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Tag Archives: sailing

Tall Ship Chronicles

A FaceBook member of a sailing group posted that the first eight episodes of this series had been released on Amazon Prime. Hmm, might be interesting to watch life aboard another ship, curiosity had me tapping play.

The premise is Andrew Younghusband (a Canadian actor and broadcaster) joins the 3-masted barque Picton Castle as volunteer crew for the 19-month around the world voyage. Along with his film crew of one, they document life on board, their fellow crew and places visited on this sail training expedition. This series covers leaving Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, heading south to the Panama Canal, and across the South Pacific to Vanuatu.

Bearing in mind it was filmed in late 2000 and across 2001 I was prepared for it to feel a bit dated and the clarity of filming not crisp, but I was not prepared for the lack of informative content and blatant lack of continuity in editing. It had an amateurish feel to what was supposed to be a professional production. You would imagine the first episode or two would tell you about the ship, it’s routine, the watch routine, the victualling and feeding the crew, maybe an introduction to some of the equipment, methods of rope handling and knots and what a job title means (Bosun, lead mate, etc). Sadly all that was missing or skimmed over in a throw away comment.

Considering they left snowy Canada in November within minutes the crew were seen clad in t-shirts and shorts. There was no way to perceive the passage of time, not even a little ‘day ?’ type logo in the corner.

By episode three you begin to recognise characters and can see that after a significant number of weeks, personalities within this isolated, confined bubble are gelling, cliquing and romances are developing. People become comfortable with each other, whilst remaining comparative strangers, many not knowing whether their fellow crew member is married or single, their day job, or much about their past, but willingly share clothing, shampoo, hugs and thoughts.

There were also one or two surprise reactions, sailing is not a democracy and cannot be done by committee, there has to be a leader and that leader is always the Captain. Living on a vessel that is moving constantly, through weather that is ever changing, people’s action or inaction can have a dramatic consequence. As learning crew you will get corrected and criticised for things not done ‘the ship’s way’, laziness or apathy along with sassy sarcasm quickly becomes not tolerated. Some people became resentful of being told how to do something they felt they are doing correctly and begrudged what felt like working in a dictatorship, especially when you’ve paid a lot of money to be there. But that’s the nature of the beast.

It was interesting to see how they all pulled together, how actions became instinctive, the perilous become normalised and whether they all realised it or not, they were learning a lot about sailing, the world and getting along with people. It reminded me of my first voyage how the ship became our complete world.

I think I was looking to come away from the eight episodes entertained by things that happened, having learnt about areas of the globe, reminded of some of the sailing language I had forgotten, and intrigued by the characters. It felt like an opportunity missed with how the programme was edited together – still it was heaps better than things like Big Brother and TOWIE.

There is one thing that has left me hanging and will likely never know the answer to, there was a twelve year old onboard (without his parents too), I wonder what life was like for Sloan when he returned home and started high school, and how is life eighteen years on.

There are another eight episodes to complete the series but with no idea when or if Amazon Prime will drop them, I might have to see if YouTube has them.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2020 in Films, Review

 

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Fair Winds Following Seas – Farewell Friend

I’m saying good bye to another old friend, a tangible piece of my life’s adventure.

The Jubilee Sailing Trust operates two tall ships that are designed to accommodate many forms of disability, not only things like deafness and sight impaired, but also stroke victims, amputees, wheelchair users and mental health sufferers. We are all involved within the watch rota to sail the ships and keep them shipshape. Across her thirty year history STS Lord Nelson known as “Nellie”, has circumnavigated the globe, chased icebergs, clipped the Bermuda Triangle, tamed the China Seas, she has raced as part of the tall ship fleets and been the floating ambassador and has touched hundreds of thousands of mixed ability lives for the better.

A family friend passed a brochure to me in the eighties and I had toyed with the idea of running away to sea, so when Nellie visited my home port I secretly took myself off, explored her and spoke to a volunteer crew member, over a mug of hot tea and freshly baked cake we chatted, mused, discussed and laughed. After that I made up my mind to throw myself fully into this once-in-a-lifetime-never-to-repeat adventure and booked a four-week passage from Southampton to Gran Canaria via Lisbon.

The experience was nerve wracking, exhilarating, daunting, engaging, challenging, educational, but filled with hilarity, congeniality, and above all else, equality. We were just a bunch of people sailing together. I enjoyed myself so much that I repeated the experience another two times on Nellie before my last voyage on the sister ship Tenacious. The atmosphere and camaraderie onboard is indescribable and so special. It’s where I learnt to tie a bona fide hangman’s noose, take down the shipping forecast, complete obs for the Met Office. I’ve hauled ropes, peeled potatoes, polished brass, coiled ropes, swabbed decks, scrubbed toilets, pulled ropes, brewed tea, repaired flags, and messed about with ropes. I’ve been man handled, hauled, shoved, shifted, and tied down, I’ve laughed until I cried and cried until I laughed; I’ve helmed, watched, hauled, radioed, taught navigation rhymes, learnt a bewildering language of terms and created a few specific to Nellie and many other such useful/less life skills. I even have a qualification, the Department of Transport Steering Competency (sailing) Certificate from time at the helm before the mast. I’ve made friends I still keep in touch with. I’ve had conversations and shared experiences (like being at the helm when we were struck by lightning, playing with dolphins, counting shooting stars). There are anecdotes galore, not all repeatable in polite company.

Recently the Trust has been forced to look hard at its future running. A promised significant donation from a business source failed to materialise resulting in the Trust nearly folding (we raised £1 million in a week to save it). Subsequently the decision has been sadly made to decommission Nellie.

I kept a detailed diary, my (dis)abled seapersons twig (as opposed to captains log) for two of my voyages are on my website www.amgroves.com It’s on my list to add the others.

It is unknown what her next adventure will be, but I wish her fair winds and following seas, as we salty dog types say; and another piece of my heart is broken and another tear will fall.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2019 in In The News, Life, people, Projects, Website

 

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Remembrance


As per my tradition, I always watch the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance and the Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph.  It is important to remember and reflect the sacrifices, trials and hardships of these two most gruesome of wars.  Whilst I am humbled and thankful to all those men and women who chose and still choose our amazing armed forces as a career path, I always specifically think about the hundreds and thousands of people who were conscripted to join the war effort, those who during war time volunteered to join, ordinary people who didn’t have a tantrum of ‘it’s not fair’, who didn’t have the modern day selfish, I’m owed privilege, but with pride, patriotism and sense of duty went to defend their way of life, and our future.

As I watch ‘the old guard’ march past the Cenotaph, I remember the remembrance service I stood at in November 1994.  I cannot tell you where I was, because I was standing at the bow of STS Lord Nelson as Captain John Fisher led us.  My voyage was in its second week, so likely just off the coast of Portugal.  As we sailed the Atlantic Coast with the sun shining around the white clouds, as we crested the rolling waves, my buddy and I trying not to burst into giggles at the thought of a crashing wave washing the foredeck at the bowsprit.  Trying to keep to the tune and timing of “those in peril on the sea” hymn without any accompaniment.  Quite poignant and moving to be so isolated on the vest ocean, yet knowing such services were taking part all over the globe.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2018 in General, In The News, Life, people

 

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