Monday, 23 January 2017

JST Adventure Part 1 - Setting Sail

The Jubilee Sailing Trust was set up in the 1970's to enable both disabled and able bodied crew to sail together on a specially designed tall ship. STS Lord Nelson was specially commissioned and built through the efforts of an amazing, dedicated team and took her maiden voyage in 1986. Demand for berth on voyages soon outstripped supply and a second ship STS Tenacious was commissioned in 2000. Both ships have traveled the globe and Tenacious is currently in the Southern hemisphere and based in Australia and New Zealand until her return to the UK in 2018.

I had the privilege of sailing on Tenacious many years ago setting out from Southampton, crossing the Channel, up the River Seine to Rouen and back to St Catherine's dock in the City of London. An amazing experience, which I hoped to repeat one day.

STS Lord Nelson and STS Tenacious
Images from JST website
A number of events last year prompted me to decide that now was the time to have another adventure. Plans were put in place and I booked a berth on a voyage from Gran Canaria to Madeira, back to Gran Canaria in January this year. To say I was a little nervous would be a gross understatement, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.  

I have split my adventure as it is rather heavy on photographs. Some of the pictures are mine and others were taken by other members of the crew.  

All Crew 

The crew is made up of the 8 Permanent Crew (PC) who are all professionals together with 3 volunteers who are all experienced; Voyage Crew (VC) like me, come from a wide background with a range of abilities and disabilities. There were 3 wheelchair users, visually and hearing impaired and other members with a variety of medical conditions in our crew. Everyone has a "buddy", looks out for everyone else and contributes to the best of their ability.  It is a remarkable ethos and would make an excellent blueprint for a fully integrated, inclusive society.

My Watch Group, Forward Port, with one member missing who was in her bunk at the time!

The Voyage Crew are split into a 4 Watch system of Forward Port, Forward Starboard, Aft Port and Aft Starboard. Everyone has a Watch card which indicates when they are on duty.

My slightly battered Watch Card

January 6th 2017 arrive at Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

Lord Nelson is ready and waiting for her new Voyage Crew. 
The next few hours were spent meeting everyone, finding bunks, sorting luggage and equipment being distributed. Everyone is given a set of Oilskins, wellies and harness. After dinner and a briefing most people retired to their bunk to rest ready for the next day.

On Monday morning crew and watch group photos (above) were taken and Captain Chris briefed us on the journey ahead, which was described as 'interesting' owing to the unusual winds being experienced around the Canary Islands at the time. Drills took place involving lifejackets, immersion suits, evacuation drill, rope handling and muster stations. All essential before a sea voyage. 

FP Muster station

Those fit and brave enough took part in unassisted climbing of the rigging. A square rigged tall ship needs people to be aloft during sail changes.

Going Aloft

Venturing out onto the yardarms
By 17.00hrs it was time to leave Gran Canaria and begin our voyage.

Everyone ready to haul the ropes to bring the gangway aboard

View from the DOTTI boat

The DOTTI boat (ship's dingy) is launched and ensures Lord Nelson leaves the harbour safely along with the Pilot boat.

The predicted winds soon begin to make themselves felt with a strong swell and several people had to retire swiftly to their bunks with essential bags. Part of the briefing had been dedicated to the use and disposal of said bags, the most important being check wind direction before casting into the sea!

Sails were set and the voyage was underway.

Although I felt unwell for about 12 hours I was fortunate not to be sick and quickly began to enjoy the journey and the thrill of sailing again.  There is something very special about being on night watch, a sky full of stars and the moon reflecting on the water. We were under full sail reaching 8+ knots. Magical.

(Full sail in daylight)

Being on boat in a wheelchair was a new and sometimes exciting experience. A sailing boat by its nature is constantly moving and changing angle, which can make moving around on foot tricky but is a whole new ball game in a wheelchair. There were a number of times I slithered sideways across the deck, particularly if it was wet and the PC quickly provided me with deck clamps so I could be anchored to the deck. A interesting feeling being clamped down to your very own buckaroo.

There were magical skies at dawn and dusk during our passage.

On Day 4 we got our first glimpse of Madeira

This came as a huge relief to those members of the VC who were still suffering the effects of sea sickness.

Hopes for terra ferma were soon dashed however, because as we approached the island the winds freshened and the swell increased. Our watch were on duty and on the Bridge as we made for the harbour. Captain Chris and Pickles the Engineer took over the helm and all hands were called to deck to get the sails down and yardarms braced. As I was clamped to the Port side of the Bridge at the time it was decided it would be safer to leave me there than trying to unclamp and take me down to deck level. This meant I had a ringside seat while our Captain tried to take us into Funchal harbour in 30-40 knots of wind and a 2-3 metre swell. Like being on a big dipper with spray and waves. Captain Chris decided it was too dangerous and turned Lord Nelson away from Madeira and headed for the Ilhas Desertas. Three unihabited islands to the southeast of Madeira.  We sheltered there until the early hours of the following morning when we finally made our way into Funchal harbour in calm seas. 

A very welcome sight for a number of the crew.

To be continued with Adventure on Madeira.

Photographs from BM, Bob, Allan, Ken, Tony, Mike, Sam and Anne 


  1. What an amazing adventure you have had, looking forward to reading more and viewing more spectacular photos. xx

    1. It was quite remarkable Jan and very enjoyable.

  2. Wow! That was a fabulous post, I really enjoyed reading it and you can tell how much you enjoyed your adventure. I'm looking forward to the next instalment! xx

    1. Thank you, Christine. It was a great trip and I'm pleased to know my enjoyment has come through in the post.

  3. Such a great adventure, I am now looking forward to the next instalment.

  4. That sounds amazing Anne... What an adventure! I'm not a very good sailor so not sure I'd have the stomach for it.

    1. It was quite a "bouncy" trip and several people did suffer rather a lot and were pleased reach land at the end of the voyage.

  5. Wow, what a wonderful time you had!!! It is so great that so many different people can meet and all be doing the same thing together and looking out for each other too. The idea of sliding around on the deck doesn't appeal to me at all, I think you were incredibly brave!!!

    1. JST have a wonderful ethos and the Professional Crew are amazing. Sliding across the deck was quite scary and not just for me as I was in danger of crashing into others too!


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