Today, Friday 21st May is World Day for Cultural Diversity and as a charity that celebrates equality, diversity and inclusion, we pride ourselves on offering the only purpose-built, fully accessible operational tall ship in the world. But, do we as permanent crew do anything extra special onboard the Jubilee Sailing Trust’s tall ship Tenacious?
The answer: not really.
Rather a surprising remark you may think, but it is a truthful answer. As permanent crew onboard all we do is present the ship and her processes and procedures and safely navigate her according to wind and tide, it is our voyage and volunteer crew of diverse enthusiastic adventurers who step aboard and make the magic happen.
Folks who come aboard will perhaps have hugely differing expectations of what sailing the deep waters of our planet is going to be like, but, what I can tell you is that they all have one thing in common regardless of age, situation, background, or ability. This is the refusal to except the commonly held belief that people who have some form of physical or mental disability are unable to take part in adventurous activities.
It has often been said that persons who have a disability never feel disabled when they are onboard Tenacious. And, people who have never felt particularly comfortable in their own mind become so whilst onboard. I believe this is because of the inherent goodness of fellow shipmates who, through the challenges of shipboard life see the true quality of individuals regardless of who or what they are and where they have come from.
Our voyage crew are ready to smash down the doors of discrimination and stick two metaphorical fingers up to any suggestion that they may not be able to take a full and active role in sailing a large and complex machine such as Tenacious, to be enabled and not to feel disabled.
For example: Someone with a serious visual impairment may take the helm of the 700 tonne Tenacious and steer her into or out of a harbour. Or perhaps a crew member who cannot walk but who may haul themselves aloft and into the rigging. Perhaps someone who struggles to communicate due to shyness or anxiety opens like a flower through frank conversation with a fellow shipmate under a star spangled mid Atlantic sky? Eyebrows may be raised ashore, not so onboard where these things are an often-daily occurrence. I am never failed to be moved by the mental strength and tolerance of our voyage crew. It may be that these special qualities are diluted sometimes in the greater population, but something wonderful happens when the complexities of shoreside society are stripped away whilst onboard. It appears to bring out the best in people. It may be pompous and perhaps even arrogant to say so, but as a model for a just and tolerant community, Tenacious is one that works.
During a voyage, the entire ships company tends to shake off shoreside worries and prejudices, this leaves an appreciation of things such as their fellow shipmates, camaraderie, and perhaps a reinvigorated connection to our environment. More importantly, I like to believe that people regardless of their situation find out that whatever social barriers there may be, these can be broken down through the joy of shared experiences.
Never has the cliché “we are all in the same boat” sounded so positive!