Journey on the STS Young Endeavour
For 25 years, the STS Young Endeavour has travelled around Australia and the world, giving young people (usually with no sailing experience) the chance to sail on a tall ship. While on board, officers of the Royal Australian Navy teach you everything from sail theory and navigation to teamwork and leadership – all the information you need to take command.
After hearing so many wonderful stories of the adventures aboard the Young Endeavour, I decided to apply for a voyage myself hoping it would provide an opportunity to challenge myself. My first application was unsuccessful, so after my second attempt, I was thrilled to receive the letter in the mail which told me I had been given a berth on voyage 19/13, from Wellington to Sydney.
On the 11th of November 2013, I boarded the Young Endeavour with twenty other young people in Wellington, New Zealand. Despite the cold winds, the scenery in our neighbouring country was a stunning backdrop to our first evening on the ship. Captain Mike and the staff introduced themselves and told us about what we could expect on the voyage, and then we had some ice-breaker activities to get to know our fellow crew members. The Youth Crew was split into 3 groups (watches) with whom we would be spending most of our time with during the voyage. To make us really feel at home, they announced that we would be climbing aloft that very evening. The first climb wasn’t easy, especially getting over the two futtocks (platforms) which separated each section. However, once you reached the top (topgallant yard), the view, along with a strong sense of achievement made the struggle worth it.
Day 2 commenced with a very large and impressive breakfast presented by the on-board chef. We said goodbye to Wellington, setting off across the harbour and into Cook Strait which proved to be one of the roughest legs of our entire voyage. This was our first experience setting sails, which is a much more formal process than what I was used to, and required almost every member of the crew. Some members of team experienced an occasional bout of sea sickness, but they soldiered on and performed their duties with impressive valour.
We sailed into Queen Charlotte Sound later that afternoon, surrounded by lush green mountains which sheltered us from a lot of the rough weather we had been experiencing. That night we anchored at Ship Cove, enjoying our surroundings as we continued to get to know one another.
I woke early on day 3 because it was my turn to assist in the galley – this had meant that I was excused from anchor watches throughout the night. We finished breakfast and were taken across to shore where we spent some time admiring the Monument to Captain James Cook. As history shows, The ‘Endeavour’ had been turned on its side here in 1770 while its crew conducted repairs and replenished supplies. We took our time walking through the reserve, taking in the view of a stunning waterfall and finishing up on the other side of the mountain in Resolution Bay, where the ‘Young Endeavour’ was waiting for us.
We stepped in the icy water of the bay, only briefly before climbing onto the boat. From Resolution Bay we sailed to the beautiful coastal town of Picton, where we were allowed off again to explore the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum. Customs officers boarded the boat to check our passports and then we left port. During the late afternoon we learnt to fix our location by sighting land – this would be our last opportunity until we reached New South Wales. Young Endeavour sailed out of Queen Charlotte Sound and we set off across the Tasman Sea, waving goodbye to land and civilisation.
Straight after dinner that night I went to bed in anticipation of our 12am – 4am watch that night, only to be woken up 30 minutes later to assist in tacking the ship. Our watch wasn’t prepared the first time, and as a result there was a lot of fumbling before we raced upstairs – I made a promise to myself that next time I would be ready! My group were again shaken a few hours later to go take over watch. We spent most of these on the bridge, taking turns at the helm and learning about parts of the ship from our watch leader, Tilly. We were also required to conduct rounds every hour, checking weather forecasts, wind direction and speed, swell and the engines. Surprisingly, our first ‘Gut’s watch went by very fast and we went back to our bunks to get some sleep before we were woken at 0700 hours.
The following few days seemed to go slowly at the time and consisted of a fairly standard routine. Morning Brief was conducted at 0900 hours, which commenced with Sailmaster Dion running through the plan for the day. The ships Navigator Jen would speak about the expected conditions, and what had happened during the night before. Captain Mike shared a quote which generally reflected something we would do that day. One of my favourite parts was the ‘Salty the Sea Dog’ segment which involved the staff dressing up and enthusiastically acting out the origin or meaning of a nautical term. ‘Nana’ would also visit, bringing with her any belongings which had been abandoned around the ship – often leading to a lot of laughter from the crew. Morning activities involved lectures in sail theory, ‘rules of the road’, meteorology and navigation. After lunch the three watches would compete in ‘Rope Races’ which required you to be the first one to touch a certain part of the boat, and therefore gaining a point for your team. There were also ‘bonus rounds’ which were all different, but highly entertaining. If there wasn’t anything happening and you weren’t on watch, there was surprisingly a lot of ways to amuse ourselves, whether it be climbing aloft, playing games with our fellow crew members or getting some extra sleep before your next watched commenced.
