Faversham boat project helping those with depression

Filled with water and full of holes, the Ocean Cavalier looked like it may never sail again.

But 75-year-old Janet Gynn wants to give the boat, and the volunteers working on it, a new lease of life.

A project she set up aims to help those with depression and other mental illnesses find a way back into society by giving them new skills and improved self confidence.

Mrs Gynn saw the 40ft (12m) cabin cruiser in a boatyard in Faversham. Having previously restored a yacht, and could see its potential, both as a pleasure craft and a way of helping others.

"I fell in love with this old boat, Everyone thinks I need my head testing," she said.

'New outlook on life'

The Ocean Cavalier project is offering volunteers the opportunity to benefit from working with others and the boat will be used to take them on cruises on the River Medway and beyond when the boat's renovation has been completed.

Victor, who suffers from depression and anxiety, is one of a team sanding down the side of the boat in preparation for waterproofing and painting.

"The company is really helping me," he said. "I feel so much better down here.

"Instead of being stuck in your flat and making things worse, once I'm down here I'm much better. My health improves."

Full of water

Mrs Gynn, who recently had a hip operation, had to sell her previous yacht after treatment for cancer affecting her lymph nodes meant she was unable to pull on the ropes to adjust the sails.

When she bought the Ocean Cavalier it was full of water, and much of the woodwork and planking on one side of the hull needed be replaced.

Below deck, in one of the cabins, the sun streams through holes in the side of the boat.

The only way onboard for Mrs Gynn and her team is by clambering up the 10ft (3m) ladder tied to the stern of the boat.

"It needs a terrible lot of work doing on it," Mrs Gynn said.

Image caption Janet Gynn is trying to raise £20,000 for the restoration of the Ocean Cavalier

The two cabins have been stripped down by Mrs Gynn herself, but her doctors have told her she needs to slow down. Both cabins will have a shower and a toilet (head), and she plans to put the galley (kitchen) back into the central wheelhouse.

Ed Reeder, a student social worker with Kent County Council, has been supporting Mrs Gynn for the past eight months.

"It's a really good opportunity for volunteers to learn new skills and boost their self confidence, and it's a great social opportunity for people", he said.

"It's something that state services wouldn't necessarily fund, and it's got a good strong long-term aim."

Mr Reeder helps Mrs Gynn with the paperwork that goes with the project, liaising with other agencies.

The project is applying to the Big Lottery Fund for a grant to help fund the £20,000 restoration.

As well as fundraising for the project, Mrs Gynn is looking for skilled people with experience working on boats to help the volunteers.

"I like to turn something bad into something good, that is why I'm doing this," she said.

"Everybody gets on with everyone at the yard. I want to give people something in life to live for."

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