OutSailing Cowes with The Albert Kennedy Trust 30-31 August 2014
The group wasn’t difficult to spot in the middle of Waterloo station. The leader from Albert Kennedy in a bright purple T-shirt surrounded by a disparate group of young people. Another of those awkward moments in life – I don’t know them and they don’t know each other. I smile, say hello and introduce myself. What on earth have I let myself in for?
No time for nerves – there a job to be done. Learn the names, count them, get the tickets, get everyone on the train, off the train onto the bus, on to the ferry. Coffee and chat. Off the ferry, meet the instructors, walk to sailing school, brief students, allocate rooms, arrange supper time. Stage one complete. Phew!
7pm: Swimming pool and Water Polo. Hmm, I wouldn’t have arranged that as the first activity with self-conscious youngsters. Surprise – group bonding in the swimming pool the best thing. Everyone relaxed and had brilliant fun. The group is a mixed bunch of young men, young women, different races and backgrounds. All are there because of issues related to LGBT and supported by The Albert Kennedy Trust. Saturday 9.30am: Sailing in keelboats, Cowes harbour. 10am and still not ready – some of the youngsters are still sorting their hair and make-up. Finally, we have four in each boat and start chugging out to the open water. Force 4-5 could be interesting – is this a good idea? Some are beaming and loving every moment, others look very much out of comfort zone. Sails up, bear away, ready about, lee-ho!
They just love it. Well, apart from M, who starts to look pale and goes rather quiet. He has already opted out of the group and had some arguments with another boy. Not all plain sailing. Gusting force 6 – I catch the instructor looking a bit anxious – they decide to head back to base. M looks relieved, the others want more – but conditions are deteriorating beyond the comfort zone of the instructor so we go back. A bit of disappointment, but then the SUPs (stand up paddle boards) come out and everyone plays around in the safer water next to the base. The earlier work on the hair-do’s was a waste of time but now no-one seems to care. Young people and adults simply having fun on the water.
Sunday 9.30 am – Canoeing trip. All ready to go on time today. Lovely paddle up to the Folly Inn. Sandwiches and birthday cake washed down with fizzy drinks. More jumping, swimming and SUP. What a great weekend.
The late summer sun shone brightly as we cruised up Southampton water on the Red Funnel ferry, passing cruise ships. The young people sat on the deck in a tight circle re-living the weekend through stories. They swapped Facebook contacts and took group selfies. M, who had found it so difficult to join in, wanted most to meet up again.
One young person said,
“It’s just like the holidays you see your friends going on – on FaceBook.”