17 September 2019

This is the final blog for Voyage LN978 and for many of us the final voyage on our beloved Nellie, though many more than
just us are hoping that this fine ship is merely due to 'take a break' rather than finally 'take her rest'.

Whatever her future ultimately holds, the last 24 hours mark the climax to an amazing voyage during which we have enjoyed
some extraordinary sailing in very exciting conditions.  What could be more exhilerating than helming a tall ship with all
square sails set plus the spanker, upper spanker and the requisite jibs and stays'ls?  Thank you, Captain Ned (Tutton), 
for your joyful enthusiasm at shaking the cobwebs out of all the canvas and, with boyish enthusiasm, extending our last
sail to the limit ...... in fact to 12 miles north-east of St Abb's Head where the aft watches wore ship under sail at
0400 and began our final approach to Leith.

However, much had taken place well before this: after dinner yesterday, all voyage crew were called to hand the royals,
both courses and spanker, the upper spanker having been handed earlier.  Then our 8.00p.m. to midnight watch (complete 
watch + cook's assistant Tori) began with instructions to keep a close eye on a survey ship which was working ahead of us 
and crossing our course line.  Who would have right of way since we were under sail and they had restricted movement?

Fortunately, they disappeared over the horizon to starboard as a spectacular full moon rose on the port side: initially 
whispy clouds created an illusion of Saturn's rings; then a halo effect emerged as the moon rose higher through more cloud;
and finally it ascended into a clear sky, thus casting a dramatic path of light across the sea.  What a beautiful night, for 
a Last Night sail!

By breakfast, all square sails had been handed and we were motor-sailing west to our final destination.  The weather
could not have been more perfect: clear blue skies and a crisp autumn breeze.  It was exhilerating to climb the masts and
go out onto the yards to do our final harbour stows, especially as we approached imposing Bass Rock with its huge Northern
Gannet colony.  Where else but on a square-rigged ship could you be above and so close to gannets as they plummet into the
water to fish?!

Our watch-leader Marion, had hatched a splendid plan in collusion with the permanent crew and the other watch leaders. As 
we turned for the lock into Leith docks, our long-standing Medical Purser, Jo Hicks - on her last voyage on Lord Nelson
after sailing on her for 30 years- was summoned to the bridge to take the helm until we tied up in front of 'Britannia'.

Once alongside, Marion was hoisted aloft in her wheelchair, Naomi scampered up to the platform to the main mast, and Daniel
started an assisted climb which he will continue on a future voyage - bravo to one and all for their courage!

We celebrated our safe arrival with sun-downers on the bridge (courtesy of engineer Marco, it was supposed, though it is 
said that in reality cookie Ian did all the work!); a fine dinner (thank you Ian and cook's assistant Naomi); and a 
sing-song in the bar.  

Thank you Captain Ned for a magnificent voyage and to First Mate Trev (Farrar) and all the permanent crew for their skill 
and patience.  A salute too to all those who were courageous enough to set up the JST with its vision of abled-bodied and 
disabled sailing together on equal terms aboard this magnificent ship 'Lord Nelson'.  May this vision and organisation 
continue long into the future.

A fond farewell ..... till we meet again.

Forward Starboard watch: Marion Romeril, Mags Marsden, Robin Gorham, Maurice Booth, Jacqui Merckel, Graeme Robb, 
Kate Senior (author)