As we waited for Lord Nelson to open its gangway on the quayside in St Helier, there was a mixture of nerves and excitement among 38 total strangers all waiting to board this magnificent vessel and live together in close quarters for the next 4 days.
Then in a flash, the ship which was peacefully sitting in the harbour is suddenly filled with chaos and activity as these excited, aspiring seafarers stumble on board to get geared up and acquainted with our bunks and buddies.
The first call of action is to gather in the lower mess to meet the crew. Captain Barbara welcomed everyone and explained our preferred route, if conditions prevail, then it was over to First Mate Leslie to run through the safety procedures. For a minute the laughs and jokes take a breather as we realised the importance of following Leslie’s guidance, otherwise we could end up taking a dip in the English Channel!
As first impressions go, we all shared complete confidence that the permanent crew would not only teach us how to sail and keep us dry – but create a hugely enjoyable journey.
After a brief sail out of the harbour, Captain Barbara found a magnificent spot to anchor alongside Jersey’s dramatic north-east coastline. There can’t have been a better spot around the island to watch the sun set. Here we were treated to our first meal, a beef bourguignon expertly cooked by Chef Micah and Cook’s Assistant Kim, which reassured everyone we wouldn’t go hungry on this voyage!
Day 2 allowed us crew to climb the masts whilst still calm at anchor in the glorious Channel Islands sunshine. We couldn’t believe our luck with the weather – most of the crew were more worried about sunburn than reaching the crow’s nest! The sense of achievement made for an incredible buzzing atmosphere on board after everyone had climbed the mast, and even more so when our wheelchair user Nick was raised up the mast.
Once everyone had come down from the high (pun intended!), we realised it wasn’t even lunchtime and the hard work was to follow! With the sun still shining we began to set the sails, with our watch expertly taught by Third Mate Chris who couldn’t have done a better job of explaining and somehow making us enjoy the tough tasks of pulling ropes.
The sails made for a breathtaking sights and we were soon whizzing past Sark and Guernsey, onto the Alderney Race. Our watch were fortunately enough the have a full night’s sleep before taking watch, a perk also welcomed by those on ‘mess duty’ helping out in the galley on the breakfast shift.
On watch, it seemed crazy that they would let us steer the ship – the sense of power and excitement like passing your driving test, except we hadn’t spend the last year learning to do this! Aside from our giddiness, it was incredible to watch our visually impaired crewmates steer the ship with the help of a custom-built speaking compass. For the able-bodied voyage crew, there were countless moments like this that completely inspired us and left us in awe of how this ship creates a level playing field. There not a moment were any of us considered our fellow mates under a ‘disability’ tag, we were equal and everywhere you looked great friendships were in the making.
Today I was woken up to the roaring sound of AC/DC, meaning it was time to get up for breakfast. It was then time for the next activity. First we had a happy hour, which involved some people getting on their full yellow waterproof ‘telly- tubby’ looking gear on and scrubbing the decks. Whilst others were down below decks and giving the ship a good seeing too!
After getting the ship into ship- shape condition it was time for flap jack / cake and coffee. Then we tacked the sails, this involved lots of rope pulling, shouting “2-6 heave” loudly and team work to get the ship turned round and the course altered.
The reason we had to do a U-Turn in the middle of the sea is because we were going to get to Worbarrow Bay too quickly, so the Captain decided we would play in the ocean some more instead.
After all the rope pulling it was time for us to go on watch. The objective of our watch this time round was to ensure that we got everyone to have a go on the helm. We sailed a blissfully smooth sail with impeccable helming from all of our watch – Roy, Anthony, KK, Steve, Emma, Millie, Simon and Karen and Tony (me impeccable yet to be determined). Currently looking forward to more cake and flapjacks and the midnight to 02.00 Anchor Watch tonight, in what looks like the beautiful Dorset coastline on the horizon!