“As a carer I felt worn down. It’s important to feel alive – and that’s what the JST gave me this week.”

Kate Martinwood from Sheffield is a parent carer for her 24-year-old son, Ryan, who is visually impaired. She sailed with the JST for the first time in the Canaries, having come across our voyages through the charity Look UK.  


As a parent carer my life has been saturated with grab rails, bathboards and social care assessments to help me cope.

I’ve felt worn down in the past by people assessing us and telling us how to live better – how to be safe. It is important to feel safe but it’s also important to feel alive which is what the JST gave to me this week.

I learnt a lot about myself on this trip. It’s not a boat ride, it’s a working holiday. I realised how much I enjoy and need to feel part of a team.

I met many people on the trip who have attended voyages for years, and first-timers like us. There were people with severe walking disabilities climbing to the crow’s nest – it was an honour to get to know some of these people.

And I was so surprised when one of the JST crew of JST casually asked: “Kate can you just take the helm?” Erm, what?!?

You mean you want me to be in the driving seat holding that great big wheel thing and driving it round the Atlantic ocean while people sleep in their beds below? Are you insane?!

But I did indeed take the helm. And a lot more besides.

I climbed the rigging (did I mention I’m scared of heights?). I filled in the log book. I did rope knots. I heaved and sweated. I learnt the lingo (see above). I went on watch with yellow binoculars (seeing turtles, dolphins and shooting stars). I did a 24-hour mess duty (assisting with meal prep and tidy up after – in other words shed loads of pot washing (which incidentally I usually hate but listening and singing along to to 80s music and working together made it enjoyable).

And I think it’s this that creates a family like atmosphere on board. I have no doubt that as human beings, this is what most of us need.

The JST were very supportive from the onset and really went above and beyond to make sure we were okay as a family. Going on holiday can be a challenge as a carer and because of this we have sometimes isolated ourselves from organised group holidays, which is a shame because it’s nice to do the collective thing.

JST got Ryan involved in tasks and proactively sought and heeded my advice. Ryan had jobs to do similar to when he’s at home. Taking the cup box to the galley, stacking clean cups, taking tea towels to Henry’s corner, wiping the whiteboard each morning. This was essential to his and our well-being because feeling needed is so important. Being on a scrap heap and spoon fed is not so good for the soul.


What would Kate say to someone considering going on board a JST voyage?

I would urge anyone, if you are feeling curious, are disabled, a carer of the disabled, aren’t disabled, are a sailor, a non-sailor, a person who likes people, a solitary person, a person who is zen, a person who needs zen in their life, to just do it. Don’t procrastinate. Just do it.

What’s to lose? A week or a few days if your life. If you hate it, put it behind you and move on. If you love it which I no doubt some of you will, you will have something new in your life which will have changed your life, like it did mine.

I’d say a JST sailing trip is essential for your life-long learning experience.