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I learnt so many skills!

I arrived excited and a small bit nervous at the dock in Dublin on 4 June to board the Pelican of London. It was fairly easy to find the rest of the Senior Branchers – Grainne, Amy and Tarah – as our neckerchiefs tended to make us all stand out. I was soon relieved to discover that I had most certainly not over-packed despite the fact that I had taken a slightly bigger bag then the one which I would usually bring to camp. Once we were all together, we boarded the ship. In total there were 28 trainees going on the voyage. We left Dublin in the Parade of Sail with the rest of the tall ships which had been in Dublin for the Tall Ships festival. They had raced to Dublin from Liverpool. Some of the ships were now continuing on to Bordeaux in France.

We travelled by motor to Dun Laoghaire. All of the trainees mainly just spent the day chatting and getting to know each other as the majority of us had never met before. Once we arrived in Dun Laoghaire we dropped anchor and covered all the safety information. Then we moved onto the work we would have to do on the ship coiling ropes, helming (steering) and knots (some of which I already knew from Guides), and we were put into watches. Your watch is basically the group of people who will be on duty with you at the same time. After dinner we went aloft for the first time. It was a small bit scary the first time especially because you had to lean back to get on and off of the platform but everyone managed it.

That night I had my first watch at 2am! As we were anchored the watch was only one hour and only two people were on at a time. All we had to do was keep note of the radar and wind speed. The watch passed surprisingly quickly but we were grateful to head back to bed at 3 nonetheless.

The next day we set off. We would be going over towards Fishguard in Wales before turning back to head into Cork. We had our first proper watch at 12:30pm where we had to help with trimming the sails. Two people had to be on lookout all the time and one person had to be steering the ship. We also got to partake in our first Happy Hour, which comprised of a full clean of the ship. The announcement for Happy Hour was always preceded by a cheery “bing, bong!” from Anoush, the second mate, so this was something we soon would all come to dread. As we were on watch we got to clean the ship’s deck, which included getting out the hose and giving it all a good scrub.

By the end of the second day we were beginning to settle into the ships routine. I got my first experience of helming the next day on our 8am-12:30pm watch. It was slightly harder than I expected trying to keep the compass needle pointing at the correct number as often it would swing past the point you were aiming for and you’d then have to bring it back but I soon got used to it.

By the fourth day we were beginning to head back towards Cork. We anchored in Ballycotton Bay that evening. Much to everyone’s delight we were allowed to go swimming. Soon everybody was leaping into the water and having a great time. That was definitely a highlight of the trip for many people. By this stage we had also started up a murder mystery game onboard. Everyone was given a name, a place and an item. They then had to get that person in that place and get them to hold the item to kill them. So began the plotting. We soon became wary of taking anything another person tried to hand you.

We arrived into Cork on the Friday and, after tying up at the dock, we then had to pack away the sails. The second time climbing the rigging was a lot easier and much less daunting now that I was more confident doing it. We had an open ship on Saturday and Sunday. As part of Cork Harbour Festival people could come onto the Pelican and have a look around it. While in Cork we got a chance to go ashore and stock up on essentials. You know: biscuits, ice pops, that sort of thing. We even managed to invent a new word – swindy – which refers to a day when the weather is just sunny and windy enough for sailing.

After spending the weekend in Cork we headed back out to sea and began our journey back to Dublin. On the way back it was decided to use the Gallant and Royal sail. I got the opportunity to climb up to release the gaskets so we could use the sails. Climbing up the mast while the ship is anchored or docked is one thing but, climbing up while we were out in the middle of the Irish Sea, is slightly different. Despite my nerves I made it to the top. The stand out moment of the trip for me was standing on the top platform looking down on the ship as it rocked up and down in the waves.

We anchored in Greystones for one night where we were greeted by locals in speed boats who came out to have a look. The next day the Pelican ended up on The Happy Pear Instagram story when they spotted her.

We eventually arrived back in Dublin on 13 June. That night we had a party on the boat where we had a good laugh. Every watch performed a song and awards were handed out based on what we had achieved over our 10 days on the Pelican of London.

My adventure aboard the Pelican of London was the most amazing experience of my life so far. There are so many great moments to choose from and it definitely helped that all of the other trainees were so much fun to be around. I learnt so many new card games and, of course, sailing skills. I would really encourage anyone to apply. I was admittedly quite nervous before I went, especially in regard to sea sickness and just the idea of being on a ship for a week but as soon as I got on board all those fears were soon put to rest and I had a brilliant time.

I have to say a big thank you to Irish Girl Guides for giving me this opportunity and to Sail Training Ireland for providing these experiences.