rowing gigs, 13 clubs and 57 teams who race regularly in the Harker’s Yard rowing league.

Last year Pioneer became a Training Provider and has just launched a new Heritage Engineering Marine Skills Technician Apprenticeship.  It is being piloted for the first year and will roll out nationally later in 2024.

The Trust is developing more ways to engage with the public by creating pathways to education, training and, getting on the water and is very grateful to the support it has received over the years from ECF to make this happen.

Caroline Taylor, chief executive of ECF said: “We are proud to support the work of local charities and organisations that are helping to transform the lives of so many people by making the most of the opportunities the beautiful Essex coast can provide.”

If you would like to have a conversation about setting up a charitable fund to support your local community please contact Perry Norton.