The Jubilee Sailing Trust actively encourages disabled and non-disabled participants to experience sailing on their purpose-built, accessible ships.
With the Tenacious scheduled to visit New Zealand, Ollie’s Community Support Coordinator, Lynne Smeets, heard about this opportunity for adventure and knowing Ollie was a real outdoors man, she let him know. He was very keen, so she investigated the costs and criteria. Her support involved liaising with Jubilee Sailing Trust, obtaining the required paperwork and exploring funding options. As a result of her enquiries, Ollie was offered a free passage.
When the day came to set sail, Ollie was bid farewell by an excited group of friends and CCS Disability Action staff at the wharf.
The crew consisted of 50 people, 11 permanent crew including the Captain and First Mate and 40 voyage crew, about half of whom had disabilities. Divided into four ‘watches’ of 10 people, each watch did two four-hour shifts throughout the day. While not on watch, the crew were responsible for making sure the ship was safely going in the right direction.
Living in close quarters with 50 strangers was terrifying for Ollie at first, but he decided to make an effort to be social and quickly made good friends with other members of the crew.
“There were a few times when I went to bed and my wheelchair wasn’t where I’d left it as it had rolled down the hallway.”
The voyage crew were assigned a day of ‘mess duty’ which involved peeling vegetables, setting tables, serving food and clearing up afterwards. Ollie says the cook was an absolute legend; preparing three delicious meals a day for the whole crew with minimal assistance.
There was so much about the trip that was special but highlights for Ollie were; helming the ship as they sailed into Napier, enjoying an assisted climb aloft in his wheelchair and seeing New Zealand from quite a different perspective.
“The scenery was stunning, I loved being up on deck seeing the ocean stretching for miles and watching the indigenous wildlife, some albatrosses and a pod of dolphins riding the bow,” says Ollie.
Another bonus was that Ollie also found he was much fitter at the end of the voyage from pushing himself uphill all the time as the ship rocked and rolled constantly.
As Ollie discovered, the voyage was not always plain sailing, literally and figuratively. “Being in a wheelchair aboard a ship that was moving about presented challenges. I often found myself rolling around the deck unexpectedly. Luckily I had a good set of brakes fitted to my chair, so I was able to lock myself in place while eating dinner. There were a few times when I went to bed and my wheelchair wasn’t where I’d left it as it had rolled down the hallway,” Ollie jokes.
The experience gave Ollie a new appreciation of what he is truly capable of. “It was life-changing. I have gained confidence and made new friends. I discovered I can manage my day to day life much better. I have stayed motivated to continue to make the changes I started aboard Tenacious.”
It’s an opportunity he would encourage others to go for if they can. “I am very grateful for the support that made this adventure possible and would whole-heartedly recommend it to others,” says Ollie.
For more information visit www.jst.org.uk/new-zealand/