Sailing with Jubilee Sailing Trust on Lord Nelson this summer has to be the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. I was challenged in every single way, I made friends for life and I achieved things I never ever thought possible. Every day brought a new challenge. Whether it was hauling on ropes and dealing with rope burn or working in the kitchen on ‘Mess Duty’ or just trying to make it through the day on very little sleep. I remember the second day on board; we got the opportunity to climb the mast. I knew I had to do it, deep down, I knew I’d regret it completely if I didn’t. However, when I got up to the part where you slant backwards, I had a massive panic attack. It took me a few minutes to calm down. But in the end I somehow actually managed to get up (I was too short to reach like everyone else!). The feeling of accomplishment was one like no other! I had never felt so gut wrenchingly nervous and proud at the same time. I’m pretty sure I’ve never made the faces I made getting up there (not even in the gym) and I’ve never felt the adrenaline I felt at that point ever in my entire life and I’ve done the leap of faith at an adventure centre!
Jubilee Sailing Trust
Lord Nelson Voyage
I fell off a wall at the age of 16 and broke my neck at C4/C5 level. As a result, I’m paralysed from the chest down with no use of my hands and limited use of my arms. My disability was one of a whole host of reasons why I was both excited but also nervous about joining a Jubilee Sailing Trust voyage. I had heard of the JST but had never had the motivation or finance to get up and apply for one, until, one day while at work I received an email stating that Spinal Injuries Ireland and Sail Training Ireland were offering a bursary for a voyage. I have an attitude of “never let an opportunity pass you by” so I applied and to my surprise and great delight I was successful!
I was excited because I wanted to work on an accessible Tall Ship, alongside crew mates whether able-bodied or not, where your best is expected from you and on an accessible Tall Ship where the focus was not on the word disability anymore but on the word ability.
While I was unable to assist in any great way with pulling ropes for bracing or hoisting sails (I wished I had my power chair at times to show exactly what I could do) I was still required to learn about the ropes and sails and sometimes remind those pulling as to which rope was which, to carry out all watches (where I watched out for anything in our path other than water) and to work in the galley (or kitchen) drying dishes for Chef Simon and his assistant Roxie.
I joined the JST voyage for another very personal reason, recently I passed the point at which I am now using a wheelchair longer than I had been walking. I was 16 when I had my accident, now I am 32 and enough months to mean I’ve rolled around on this planet for longer than I had walked on it. There have been different points since my accident where I have realised, like a puppy, it’s not just for Christmas it’s for life. This has been one of those points. I had hoped that a voyage on the JST would help to prove to myself that there’s still life in the old dog yet! That was in my mind as I sat on the first platform midway through my assisted climb on Lord Nelson’s main mast. I sat there chatting with Nick and DD, two members of the permanent crew and enjoying the beautiful views of La Gomera and Lanzarote in the distance and realised that I have probably achieved and done more in those sixteen “disabled” years than I ever would have, had I not had my accident, and that I have many, many more adventures yet to come.
I must express my deepest appreciation to Spinal Injuries Ireland and Sail Training Ireland. Without that email that kicked me into action and more importantly, without the financial support of an Irish Cruising Club Bursary for me and Anna to join a voyage, I never would have had an unforgettable experience!
ICC Bursary Recipient
Tall Ship: Lord Nelson (JST)
I’d start off on how I was feeling before I went on this voyage. Before the journey I was very narrow minded and my confidence level was fairly low. I was never really into travelling especially out on a sailing boat as big as the “Gulden Leeuw” Tall Ship. I have to say when I was asked to do this, I was quite nervous and excited at the same time, I had no idea of what the journey would entail.
But once I got on the boat, I got to know the other trainees on board, I started to come into my comfort zone and made a lot of new friends which I think will last for life. The bond we formed together was unbelievable because at the end of the day we ate, slept, cooked and worked together and, most of all, had to look out for each other as much as ourselves. I would encourage any youth to try an experience an adventure like this.
The jobs on the ship were pretty hard but that’s all part of the trip, it’s far from a holiday, it’s working and training to sail a Tall Ship and it’s a lot of work at times. At some stages on the ship, the trainees were in control totally which I think was an amazing experience. All of the time there had to be a group of trainees on the bridge steering, looking out, navigating and operating as deck hands and always a watch leader which every trainee got the chance to do.
This job entails making sure everybody is doing what they are supposed to do, for me being the watch leader made my confidence a lot stronger because I have never been in a leadership role. At times, I really missed home because I’ve a six-year old son who I missed a lot and it was my first time being away from him for that long since he was born so that was tough.
Getting to know the ins and outs of the ship was amazing, climbing the masts, being involved in the engine room and cooking for over 40 people at a time was quite a challenge but it’s all part of the teamwork and team building. This journey for me opened the door to show me what’s out there, not just my estate or my area, sailing across the Irish Sea was the best adventure I could have ever asked for and please God next year I will be able to go back.
When I got home my confidence level was very high and I’m trying to keep it that way, keep the motivation going, getting out a lot more and making new friends all the time. The trip worked wonders for me and I’m sure it did for the other 33 trainees on board. I would like to thank the crew of the “Gulden Leeuw”, “Carp” and Sail Training Ireland for making this an experience of a lifetime.
Killinarden, Tallaght, Dublin