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Hi All, As promised, a report on the Trip on the Sail Training Ship "Lord Nelson"
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The party of 15 travelled by Ben-my-Chree to Heysham, and were invited to visit the bridge en-route, which was very interesting. A specially designed coach for disabled folk boarded the vessel at Heysham, to take us on, overnight, to Oban. Once there, we were supplied with a cup of tea / coffee on arrival and later breakfast and lunch by the friendly staff of McTavish's Kitchens. We loaded our luggage on the Lord Nelson, before wandering round the town. (That was when "Baba", the sheep- shaped back-pack joined us, as crew mascot.) Then we signed on, as crew, in the early afternoon. The Manx were then divided between the various watches, though the fact that we were already friends, after our "Getting to Know You" meeting, and travelling together, meant that we simply included the rest of the voyage crew into an already-existing family atmosphere, to the benefit and enjoyment of all. There was the standard briefing on weather conditions etc. and evacuation drill, before we set sail at about 5:50 PM.

 

We arrived at Islay in the Hebrides, and had the sails counter-rigged, allowing us to drift forward slowly overnight, before going into Port Ellen on engines at 10:30 AM. There we were off to study the secrets of the Scottish Distilling industry, and of course "testing" the local brew to ensure that it was up to standard! On Wednesday morning it was "Hands Aloft", when all the disabled and unconfident were given the chance of going up the mast. (The confident able-bodied had been up there, working the sails, throughout the voyage.) Those in wheelchairs were hoisted up the main mast, while those with less severe mobility problems (including "Yours Truly") climbed up the foremast, with a helicopter hoist on for safety, and 2 professional crew guiding feet and hands. Then, having got up there, the bosun said "You have got this far - how about going the last step too?" So, with a fair bit of trepidation, and a LOT of care, we made our way out onto the yard-arms. Then we sailed on to Bangor, just opposite Belfast, moving into the Marina there on Thursday morning. This took some careful manoeuvring, as the entrance is very narrow for such a large vessel. There was a bit of a problem when a member of the crew produced the Scottish courtesy flag, and went hunting for a Scot to have the privilege of hoisting it, until someone reminded him that Bangor was in Northern Ireland - not Scotland! Still, it had been a busy day! :)) A couple of children who were watching the docking wanted to know if we were pirates, so we played along with their game. (I wonder if that will become part of the local folk-lore? ... The day the Pirates came to Bangor!!) Whilst in Bangor, the whole voyage crew went out for a very enjoyable meal. In Bangor, we spotted a seal cruising around the Marina

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{short description of image} Later, whilst passing the Isle of Man, the watch reported a whale. I do not know the type, and it seems to have been identified by behaviour rather than shape. Later, when they were talking down in the mess, and someone said "There's whales up there", another voyager replied, in a confused way, "But it can't be Wales. We are only just passing the Isle of Man". The Island was clearly visible for a long time as we moved slowly past Port Erin and the Calf, before moving away towards the Mersey. Then there was a lecture on "Setting Sails", formalising when we had learnt in practice over the last few days, and it was time for the "Manx Crew Photograph", with the Captain ... a rare privilege, as he normally tends to vanish when cameras appear, but we had some very persuasive ladies in our group. It was a difficult photo, as we almost filled the bridge, and the intrepid photographers could hardly get away far enough to get everyone in. And they had to stay there, hanging back over the rails, as a long series of different cameras were produced, so that everyone could have their own photo.

It is a good thing that we were only cruising very slowly, as I don't think anyone could have got to the helm to adjust the course! We anchored overnight at the Mersey Bar, before travelling under engines down the river to the Albert Dock. The lines were cast ashore for the last time, and the gangway lowered. There were many friends and families, of our own contingent, as well as other voyage crew, to meet us. There were interviews for Mersey Radio (broadcast this morning), lunch, sometimes-emotional farewells, and exchanges of addresses. The supply van was unloaded by the "Manx Chain-gang" in exchange for transporting our luggage to the Steam Packet Terminal ... And the adventure was over. We hope to arrange a similar voyage in a few years time. If anyone thinks they would like to take part (particularly those with any physical disability), or that they could support financially, or help in raising the much-needed funds, please contact me. I will be glad to supply further details. Obviously, such future plans are only in initial stages, but such ventures take a lot of time to arrange.

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