Well it was always going to be an adventure! Forty guiders, clad in pink drill shirts, neckers and huge smiles, out on the open seas to man the 'first all female crew' in the Tall Ships race 2008.
They represented the JST & GGUK in the crew parade in Liverpool with pride and soon got to meet some of the crew members from the other ships. All the ships looked glorious with their dress flags on display and seemed to bring Liverpool and its surrounding areas to a halt. The crowds stood several people deep and extended right along the Mersey for the parade of sail - a spectacular sight. And so it was that 40 women all with the Girl Guiders UK in common (except the permanent crew who all had tales of not making it past Brownies, if at all!) boarded the Lord Nelson to settle in for the coming fifteen days. The JST had taken great pains to ensure that the girls complement would be made up of female deck officers, bosun, engineers, medical purser, cook and the Lord Nelson's own Captain Clare.
We set out for a sedate sail/motor to Northern Ireland, anchoring off Port Stewart and the race start point - in which time the guiders had the chance to learn the ropes, brace yards and set sails and something of the ships routine - this was not all plain sailing (whoever called it 'plain'?). We have had a number of nights where the fog has enveloped us and the watertight doors have had to be closed. One guider did her evening round to check all the girls 'loin' cloths (lee cloths) were up! There were some mornings were the 'alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic' song seemed to be accompanied by something of an apparition but the watches soon got used to the early mornings and the luxury of lying in until 0730hrs and quiet time during the afternoons. On race day, the Lord Nelson was amongst the Class A ships and was one of the first to make it across the start line - with the familiar voice of Steve Higgs (Mate on JST's Tenacious) coming over the radio periodically to keep us updated on our position. We kept the company of several ships, who in full sail meant many spectacular photo opportunities too. We really did feel very lucky to be amongst them. We were also able to get a close sighting of a minke whale and several dolphins, gannets, skua's, and kittiwakes who seemed to enjoy our company, possibly bemused by the vision of so many girls at sea! Two mackerel were also caught off the stern platform and cookie Wendy duly cooked them for breakfast for the happy fisherwomen. The guiders have also been treated to talks on weather, engineering, and a most eagerly awaited one on buoys - well in fact it was buoyage - but hey, who was going to spoil the fun?!
There were many other rare scenes on board during the voyage including the mass waxing of legs and eyebrows in the bar one evening - which was suddenly interrupted by the 'all hands' cry and from which there emerged some rather surprised(!) looking individuals declaring ' but I've only had one eyebrow done!' Each evening there has been a growing collection of duvets in the bar with their respective pajama -clad owners complete with 'ted' - all for the bedtime story read to us by chief engineer Jenny.
From our start point off the coast of Northern Ireland, we have sailed
Up the Sea of Hebrides between the Outer and Inner Hebrides, on up the Minch and across the top of Orkney. We sailed a further 120miles to the north of Shetland and the Faeroe Islands and are now heading in an easterly direction towards our destination of Maloy in Norway.
Update By: Medical Purser Rachel