With about 12 hours remaining before we got arrived on the NSW coast, the youth crew conducted elections for command day. The navy staff had given us a list of positions we were required to fill, including Captain, Sail-master, Navigator, Watch Officer, three watch leaders and two chefs. Those members of the crew interested in a role would nominate themselves and explain why they thought they were the best person for it.
Having sailed from a young age, I knew I had the skills and knowledge to manage the boat and lead the team. So I threw my hat in the ring and nominated myself for Captaincy, even though there was some very strong competition for the role. To my surprise and excitement, when the votes were counted, it was my name they called out. I was honoured that my fellow youth crew trusted me enough to be their leader and was enthusiastic at the challenge ahead. Onward we sailed with gusto and professionalism.
We arrived at Broken Bay, NSW in the early hours of our 4th last day, after seven days at sea. The youth crew woke up to lifting fog, but once it cleared it was a beautiful clear day – perfect for the start of our Command Day. At 0900 hours, we met in the centre of the ship. The staff walked out, dressed up in their best holiday suits, singing and shouting. Captain Mike handed me Young Endeavour’s Tricorne hat and spyglass, along with a list of tasks we would have to complete over the next 24 hours. We started by reading each task out loud, laughing at some of the challenges we would have to overcome.
While the rest of the youth crew continued with happy hour (cleaning stations – not what I expected either!) the command team took a closer look at each task, working out a strategy for the best possible approach.
We decided to complete our first task, a row boat relay, in order to get hold of our navigational instructions as early as possible. However, after completing the relay, we still had to make sense of the clues given to us by the staff. We discovered that the navigational instructions had been attached to the top of the main-mast, so we had to climb to collect them. There were still a few more tasks to complete before pulling up anchor, including building a hammock across the deck, climbing aloft, and our favourite – a 15 minute disco. At 1600 we left Broken Bay but our challenges were far from over. There were 8 waypoints we had to reach before we could turn the ship for Sydney Harbour. With very little wind, the youth crew set the staysails and conducted their usual watches. Being the captain, my role was to overlook the entire crew, and give the commands when tacking and wearing the ship. Even though I wasn’t required to do watches, I spent most of my time on the Bridge, pouring over charts and weather reports. At one point during the night we realised that we were slowly being pulled south, experiencing the strength of the East Australian Current.
We also had to wear (jibe) three times during the night to meet our way points which meant sleep was hard to come by. Nonetheless, we managed to reach our final waypoint right on time and sailed the ship through the Sydney Harbour heads, much to the excitement of the entire crew. At 0900 I handed the tricorne and spyglass back to Captain Mike, feeling a sense of pride and satisfaction that we had done well on our command day.
After clearing customs, Young Endeavour spent the night anchored in Watson’s Bay, getting our first opportunity to step on land since leaving New Zealand. Needless to say, most of the youth crew felt proud of what they had achieved during command day, celebrating with a BBQ on the upper deck.
The following day, the second last day of our voyage, was spent in Sydney Harbour where a special needs group joined us for a sail. They were very excited as we showed them how to set, furl, tack and wear the sails. Despite the cool weather and strong winds, all of our guests enjoyed their time aboard, and the youth crew were excited for the opportunity to show off what we had learnt.
Our final day on the Young Endeavour began with the usual morning brief and cleaning stations which was strange knowing it would be our last time. The sun was shining and we left our port, climbing aloft as we sailed around the harbour. One of the highlights of the voyage was sitting on the very end of the topgallant yard surrounded by my new friends, cruising under Harbour Bridge and past the opera house. There was a great sense of pride when we came alongside at the Navy base, with our family members waiting on the wharf while we sang the Australian National Anthem. We climbed down for the last time and were each presented with certificates of achievement. It was very sad to say goodbye to the rest of the crew, whether they were staff or fellow young people. It was amazing that after just 13 days we had all become so close.
My voyage on the Young Endeavour was one of the greatest experiences I have had by far. We faced a lot of challenges both mentally and physically but all of them were highly rewarding. Through this exhilarating experience, I expanded knowledge of sailing and mastered the workings of Tall Ship whilst leading the team to success.
This opportunity to grow, lead and be one of the team enhanced my confidence and my leadership skills. Above all, the people I have met and the memories I have made will stay with me forever. I would recommend that this opportunity is not to be missed, and strongly encourage any young person to apply for the Young Endeavour.
I would also like to give thanks to the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria for their ongoing support and encouragement for my voyage. It would be great to see other young members take up the challenge and experience the fantastic program that is Young Endeavour.
11 – 23 November 2013