First Voyage of the Year

Here is a fantastic report on our first TY voyage of 2019. Thanks to Aodh O’Dhuinn our Mentor onboard:

The trainees adventure started out in the wee hours of the morning at Dun Laoghaire marina. Having hugged and waved their parents goodbye, they all piled onto the bus and were bound for the ferry from Rosslare to Fishguard, Wales. It was clear that the trainees were full of anticipation for the voyage ahead of them, as despite the early hour, they all chatted excitedly rather than catching a few z’s. Once on the ferry, we all got to know each other a little better as the trainees told me a bit about their sailing experience and were full of questions about what to expect from life aboard a tallship.

Once in Fishguard we were greeted by Alannah, who brought us aboard Maybe and introduced us to the rest of the crew, Seb (Skipper), Jess (First Mate) and Conall (Bosun). The Trainees were given a chance to settle into their new surroundings and stow their personal belongings in their bunk space. Then came time to pack the weeks food deliver as the trainees formed a fireman’s chain from the Tesco delivery van on the quayside down to the deck of Maybe and continuing on down to the galley. Once all the commotion had settled down, we all went below deck and played some ice breaker games to get to know each other a little better and then the crew led us through a number of safety briefs, such as flood and fire drills and “abandon ship” drills. With the safety briefings completed, we cast our moorings and set out under motor to our first anchorage at Newport.

Day two was to be the trainees first real experience of tall ship sailing as we hoisted 5 of Maybe’s 7 sails and we barrelled north towards the ominous “Hells Mouth”. It would prove to be a trial by fire for the trainees as the ship rocked drastically in the choppy surf, it was only a lucky few who were unstricken by violent sea sickness! The trainees, however, soldiered on and brought maybe though tack after tack before finally arriving at our anchorage. The trainees hoped to find some respite once we dropped anchor but unfortunately Hells Mouth lived up to its name. What we thought would be a sheltered anchorage, turned out in fact to be a surf beach! As such, Maybe continued to rock and heel over throughout the night in the unrelenting chop.

After a rough night of broken sleep, the trainees shuffled from their bunks to the breakfast table but upon seeing the beautiful day that awaited them above deck, they quickly became energised. Before setting sail, Seb gathered the crew around the saloon table and we learned the chorus to the sea shanty “South Australia”. So off we set, the trainees hauled on the halliards hoisting the sails, as trainee Mark Mulvey led the crew in song and the rest of the trainees sang back in response, the chorus lines “Heave away! Haul away!… We’re bound for South Australia!” The wind on our backs, Maybe glided smoothly along and the trainees basked in the sun whilst keeping watch. The trainees broke out the guitar and ukuleles and sing songs at the wheelhouse ensued. By midday, we made anchorage at Porthdinllaen and launched the powerboat to be bring everybody ashore for a swim and a game of football on the beach. Coincidentally, just as we arrived ashore the RNLI station was about to conduct a training exercise so we were lucky enough to witness the dramatic launch of the Shannon class lifeboat from the launching ramp. Once back aboard Maybe, after dinner, the crew held an impromptu birthday party for trainee, Leonie Judge, with fairy lights, cake and ukulele serenading galore. After the party, the trainees were instructed to bring their sleeping bags and pillows on deck, whereupon the crew cut the lights and played calming music as the trainees cuddled together and gazed at the nights sky awash with stars.

The next day, the trainees were granted some R&R due to the lack of wind. So with packed lunches prepared, we set out to explore a bit of Porthdinllaen. As we strolled along the coast, we stopped for a while at a beachside bar/restaurant for ice creams and a musical interlude as the trainees entertained the other beachgoers with their singing and ukulele talents. After the leaving the beach, the trainees led the charge in search of a shop with such dogged determination that on might think that they were following the scent of the chocolate and treats that awaited them! After a successful hunt for the shop, we returned to the beach for some very animated games of rounders and some swimming as some of the more competitive trainees chased the long balls into the freezing water! An early curfew was issued as we would rise at 04:00 to set sail for Dunlaoghaire, however the trainees were more than happy to head to bed early after their fun filled but exhausting day ashore.

Much to the surprise of the crew, come 04:00 the trainees were bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to go (with the exception of one trainee who had to be risen with the aid of a supersaver!). After a quick breakfast it was all hands on deck to get to work on the tall order of raising the anchor and the sails in the dark. After a successful pilotage out of Porthdinllaen, the trainees broke up into their watches, working a two hours on/two hours off system. Once again the wind was on our back and as the trainees took turns on the helm, guiding us home to Ireland, they chatted excitedly whilst keeping watch and between making entries in the ships logbook. As we approached Ireland and entered Irish waters, the trainees gathered around the flag halliard and belted out a hearty rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann as the tricolour was raised. Upon reaching Dunlaoghaire the trainees put their knot tying skills to work as they fixed fenders and readied mooring lines. In the marina, the trainees excitedly cheered on a pair of dinghy sailors and a windsurfer who sailed to Maybe. After a short stop at Dunlaoghaire to fill up on water, we once again cast off our mooring lines and motored on the Dublin city’s north wall. Once tied up in the city, we had our final dinner as a crew and reminisced on our time together.

In the morning we had our final “happy hour” as we scrubbed Maybe top to bottom and as usual the trainees did not stop singing from start to finish. Then came time for the parents to come pick up their darling children who had in the space of five days, transformed into salty sea dogs! After many hugs and waves goodbye, the trainees stepped off Maybe, ready to set out on their next adventure.

As mentor of the voyage, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with all the trainees. The levels of enthusiasm and energy they brought aboard, were simply unparalleled. If they approach all their goals with the same mindset as they did this voyage, I’m sure they will have nothing but success on their life paths.