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Title: Four days before the mast : a study of sail training in the UK
Author: McCulloch, Kenneth H.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2002
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The origins, nature and significance of modern sail training in the UK as an educational venture are considered, and providers’ claims in respect of the benefits of participation are scrutinised. The study employs a sociological perspective, and has two main elements. First, the contemporary sail training movement is examined. It is shown to have origins and relations in the historical and cultural context of seafaring, and is located in a relationship to the practices of youth work and adventures education.  An analytic framework of traditions is developed to differentiate the range of approaches identified in a survey of sail training providers in terms of their distinctive origins, value positions and culture, expressed purposes and preferred types of vessel. Case studies of three sail training organisations representative of the main traditions are presented, and it is argued that these distinctive traditions can be understood as ideologies, expressing significantly distinct views of the social world. The second element of the study is an ethnographic account of practice in the main traditions, using observation and interview data from eleven voyages. The findings give attention to the experience of domestic and communal life and to participants’ engagement in technical aspects of seafaring. The problems of living at sea faced by all participants are shown to form an inescapable background to exposure to the tasks and techniques of maritime work. Evidence from the fieldwork is compared with claims by providers regarding the benefits of participation, and it is argued that in its own terms sail training can be successful as an environment for learning to work with others in both the technical and domestic domains. Voyage duration is established as a key variable, and discrepant cases at two levels help to establish both the significance of boundaries, and the limiting conditions for positive outcomes in respect of providers’ claims. The central arguments of the study are, firstly, that sail training expresses implicit ideologies, through the ways power is understood and expressed. Secondly it is argued that it is the creation of an enclosed community or total institution, through the physical and social boundaries of a ship at sea that give the experience of participation its particular character as an environment for learning.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available