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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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