SV TENACIOUS – TESTING THE HIGHS AND LOWS
Just over two weeks ago I returned from a 10 day voyage from Hobart to Sydney on the tall ship Tenacious. Wow what a ride! Quite literally and also figuratively. Tenacious is one of the two tall ships in the world that has been built with the intention to allow people of all abilities to be able to sail. It is totally wheelchair accessible!
This was no relaxing holiday…oh no…this was a working adventure, testing your inner spirit and revealing physical capabilities you didn’t even know you had. Tenacious was launched in September 2000 and was the first ship to be designed and built by people of all abilities, most of which were volunteers. The Jubilee Sailing Trust is achieving diversity, integration and inclusion through its voyages around the world.
Bunk beds on Tenacious tall ship, tote bag and wet weather gear and linen on the bed
(Photo: Home for 10 days on SV Tenacious, February 2017)
PUSHING THROUGH DISCOMFORT
If you don’t try you don’t know and on this trip I found out. Yes, very rocky seas make me queasy. My experiences on big cruise ships was no comparison or preparation to sailing a tall ship in Tasmanian waters. Once we left our anchored position at Crawfish Point (that was our first night’s stop) and rounded the heads to Port Arthur, the washing machine effect was taking its toll. Maybe watching the non assisted climbs to crows nest didn’t help either in starting the queasy sensation as I flowed with the swell.
At this point I was starting to question what had I signed myself up for? All I wanted to do was lie down and sleep and this was day 2, another 8 days to go! There was nowhere to go and no-one to talk to except the crew on the ship. Even my friend Mel was on a different watch and we hardly saw each other. Time to dig deep and push through the discomfort no matter what… it’s during these negative times that I missed my loved ones the most but I didn’t want this to beat me, I’m a little stubborn like that. It didn’t help that Mel was coping just fine with her sea legs… now there is a true sailor!
It was a rude awaking to have to realise and admit that my idea of sailing is social, in calm waters and preferably with a bottle of champers or wine and a cheese platter to enjoy! I love adrenalin but not the washing machine effect, my sensitivities are too high when it comes to rotating North South East and West all at the same time!
ABILITY IS KEY
The one thing that allowed pushing through the discomfort was the accessibility of the ship. It is the one time I have been on holidays or doing an activity where my disability really was not an issue. It didn’t alter the ability for things to be done and in fact it stopped any hiding behind the thought that things can’t be done. On Tenacious you do everything just like everyone else. The attitude on board is that you are like everyone else, it is so inclusive. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised just how much that was empowering and satisfying.
Brass bell for Tenacious tallship.
(Photo: My last ‘Happy Hour’ task – to polish the Tenacious brass bell before we entered Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia, February 2017)
On Tenacious, we participated on mess duties, were in 3 teams doing a rotating watch of 4 hours at a time usually (Red, White & Blue), worked with the permanent crew to put sails up and down, ‘happy hour’ every couple of days (and no it didn’t involve alcohol much to our disappointment, it was all about cleaning), attended sailing talks to learn the ropes and ins and outs of sailing. Everyone had jobs to do, without it the ship cannot operate.
(Video: Dolphins swimming at the bow of Tenacious, Tasman Sea, Australia, February 2017)
THE BEAUTY OF NATURE
On Day 6 I had an 8pm to midnight watch. By this stage we had left the Tasmanian coast and entered the open waters of the Tasman Sea. I was still feeling queasy that night but our chef Mica made the perfect dessert… Sticky Ginger Pudding! I don’t know if it was the ginger or the fact that the waters had also calmed down a little but by 10pm on that watch my queasy feeling cleared up, I had energy and felt clear-headed.
After that the waters were relatively calm and we were motoring most of the way across the Tasman Sea. The trip became really enjoyable at this point, for me at least! David, one of my watch team members came up to me while I was helming for about half an hour and he put it in perspective for me. “It’s not every day you can say that on Saturday night you were steering the ship across the Bass Strait.
