Friday 31 July 2015

Allison sails away with Emmaus

It was the opportunity of a lifetime, to be able to get on an old boat from that sort of era.

I’ve never been a good sailor mind.  I get seasick and I don’t like heights. I took loads of seasickness pills with me and hoped that they weren’t going to ask me to climb up anything.

We went to Emmaus Colchester to join our boat, the Pioneer, as it is moored out of Brightlingsea.  Owned by charity, The Pioneer Trust, the Pioneer was a smack, a traditional 19th century fishing boat still used in small numbers up until the Second World War. Made in 1864 it was used to go North Sea oyster fishing. It’s now the only one left of its kind, so continues life as a sailing training vessel. The trust recovered the Pioneer in 1984 and began its restoration. The trust also run an apprenticeship scheme where young people learn more about boat building skills.

The boat has seen all sorts of uses including hosting girls on a hen night. Some of them got very ill as you can imagine! Thankfully for the crew, they weren’t involved with sailing the boat.

During the day, Emmaus companions got stuck in with the sailing as the trip was to all about promoting teamwork. There were three crew members and 11 passengers like me. The boat itself can be sailed by four very experienced sailors, you don’t need a big crew.

We were moored up on an island and went crab fishing. It was definitely hard work, not a pleasure cruise; it wasn’t the QE2, five days and five nights. I managed to get sunburn, stubbed my toes, hit my head and fell over but apart from that I wasn’t seasick.

Licensed to go 60 miles off shore we were never more than a day away from land.  It was certainly a challenge throwing people together who have never met one another before and you’ve got to work as a team.  There were no phones, no roads, no trains, no buses, it was lovely and peaceful, only spoiled occasionally by the odd speedboat that went by.

I made some jewellery, a lovely keepsake of my trip.  We were stranded one day by the weather. It was too windy to sail with seven to nine gail force winds so we had to stay in sheltered waters. The captain taught us to tie knots and how to make a rope band which does have a nautical purpose. It acts as a stopper on the end of the tiller but you can make it into a bracelet which is what I did. I made it and then it was tightened to my wrist and sealed off with glue.  We also enjoyed a lesson in navigation with charts, instruments and maps just like it used to be, not GPS.

The experience took me out my comfort zone a bit but I loved every minute of it. I told everyone back in Bristol how awful it was so I can go back again next year!

To find out more about the Pioneer and The Pioneer Trust, see www.pioneerck18.org.

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