31st December 2016 – New years Eve

We (Pam, Susie and myself who had travelled from London Gatwick together) arrived at the Ship and met the Captain (Chris), the Mate (Leslie) and our watch leader (Sarah), we got shown to our bunks, issued our oil skins and unpacked. After meeting all the permanent crew and the volunteers and getting our safety and induction briefings we got to know the rest of the voyage crew by eating our dinner (cooked by the Chef Simon) in our assigned watches. We were then granted shore leave so we headed to the supermarket to get some supplies to last us through the long night watches. The most important thing for all of us was taking our sea sickness tablets to make sure they were in our system ready for sailing the next day. On board as voyage crew we have a variety of veterans, military, Welbexians from the Defence Sixth Form College, trainees from Harrogate, personnel who have done a number of Jubilee Sailing Trust voyages before and two Paralympians.

The next morning we practised all that was briefed to us the night before conducting: muster stations, learning and practising rope work, fitting our climbing harnesses and learning how to complete the important role of lookout correctly. For all of us I think the most enjoyable part for all of us was doing the ‘hands aloft training’ (climbing the masts). After all of us were up on the tops we climbed out onto the yards to learn how to stow the sails correctly. It put a lot of us out of our comfort zone but also helped the watches bond as teams and built everyone’s confidence. We eventually were so comfortable up there we were having a karaoke sing song.

New Year’s Eve cont.

On New Year’s Eve, we woke up on choppy waters, causing most of the crew to quickly head to medical for seasickness tablets before the day began. We all settled in for breakfast with an air of excitement for what the night would hold, and with the promise of a new year tantalisingly close, after all that 2016 has given us. The morning was filled with more lessons, but was quite relaxed as we made our way to San Sebastian La Gomera, which would be our port for the night.

The water stayed ‘lumpy’, as the permanent crew refer to it, even once we got into port. Our berth was booked for six o’clock, but with how long it took to get the gangway out, and get all the shore lines done, the sun had set and it was closer to eight o’clock. We were all eager for our dinner, which was buffet style, and filled us up plenty for our shore time.

We headed out into the town, watching as cameras were set up, and all the locals were in black tie. We wandered the streets of the town, before settling down for cans of coke at a bar near the waterfront. The locals were all buzzing with energy, it was contagious. We headed back to ship for quarter to midnight, and glasses of champagne were passed around as we prepared for the ships New Year tradition. The oldest member of the ship rings out the old year with eight rings of the bell, and the youngest rings in the new year with eight rings of the bell, the only time you ever have eight rings at the start of a watch. For us, it was Monica ringing us out, and Ben S ringing us back in, to cheers of ‘Happy New Year!’ and honking of horns across the water.

We all linked pinkies to sing Auld Lang Sine, with only a few of us genuinely knowing the words, but the rest being enthusiastic anyway. The fireworks began on the shore, for a ten minute display of colour, just as the ferry beside us decided they wanted to start honking their horn again. This led to furious competition between ourselves and the ferry, until they eventually gave in, going silent. We cheered once more, which somehow led into more singing, until Mia and Victoria pulled out the ukulele, and led the entire group in eager song.

The highlight of the evening definitely came in the form of a group of four boys, Josh, James, James and Callum. As we were all preparing for the ringing of the bells, they snuck off to get changed, and came back up as Santas and Mrs Claus. Unfortunately, they had all decided to buy costumes that would only have fit children, bearing a lot more skin than most of us were comfortable with.

In the afternoon we practiced bracing stations and after a delayed departure due to weather, we left port using the engines. It took a while for many of the voyage crew to get their sea legs, a few faces began to pale and needless to say a few sick bags were used. After dinner we then got to learn why so many people are needed to sail Tall Ships and the real meaning of ‘all hands on deck’. We braced the yards and prepped to set some of the sails ready for them to be set later on that evening when the wind was due to be more favourable.

Our watch (Forward Starboard) had the First (2000 to 2359) with Josh the Third Mate as our Officer of the Watch, we learnt to helm the ship and spot other vessels using our night vision. The team then worked very hard together to set the sails (topsails, topgallants, forcourse, outer jib, mizzen-staysail) on their own, whilst I helmed the ship, it certainly was a good workout and tired everyone out before going to bed.

After a night trying to settle in our bunks with the motion of the ocean, we filled our bellies with a cooked breakfast to fuel us for the day ahead. We set the Royals this morning, which meant we had all the square sails set (and how glorious does Lord Nelson look like with her sails set) and also had another evacuation drill. We then did ‘happy hour’, which means an hour of cleaning, making sure both above and below decks are clean (after all a clean ship is a happy ship right?!). Upper decks were cleaned, decks swept, below decks were hoovered and mopped and toilets (heads) cleaned. I was tasked with cleaning the bar, which is very important as tonight is New Year’s Eve and I’m sure it will be put to good use. The sea was calmer by the afternoon and the majority of the voyage crew had found their sea legs and were enjoying the nicer weather on the upper deck that come with being in the Canary Islands in December.

One aspect of the voyage that is slightly different is the Leadership at Sea qualification (lead by Beth the Leadership At Sea Instructor) for the Welbexians and Harrogate trainees, the idea of this is to develop awareness of Equality and Diversity and to develop Self-Leadership. They are all taking turns leading watches and will spend time simulating being visually impaired or in a wheelchair. Both these aspects are important for the future roles these people will be fulfilling and it is particularly useful to have two Paralympians on board who can share and relate their experiences.

