“ Tall ship sailing adventures made possible for people with physical disabilities. JST is a unique charity providing an adventure and challenge aboard a tall sailing ship. „
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I first found out about the Jubilee Sailing Trust in the Southampton Boat Show. My Mum knew about it and was rather keen on me going on one of the trips so we took a brochure and a few weeks later I was booked aboard Tenacious for this summer to sail from Southampton to London. Before going on the trip I wasn't too keen or excited about the trip as I had never sailed before and it didn't particularly appeal to me.
I will say now that I am extremely glad that my Mum pushed for me to take up this opportunity as I have leant so much from the trip as well as making loads of new friends and encountering new experiences. I now can't wait to go on another trip next summer - and hopefully an even longer one!
Day 1: Monday
I arrived at the port in Southampton around 2 o'clock and the first thing that hit me was just how amazing and beautiful the ship looked. We were sailing on Tenacious, a large tall ship which looked superb amongst all the other boats with its large masts and sails. As soon as I stepped aboard I felt instantly better as everyone was so welcoming and I was shown straight to my watch leader and then to my cabin. I was to be sleeping on the top of a bunk bed in a room with about 10 beds with most of the boys and men. I did have a nice window to look out of though! Once I had put my bag on my bunk I had to go to the lower mess (large downstairs sitting and eating area) where we were each given a name sticker, our wet gear (which I felt would not be needed as it couldn't get that wet - I was wrong!) and we signed onto the ship for the next few days.
The rest of the day went rather quickly as we met our watch groups and I instantly got to know people, and we were then able to go up the mast. We each climbed up the rigging and then out along the mast - you get a great view from up there.
Unfortunately due to severe weather warnings we could not set sail according to plan and we were going to remain at dock until the following day and then leave. This meant there was not as much to do so after a great dinner of Lasagna and Banoffee pie we played some games in the mess, and then retired to bed early.
Day 2: Tuesday
The second day started very early being woken up at 5.30 ready for the early morning watch from 6 to 8. Because we were in harbour only two people were needed to do the watch, so I was elected along with Sue, another member of my watch. It was very early, but we had an unforgettable experience in seeing the QE2 come into port at about 6.30 that morning! This watch was actually rather entertaining as we had the duty of waking up the mess men and then the ongoing watch - which took a bit of effort particularly trying to find the different people in the right bed numbers.
As soon as our watch ended we had a great breakfast consisting of toast, cereals (including my favourite Weetabix!), and even a cooked full English breakfast, and porridge. I thought this was just a one-off but it was the same every day. At 10.30 we had what was called "Happy Hour" - though I'm not quite sure how it gained this name as it basically involves cleaning the whole ship including scrubbing the decks and mopping and cleaning downstairs. I was fortunate and did actually have a fun job and was in charge of the fire hose spraying down the decks. This hour of happiness does of course make the ship look very nice and is a good way of making friends and builds upon teamwork skills.
We were due to set sail at 12.00, but just before that the disabled people including those in wheelchairs were taken up the masts with everyone else having to heave the ropes. When we finally set sail I was part of the off-shore crew which involved removing all the large ropes from the stacks on the dock. We then rode in the speed boat back to Tenacious which was great fun as it was very rough and I was absolutely soaked by the waves.
Unfortunately once we were out of the safety of the harbour the sea became extremely rough with the boat constantly tipping from side to side, and the waves crashing onto the deck. I was sensible and had made sure I took my seasickness tablets and was perfectly fine throughout the journey. Others were not so good and a large handful of people were sick and feeling very bad. With the wind changing direction we had to change the bracing (angle of the sails) and everyone who was still in good health had to help with the ropes. I then had to help prepare a sail to be put out and it needed to be tied on securely, which proved rather difficult in very strong winds.
For the evening meal we had a rather poorly chosen meal which consisted of both gravy and peas - not the best when the ship was tipping from side to side and the peas were flying everywhere.
We then had our second watch from 6 to 8 in the evening and as we were now at sea the full watch was required and everyone had duties including being on lookout for anything at sea, completing the log where you took readings from a selection of the different dials and finally my favourite, being able to take control of the wheel and steer the ship.
I went to bed much earlier after a very long and tiresome day, yet it took a while to get accustomed to sleeping while at sea as the rocking meant I was constantly rolling across the bed. Had it not been for a special canvas put up on the sides of the bunk I would certainly have gone flying out of the bunk on several occasions during the night.
Day 3: Wednesday
I was woken up about 6.40 ready for an early breakfast, and the first thing I noticed was the ship was barely rocking and was thankful both the sea and wind had finally decided to calm down. We were on watch for a long stint from 8 to 12.30, and again we had the famed "Happy Hour" at 10.30 and once more I was on hose duty, although this time I managed to get more water on myself rather than the deck. We then anchored up at sea just by Margate for shelter as there was more bad weather to come - including force 10 gales.
When I applied for this trip I also applied for the young leader's award and this of course involved some extras during the voyage. We were all gathered together around 11 o'clock and had a discussion about the ship and in particular working with disabled people. We were then asked to go up the mast and to tie up the sail as being anchored up we no longer needed to catch the wind. By doing this we were able to learn more about the ship and in particular how the sails work, for example they are attached by special gasket knots. It was actually much scarier going onto the rigging once we were at sea as there were winds of over 45 knots and the boat was still rocking; and I was one of the furthest along the mast and only attached by a single clip onto a wire.
