For the second time Voices from Care Cymru took seven young people sailing out into the Bristol Channel with Challenge Wales. This time it was an overnight sailing trip.
We all climbed on board, a little too early for some. It had been a long trip for one of our young people who had travelled all the way down from North Wales the day before just to make sure he made it there in time.
Walking across the pontoon on the misty and cold morning in Penarth Marina you could see the blurry-eyed excitement and nervousness in the young people’s faces. Once we had sheepishly helped one another on board, we were set to work straight away. The first task was to get everyone’s stuff down into the bowels of the large sailing ship. Once inside we all quickly scrambled to throw our few belongings into our chosen hammocks.
We all sat down around a very communal eating area. Swinging a cat in here would be an immense skill. We all sat there listening to the instructors whilst involuntary excited movements of legs shook about. We were all very keen to begin this adventure.
Once all the tasks of cleaning and cooking had been assigned, we were given our sailing gear. Not very flattering but incredibly warm as we would soon find out.
Two young people and I were first on cooking duties, cutting cheese, tomatoes and buttering rolls was surprisingly challenging whilst being softly shaken from side to side. The others safely guided the large sailing ship out of the Marina and into open waters. Once out at sea it was time to eat some food, nothing beats a cheese and tomato roll.
After cleaning up and putting everything safely away we began the strenuous task of lifting the sails. It sounds like a simple task, but once you are away from the shelter of the land, it became incredibly windy. I thought we had gone back in time by a few weeks to when we had that blizzard. The wind was biting cold. We were all so glad they gave us those oversized coats and trousers now, they kept us lovely and warm, it just took some getting used to. I am sure that’s how it must feel to go on a space walk or be wrapped up in bubble wrap.
Once the sails were up we were on our way. We headed towards Brean Sands, along the way passing Flat Holm and Steep Holm Islands, both now rarely visited with very healthy bird populations. The binoculars came out as we speedily passed both islands.
Once we had passed the islands it was soon time to head back. This involved more than simply turning the steering wheel. We were all called on to the deck. Our task was raise and lower various sails as well as move the main sail to the other side of the ship. We did this very fast with the help of the crew and before long we were heading back to Penarth Marina where we were to spend our first night on the ship. That was an interesting experience.
On the second day we were all up early, sleepy-eyed but ready for another sailing adventure. A few young people were set the task of making breakfast. The rest of us got our kit on and clambered up on to the deck. It was the same drill as the day before, getting out of Penarth Marina and into the Bristol Channel. This was achieved and once we were out into the open water, it was time to eat breakfast.
Once we had all filled up work began on lifting the sails. Today we headed west past Barry Island, an interesting experience looking at it from way out at sea; and finally Aberthaw Power station, today just a decommissioned coal power station but an incredible view nonetheless. It wasn’t as windy as the first day, this made it feel a little warmer but meant that we travelled a little slower too.
It was an incredible experience and one that the young people who took part in will never forget I am sure.