From my perspective (as an officer in the Royal Navy and an ex-Welbexian) it is great to get to sea again (I’m particularly enjoying having a port hole in my cabin, such novelties are reserved only for Captains usually in the RN). It is interesting to learn the similarities and differences between tall ship sailing and the RN, talk to future Welbeck students coming through and meet such a variety of people.

By Lt Alice Brindley RN

New Years Day

New Year’s day started very, very early for some of us. After rolling into bed after the celebrations at around one o’clock, we were pulled from sleep at four. We were still in San Sebastian port, so that meant it was just me and my watch leader, Chris, up on the bridge. Not much tends to happen from four to six, so we drank lots of tea, and generally nattered. We spent some time marvelling at the locals, who had kept their new year festivities alive up until this time, and lasted long past us, belting out beautiful renditions of pop songs older than half the voyage crew. Eventually, we got to wake up the next pair from our watch, Ben and Suzie, meaning we were free. Going back to bed was an incredible feeling – especially knowing I’d get two full hours, as breakfast was delayed until half past eight, to allow everyone to recover from the night’s antics.

The lower mess was filled with plenty of groggy faces, except for Zain, who had slept through his watch, but the announcement that we’d be heading to the beach perked everyone up. Once we were ready, all the Welbeck students were called for a quick Leadership at Sea chat, to fill in our diaries and continue making SMART goals. These are goals that we make for every day of the voyage, to push ourselves further and enable us to develop in our time on the ship. Some are sillier, things like making sure everyone gets into the water, while others are more challenging, like getting yourself up to the top of the rigging while we’re experiencing the rocking of the ship at sea. Everyone sets their own, and at the end of each day evaluates their progress. At this point, it was also announced that we’d take it in turns to work the ship while blindfolded, to get the experience of how disabled crewmembers work on ship, and this also played into our work for Leadership at Sea.

After that, the entire group headed out for some much needed sun, all of us slathered in sun cream. Despite constant reassurance that the water was twenty five degrees, we all agree that it was definitely much closer to zero. We played a few games, took lots of pictures then headed back to the ship for showers before lunch. As usual, the food was amazing, with Simon’s skills in the kitchen never ceasing to astonish us, even more so when you see how tiny the kitchen is.

After lunch, we began preparations to head back into open water. The new line gang was trained up, with Ben going from our group into the ‘DOTI’ boat. I was put onto pulling ropes at the back of the ship, learning how to coil and moor lines, while other members of the group were distributed around the ship, all learning different skills. We set out into clear skies and calm waters, and quickly got into another lesson.

The LASI, Beth, led a lecture on the bow about setting sails, the different types, and all their components. While getting a good tan, we answered questions about what we had learned so far, and about what would come next. We split down into pairs, and were then allocated different sails and jibs to set. Ben and I took the main topsail, leading the group in easing the buntlines and clewlines, and hauling the halyard. By the time we were done, we’d all led, eased and hauled, and had sore hands to prove it, with each of the sails sitting firmly above us.

The rest of the day remained fairly relaxed, with dinner being the main thing on everyone’s mind. Or at least, it was for everyone except the unfortunate few still suffering seasickness. After it came and went, people relaxed playing cards, watching movies, and rotating watches. My watch was on from six to eight in the evening, and were taught how to man the helm using wind rather than the bearing, so as to maximise our speed and prevent the sails flapping. It was an interesting learning experience, with only one major misunderstanding, but that did nearly lead to us having to call the entire ship back up to deck to haul sails, as we’d steered close to the wind.

3rd January 2017 (13:23)

We docked in La Palma at 16:00. To get the ship to shore we did tacking, wearing and box hauling – the latter a first time for many on board including the Captain! However, before we did these manoeuvres we had to have a brief team talk from the Captain Chris to explain it all. These talks sort of baffled the audience but as always, we were more than willing to put a sweat on and test the ship to its limit. We all worked together in our watches to ensure the movements were undertaken effectively. The applause when we finished was much appreciated by everyone, especially for the box haul – a manoeuvre nobody really expected to work but even Navy veterans were in awe when the ship slowly reversed into what many called a 3-point turn in the sea.

The line gang for the La Palma arrival performed exceptionally well again but with the much calmer waters of La Palma it was arguably an easier berthing than La Gomera. We were then granted shore leave which many watches used as an opportunity to have a watch meal. However, not all watches did and the streets welcomed us in our groups of three. In the town’s square there was live music (although maybe not to the taste of the younger crew) and a great atmosphere through the narrow streets. The shops were still open at 10pm, which extended the high spirited nature of the town. It made me think if that was the kind of show the town put on for the 2nd of January what must it been like on the first? A calm night in port was much appreciated by all the crew, especially the harbour watchmen that could get back to sleep more easily after being woken up in the early hours. The whole town was lit up through the night and the calm waters and clear skies meant that the harbour watches all had pretty backdrop to look at. The weather also was quite warm up to about 2 in the morning.

It was hard to get out of bed this morning but after the enthusiastic voice of Ben Jenkins was heard over the tannoy we all got out from our bunks. Breakfast granted a bit of a pick me up and we were ready for the day. The crew then split into two groups with the Welbexians and army candidates with Beth in the bar and the rest of the crew helping with the assisted climbs on the fore mast where smiley faces were seen as the successful climbers got up the mast.

We set sail at 11 and watches continued through lunch. The wind is currently little to none and we are just being pulled through the water by the tide (so really, I am wondering why the engines haven’t been turned on but I guess the captain knows best).

Although the boat is said to be a tall ship, to most people aboard it’s a pirate ship, which was best shown by Harriet turning up to Monica’s 1600-1800 watch dressed as a pirate. I’m also thinking sun cream may need to be applied as we have smooth seas and perfect sunny weather. But little wind.

Fraser S.