Standing atop a 35-metre mast looking across crystal clear water, Kingstown teenager Will Swales felt you could see forever.
“We had to overcome any fear of heights pretty quickly, but it was such an adrenaline rush, especially when the ship was going up and down,” said The Armidale School Year 11 student.
Will has recently returned from 10 challenging and exhilarating days aboard the tall ship Young Endeavour.
He and 17 others learnt to navigate, set and furl sails, and steer the 43m-long bark by wheel as the ship sailed off the Queensland coast from Airlie Beach to Gladstone.
Along the way, they developed a range of skills and learnt a whole new nautical language – culminating in command day, when they took over control of the vessel from their 11 instructors.
“The whole adventure was designed to test our limits, broaden our horizons and develop leadership and teamwork,” Will said.
“The days were long and when – we weren’t on watch or doing other activities – we grabbed whatever sleep we could in three-tiered bunks in the bow of the ship, which bore the brunt of crashing seas.”
The discomforts were more than compensated by the scenery.
“We stopped off at several islands, and perhaps the most memorable was standing on a white, sandy beach strewn with coconuts, looking across crystal-clear aqua water as whales breached between us and the ‘pirate’ ship anchored about a nautical mile away … it was just the coolest thing I’ve seen.”
Will said it had been particularly special being on board at the same time the original Endeavour was believed to have been discovered off the North American coast.
“We had no idea at the time, but as we sailed into Gladstone there were multiple television crews awaiting our arrival, which made it all the more special.”
A gift to Australia from the British government to celebrate the bicentenary of colonisation in 1988, the STS Young Endeavour has 10 sails in a brigantine (two mast) rig.
The ship is managed by the Young Endeavour Youth Scheme in partnership with the Royal Australian Navy as a training vessel for young Australians such as Will, whose adventure was made possible by The Bush Children's Education Foundation.
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