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July 18, 2013

Lord Nelson, a unique tall ship which is crewed by disabled and able bodied sailors, has arrived in Australia on an inaugural visit to the country. The Jubilee Sailing Trust’s ship is currently undertaking a two-year circumnavigation in the Norton Rose Fulbright Sail the World Challenge, a voyage promoting inclusion and equality in each one of its 30 ports of call.

Today the 55-metre square rigger made landfall in Australia for the first time ever, arriving in Fremantle, WA, at 9pm local time after setting off from Singapore on 10 June.

She is berthed at Victoria Quay, close to Western Australia’s own tall ship, STS Leeuwin II.

Lord Nelson is set to become the first accessible tall ship in the world to round three Great Capes: Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin and the infamous Cape Horn.

While Australians have sailed on board Lord Nelson on previous voyages, this is the first time they will be able to do so in home waters, as the ship makes her way from Fremantle via Adelaide, Melbourne and Hobart to Sydney, where she will take part in the Royal Australian Navy International Fleet Review.

The ship was built to accommodate a wide range of physical disabilities and features include wheelchair lifts between decks, a speaking compass, braille signage, hearing loops and a bowsprit that is wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, so everyone can have their ‘King of the World’ moment. Disabled and able bodied crew work together in a ‘buddy’ system, supporting each other as they sail the ship across the world’s oceans.

On board Lord Nelson for the passage to Fremantle is Western Australian resident, Chris Hudson, 55. The gardener from Woodvale, WA, had never sailed before joining the ship in Singapore, where he met the rest of the crew who, he says, have now become “some very good new friends.”

Chris explains, “I met my buddy for the trip. He is my watch leader and although in a wheelchair he manages a full part in running the ship. I am only his gofer in the very roughest weather when wheelchairs and those who are a little wobbly stay below deck.”

He continues, “I have had so many wonderful experiences in this trip of a lifetime. What a buzz. From climbing out on the top sail yard in a Force 7 (they wouldn’t let me up in the Force 8 gusting 9; I did ask), being on watch under star filled skies, seeing a whale and dolphins and being one of only two people who saw electro static fireworks off the fore t’gallant yardarm: St Elmo’s Fire, a once in a blue moon phenomenon.”

Captain Barbara Campbell was in charge of Lord Nelson for the voyage from Singapore to Fremantle and said there had been many highlights to the voyage, including the ceremony to mark the crossing of the Equator.

In addition, she commented, “The party in Bali on board the ship with the Royal Bali Yacht Club, local food and children from the orphanage impressing us with their Balinese dances, not to mention the warm welcome we received was a highlight, as was the Cocos Islands stop – it was a privilege and a treat to be able to anchor somewhere so unspoilt.”

The last three days of the voyage have seen the tall ship contend with ten-metre swells and stormy weather, and according to Captain Campbell, the conditions have been varied throughout the passage from Singapore.

“South of Cocos the south east trade winds increased to a Force 8, with swell heights of up to eight metres. This was a little more than some of the crew had bargained for. However, if you want to be at sea in big seas and feel safe then this is the ship to sail on. For three days, when the winds were at their strongest, we had to put most of the decks out of bounds and those in wheelchairs or unsteady on their feet were unable to go on deck at all. Once those conditions were over, the sun came out and everyone realised that the big seas were behind us and that more good sailing was in store.

“For anyone wishing to sail, it is an experience to sail a tall ship with everyone working together. I’ll let you into a little secret when I say that the two best helmsmen this trip were our two blind crew members.”

This crossing was a trip down memory lane for the woman who is now in command of Lord Nelson.

Captain Campbell explains, “When I joined my second ship, a cargo ship, as a Deck Cadet in 1976, the voyage was from India to Singapore and thence to Fremantle. In a sense this is a similar voyage except that way back in those days I did not have the responsibility I have now. Also we were not reliant on wind direction and would have made a course straight towards Fremantle instead of the huge sweep west into the Indian Ocean that we made after leaving Cocos.

“We are looking forward to the warm welcome we are sure to receive when we arrive at all the major ports in Australia. It will also be good to have a ‘safe arrival’ drink and a nice glass of Australian wine will do the trick!”

 


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