Welcome from the crew of the British barque Tenacious. Many of you will have seen the ship taking part in the Tall Ship events, but just in case you are unfamiliar with her, here is a little background information that will make it clear to you why Tenacious and her sister barque, Lord Nelson are so unique.
Both vessels are owned and operated by a British trust, The Jubilee Sailing Trust (JST). The aims of the Trust are to enable adults of any age, sailing experience and fitness to sail together as crew on either ship. The ships were especially constructed with disabled and wheelchair users in mind,. Tenacious has accommodation for up to 8 wheelchair users in 2 berth cabins, the second bunk is for a “buddy” who has volunteered to assist the “wheelie” if required. These special features include lifts, specialised toilets, shower and washing facilities. There are 4 of these units amidships on each side of the ship. The steering position has the normal compass, together with a large LSD compass for the partially sighted, and a speaking compass for blind crewmen. Wheelies have a special seat to which they can transfer in order to steer. If the wheelie cannot be transferred, a joystick is provided. This is operated by the wheelie while seated in his or her wheelchair.
As well as the permanent members of the ship’s crew, each voyage has up to 40 “voyage crew”, and trips usually last from 7 to 10 days.
Although this a little out of sequence, it is an example of what can happen as the result of just one taster voyage with JST. Ned, who was born in Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight on 26th November 1984, took his first voyage with JST in 2003 as Voyage Crew. He enjoyed it so much that he made repeated voyages and gained enough experience to be promoted to Bosun’s Mate. This led to him enrolling at the Warsash Maritime Academy, near Southampton, where he qualified as a professional seaman.
When we were sailing West through the Mediterranean, radio contact was made with the new Cunard cruise ship Queen Victoria. Her Second mate is the same Ned who had started his career with JST in 2003. Now at the age of 28, he is second officer on that magnificent ship. The Queen Victoria was making her way East and the result of the radio message, was a close pass between the sailing barque Tenacious and the cruise ship Queen Victoria. Both vessels sounding their sirens, but it must be admitted that the Tenacious siren did sound just a little puny in comparison with the Queen’s beautiful double bass boom. Her decks were lined with passengers furiously taking photographs of and probably looking appalled at the thought of sailing on Tenacious. We, on the other hand, looked up at the passengers with disdain and pity, because they were not real sailors.
Our present voyage from Lavrion to Antwerp is the longest single voyage that Tenacious has undertaken, both in distance and time without a voyage crew change.
One this particular voyage we do not have a full voyage crew, only 24 people, which does make for a lot of work and not too much sleep. In the voyage crew we have 2 wheelies, 2 voyage crew member over 80 years old, and 5 in their 70’s, some youngsters in their middle years and five Bosun’s Mates who assist the Bosun by carrying out the repairs etc which are a never ending feature of Tall Ship sailing. Lastly, we have 7 cadets, nicknamed “gadgets”. They are with us for 1 voyage as part of their university maritime studies degree.
Now that you know a little of Tenacious and how she works, I can start on the story of our passage from Lavrion toward Antwerp. In common with the other tall ships on the same passage, Tenacious has suffered greatly from a lack of wind. The Captain has tried valiantly to find winds by sailing close to shore in the hope of picking up sea or shore breezes. Even the normally reliable Atlantic winds let us down, even after sailing half way to The Azores in the hope of catching the Azores High Pressure System it did not pay off this time.
In spite of the lack of wind, we have had some good and interesting calls at Malta and Gibraltar. The entry into Valletta Grand Harbour must be one of the most interesting in Europe. It was taken by the Knights of St John, who built massive fortifications that tower over the harbour, and which are maintained in a very high standard of repair even today, as a major tourist attraction. It also helps when the local people are friendly and that is certainly the case in Malta. From Malta we went North-west to follow the Southern coast of Sicily, as I mentioned earlier, in the hope of catching a land breeze. We passed the Southern tip of Sardinia and on to the Balearic Islands, sailing South of Majorca and the other Islands, but still with very little wind. Tenacious crossed to the coast of Spain. Here we turned South and followed the coast all the way down to Gibraltar. The scenery along the Spanish coast was really beautiful, with the mountains of the hinterland appearing and disappearing in the heat haze.
Gibraltar is changing very rapidly, with block after block of apartments springing up along the shore line, the only flat ground available for development. The apes, however are flourishing at the top of the rock, In spite of all the notices warning against carrying plastic bags, one young girl
ignored the warning and was attacked by one ape and as she fell to the ground several other apes rapidly arrived and joined in the tug of war for possession of her plastic bag. The girl had the sense to let go and the apes made off with the bag and as they did so a plastic bottle of water fell out. Luckily, that was the only item in the bag.
It was not until we crossed the European Continental Shelf that some useful wind appeared. The ship set sail and headed for Cork in Southern Ireland. As the ship closed with the Fastnet Rock, the wind started to rise with force 7 touching 8 forecast by the Coast Guard stations. Tenacious was on a lee shore. A course was set 10 miles out to sea and the ship flew along parallel to the coast in an easterly direction. It had been arranged by radio with the Cork pilots that the ship would be off the Pilot Station at 0800. A very wet, foggy and bumpy night was experienced before the ship passed between the headlands into the sheltered river estuary. And after picking up the pilot a very pleasant trip up the river to the City of Cork followed.
Only a 24 hour break here and the crew made the most of it. I think that everybody is aware that Guinness is the national beverage of Ireland. The crew can confirm that it is a very pleasant beverage, especially when consumed in a restaurant with a good meal from a table that does not move about.
After leaving Cork we had a stiff force 6 to 7 South Westerly. Exactly the wind needed for this part of the trip, heading for most South-Westerly tip of Britain, Lands End, then up the English Channel to Cowes, on the Isle of Wight. Here the ship had a meeting with officials who gave the ship her 5 year fitness examination. After a 2 night stay in Cowes, Tenacious set sail on the final part of our long and mainly windless passage to Antwerp on the morning of the 8th July.
The crew of Tenacious are looking forward with keen anticipation to our visit to Antwerp. We are confident that the City of Antwerp and its people, will make the Tall Ships Fleet very welcome and ensure that our visit will be a memorable one.
Sadly, the present Voyage Crew will be leaving Tenacious and a younger, fitter team will be taking over for the first leg of the race. The present crew wish them both luck and success. These wishes extend to the rest of the fleet, but of course, with not quite as much success as Tenacious.
Mac Price – Resting Watchleader.