A Beautiful Sail…
6 responses

Barquing up the Right Tree
When I was eight, I painted a moonlit scene using watercolours and gouache. A ship, becalmed. The moon lying huge on the horizon, its reflection linking ship and moon like the silvered undulating road between birth and eternity. In my memory the picture is perfect…and when my art teacher (Her name was Barbara Driman, I think. Her house was at the top of Whitely Road in Johannesburg. She was an artist who taught kids Art in the afternoons, so that their mummies could play bridge.) held her annual exhibition of kiddie work, it sold immediately. Somewhere in Johannesburg this legendary picture may still adorn a wall.
And yesterday evening, I saw it. Not the picture – the real scene, exactly as it exists in my memory. From the deck of a three-masted barque, the STS Lord Nelson. And I was smitten.
The Lord Nelson is not a pretty sailing ship. It is a three masted Barque, tall and elegant for sure. But the deck housings are too big; the bowsprit is a strange berailed metal thing that sticks out like half of a miniature train line. There is no figurehead to keep an eye out for rocks. The hull is metal, the masts and spars mostly aluminium.
But it is beautiful.
This is a ship that goes straight to the heart. Built for the Jubilee Sailing Trust in 1984 specifically to provide a sailing experience to people with a range of disabilities. That bowsprit, for example, is designed so that a wheelchair can be pushed out there and its occupant can be delighted by that “I am the Ruler of the World” experience DiCaprio acted so well in Titanic. The interior, too, is designed for wheelchairs. There are lifts on the main stairwells and the passageways are especially wide.
On deck the handrails have braille notices, so that a blind or partially sighted sailor can find his or her way around.
The old hands – people who have been on many voyages with crews including many disabled – tell stories of partially sighted people climbing merrily up masts to swaying spars high above heaving seas; of hoisting wheelchairs up to the crow’s nest with a delighted occupant  – of the massive contribution disabled crew members make to the running of the ship from cleaning (“happy hour”) to raising and lowering sails, to navigation and steering. The effects can be imagined, on self esteem as well as fitness.
A voyage on a JST tall ship changes lives.
There are two ships maintained and sailed by the Trust – the Lord Nelson and Tenacious. These magical vessels have been all over the world, have weathered the Bay of Biscay and Cape Horn too, travel regularly to the Canaries and the Trust has a major presence in Australia. Both ships participate in a range of Tall Ship events, and will soon be off to Canada to participate in a series of adventure voyages to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary.
Here comes the inevitable plug: maintaining and running these ships takes a great deal of money, which is raised by a variety of means. Donations of course (see jst.org.uk), events held all over the country and you too can sail on either ship for a price! Absolutely worth it for the rich experience and unique excitement of life aboard a beautiful sailing ship as well as the chance to meet wonderful people both able bodied and disabled.
The Lord Nelson: One of the world’s most beautiful sailing ships crewed, maintained and financed by beautiful people. I can’t wait to go for a much longer sail….it’s in my DNA….Join me?


  • as Jon so eloquently put it A voyage on a JST tall ship changes lives.
    It was a delight to sail with Jon this week and we truly did have a wonderful two days on the Solent here is what I wrote afterwards:
    Thank you Jubilee Sailing Trust for a two day shot in the arm to remind me why I get up each day. We were blessed with the weather, delightful mix of voyage crew and some PC who I have been friends with for many years. The perfect recipe for a new two day trip on Lord Nelson.
    Not only that, a spectacular flypast from a Spitfire and the most awesome lunch visit to No Man’s Fort in the Solent. All abilities, all ages one purpose…. With the hard work from all the ship’s crew a really memorable and remarkable taste of sailing with the JST – THANK YOU

    I have worked at the Jubilee Sailing Trust for almost ten years and this overnight trip was definitely a hi-light of working for the Trust – thank you Jon for being such a lovely companion – see you on board again soon I hope! xx

    • It was so good sailing with you Jo – a wonderful shipmate! If ever I was shipwrecked you would make the best companion, you would cheer me up in the worst of storms…

  • Jon, that’s a wonderful piece about the Jubilee Sailing Trust and your experience on the Lord Nelson.

    It was lovely to meet you. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it, and look forward to seeing you on another voyage sometime! I’ve already booked my berth on one of the Canada voyages.

    I’ll be in touch about the London fundraising branch, the ‘2 6 Heavers’ which supports the JST with fundraising events and promotion of the trust. Anyone interested can join us- http://www.2-6heavers.org.uk. It’s great fun!

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