The Wind in my Sails
The Jubilee Sailing Trust is the only organisation in the world to be able to offer tall ship sailing to people with physical disabilities. The Trust’s aim is to promote the integration of able-bodied and physically disabled people through activities such as sailing adventure holidays.
The Trust believes that everyone should have the opportunity to sail a tall ship. They try to provide voyages for individuals who are able-bodied or have physical disabilities. All voyagers, who sail or work with the Jubilee Sailing Trust, do so on equal terms irrespective of disability.
When I finally found the courage to sign on for my voyage and walked the upper deck of the STS Lord Nelson, the older of the Trust’s two Tall Ships, I was totally in awe. It seemed impossible that I would be able to contribute in any positive way to the operation of the three masted barque. But I was soon to learn that a paralysed arm and incipient arthritis were no handicap.
When I signed on I was allocated a ‘Watch’ and matched with an able-bodied ‘buddy’ whose role was to help me if needed. Life went from Watch to Watch – four hours on, sixteen hours off – and we all quickly learned not only how to work in the dark but to dress and undress, because when you are bunking with several other people, it is often the case that the person opposite has just come off Watch and is trying to catch some sleep!
Once on the Bridge, watching – for ships, buoys, lighthouses and other obstacles – was one of the tasks as was steering, completing the hourly log and generally ensuring that whatever the Permanent Crew member on duty wanted, they got.
Bracing the yards means everyone pulling together, literally. The horizontal struts which carry the sails must be hauled into the required position, usually angled to port or starboard or square. It’s a bit like a team game of tug of war with a very large giant for opposition. All the sails have to be adjusted at the same time but the Course or Mainsail is by far the hardest to brace while the Royal, at the top of the mast, is the lightest. Two people work each brace, one sweating and one tailing. The Sweat – a very appropriate name – has to put every muscle and sinew into hauling down on the brace, while the Tail’s job is to ensure that the hard won rope is held tightly until someone shouts ‘Well’ (stop), ‘Ease to the Pin’ (tie off) and ‘Come Up’ when we all gratefully drop the rope and give careful consideration as to where we put the Arnica gel!
But it wasn’t all work. There was plenty of time to get to know my shipmates and to enjoy the magic of the sea and the wind in the sails. One of the most exhilarating experiences of my life was Hands Aloft, when the less athletic amongst us were helped to climb the ratlines to the Course Yard (the first large square sail about 12 metres up). At the time we were in St Malo harbour and the view was delightful.
All in all, the team spirit that was generated was amazing. Lasting friendships were made.
A once in a lifetime experience! Glad I signed on.
If you want to make a donation or to learn more about the Jubilee Sailing Trust, why not log on to www.jst.org.uk or call 023 8044 9138