Bestselling author and former soldier, Steven McLaughlin, has just returned from his latest adventure – training with the sailing charity Turn to Starboard.
The charity, based in Falmouth,helps former veterans of foreign wars readjust to civilian life by teaching them sailing techniques and tutoring them in the ways of the sea.
A lot of former soldiers fall through the cracks when they return to civvy street and can have real problems adjusting, given the horrors they’ve seen and the traumas they’ve faced
Lytham-based Steven said: “A lot of former soldiers fall through the cracks when they return to civvy street and can have real problems adjusting, given the horrors they’ve seen and the traumas they’ve faced.
“They can also desperately miss the friendship of dear colleagues, some of whom are sadly no longer with us.
“Turn to Starboard helps them get over that by introducing them to the comradeship and purpose of the sea, which is a great leveller and gives men their pride and self-esteem back, literally healing old wounds.”
Turn to Starboard offers free sailing courses and professional training to former soldiers who feel they’d benefit from time at sea, with the only proviso being they must have served on an operational tour.
The courses are taught by highly-qualified sailors and former soldiers who voluntarily give their time, teaching the Royal Yachting Association syllabus and sailing out of Falmouth Marina on a Bavaria 32ft cruising yacht.
Steven plans to continue sailing and strongly encourages any former soldiers to get in touch with Turn to Starboard and begin their own journeys at sea.
He added: “I did the Competent Crew course which involved living on board and sailing the yacht for an entire week at sea.
“The instructor was superb and the banter with the crew, who were all beginners like me, was even better. It felt like being in the army again and I can honestly say it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.
“The tranquillity of the sea is awe-inspiring and the boat is far more than a plastic tub – it feels primal and alive in the same way that an ice-capped mountain or horse is, and I can understand how sailors fall in love with their craft.
“I only spent a week on board but it felt like a month and saying goodbye to the boat was like seeing off a long lost friend. Sailing is very hard work; the wind burns your face, the sea-salt stings and the ropes singe your hands, but at the same time it’s an intense and captivating experience that everyday life can’t compete with.
“I’m proud to sail with and to support this amazing charity and I’d urge other soldiers to do the same.”
In his previous life Steven, 44, was a nightclub doorman in Blackpool before becoming a member of the elite Royal Green Jackets and serving on military operations in Iraq and Northern Ireland. He has since written of his action-packed life in two successful memoirs, Clubland UK and Squaddie: A Soldier’s Story, is regularly called on by broadcasters for expert opinion on military matters.