When it comes to volunteering Marc Kennedy is keeping it in the family, as Sally Clifford found out.
MARC Kennedy has come a long way from ‘sweeping up’.
Doing odd jobs around Shepley Bridge Marina kept the then seven-year-old occupied while accompanying his mum, Sue, during her voluntary skipper duties for Safe Anchor Trust, the charity based at this pretty canalside location on the Calder & Hebble Navigation in Mirfield.
Fifteen years later Marc is now believed to be the youngest Royal Yachting Association inland waterways instructor in the country – a qualification he has earned through hard work and dedication.
Spending time at the marina, Marc soon learned the ropes. Working alongside others, watching and learning, he developed his knowledge and the skills he is now putting into practice as one of the youngest of the charity’s 140 volunteers.
As well as sweeping up, as he got older he also helped with the locks on boat trips. “And I found I got quite good at it,” Marc recalled.
Through the years he was able to pass on the skills he had learned to others who wanted to get involved with the charity. This led to him undertaking his helmsman qualification – but he had to wait until he was 18 to do so. The 22-year-old, from Dewsbury, is now one of the
charity’s qualified instructors who give their time voluntarily to help run the boat trips which the charity provides as part of its service to the community.
“It can be quite relaxing. It’s nice to be outside talking to people,” said Marc, who enjoys the social side as much as the sailing.
Talking about the benefits of volunteering, Marc believes it has helped with his job at a local engineering firm, and his studies, and he encourages other young
people to get involved. “It is really rewarding,” he said.
Marc’s proud mum Sue talks about her introduction to the charity which led to her son’s involvement too.
“I came to an open day with a friend. I was recruited as a skipper, I’m still a skipper, and I’ve been here since Marc was six or seven,” said Sue, who relishes her role. She said being outside in the fresh air, the people and the camaraderie are among the benefits of being involved.
Sue wasn’t surprised Marc undertook his helmsman qualification. “He has just grown up with it. Boats are like his playground,” she added proudly.
Kevin Thorburn, volunteer and member of the Safe Anchor Trust’s operations team, added that Marc is a credit to the charity.
“I remember him when he was 12 or 13 years old and good boater then.”
Kevin also spoke proudly of Marc’s helmsman qualification. “It is a tremendous credit and compliment to Marc and his ability and dedication. It is also a huge credit that a 22-year- old who works full time is still prepared to give up some of his time for the benefit of others.”
He added: “It is also an accolade for the Safe Anchor Trust
that the charity is encouraging its younger volunteers. I think that reflects very positively on the Safe Anchor Trust. Our training works and Marc is the future.”
According to the Royal Yachting Association 344 people under 25 hold an Inland Waterways Helmsman Certificate; 24 inland waterways instructors were under 25 when they passed and only one inland waterways instructor is under 25.
Rachel Andrews, chief instructor, motor cruising and power at the Royal Yachting Association, said it was “vitally important that young people connect with the waterways”.
She added: “Within the RYA Training network there are a number of organisations which are recognised and deliver training to young people and we hope that they go on to grow a love for the river and canal network to ensure a bright future for these precious waterways.
“Getting afloat can be a life-changing experience for anyone, but young people benefit enormously from it. Learning to helm a boat on the inland waterways provides so many opportunities to grow in confidence, from mastering a new skill and interacting with the public – there’s always an audience at a lock and you can’t travel far without greeting walkers or other boaters.
“Helms learn to manage the boat by communicating with crew to help with lookout or directing into a mooring. Most find that calm and tranquil pace of travelling on the inland waterways has a positive effect on their well-being too.”