Aucklander’s trip to buy salad seedlings turns into voyage of a lifetime

The British accessible tall ship, Lord Nelson, set sail for Wellington on the first of her four voyages in New Zealand on Monday afternoon. The square rigger operated by the Jubilee Sailing Trust charity, departed the City of Sails after a hugely successful inaugural visit as part of the Auckland Tall Ships Festival.

Among the 41-strong crew setting sail from Queens Wharf West were nine Kiwis who have signed up for the voyage of a lifetime on the 55-metre tall ship operated by British charity, the Jubilee Sailing Trust.

One of them, Laszlo Nemes, knew nothing about Lord Nelson, or indeed the Tall Ships Festival, a few days ago. On Saturday morning the 75-year-old arrived in Auckland on the ferry from his home in Devenport to buy salad seedlings. “There was a woman handing out flyers about sailing on Lord Nelson and I saw that there were just four places left for today’s voyage. I got on board to have a look around and I knew immediately that I had to do it.”

“I’m in a local walking group and all the members talk about how much they enjoy sailing but I’ve never tried it before,” he said.

The retired scientist said he saw it as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” and made an instant decision to sail on what he describes as a “fantastic tall ship”.

Laszlo joined the ship the following day, and climbed one of Lord Nelson’s masts as part of voyage crew training on Saturday. “I felt absolutely safe and there is a great view from up there,” he said.

Captain Chris Phillips said he expects 10-15 knots of wind from the west to north-west over the next few days and he expects to reach Napier by 31 October. “From there we’ll be sailing for another couple of days down to Wellington, where we hope to arrive by 4 November,” Captain Phillips said.

Over 5,000 people including 40 with limited mobility and a 102-year-old visited Lord Nelson during the inaugural Auckland Tall Ships Festival. Captain Phillips said the welcome in Auckland had been “absolutely fantastic” and he thanked the team of local volunteers and ambassadors who had provided support during the three-day visit.

Chairman of Waterfront Auckland, Sir Bob Harvey said “This astonishing event which for many is a once in a lifetime experience shows the full potential of our harbour and our waterfront as an event location. It’s been a fantastic success for Auckland and New Zealand”.

The Tall Ships Festival Director, John Lister, said: “My long held dream came true last Friday when I saw those Tall Ships sail up the Waitemata. But, even better was to witness the thousands of Aucklanders loving the opportunity to be part of this rare event.”

Also on board Lord Nelson for the departure from Auckland on Monday was Bill Robinson from Melbourne, who is sailing with his twin brother Brett. Bill’s employer, IT firm Pentana Solutions in Melbourne, paid for the pair’s ten-day voyage from Auckland to Wellington as a surprise 65th birthday present for Bill.

“I’m feeling a little apprehensive as it’s the first time I’ve ever sailed on a tall ship but I’m lucky enough to have been bought this trip by my employer as a birthday present,” he said.

More familiar with life on board is Kyle Baker, 22, an injured British soldier who re-joined Lord Nelson after being evacuated from the ship for medical reasons to the remote island of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic between Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town earlier this year.

Kyle sustained serious multiple injuries including severed nerves to his legs and brain damage when he was shot in the back whilst serving in the British Army in Afghanistan when he was 18 years old. He has sailed with the Jubilee Sailing Trust a total of five times and he said the teamwork and camaraderie is what keeps him coming back.

“For me it’s like being back in the Army. Everybody works together as a team and everybody’s treated the same, even though people have different disabilities. It’s not about disability. It’s about ability,” he said.

Neville Rakena, 16, who is joining the crew of Lord Nelson on 28 November for her final New Zealand voyage, got on board the special tall ship on Monday to familiarise himself with the conditions he will be living in when he gets on board next month.

Neville, who is one of two young people sponsored to sail on Lord Nelson by Auckland Museum, has been chosen from Auckland’s Otara-based alternative education centre Nga Rangatahi Toa for the leadership and personal development opportunities the voyage presents.

Neville said that he is looking forward to seeing the sunsets at sea and climbing to the top of Lord Nelson’s masts.

“I’m feeling excited. I’ve never been sailing before so my friends are shocked,” Neville said.

Neville’s mum, Helen, was on board with Neville and spoke of her pride at her son being selected to sail as part of the crew of Lord Nelson.

“I’m so excited and will be following his every move. I’ve always wanted to sail on a tall ship myself so to see him achieve it makes me very proud. It is something he will be able to share with the whole community and tell his children about,” Helen said.

Spaces are still available for disabled and able bodied Kiwis to get on board Lord Nelson during her inaugural visit to New Zealand with prices starting at just NZ$1,900 for ten days. A range of physical disabilities can be accommodated and no previous sailing experience is required. To book a voyage call Paul Kennerley on 09 522 4515 or email