Unfortunately with the weather remaining very bad we were forced to stay at anchor overnight and the consequences of this were we were unable to do as much sailing as we would have liked, we had little time and it wasn't very safe to cross the channel and visit a French port, as had been planned.
Another great perk of participating in the young leader's award was that we were asked to provide the evening entertainment in the form of a quiz. This actually proved to be very successful and everyone became involved in a challenging quiz with one question being and that still puzzles my mind: In what note do toilets flush? Answer: D minor!
Day 4: Thursday
On the penultimate day we pulled up anchors and began our descent down the River Thames, just after breakfast. I wasn't on watch during the morning so I had a bit of free time which I spent relaxing for a while - something which seems to be hard to find whilst on the ship. Happy hour descended upon us again and this time I was cleaning downstairs, along with the rest of my watch. I was designated the job of mopping the floors and had to follow the man with the hoover through the rooms and corridor. At least I didn't get to clean out the heads (toilets) which looked to be the worst job. After a delicious lunch of mini homemade pizzas we were on watch from 12 to 4. In this time I had to be lookout for any buoys or ships in our path and was able to get some good views of the Thames and even saw Southend where I used to live and also good a great view of Southend pier (the longest pleasure pier in the world!). During our watch I was also able to go up the mast again to help tie up the sails properly, I was right at the far end of the sail and had the most important role of tying the end of the sail through the clues and onto the mast, during which I was being mentored by a member of the crew.
At 4.30 I was to start my mess duty for the week and would be helping in the galley along with 4 other members of the voyage crew. We had to set the tables for the different groups eating and then had to wash and clean up after dinner. I didn't mind this too much as I currently work in a restaurant washing up, but working in this small team in the galley helped me improve my team working skills and I also made a few more friends.
We docked up at Tilbury at around 7 o'clock that evening and after dinner we were able to go ashore for the first time since the beginning of the voyage. As this was to be our last night everyone went to the local, and only, pub in the area where we had a great evening playing loads of card games, some of which were very rowdy. We also had another task to do as part of the young leader's award in which we had to experience what it was like to be disabled and in this case blind. We took it in turns to wear blindfolds and guide each other all the way around the ship. We ended getting to bed quite late that night, almost 1 o'clock and were to be woken the following morning at 6.30!
Day 5: Friday
On the final day I was up early ready to continue my mess duty by setting the table for breakfast and clearing up again after. We were relieved from this duty quite early so we could pack our bags and clear everything from the bunks. This didn't take too long and after packing we had to strip the beds and put all our bags in one of the rooms out of the way. We then had our final happy hour so the boat was looking pristine ready for the final leg of the journey into the centre of London. My job was relatively easy as I just had to wipe the tables in the upper mess.
As we entered London everyone on the ship went out on deck and a lot of us were lying down on the bow of the ship at the front. We were passing many famous landmarks including the O2 Arena and then past Canary Wharf, where we would eventually be ending our journey. It was at this point that there was suddenly a call asking for four volunteers to go up the mast, and I was lucky enough to get there quickly and was able to go up the mast whilst we were going through the centre of London. Whilst up on the mast we had to release a banner which said "Jubilee Sailing Trust" on it and this was acting as an advertisement for the charity. It was an amazing experience going up the mast then as we got a great view of London from up high and we were also being waved at by hundreds of people in nearby flats or walking down the paths along the Thames.
We then got to our end point along the Thames at Tower Bridge where the Birdge opened up for us! There were thousands of people watching us as we passed by along with several of the river cruise boats stopping by us for photos. We then turned around and once again the bridge opened up for us and we began our return to our destination, Canary Wharf. Along the way we took group photos of all the crew and then of each separate watch group.
The final leg of the journey became quite emotional as we had just got to know each other and were now already at the end of our experience aboard HMS Tenacious and were soon going to be saying goodbye. We docked at Canary Wharf where there were all of our families ready to welcome us back home. Once we had docked and everything was shipshape we slowly began leaving the ship and saying our goodbyes - though hopefully not forever!
Conclusion of my expereince:
This has probably been one of the best experiences of my life and one which proved to greatly beat my initial expectations and hopes. I enjoyed it so much that I can't wait to get back aboard again and hopefully next time complete a longer voyage. I have taken so much away from this experience that will greatly benefit me in general day to day life and other experiences I may encounter in the future. I have of course discovered a joy for sailing which I never knew I had (my Grandfather, an avid sailor for years, is thrilled that at last one of his grandchildren has got the sailing bug. I may yet persuade him to join me aboard HMS Tenacious) and I have learnt a lot in such a short time about the ship and new technical language. This voyage also involved working and living with disabled people, an experience I had never really encountered before. I believe I have made many friends who have disabilities, but have also discovered how these disabilities should not make them lesser people and that their involvement was never hampered by their disability and they could enjoy themselves. This voyage was strongly based on team work in every aspect from within your separate watches to mess duty and to general control and running of the ship, and I believe I have greatly enhanced this skill within my own ability.
This has been a truly great experience which I believe has made me better as a person and it is one which I can't wait to do again!
More information about the JST can be found at : www.jst.org.uk
They run many voyages throughout the whole year aboard their two Tall ships: HMS Lord Nelson and HMS Tenacious.
There are many different types of voyages from the short 5 day ones which remain within the Birtish coast or to those longer expereinces across the Atlantic to Barbados or the Canary Islands.
My trip being just 5 days cost 500GBP, but I managed to save 50 pounds by booking early and also was sponsored for half the cost.
Taking a trip with the Jubilee Sailing Trust can be a once in a lifetime or lifechanging experience!