Youth sailing program seeks docking facility in Sooke

Council to write letter of support to Sooke Harbour Authority

Sooke council is throwing a lifeline to help out a youth rehabilitation sailing program.

The program, called Drug Free at Sea, which is through the Horizons Unbound Rehabilitation and Training Society (HURTS), helps rehabilitate drug-addicted youth by teaching them how to sail. The program is now looking for a place to store its boat.

Phillip Ney, psychiatrist and chairperson of HURTS told council recently he has written to Sooke Harbour Authority asking to dock the boat in the Sooke harbour several times, but has never heard anything back.

The Sooke Harbour Authority board of directors responded to the issue, saying they have reviewed Ney’s requests several times, but has told him verbally each time that his requests were declined.

“The spirit of Ney’s program is recognized by the board members as a valued and worthy cause,” said the board. “But a vessel of this size would require about 100 feet of dock space for berthage and docking. We simply do not have available space to accommodate a vessel of that size and draft requirements.”

Regardless, council is encouraging of HURTS and the work its done, and agreed to write a letter of support to the harbour authority.

“The Drug Free at Sea program is designed specifically for drug-addicted kids,” said Ney, adding that once a youth is addicted, they can be almost impossible to treat.

Ney has been working with children and youth throughout his career, and said he has never seen a treatment for youth addiction work better than Drug Free at Sea does.

“You put them in any shore-based facility, they will find a way to get their stuff,” he explained. “So the only way you can be absolutely sure they aren’t going to get anything to continue their addiction, is to take them out to sea.”

Drug Free at Sea is a three-step program.

First, a parent and child will go out to sea for 10 days and learn how to sail.

“At the end, we put them on smaller boats, and get them to compete in a sailing race with other parents and kids, and that way they get to bond and appreciate each other, and work together,” said Ney.

The second step is a five-day trip, and the parents stay at home so the young people work with the crew and learn how to sail themselves.

The third step is about survival. The kids are taught how to camp and stay warm, and then at the end they are each put on a different beach by themselves for one night, where they are given some supplies, matches and food.

The people then have to build a fire to stay warm, cook themselves a meal and sleep on the beach.

“We keep an eye on them, so it’s not dangerous or anything,” said Ney.

He explained that allowing them to experience this night of survival, teaches them responsibility, self respect, and gives them a greater sense of self worth because they have to rely completely on themselves.

“We see such a difference in the kids after this. They are looking for a high, they want excitement, and this program shows them that they can get high on life in other ways,” said Ney.

“When we pick them up the next day you can just see it on their faces, they are all excited and are proud of themselves. It teaches them to appreciate themselves.”

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