On Sunday 23rd June 2013, the Royal Naval Cadets from Selly Oak Trust School started our journey to Portsmouth to take part in The Tall Ships Expedition. Selly Oak Trust School is a school for pupils with moderate learning difficulties and it is the biggest school of its kind in the UK and also rumoured to be the largest in Europe. It is the only school for students with learning difficulties in the UK which has its own combined cadet force unit. The five day expedition was to sail to four different coastal locations, including the Isle of Wight, Weymouth and Poole. Our team consisted of ten cadets, two teachers and three sailing experts.
Our Challenger 4 yacht was called ‘David Goodwin’. At Portsmouth our first task was to get to know the skipper and first mate. They told us the rules and regulations of working on a Tall Ship. We explored what would be our home for the next five days and four nights. We learnt that the yacht was only 72ft long and 21ft wide! To help improve our independent living skills we even had to do all the cooking and cleaning.
Our first challenge was to prepare the yacht and ourselves for sailing to Cowes on the Isle of Wight. We all had to be properly equipped with the correct safety gear, life jacket with harness and waterproof clothing. During the journey we each took turns to helm/steer the yacht. Some of us found this difficult but persevered. We got a great taste of life at sea, arriving at our destination feeling proud!
After an early start the next day we began our 50 miles sail to Weymouth. This was our most challenging day. Unexpected strong winds and high waves made us work harder to sail the yacht. Balancing on deck whilst winching the sails in the correct direction was really challenging. Some of our team suffered sea sickness and still felt ill when we had arrived at Weymouth. We learnt the vicious power of the sea. We spent the evening enjoying lovely Weymouth.
On our third day we sailed to Poole and were able to relax, enjoy the sunshine and surroundings. The sea was calm and our journey was easier. We got to know each other a lot more by playing communication games and sharing new information about ourselves. We also practised hoisting the sail up and down (sweating), and became more experienced and confident in doing this. The highlight of the day was bonding with our team and getting the job done well.
Wednesday daytime we spent resting in preparation for our ‘night sail’. Setting out at 16:30 we were excited and a little bit nervous to be sailing at night. The night sail was an amazing experience. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset before securing our harnesses safely for sailing in the dark. The challenges we encountered, included looking out for lobster pots and relying on different coloured lights to get us to our destination. We arrived at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth at 23:55. We all felt a great sense of achievement, and slightly sad because this was our last day of the expedition.
As a final task for the end of the journey we cleaned the yacht thoroughly inside and out. This involved working together to spray and scrub the deck. We worked hard to clean the living quarters. Finally, we got the Skipper and his mates a card to show our appreciation.
Our wonderful expedition was made possible by the help of The Ulysses Trust. We would like to say a huge thank-you to them for a once in a lifetime, amazing and unforgettable experience.
Able Cadets Louis O’Brien and David Hickman