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January 14, 2014

“It all started with a phone call, ‘You need to look at this website’, so I did and was hooked by the whole concept of ‘inclusion’ and ‘team-spirit’, When I arrived at Palma to join the ship, there was a little feeling of apprehension on my behalf to make the transit from ‘passenger ‘ to ‘crew’, but these fears were immediately overcome, not only by the warm welcome of the permanent crew, whose professionalism and competence put me instantly at ease, but also by the sheer beauty of SV Tenacious.

As a 58 year old, who suffers from MS and needs to use a wheelchair and crutches, I had never mixed before with other people with disabilities – yes it is fair to say that I had met, but never spent ten days in their company. This I found, to be one of those ‘life changing’ moments that made me realise that I could help and be helped by people who were less able than myself. That I could be a part of a fully functioning crew.
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Then the learning began: which rope did what, who was who, what was the correct terminology and the layout of the ship – the lifts, the heads, the watches – all the complicated procedures to make the voyage run like clockwork…. and then ‘the ultimate variable’ – the weather changed. Now some of us have strong constitutions, cast iron stomachs and enjoy the pitching and yawing of a rough sea; others unfortunately, of a tender disposition, found this uncomfortable, but it is at times like this that we all pulled together, helping to bond the crew into a unit… all part of that ‘life changing’ moment.

To helm a sixty five metre square rigger at two a.m. in a blow, is an experience in itself. To helm while the yards are being trimmed and watch the ‘organised chaos’ come together as part of a well-trained working machine, not only gives you a feeling of personal satisfaction but also pride in your ability as a disabled person to be part of that team, of having been able to contribute, even in a small way, gives you a buzz that you won’t find elsewhere. This was translated into our team spirit when it came to our shore runs in Barcelona. Eating out in a restaurant with other people in wheelchairs, sharing the same difficulties and problems is a very ‘levelling’ life experience.

When asked, ‘what did I take away from the voyage?’ – a new found belief in myself, that I can do things like go up in the rigging, be a part of a functioning crew, help others less able than myself, be helped by those who are more capable, good friendships with people I would not normally meet – but look forward to meeting again.

If asked ‘Would you do it again’? ‘Yes, where do I sign’! (here!!!)

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Bobby Gales

 


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