A group of young carers took a well-earned break from their tough day-to-day lives to spend a week sailing the seas.
Falkirk and Clackmannanshire Carers Centre organised the trip which saw ten youngsters swap dry land for a 70-foot training yacht.
Young carer support worker Craig Marsland explained how vital it was that the children get a break from their role as a carer at home.
He said: “We support children from as young as eight to 18 who have to support a parent or sibling at home. Each individual has the tough task of looking after someone in a difficult situation. It could be a result of drink, drugs or mental health problems. Whatever it is, it is a difficult role for the youngsters to fill so we are here to offer them support however we can and to make sure that they get a break from their situation and enjoy themselves while meeting others like them.”
Ocean Youth Trust Scotland then reached out to the centre offering a seven-day voyage for young carers where they learn everything about sailing from cooking down in the lower decks to steering the boat itself.
Craig said: “We offered the opportunity to 20 young carers and ten really showed a lot of interest.”
So on Monday, July 11, the ten soon-to-be sailors met at Stirling bus station to begin their high seas adventure.
Craig said: “We arranged a few meetings in the weeks leading up to the voyage so the children had a chance to meet each other.
“They were about to spend seven days living together so we thought it best to give them a chance to meet each other.
“Thankfully everyone got one well and everyone was looking forward to the trip.”
The group of seven girls and three boys reached Oban and saw what would be their home for the next seven days.
They boarded the yacht and were introduced to the skipper and his team before being shown to their living quarters.
Craig said: “It was a cosy room with ten bunks. Luckily it had already been agreed who was taking top bunk so everyone settled in pretty quickly.” That evening the young carers were kitted out with waterproofs and life jackets before setting sail for Tobermory, the home of the colourful homes of Balamory.
On the first leg of their journey the youngsters got to grips with the ins and outs of sailing.
Craig said: “There was always work to be done. The group was split in two with each team working for four hours on the top deck.
“However, down below the other team still had food to cook, so it was really hard going.”
The team then had the gruelling task of sailing for 13 hours as they made their way to Loch Alsh. Craig said: “The young carers were doing a lot of the work; tying the knots, changing the sails all while learning a lot about sailing.
“They really seemed to enjoy it despite it being a lot of work.”
After such a long day of sailing the group was more than excited to have some time on dry land and Craig said the highlight of visiting the small village was a Co-op where they could purchase some snacks.
However, it was then back to work as they set sail for another six hours heading for Portree.
Craig said: “For this to be a success the team really needed to work together and that is exactly what they did.
“No one was left out and everyone pulled their weight which made it much more enjoyable.”
The skipper then told the group bad weather was due in the next two days so he let them decide the best course of action.
It was decided it would be better to sail for a massive 16 hours to get back to Tobermory, meaning sailing during the night.
Craig said: “This was an amazing experience getting to sail in pitch black with only lights from other boats illuminating the way home.
“It was also great to see how quickly the young carers could come to a decision together.”
Arriving back at 4am the sailors were given a long lie before heading back to Oban arriving on the Saturday evening.
They had their final night in their cosy cabin and there was certainly some tears.
Craig said: “When people realised the trip was coming to an end it was a sad time. I think such strong bonds had been made during the week they were really going to miss each other but they are still in contact through Facebook at least.”
The Sunday morning the children woke and spent two hours scrubbing the boat clean for the next group about to set off on their voyage.
Craig said: “It was fantastic to see these young adults get a break from their life as a carer.
“Each individual has a different level of situation at home so to see them socialise and smile was fantastic.”