Big Issue vendor James Heaton has hit the high seas on a four-day voyage across the English Channel – and it was such plain sailing that he wants to chart a course to do more.
The 43-year-old Bath seller was offered the chance to join Tall Ships Youth Trust (TSYT) in a bid to boost his confidence and teamwork skills, setting sail from Portsmouth harbour on May 18.
Long-time vendor James joined an adult crew as they travelled across to Cherbourg on the French coast before navigating the Channel Islands and stopping off at Alderney to explore.
From there, course was set for the Isle of Wight before returning to Portsmouth on May 21.
Throughout the journey, James was tasked, alongside his crewmates, to take keep watch in four-hour shifts as well as cooking and washing up in the kitchen and learning the ropes with the sails.
“I learned how much more complicated a yacht is to sail than I thought,” said James, who sells the magazine outside the Ivy Brasserie in Bath. “It’s not just about the sailing, it’s the washing up, the cooking dinner, it’s all about mucking together and working as a team to keep everything running efficiently.
“I relearned life skills that I am trying to apply to my everyday life. For example, this morning I forced myself to do the washing up before I went out! It’s very motivational and I learned team-building skills and what it means to be a cog in a bigger machine.”
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The idea behind James’ spell on the seas was to boost his confidence and he told The Big Issue that he enjoyed the experience so much that he is planning on setting out on longer voyages.
He is also planning to volunteer with TSYT, a sail training charity who work with disadvantaged youths to develop long-term life skills, in the future as well as completing his sailing certificates to possibly work in the field.
“I’d like to become a volunteer to work with Tall Ships because I’d like to give something back to society and help people not to make the same mistakes I’ve made,” said James.
“It’s a really positive thing for me to do and it would motivate me to stay clean because I’d be responsible for other people. I’m dead keen on the opportunity to do it. It’s the best thing I’ve done in years.”
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Big Issue Bath sales and outreach worker Chris Taylor worked with TYST to create the opportunity for vendors to have new experiences.
“James was sponsored by a Big Issue supporter in Bath who though it would be a good way of assisting and building confidence in vendors,” he added.
“There will be other opportunities that arise from this and we are looking at James and other vendors undertaking a longer voyage if they wish to do so.”