report by: Karen Wilson
Have you ever watched Pirates of the Caribbean and wished it was you? Well, that’s what I did whilst it was snowing in the UK last February. We were an international, mixed ability crew and we even got onto TV!
We were sailing the tall ship 'Tenacious’ and the crew certainly lived up to the ship’s name. There were no passengers on this ship and we even got to many of the same locations as the cruise liners. However the majestic sight of Tenacious with its square rigged sails looked stunning in the sunshine and the crew had fun sailing this ship around the Caribbean.
When we joined the ship we met the other crew, members including our buddies who helped us fully participate in the voyage, before we were briefed on the operation of the boat. We spent the first night safely docked in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua. The next morning we set sail and left the harbour moving into the Atlantic sea to follow where the winds took us on our journey. A few hours in and there were signs of seasickness in some of the crew but staring at the horizon, taking tablets or just throwing up seemed to get people straight. Once we had gained our sea legs and survived the winds we soon had to sleep off the jet lag and get up ready for our watch.
For three days and nights we were at sea. This got us used to life on board ship. The fun of the tall ship exceeded all my expectations as everyone had fun. We all took part in all the activities on board the ship to the best of our abilities: putting up the sails, climbing the rigging, watching for boats crossing our path, washing the decks, cleaning the cabins and even washing up the crockery. We did have the luxury of an on board cook that generated food from the depths of the ship and turned them into tasty meals. We all took turns in serving the meals, even whilst we were at sea in a force 6 wind. This required strong stature and good balance but only a few plates were broken and the plastic cups just bounced off the walls.
The gentle rocking of the waves helped get us to sleep whatever the time. However, it also challenged us when getting dressed in confined and moving space. One of the most enjoyable experiences was sailing at night under the moonlight accompanied by a pod of dolphins swimming with the ship and singing the crew to sleep under the moonlight.
The adventure took us from Antigua past a few volcanic islands of the Caribbean to Martinique. This was where the sailors became a bit more intrepid as we had to clamber down the 50m drop to a rib boat waiting to take us to our holiday island for the day. Some sailors who were wheelchair bound were winched, using the man power of the crew, to lower them still sat in their wheelchair to the small rib boat. The choppy trip meant that we all had to hold on to people and bags as we crossed the water to the island. Once landed on the wobbly jetty there was a need for a few helpful hands to stabilise those without their land legs to help them over the moving landing to get them to dry land. A couple a big waves made everyone extra careful so they didn’t get their shoes wet.
Martinique is an interesting French province that has a market, restaurants and bars amongst the shops and beach front. We were all pleased to reach dry land after three nights of sailing and wanted to stretch our legs. At one of the beach side restaurants we enjoyed our hearty Caribbean meal with a typical rum cocktail, unusual vegetables and flambéed pineapple dessert. This break was well deserved and greatly enjoyed. Like all good things we couldn’t stay on Martinique and we relayed back onto the ship. Once everyone was back on board, we enjoyed the balmy sunset as we munched on BBQ meats and salads to the sound of Caribbean reggae music. We chatted amongst our new friends into the night under the warm Caribbean moonlight.
The next day we headed off to another island of interest, Isle de Santé. Sailing through the night we arrived in the morning and disembarked using the rib boat to explore the island. It has a number of wonderful sandy beaches and a warm clear sea where you can swim with the fishes. Like Martinique there was a good selection of shops to buy gifts for those back home and beach side bars to forget about them too. This island was more set up for the tourist and the goods in some stores reflected the European chic. We made the most of the island and found a lovely harbour restaurant where we sat in the sun enjoying a long leisurely lunch before exploring the island. Here I got my toes wet and had a good time with friends. This island had previously been hit by an earthquake but there were few signs apart from the squashed church bell in the local museum. As the sun was setting the last crew member climbed aboard the ship for another great meal and a chance to try and catch the flying fish before we set sail and headed off again.
Sailing through the night was a magical experience. In the early hours of morning we were the only crew awake. The quiet of midnight and the stillness of our minds allowed us to notice that the ship was escorted by four magnificent whales under the full moon. It was a truly wonderful surprise.
After the over night journey we arrive at the harbour of Guadeloupe. This island was set up for running trips around the island to see the botanical gardens and a natural waterfall with a pool where you could swim amongst the rainforest. Getting into the tour bus was great as we were able to cover much of this island seeing the varied vegetation and landscapes. We even made a night of it finding a local restaurant for dinner with live lobsters waiting to be cooked.
One of the highlights of our voyage was climbing the 100 foot mast and surveying the beautiful harbour with azure sea. This activity was open to all abilities and during the assisted climbs, people in wheelchairs were hoisted aloft using a pulley system manned by the rest of the crew, The Guadeloupe TV crew arrived. The sight of wheelchairs suspended by a rope and many people climbing up the rigging was an unusual occurrence. The Guadeloupe TV reporter interviewed some of the crew and we spoke in our best French to explain the ethos of the ship They were interested to see such a mixed ability crew getting out there and overcoming any fear of heights to view the island from aloft, especially as the reporter had a fear of heights. and that night we made it onto the TV. This was great publicity for the Jubilee Sailing Trust.
For the last time on this voyage, we sailed overnight to arrive in Antigua in time to enjoy the beaches and see the sights before we shared our final evening meal together in a local restaurant. Then it was a case of packing up, cleaning the boat and returning home. Some people extended their holiday to relax in the sun but like all good things the holiday had to eventually end. If you would like to find out more about sailing on a tall ship please visit http://www.jst.org.uk/ and join the crew.