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Tall Ships search for new sailors

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A tall ship trainee ventures aloft to work on the sails.

Learning about maritime traditions, setting leadership challenges and seeing the world are all reasons former sail trainees have given for deciding to embark on their tall ships voyage.

Organisers of the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta taking place in Bermuda this year is hunting for potential sail trainees to help make the event a success while former sail trainees have shared their experiences in the hope that it will inspire others to hop aboard in the summer.

Erin Greig, Stephan Johnstone and Alexa Manuel have all spoken of the life changing experiences they had which in Erin’s case even led her to pursue a career on the Tall Ships Bermuda 2017 and the Sail Training Association of Bermuda are looking for adventurous adults to train on any of the ships participating and on any of the many legs of the transatlantic journey, which begins in Greenwich, Britain, on April 13, 2017 and ends in Le Havre, France, on September 3. As well as stopping in Bermuda from June 1 to 5, the race will call at ports in Portugal, Boston, the Gulf of St Lawrence and Quebec City.

All manner of events are planned for early June, including tours aboard the ships.

Organisers are also looking for volunteers to help out in the run-up to and during the event. There are opportunities for liaison and information officers, drivers and boat captains among others.

• Anyone interested in getting involved in sail training or volunteering can e-mail hello@tallships.bm or call 296-2238. For more information, visit the website at www.tallshipsbermuda.com or visit the Facebook page tallshipsbermuda.

Erin Greig was inspired by her experience sailing on tall ships to pursue a career on the ocean and she is hoping to eventually attain her Master Mariner qualification. She first joined as part of the high school at sea programme Class Afloat and five years on she is enrolled at Warsash Academy studying for her unlimited Officer of the Water licence. In 2007 she joined her ship in Denmark and sailed across the Atlantic three times going across to South America and West Africa before finishing up in Nova Scotia, Canada June 2008.

She said: “I was initially inspired by other Bermudians who had done this experience ahead of me. At that age (17) I had a voracious appetite to see the world, every country and every culture fascinated me. I knew nothing of sailing; to me at the time the ship just seems like a vessel to take me to multiple countries.

“I quickly realised that the ship was so much more than a means of transportation. A community is quickly developed. Together we became ecstatic at setting sail and earning more responsibilities on board. We went through so many emotional highs and lows together that many of these people I spent time with I still consider great friends. I also learnt the power of solitude, which may surprise some given that we were constantly surrounded by fifty people not more than 180ft apart. However, the ocean is an incredibly humbling being, you are encouraged by the vastness to really contemplate your part in the world and what matters to you.

“My memories are endless. The programmes on board are designed to engage you as much as possible with the running of the ship, you become a crew member, not a passenger, and that impact is something that takes time, even years later to really come to the surface. How being a cog in this machine is the only way we can make this small object cross vast oceans and how your shipmates are relying on you while they are sleeping are all experiences that can fundamentally shape you.

“Sailing does not have to be your thing to reap the tremendous rewards that are given when you commit to such an experience. Now more than ever community and understanding human interactions is getting harder and harder for our youth to understand because of social media. It’s not their fault but rewards of dependency given to more and more time being connected to a virtual reality rather than a true reality is the entire game they are up against.

“I strongly encourage anyone who wants to disconnect with that and try connecting with themselves to give this a go. It’s an incredible confidence booster seeing what you are capable of. You may come across bad weather, you may feel ill, you may be exhausted but if those reasons don’t dissuade you then you are a perfect candidate for a tall ship experience.”

Stephan Johnstone sailed the Polish ship Dar Mlodziezy in 2000 from Boston to Halifax as he was interested in being a boat pilot and it was the perfect opportunity to gain some sea experience. He said: “I learnt a lot about teamwork and how the crew act as one unit when sailing the boat. Also I learnt a little bit about the Polish. Previous to this I had never met anyone from Poland.

“One night the fog was so thick you could hold your hand out in front of you and it would be hard to see. The sea was also very rough that night and me and a few other Bermudians had walked up to the bow/front of the ship and when it dropped down in to a wave I swear we were free falling for 20 seconds and when the boat came back up our knees were in our chest.

“I was very open to any new experience so anything new I was willing to take on. There was, however, one morning they severed us some sort of mystery meat [haha] … It didn’t look like anything I had seen before and wasn’t ready to take on that challenge!

“If you are in to sailing or any kind of boating or just looking for an adventure it is a one of a kind experience that you will live to tell about for the rest of your life. You may even find things about yourself that you didn’t know. In the end I didn’t end up being a boat pilot but at the end of my trip I had purchased a scanner in Halifax and long story short I fell in love with Scanning and manipulating images. Sixteen years later I am a full-time professional graphic designer.”

Alexa Manuel joined the Dutch tall ship Gulden Leuuw back in 2015 as part of the Class Afloat for high school and university students to learn through experience. During her nine month trip she was able to take in 19 ports including Amsterdam, Portugal, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Namibia, and Barbados.

She said of her journey: “It was an opportunity to travel the world, to experience a completely different lifestyle and get out of my comfort zone. I wanted to challenge myself to do something different, something that most people don’t even consider doing.

“I took away a new perspective. It definitely changed me for the better. Living in such a small space, with limited sleep and sometimes intense situations, you learn you have to work together to keep the ship sailing, teamwork is the number one rule. Sailing in the open ocean, there is no wi-fi, no interference from the outside world, it allowed a lot of time for reflection and self-growth. I also had opportunities to test my leadership skills and learnt a lot of maritime theory.

“Some of my best memories were spent aloft, on the yards reaching up to roughly 125ft high. There is where I spent a good portion of time working in solitude or with others, taking in amazing views of the ocean. It is also where I overcame some of my greatest challenges; which seemed much more intense when I was so high up. Distinct memories also include the many encounters with wildlife such as: various species of whales, dolphins and fish. There is nothing like seeing animals in their wild habitat. It strengthened my respect for the ocean and animals that live in it. The best memories, however, were the moments spent with the crew that can only be experienced by the people who are there; you form a bond unlike anything you could imagine.

“Galley duty would have to have been my least favourite part of the tall-ship lifestyle. It is a rotation that means everyone does their part in the galley, preparing and cleaning up for all of the crew meals. It doesn’t sound so bad, but when you have to clean 60 plus dishes, it can be a lot of work.

“I would encourage everyone to take part in an experience like this. No matter how little sailing experience you have, no matter your age, challenge yourself. It will have a much larger impact on you than ever expected. Anyone who has sailed on a tall ship knows that there aren’t words that can describe the experience, the only way to truly understand it is to experience it for yourself.”

Alexa Manuel pictured at the back of the line during her Class Afloat experience on the Dutch tall ship Gulden Leuuw in 2015.
Alexa Manuel's pictured her colleagues at work during her 2015 tall ship sailing experience.
Alexa Manuel recalled seeing dolphins and whales during her 2015 sail training experience.
Sailors climb the masts during Erin Greig's tall ships journey.
The Picton Castle which Erin Greig has worked abroad.
Erin Greig pictured with fellow sail trainee Dkembe Dill aboard the Picton Castle.
Working as a team is one of the lessons that many learn while sail training.
Stephan Johnstone is dwarfed by the sails of the Polish ship Dar Mlodziezy in 2000.
Stephan Johsntone, far right, with fellow sail trainees.
Stephan Johnstone and other sail trainees aboard the Dar Mlodziezy.