Ocean Discoverability

Day sails supporting young people from special needs schools and day centres in Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall

Ocean Discoverability ®

Our Ocean Discoverability day sails support young people from special needs schools and day centres in Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall. Some with life-limiting conditions. This work has expanded our own day-sail provision, and is in addition to our residential sailing voyages. The project continues the work done in Cornubia under the Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter Trust from 2010 to 2016.

Cornubia’s first mate, John Hepburn, joined our team in 2017 to run the programme, and helped ensure a smooth transition. Together with John, we continue to seek supplementary funding to support the increased demand on our resources.

On a typical day the young crew will observe, touch and feel marine life in the marina before examining it under the microscope and via an underwater camera on the seabed. After a safety brief and familiarisation with the boat, the trip begins easily by motoring down the River Plym to Plymouth Sound while stowing the ropes and fenders. This helps the young people get used to the boat and its motion.

Once in the Sound, those who wish to do so help hoist the sails and steer. There they gain an appreciation of the geography, marine life and other ships and boats, spotting and recording them in a specially written guide. Depending on the levels of ability there are mystery objects to find on deck, simple tasks like finding and counting all the stanchions, a nautical word search, calculating the boat’s sail area and learning some knots. Some just enjoy the sensory experience. On the return journey they help collect samples of plankton for microscopic examination when back in the marina.

We are delighted that yet more young people are being given the opportunity to enjoy time on the water and experience the benefits of sailing.

Catch up with John’s reflections in his 2023 end of season report on our news page.


John Hepburn

John Hepburn

This is my eighth year with The Island Trust. I help develop and deliver the day trips for children with disabilities, and raise the funds for them. I worked doing the same trips in the Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter, Cornubia, for six years. I started sailing when I was 14 and was a volunteer mate in the Ocean Youth Club sailing gaff and bermudan rigged boats in my early 20’s. I carried on sailing in my own and other people’s boats throughout my 30 years in the Navy. Since then I have worked with several organisations helping to raise awareness of the sea, the amazing things that live in it, and the amazing opportunities it offers. I hope to help The Island Trust get young people to understand how and why our ocean is so important to us all.

Our Promise to You

Crewed by professional sailing staff, qualified at the highest level, all of our vessels have been coded by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and inspected for seaworthiness and safety.

The Island Trust and its operating company, Island (Cutter) Ltd, have robust policies and procedures in place to guarantee your safety on board including:

  • Health and Safety Policies
  • Child Protection Policies
  • Annual DBS Disclosure for all staff and volunteers

We are members of the Association of Sail Training Organisations (ASTO).

Full time and relief skippers are Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Yachtmasters and Cruising Instructors or higher, and mates and volunteers are qualified to levels appropriate to the responsibilities they carry in accordance with statutory MCA and RYA regulations and guidelines.


Get in touch

Please phone us on 01752 823007 or use the enquiry form below:

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