“Make up! Make up!” No, not with lipstick and mascara – with the ropes! While actually sailing on the Prince William it was necessary at times to turn the ship and turn the sails to catch the wind. The command for that was “Bracing Stations, Bracing Stations”. Half the crew raced to the port side, and half to the starboard; one side to heave on the ropes, the other side to ease the ropes. Having eased the rope for which I was responsible, we then had to Make Up i.e. return the ropes to their usual state: 1 full turn, 3 figures of eight and the remainder coiled and fastened.

All of that took place at deck level. When I look at the photographs now, I can hardly believe that I was up there in the rigging helping to stow the sails when they were no longer needed. Heavy weather was approaching and engines would be used to drive the ship from Cherbourg to St.Malo.

All of this was a totally new experience for me, and rather different from going around the world on a cruise ship. When I discovered that it was possible for people aged 15 – 75 to book for a Tall Ships Adventure I thought I would give it a try. The brochure (www.tallships.org) gives the following information: “Our ships are centrally heated, have hot showers and hot drinks available 24/7 and the fantastic food served on board is just great for keeping the cold at bay.” What was not quite so clearly stated was that I would be at the helm of the ship on the stormiest day (for 1 hour); on starboard or port side watch several times in the middle of the night; guarding the gangplank in Cherbourg from midnight to 2am; climbing the rigging to help stow the sails; washing up plates and cutlery after feeding 60 people, three times in my day on gallery duty; sleeping in a cabin with three men and two women.

The food was good, the company friendly and helpful, the sailing a wonderful experience, the ship quite splendid and the pipe cots (beds) horribly uncomfortable. My cot had a seam across the canvas just where my hip needed to be. Above and below the seam it sagged comfortably. Anybody who books for a similar experience make sure you are not number 13 in Red Watch! Not that we had much say in the matter. Early one morning when I was bridge messenger, it was my duty to tiptoe around in the dark to find and awaken certain persons who were required to be on duty. It was important to know which beds held the right persons.
All in all a good experience and recommended to those brave enough to try a 6 day break with a difference.

– Rita Savage.

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