Aug. 24, 2015 | Sailing Aboard the Lord Nelson - A Norwegian Voyage

The shared voyage not only teaches the crew how to sail a tall ship, but promotes equality, sharing, and celebrating individual differences. Since 1978, over 40,000 people have sailed with JST, approximately 15,000 of whom were physically disabled. There are no passengers; everyone works to the best of his or her ability.
Since her maiden voyage in 1986, STS Lord Nelson has sailed 461,943 Nautical Miles on trips lasting up to 30 days. POLAHS students Hannah Smith and Matthew Dimeglio helped accrue a portion of those miles when they embarked on a ten-day journey aboard the Lord Nelson in Norway through JST this summer. Their trip donor, a physician who works with adults with special needs, knew that the opportunity would broaden their horizons and hearts.
Reflections from Matt
This was my first time traveling out of the country and my first time on an airplane. Being on the Lord Nelson crew with disabled and able people made me realize that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. It taught me that everybody has the ability to do the best they can. People with disabilities have skills and so much drive that we should focus on, and people with abilities have disabilities in some areas too! If we all help each other our lives become better.
On the ship, we were on a specific schedule. The duties we performed were serving in the mess, being on watch, bracing the sails in the correct position, and then setting the sails. When serving in the mess you had to help the chef in serving the food, cleaning the dishes, and preparing for the following meal. When on watch, when we were docked you and another person would watch the gangway for people trying to come aboard, and when we were sailing we would steer the boat and watch for any boats that could become a problem. Before going on this trip I had been on the high school sailing team for three years. I had some sailing experience, but this was very unique. On the ship you sleep in a small room with two bunks. I became fast friends with my roommate, Doug. We’ll keep in touch, along with so many other friends on the trip.
The most exciting night at sea was during one of the night watches. My team had a shift from 4-8am. When we woke up it was still dark, and we were able to watch the sun rise. What an amazing sight to see. The thing that I loved most about Norway was how beautiful the landscape was in every single town. The most exciting day on land was when my friends and I went on a hike up a steep, grassy hill. We knew that we could not reach the top, but we went as far as we could. There were cows all around us. I will never forget the view of the blue water, grassy mountains and small farm homes. Returning home, I feel much more confident. I was shy about meeting new people and did not talk as much as I do now. I want to travel and sail a lot more!
Reflections from Hannah
I found out about sailing from my brother who was in the Youth Crew on the tall ships Exy and Irving Johnson. I had sailed smaller boats on POLAHS’ sailing team and realized I loved the water. I started to sail tall ships to prepare for this trip. On the Lord Nelson, it was a new experience in a different country.
The entire crew worked together, and those early friendships became the most important part of the whole trip. We figured things out for ourselves and became more responsible. I worked alongside friends in wheelchairs, pulling lines and doing everything else. From them I learned that when I feel challenged, I just need to figure out a new or different way to do things. It’s also important to be supportive when someone needs your help, because you might need it too sometimes. From exploring other ships in Alesund that were docked for the races, to evening concerts in town, I appreciated every minute of this adventure. I’m so grateful to our donor for changing our lives in this way.
Hannah, Matt, and crew wrote the following nightly journal entries aboard the ship.
Well…where are we? The answer is somewhere on the sea between Alesund and Rosendahl. We left Alesund yesterday morning in a fine parade of the sailing ships and lots of admirers in small craft hooting and tooting. The sun shone and the mists on the snowy hills made it all very romantic and just the sort of scene that the famous painter Turner would have painted. On our way we started all the usual sail training and went through the fjords to the little town of Orsta where we docked for a peaceful night. Tied alongside us were Leader, Rona II and Black Diamond of Durham. As the wind was expected to be a strong south westerly and on our nose, Captain Darren decided that we should push hard south aiming to arrive at Rosendahl on the Hardanger fjord tomorrow. All being well, we shall stay there for a full day and night and explore the area. Voyage crew in good humour.
