Thank you to Beth Huntley on the Leith to London voyage, who sent us this report.
JST Leith to London 01 – 10 Aug 2021
I booked my trip with the Jubilee Sailing Trust at a real time of uncertainty, indeed it even felt unlikely that the trip itself would go ahead due to the pandemic. It was November twenty twenty and the country was back in lockdown, I was off work following having Covid in the March of that year. I was recovering but at a pace which I remember describing as glacial and was a long way off getting back to work as concentrating to drive a short distance was a challenge and I felt lightheaded and unwell standing even for the short periods required to prepare meals. I felt very uncertain of my future – whether I would return to the job I loved as an RAF Nurse and I felt certain I would never participate in the sport of triathlon which had been a huge part of my life in the past having competed for the RAF and Team GB as an age grouper.
As the date of the voyage crept nearer there seemed to be a slim possibility it may go ahead and in June I was back at work on reduced hours so found myself sending an email saying I needed to book leave to take the trip. In what then felt like the blink of an eye I had booked my covid test, packed my bag and was heading up to Edinburgh for the start of the trip.
I don’t want to chronicle the entire trip but instead want to relate the impact which it had on me and I’m certain many of the other sailors would agree, albeit in different ways. I shared my end of the sixteen bunk ladies cabin with two sixteen year olds and an eighteen year old. All of these amazing young ladies impressed me no end. They were consistently reliable, team spirited and masses of fun to be around. I think it must have been a great experience for them all and I’m sure they all benefited hugely from the trip.
I was worried before the trip how I would cope due to the fatigue I have been experiencing. A lot of my symptoms have improved with both time and medication but I still struggle in some respects. At our first ‘watch’ (ships name for small team we worked in) meeting I told my fellow sailors and was taken aback in the way they said they would support me if needed. I explained that my personality was to get involved and do everything which is frustratingly also sometimes my downfall with this post-viral fatigue condition as it can make things harder when symptoms flair further down the road.
During the trip I found myself coming out of my shell – goofing around with pirate jokes, dressing up and instigating the odd prank like hiding people in the lifejacket stowage while we waited for the crew to fix the tender boats so we could go on a trip to shore. I felt like the old me who had capacity to lift team morale when the going was tough – something I have very much been used to doing in my twelve-year military career.
There are many other aspects of the trip that reminded me of the military. I was a little concerned when I saw the ensembled group of individuals who had arrived and was sceptical about everyone doing their part to make everything run smoothly but I was most certainly proven wrong. I’d never stepped foot on a tall ship but now I can see why they are such a great way to teach leadership, followership and teamwork. On the micro level tasks such as rigging sails do not work if everyone is not following the leader’s instructions and doing their part – both sides easing and hauling lines must be done simultaneously. Looking through a wider lens all watches must take part in the twenty-four-hour routines of the ship to ensure continuity is maintained.
I have previously noticed a phenomenon which I’m sure has a name whereby we are too quick to criticise those in another office or team, we can be self-centred and often feel that we perceive that our particular team are working harder than others. By rotating around the jobs we were able to see and appreciate everything on the ship from every point of view and this gave us insight and empathy into the challenges that others are facing. Another lesson that I can take forward with me in the future.
My experience on Tenacious was awesome from start to finish. Undoubtedly there were moments which one of my younger shipmates refers to as ‘type two fun’, as in its not fun at the time but looking back now I can recall the experience with fondness. I got a real sense of who I am again, something which has been missing since I was stripped of identities as a Military Nurse and an athlete. I felt capable and part of a team that did something really amazing*. I am extremely grateful that the Jubilee Sailing Trust was able to run this trip in such a time of uncertainty, that I was fortunate enough to receive a subsidised place on this wonderful adventure and to all of the people who supported me along the way. I have been recommended as a Watch Leader so hope to be able to volunteer to support others on this amazing experience in the future.
One of the Bridge Busters!
*I am not referring to the fact that Tower Bridge was unable to close after allowing us passage and caused havoc in the capital for the following twelve hours that publicity for the charity was entirely co-incidental!