A group of 10 teenagers will shortly embark on a maiden voyage of sorts as the country’s only sail training vessel sets off around the Cork coast.
The teenagers will include children from direct provision centres and disadvantaged communities in inner city Dublin, sailing for five days aboard the Spirit of Oysterhaven.
The voyage comes eight years after the sinking of the Asgard II, the Irish national sail training vessel lost in the Bay of Biscay in 2008.
The latest voyage is being coordinated by Safe Haven, a not-for-profit organisation founded just last year and a member of Sail Training Ireland.
Four fully qualified adult crew will accompany the 10 teenagers on board when they leave Glandore in west Cork on September 4, setting a westward course that is likely to take in locations such as Fastnet and Bantry before the voyage is completed on September 9.
Shauna Gillan, the founder of Safe Haven, said: “It is just about integration in modern Ireland and taking people out of their comfort zone.
“Participants on board are thrown into an unfamiliar and exciting environment and leave the voyage having gained new skills. We usually see evidence of a heightened sense of self-esteem, team working skills and very often a new found love for the sea, the coastal environment and sailing.”
The crew includes an 18-year-old named Ali who recently travelled to Ireland from Calais and who is now in direct provision in Galway, an 18 year old girl who is a refugee from Syria who just did her Leaving Certificate, and a girl named Samantha who has been living in direct provision in Cork.
It is the first time Safe Haven has been involved in such a voyage while the Spirit of Oysterhaven is a privately owned vessel which has been involved in previous sail training journeys.
Shauna Gillan said that, in addition to the “blossoming” of individuals on board thanks to the all-encompassing nature of the voyage, it also helped to combat any perception of sailing as elitist.
“We firmly believe it should be open to everyone in Ireland,” she said.
Last year the Atlantic Youth Trust began efforts to raise €16m for a new Irish sail training ship that would replace the Asgard II.
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