Last night we sailed under engine along the coast. There was quite a swell – Force 4 wind and rain. We took turns at the helm and at lookout points. Tom took the helm for the first time and was considered a natural. Richard said Hannah was really quietly efficient at waking his watch up to take over from us. Some people felt really sick for a while due to choppy seas and retired early. This morning everyone has gained their sea legs. It is now 14.00 and the sun is shining and we started getting out our sun tan oil for the trip from Hjelte Fjorden to Bergen. We went under a large suspension bridge past Bergen airport at Flesland. On our way through we spotted a shipwreck caused by bad parking. Then we crossed the Krosfjorden heading for Langenuen. We will turn sharp to port into the Hardangerfjorden to moor at Rosendal.
Woke to a rather dull, wet and grey morning but that wasn’t going to spoil our sense of adventure. There were a number of key attractions starting with a visit to a small boat yard which was home to the Gustine an old sailing boat dating back to the 18th century. The boat was undergoing its second restoration. Twice a week, masters in the art of boat making volunteer their time to restore this amazing boat to its original beauty. The launch date is set for July 2017!!! Rain and wind had set in so the next stop was to have a much needed coffee on the way to the Baronet Rosendal. The Baroiet Rosendal is the smallest Palace in Europe dating back to the 1665, when it was the home to Ludvig Rosenkrantz and his wife Karen Mowat. The law of the land was that it could only be passed on to a son. Even though they had been blessed with 3 sons and a few daughters, all their sons died over the years. With no son to pass the Palace onto, sometime during the 19th Century it was handed back to the state and bought by a noble family. After an informative tour of the Palace, we wandered through the grounds admiring the extensive rose garden and vegetable/herb gardens. Stopping for lunch in the Palace grounds was a must. Delicious open sandwiches, salads and soup all made using the local grown produce. The next stop was the stone garden, close to the Palace grounds. An amazing display of volcanic rocks crafted into stone benches, tables and chairs. On the way back to the Lord Nelson a quick visit to the Tourist Information centre to watch two films one on the Fjords, the other on the marine life, to be found in this dramatic area of Norway. Back at the Lord Nelson a delicious evening meal was served providing us with renewed energy to venture back out in to the town.
Set off after breakfast heading to Forsund. With some spare time on our hands, James gave a presentation on Intellectual History, which is geography in relation to people and how the landscape affects the development of communities. A very interesting topic which raised a number of questions especially as we’re sailing through the small scattered communities around the Norwegian Fjords. Twenty minutes into the afternoon watch the Lord Nelson went to the rescue of a small Norwegian boat that had engine trouble. At first it was thought that a rope had entwined itself around the engine. Dave and company ventured to the boat and donned a wet suit for closer inspection. No rope was found so the next hour was spent securing the boat to the Lord Nelson in order to tow the boat closer to Levik. The port rescue boat came out to meet us on our approach and took over to tow the boat back into port. All in all an adventurous day and even the sun started to shine.
We started off bright and early to help with the assisted climbs and wheelchairs aloft, where Alice and Mislav did a self-ascent, something very new to them and extremely rewarding. Most of the assisted climbers were first-timers – nervous about going up but feeling very pleased when they got down. All ran very smoothly and once everyone was back safely on deck we prepared for our departure from Farsund and began making our way to Kristiansand, our final port. We had a bumpy start whilst getting the sails set, but once that was done we were slicing through the waves with ease. This is our last watch at sea and it’s really sunny though our look-outs have to be especially alert when it comes to spotting fishing buoys. We have just passed the oldest lighthouse in Norway where there is also a distillery where no doubt the price is equally expensive. The Leadership At Sea squad are currently discussing outfits for the crew parade – sartorial ideas include costumes made from newspaper, penguins, owls, kangaroos and other creatures.
Yet again just as in port after an excellent voyage, JST has demonstrated the meaninglessness of disability as a barrier in society. This week Norway was destination of choice. The highlight of the trip was sailing through the fjords, which benefited both our eyes and thoughts. As was recently pointed out to me, the tendency to see this as a cruise as opposed to a working ship, is becoming more evident among some quarters of the organization. Yet the JST demonstrates what it means to live in a fully integrated community where every member functions to the best their ability. Just consider the process of docking on JST. There everyone works together to ensure all can disembark safely. Such a moment gives an opportunity to see the true meaning of JST as a counter to the dominant narrative within the UK: one of disability as a problem to be overcome. Thus JST’s significance is that it demonstrates how to see it as almost a non-issue.