FRIDAY, APR. 13: The tall ship Tenacious sailed into Hamilton Harbour on Wednesday afternoon following a six-day Atlantic crossing from the Bahamas.
Tenacious is one of two tall ships from the Jubilee Sailing Trust that has been designed to cater for physically disadvantaged crew and allow them to work equally alongside the able bodied. Sarah Lagan caught up with two of the young crewmembers to talk about their ocean adventure.
As a wheelchair-user, Michael Cardoso is used to having to ask people to help him get around. But the tables were turned during his recent sailing trip aboard the tall ship Tenacious.
Part of a 50-strong crew that included many other physically disabled young people, he suddenly found himself being asked to assist others who had difficulties getting around.
The Bermudian Capital G worker described the experience as "empowering" and said he enjoyed being in an environment where he was perceived and treated the same as everybody else.
Also on board was British sailing enthusiast Gemma Wyatt, the granddaughter of Bermuda’s former Chief Justice Hector Barcilon. The 25-year-old nursing assistant’s voyage aboard Tenacious was her third sailing trip and she hopes to have many more.
Gemma was born prematurely at 29 weeks and suffered a brain haemorrhage that left her with learning difficulties. But her new-found passion has filled her with confidence and she says she would love to become a ship’s bosun or helmswoman.
Emerging from the ship with a beaming smile and upbeat demeanour, Michael, who lost the use of his legs after a bike accident in 2003, told the Bermuda Sun: "It was great, just being able to feel normal for once. I was just working with other people and they were not looking at the chair, they were not worried about it. Everybody’s just helping each other.
"I was helping other people who couldn’t necessarily move around the ship very well. It’s cool for somebody to finally ask me to help them — I’m always asking other people. It made me feel useful and normal — it was awesome. I’d never been on a sailing boat before — it was great — a once in a lifetime experience.
If I had the time I would do it again in a heartbeat."
Gemma Wyatt combined her passion for sailing with helping a good cause during this trip — she did a sponsored climb to the top of the 37m mast to raise money for the voyage organizers the Jubilee Sailing Trust. The Trust is the registered charity that promotes the integration of people of all physical abilities aboard Tenacious and a similar ship the Lord Nelson.
Gemma told the Bermuda Sun: "It was scary climbing up the mast because it was swaying about but I am raising lots of money — 237 pounds so far.
She added: "The trip was fantastic — we saw lots of dolphins near Nassau.
"I want to be a bosun on board of one of the ships — I love going up in the ropes and getting into it and mucking in. I’m not so scared going up there now. I’d also like to be a watch leader — it’s probably easier. I like steering the boat and pretending it’s my own boat.
"I just love the atmosphere and being out on the water, seeing the wildlife and meeting new people and making new friends."
Gemma is to continue sailing from Bermuda to Southampton, UK.
Tenacious and the Lord Nelson are the only two ships of their kind in the world designed in such a way that enables the physically challenged to work on an equal footing as the able-bodied from scrubbing the decks to working up in the sails.
Regardless of your ability levels, the permanent crew will encourage you that no job is beyond your ability.
Michael added: "We did everything that any other able bodied crew would do — cleaning the decks, polishing, pulling ropes and sails and helming the boats. I definitely liked the helming the best and the night watch because you can watch the stars and the moon — it’s beautiful and there’s no cell phones or communication.
"They will take you on and they will work with you and if they know you can’t do a certain thing they’ll let you do something else.
"I would tell anyone to do it for the team building experience we had a bunch of people who didn’t know anybody here and you work together to get the boat to the destination it’s awesome — I loved it."
Anyone interested in sailing aboard Tenacious or the Lord Nelson can find out more by visiting www.jst.org.uk or by calling (UK) 023-8044-9138. Tall Ships Bermuda provides financial assistance to young Bermudians aged 17 to 25 who are interested in sailing on a tall ship. For more information, visit: www.tallshipsbermuda.com, or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.