I can barely begin to describe my voyage aboard the Jubilee Sailing Trusts’ ship Tenacious, It was truly incredible. It was the experience of a lifetime and after 40 days, 4547 Nautical miles, a bunch of new countries and people and having crossed the Atlantic Ocean I genuinely feel like a changed person. I have learnt so much, made some great memories and certainly become more aware of not only the struggles that people with disabilities face but also ways in which these people can be included.
I remember being incredibly excited as I boarded the ship in antigua. Tenacious was bigger, better and way more beautiful than any of the dinghies that had made up my previous sailing experience. We stayed the first night at berth and then the next day we sailed off of our berth in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua and set sail for our next stop of Anguilla. This was incredible and seeing the sails set against the Caribbean sun as we sailed away was what I had been waiting for since I was a little boy watching ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. It was like a dream when I took the helm and had the opportunity of steering the ship, under the watchful eye of Captain Barbara, into our anchorage at Anguilla, our next stop, where the water depth was only two metres below the keel. In fact the water was so shallow that we could jump off the ship the next morning for a swim and touch the sea bed beneath the ship!
We then had a couple of long passages at sea on our way to Bermuda, the Azores and then to spain. The longest of which was 11 days without seeing land and barely a ship at all for days. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced being away from land for such a long time. However the wind was at our back, the sea was calm and we sailed quite happily through the days. I enjoyed being away from all of the pressures and strains of life as when your onboard, your going nowhere too quickly and just have to go at the speed at which the tide and winds will take you ( with a bit of help from the Iron breeze / engine every now and then).
Even though I was onboard for a considerable length of time I never got bored as off watch people were invited to give talks, we were allowed to climb up the masts, too increase our view of the horizon and there were several watch activities such as a quiz, an egg throwing challenge and last but by no means least the SODS opera. This included each watch putting together some kind of act to perform to the rest of the crew. My watch did a spoof of ‘what shall we do with the drunken sailor’ and monty python’s ‘The lumberjack song’ of which we changed the verse to ‘I’m a bosun’s mate and I’m okay, I eat last dog and I paint all day’! Needless to say these activities were a great way of getting to know and getting along with people and towards the end of the voyage and having lived and experienced this adventure with these people, my watch felt like an onboard family.
There was one incredible evening the night before we got to spain, where just as we had finished dinner an announcement came over the intercom saying ‘whales off of the port bow’. So we rushed up stairs and were treated to an evening of nonstop whale and dolphin sightings, there must have been 100’s of them swimming around and blowing spouts of water into the air! This was followed by one of the many incredible sunsets that we saw on our voyage though this one had the difference of the sea being as flat as a mill pond and the colours that filled the sky and then reflected off the sea were just stunning. I knew this sight was special when even the Captain got her camera out to take a picture of the setting sun.
During my voyage I took part in the Jubilee Sailing Trusts’ Youth Leadership at sea scheme. For this I had to do a number of things such as a presentation to the rest of the crew and learn all of the ropes and sails names along with other tasks. However the part that I found the most challenging and that has certainly changed me the most were the aspects involving disabled people and seeing what life is like for them. From the start I was paired up with my Buddy, Mislav, who was in a wheelchair and so I helped him with tasks such as making his bed, carrying drinks for him and helping to push him around the deck every now and then. I did not think this seemed like too much of a struggle until later on in the voyage where as part of the scheme we could choose to be blind folded or go in a wheelchair for a few hours. I decided to go in a wheelchair to get a taste of what my buddies life was like and was not expecting it to be
too difficult so rather over ambitiously challenged myself to do it for a whole day. I can honestly say that this was one of the most challenging and difficult things that I have ever done. Everything became suddenly so much more effortful and difficult from getting around the ship using the lifts to making a cup of tea and having to ask other people for help with so many things that I wouldn’t have even thought about before. Not to mention the discomfort of having to sit in the same position all day and the fact that due to us sailing that day the whole ship was heeling at a 10 degree angle and I had never before realised how difficult it was to move in a wheelchair uphill. By the end of the day my arms were aching but my mind had been opened and my awareness had grown considerably. I hope that I can take this experience with me through life as I soon begin university as a medical student, will work towards keeping all people involved and make sure that those around me have an awareness of some of these challenges and ways in which they can be overcome.
I can only begin to describe my experiences on board and would recommend that anyone who wants to know more about what it was like should go and book onto a voyage and experience it first hand!