Setting sail to learn new skills with Cirdan

Last month, a group of young people from Dost made the most of their half term week, embarking on a sailing adventure with The Cirdan Sailing Trust, which specialises in enabling disadvantaged young people to experience the challenge of life at sea.


Fourteen young men aged between 15 and 19, from Eritrea, Albania, India, Bangladesh, Syria and Sudan, took part in the voyage from Weymouth to Gloucester, covering a distance of 295 miles over seven days. The purpose of the trip was not only to learn more about sailing but also to experience living and working together as a team over a long period, to help these young men develop confidence in themselves, tolerance of others and improved independent living skills.

Marian Spiers, our Youth Work Programme Manager, shares her thoughts on the trip:

The journey started well, with us all traveling from from London to Weymouth by train and spending the day exploring and buying the food we needed for the week that we were to be at sea. We set off early the next morning and sailed for 10 hours on calm seas until we arrived at Dartmouth. The weather then changed dramatically and when we left next morning, the sea was very rough. This was quite a frightening experience and after a few hours of very slow progress, we had to turn back as the wind was getting stronger and the waves higher. We spent the next day in Dartmouth again, where some of the young people learned how to drive the small motorboat.

On the third day we left again and although the sea was still rough and it was now raining heavily, we were able to make better progress. We sailed for 28 hours without stopping and the group was split into three, with everyone needing to do three hour stints at a time of being on watch, helping to sail the boat, put the sails up or down and generally being on hand if needed.


After 28 hours of very little to no sleep – as it was too rough downstairs to get any rest – and no food, we stopped for a few hours to cook and eat together. Many of the young people experienced sea sicknesses and found it very challenging to be on board. Some of them had also had bad experiences in their past on the sea and found it particularly frightening. After our short break, we set off for another 21 hour sail, this time accompanied by a school of dolphins, and eventually arrived near our destination the evening before our bus back to London.For some of the young people, this was their first time venturing outside of London. Many of them have not been in the UK very long, so this was an interesting experience for them to see more rural life and the coast of Britain.

During our week-long experience, everyone had to take turns cooking, doing dishes and serving and tidying up/ cleaning the boat.  When we were not sailing, we played board games, watched a film and helped each other with homework. Even though some of the young people found aspects of the trip very challenging, they felt a sense of achievement after having completed it and since returning, many of them have spoken about it positively, saying:

“It was good to work in groups, to communicate with each other and we had a good time with members of staff.”
-Endri, 18

” You know the first time, we was scared and after will be ok, so it is not so bad.  We saw a lot of things and we learn.”
– Yakob, 16

“Sailing is good because I saw jellyfish and dolphins.” 
– Baha, 16

This trip was generously funded through the Jack Petchey Foundation’s 15th Anniversary Grants as well as individual funders through Cirdan.

If you would like to help us support our young people, many of whom arrive at Dost in emergency situations, we would welcome any donations to our new Emergency Fund, which has been developed in response to the increased number of young refugees we are seeing in immediate need.

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