This year’s Boats Afloat project has drawn to a close so we thought we would reflect on what activities the participants have experienced and how the project has impacted the lives of the students who have attended.

The Boats Afloat project has been funded by Greenwich Council for students who have had difficulties in mainstream education and have been referred to Pupil Referral Units. Two groups have attended once a week during term time and have had the opportunity to try a number of activities that they would normally never have the chance to try. The objective was to show them that there were different ways to learn life skills and to discover a new path to follow.

Not surprisingly, most of the students were quite nervous when they first came to AHOY. Some were very uncommunicative, some had very poor listening skills and some tried to cover their nerves with sarcasm and cheek. Most had never been on the water before and knew nothing about boats or the river.

Over the weeks, they have tried a wide variety of activities: rowing, sailing, powerboating, boat maintenance, helming, map reading, mudlarking, archery, gym. One group even helped kit out a new kitchenette on site. They have learned about the weather and winds, tides, knot tying, the history of the Thames and its famous landmarks. They have gained RYA qualifications in sailing and powerboating.

The AHOY staff and the teachers who accompany the pupils have all noticed a gradual improvement in behaviour and enthusiasm. The change in their demeanour when they go out onto the water is particularly noticeable. They smile and laugh and are clearly enjoying learning new skills.

Here are some of the things that this years students have said about their time here:
“It’s so therapeutic being on a boat away from life and all the noise.”
“I’ve always wanted to fly and being on a powerboat is the closest I’ve come to having wings.”
“I love doing knots, it calms me.”

Their teachers have said:
“It’s a place they feel safe and happy”
“It’s great to see the kids smiling and enjoying themselves.”

For the AHOY staff, this a most rewarding project as they can see the difference it makes to the students. We are fortunate to have such excellent trainers who with patience, calmness and good humour really bring out the best in these young people. One participant is thinking about joining the AHOY apprenticeship scheme which is a fantastic example of how lives can be changed.