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January 24, 2014

Why I’m here….

I have almost always lived by the sea and many of my childhood family holidays involved sailing on the Solent, English Channel, Dutch inland waters and the Norfolk Broads. My father got involved with Tall Ship sailing when he retired from the Royal Navy and was watchleader on Winston Churchill and Malcolm Miller and later on Stavros Niarcos. When he turned 70 he was told he was too old to sail with them any more so he contacted JST and got the response ‘we have no upper age limit’. So began his relationship with JST.

He kept asking me to sail on a voyage with him, it was very obvious that this would give him enormous pleasure. However I was in two minds, part of me was nervous and unsure whether I would be good enough and so, though I told him, ‘Yes I will come sometime,’ I really meant, ‘No, I don’t think I can.’ Other circumstances intervened and I realised that I had to decide properly one way or another and so I ‘grabbed the chance’ because I knew I would regret it if I missed the chance of sailing with him.

The experience was amazing, I was sick as we crossed from Ireland to Liverpool but I still left the ship knowing I had to do this again.

My next voyage was on Lord Nelson doing a leg of the Tall Ships Race from Bergen to Den Helder. My younger son came with me and was in a different watch from me – it was amazing to share the experience with him. When the race itself finished and we turned on the engines to head for the jollity ashore it felt as if the life had gone out of the ship. I wanted to keep on sailing.

So … when the chance came up to do a transatlantic crossing from Bermuda back to Southampton I grabbed that one gladly. I genuinely thought that four weeks on the ship would ‘cure’ me of the longing to be at sea and keep going. However at the end of the voyage we were at anchor off the Isle of Wight, within sight of the beach at the end of my road, and I did not want to leave the ship! I wanted more, something longer and more challenging.

This is why, in Nancy Blackett style, I did not think twice about booking STW6 and STW7 when the voyages were first advertised without thinking of the logistics of the whole thing!!! A year and a half or so later, after doing loads of supply teaching to get the money for all the elements of my adventure, I have done my best to leave my life in order back at home. I have said what needed to be said to loved ones, particularly to my elderly parents, agonised over what to pack (too much) and what to leave and embarked on my rather late ‘gap year’ (well 5 months if you include the weeks in Australia with my daughter!)

As I hope I made clear in my talk on ‘Arthur Ransome – his life and the stories behind the Swallows and Amazons series’ the motto ‘Grab a chance and you won’t be sorry for the might-have-been’ is a good one to live by. If I had let this opportunity pass me by, my life would have been less rich. So far this voyage has been all I could have hoped for and more and I still have Ushuaia to Buenos Aires to look forward to as well!


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