Sailing New Zealand

Oct. 20, 2017 |

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. The two JST ships have sailed hundreds of thousands of miles, operating in European and North Atlantic waters. 

Through JST, POLAHS students Alejandra Gurrola (’17) and Aaron Ferrales (’18) embarked on a ten-day journey aboard the Tenacious in New Zealand this summer. Their trip donor, a physician who works with adults with special needs, knew that the opportunity would broaden their horizons and hearts.

My Jubilee Sailing Trust Experience: Aaron Ferrales

Tenacious is easily the most beautiful tall ship I have ever laid eyes on. Her decks are made of teak wood and she is elegant in appearance. I felt very excited to be aboard such a beautiful vessel. I had to adjust to the ship’s size and procedures, because the ship that I am normally aboard is a little under four times the size of Tenacious and is run differently. But the crew was very welcoming to all of us and made us feel comfortable.

Alejandra and I flew into Auckland early in the morning. From there, we drove to a small port town called Whangarei, where we met Tenacious. The only populated place we stopped in was a small town called Russell. It had a population of 2,000 permanent residents. It was created by American and French whalers and was the capital of New Zealand before it was heavily populated by Westerners. The townspeople incorporate indigenous culture as well. The indigenous people are called Māori, and their culture is still alive and well.  

Most of my watches on the Tenacious were in the evening. Some duties included ensuring that the ship was on course, standing lookout, and manning the helm. Because I was part of Leadership at Sea, the bridge officers took me under their wing and taught me more about bridge operations. I also had the opportunity to command several watches. I made friends with almost everyone on the ship. I had a great time with my bunkmates because they were all cadets like myself, except they were training for the British Armed Forces. We all had a great time sharing stories. I had a chance to connect personally with a few people onboard through music, because there was a guitar that I played every night.

Currently, I am in my second year of Boat Operations at POLAHS with Mr. DeSanto. The class has helped me expand on my sailing knowledge as well as to acquire new skills such as boat building and electrical engineering. Learning navigational skills from Mr. DeSanto proved very beneficial on my trip. I raced on the POLAHS sailing team for two years and have been sailing for seven years. Another maritime activity I participate in is the POLAHS Cadet Corps. I started the Cadet Corps at the end of my sophomore year. It is a leadership program based upon Marine Corps and Naval values. We have the amazing privilege of training aboard the Battleship Iowa. In the Cadet Corps, we emphasize community service both individually and as a group. Every cadet is a volunteer on the Iowa, mostly as tour guides. During LA Fleet Week 2017, our cadets assisted in security and guest relations. We plan to expand into the community and volunteer for a wider array of causes. After high school graduation, I plan to enlist in the United States Marine Corps and earn a college degree.

To my trip donor: You are an amazing person. You do not even know me, yet you invested time and money into sending me halfway around the world for education, and you continue to do this for many other young people. Your passion for education and the maritime world is highly admirable. On a personal level, you gave me a second chance. When I was not able to attend this trip last year for personal reasons, I did not expect you to reserve a spot for me the following year. You have provided me with the experience of a lifetime. For that, I will be forever thankful. I hope that one day I can be even half as compassionate and generous as you are.


My Jubilee Sailing Trust Experience: Alejandra Gurrola

On my first day, New Zealand looked amazing. There was incredible views everywhere we went. Before going on the boat, we got the opportunity to go into a Maritime Museum. During our sail trip, we stopped in a town called Russell. It look very different compared to San Pedro. The water was so clear. The roads were opposite, where drivers drive on the left side of the road!

Throughout the trip we were assigned many duties. Some of the duties were going on helm, being watch leader, working in the navigation room, or simply being a lookout, and watching for incoming boats or anything unusual. When wind or our course would change direction, we would be assigned to specific lines to move sails to their appropriate place. Through these duties, I learned so much and had a very fulfilling experience.

The first few days I did not really talk to anyone because I can be very quiet and shy. But as time went by, I opened up to everyone and made many friends. I created friendships with people from New Zealand, Australia, and from the United Kingdom. Meeting these people was amazing because I was able to learn their culture, traditions, and what they like to do. As the trip came to an end, I made sure to keep in touch with them through social media.

During my years at POLAHS, I participated in Boat Operations classes with Mr. DeSanto for two years. This was my favorite class because I enjoyed the hands-on experience of building boats and sailing them out in the ocean. We also learned how everything works on a tall ship, including all of the lines, sails, and safety procedures. The classes prepared me for this trip!

To my trip sponsor: This opportunity has impacted my life by giving me new friendships, new experiences, and things that I never thought I would have. I would really recommend it to future students because it can change your views about many things in a positive way. It also has impacted me because due to the trip, I am thinking of pursuing a career in the maritime industry.  


Aaron Ferrales Personal Log

Day 1: 7/27/17

We landed in Auckland and spent the day roaming the city. At 1500 we were met by Brian, a JST representative at the New Zealand Maritime Museum. At 1630, we began our trip to Whangarei. We boarded Tenacious and went over safety procedures.

Day 2: 7/28/17

We got underway at 1200 under engine power. We arrived at an island, but decided not to anchor for the night due to poor conditions. We motored through the night in medium force winds and seas. My watch is set to go on duty from 0400-0800 tomorrow morning.

Day 3: 7/29/17

 I woke up at 0300 to get ready for watch at 0400. Temperatures were close to freezing with wind chill. We anchored at an island called Robertson Island, which had one inhabitant. It was absolutely stunning. Andrew and I climbed to the top of the highest peak on the island and got a view of the surrounding area. It is a well-known region called the Bay of Islands. While we were still on liberty, I thought we lost Alejandra, but it turns out she was actually on the ship.

Day 4: 7/30/17

Last night, I got a good night’s rest because I didn’t have watch. Because of light wind conditions to the north, we headed south for island called town called Russell. The crew is becoming more proficient at basic seamanship. We anchored in Russell later that evening.

Day 5: 7/31/17

I was woken up at 0200 for anchor watch. We were released to the unsuspecting town of Russell. There, I bought a neat piece of artwork. I am learning a lot about British culture through a game called Cards Against Humanity - the UK version.

Day 6: 8/1/17

We embarked towards Great Island. I spent most of the day in the chart room and trimming sails. I led the first watch. After our meal, I played guitar with the 2nd Engineer, Graham. As I write before lights out, we are still sailing towards Great Barrier Island.

Day 7: 8/2/17

We woke up at 0330 and were on watch until 0800. I was sent aloft by the captain and told to do the wind dance. It worked a little too well because the wind and waves became monstrous. Tom, who was on watch, decided it would be a good idea to deploy an emergency life raft.

Day 8: 8/3/17

I spent most of the first half of the day in the galley and on deck as we sailed towards the southern end of Great Barrier Island. Wind speeds reach a maximum of 45 knots with eight to ten foot swells. It rained heavily and mostly everyone was cold after watch. We anchored late in the night as she continued to toss and turn.

The Crew



Life Raft

Tenacious from above

Alejandra Gurrola

Tenacious sails

New Zealand