Starry nights started appearing and on Day 9 I had a midnight to 4am shift, I had not seen this many stars in the sky since our school excursion to see Halley’s Comet back in 1986. We spent the time keeping watch but also learning about the stars, Southern Cross, Orion, the saucepan, saw the Milky Way and then had the pleasure of seeing two shooting stars just like I had done back in 1986. Spotting cruise ships heading past us for Sydney and getting to know each other even more.
(Photo: My buddy Flora and I on the bowsprit of Tenacious, Tasman Sea, Australia, February 2017)
The sunrises and sunsets were spectacular, they are unlike anything you see from land. With open uninterrupted views across the horizon the sun raises and sets on each day with beauty and variety. I had so many photos of these!!! Shy Albatross flew above the water, dolphins and sun-fish swam close by, I was just waiting (and hoping) to see a whale just frolic in the ocean but that was to be a fantasy for now.
Day 8 and 9 were my highlights when it comes to doing things I loved on the boat. My confidence had been shaken a bit with all the queasiness but thankfully Mel was gung-ho in going on the bowsprit. As a result, I went to take photos and videos of her doing it which just built up my desire to want to do it too.
While Mel was on the netting we experienced a whole pod of dolphins swimming below us at the bow. I was able to take some good video of the experience. What a privilege…nature is beautiful!
Lady on crows nest of Tenacious with Sydney Harbour view in the background
(Photo: On crows nest of Tenacious with Sydney Harbour in the background, Rose Bay, Australia, February 2017)
After lunch I went up on the bowsprit with my buddy Flora and our Medical Purser Alan, what a perfect way to have a siesta! Seriously I was tempted to just go to sleep and enjoy the rocking, watching cloud formations above and breathing in the fresh sea air.
It brought back memories of a time in Cairns when I was younger and we took a boat cruise where my sister and brother were able to hop on the nets on the side of the boat and sit in the water enjoying the ride. Back then I had to stay aboard but on this day it was my turn to be able to hang out on the nets…nothing is impossible here…there is a way to be able to do everything!
(Video (Courtesy from Tom): Being winched down from crows nest on Tenacious, Rose Bay Australia, February 2017)
Day 9 was our time to get assisted up onto crows nest. Our own sporty chairs couldn’t be harnessed so we had to go up and down separately with the ship’s chair, what an experience! By this stage we were anchored in Rose Bay, it was the day before we got off the boat. With the help of all the crew, we got winched up with ropes to the first platform. Seeing Sydney Harbour with a bird’s-eye view was spectacular!
EMPOWERMENT AND KNOWLEDGE
Tenacious has taught me so much about sailing. The difference between an anchored watch and a sailing watch. The instrument readings and what they mean, measuring bearings and range, wind direction and speed, wet and dry temperatures, barometric pressure, heading direction etc.
(Photo (Courtesy of JST): The Blue Team – L to R, Tom, Abbie, Flora, Graham, Allan and Peter our Watch Leader with Michelina and David in front, February 2017)
I have come home feeling like my world has expanded, I know more about life and certainly more about myself. I have met beautiful people with so much to share. Their spirit and friendship made this trip a total success. I have a completely new respect for the sailors out there today but especially for the old days and the basic and limited navigation tools available then.
I remember clearly the feelings that washed over me when we saw land again after crossing the Tasman Sea. Relief and accomplishment were just a couple that I can name. I encourage everyone to do a voyage whether you have a disability or not. The experience will change you forever!
(Photo (Courtesy JST): Group photo at the bow of Tenacious with the voyage crew from Hobart to Sydney, Australia, February 2017)
For details about voyages, or if you would like to support the Trust or helping out by volunteering in various ways including the maintenance of the ships, go to www.jst.org.uk .
Would I do it again? Without a doubt…but I may choose calmer waters next time to enjoy the sailing more. I will certainly be better prepared now that I know what is capable to be done. Expect the unexpected and be pleasantly surprised by what you CAN do!