Jubilee Sailing Trust

on 30/03/2017

One of my aims when taking this job was to have fun volunteering and in doing so encourage others to spread more kindness themselves. It is heartening to get messages from you guys after a blog asking how you can get involved in a charity that has touched you. Now nearly half way through my year, I feel with each week I learn more and more about the sector and it is fantastic to be able to take that knowledge with me on the road, pass on tips and connections and help other charities. As a third sector, all too often we are behind the curve but by working more collegiately and embracing emerging technology we can start to tilt the balance. Be that through like contactless card readers like those from Izettle placed inside guide dogs collars to reinvigorate chugging practices, using tablet technology to bring silent auctions to life with Givergy or by combining fitness apps with donations on platforms like GivePenny to change the way in which we fundraise.

This week I have learnt that volunteering isn’t always as simple or straight forward as changing a display in a charity shop, it can be as challenging as changing the fuel in a diesel tank onboard a tall ship. I spent the week in part volunteering with the Jubilee Sailing Trust on the Lord Nelson during their maintenance week on the River Solent. The first thing I clocked about this charity was the diversity of its volunteers and this week's blog is dedicated to them.

We were (quite literally) a motley crew of around 20 people ranging from four 16-year old work experience students to a former marine engineer in his mid seventies. Age and ability are not prohibitive here on this specially built vessel, since even if you are in a wheelchair you can remarkably still reach the top of the rigging. The adaptations to Lord Nelson or ‘Nelly’ as its affectionately known and its bigger sister Tenacious are extensive with stair lifts, brail hand rails, wheelchair runners, minimal deck lips and bumps, specialised drainage and extra large berths. The concept of bringing people together of all abilities through the challenge and adventure of open water tall ship sailing is an ambitious but highly laudable one.

I met a couple on board around my age who are volunteering for the first time too. They are no strangers to adventure having cycled across Canada, worked on fruit farms for free, helped to build houses and travelled extensively with aspirations of ultimately buying a plot of land in Tasmania. Chris wants to become a boat builder and so this maintenance experience provides a helpful insight before he begins his course later this year, Linda is looking to become a pilates instructor but is equally intrigued by the magic of tall ship sailing. They are a bohemian pair and great company to while away the hours sanding and swabbing the deck!

My second sea faring buddy was the most senior of the volunteer group, Clive. Whom despite the absence of beard and pipe was in all other respects the archetypal salty seadog. There is very little Clive doesn’t know about ships, in fact he is a cornucopia of knowledge on most things in life. We spent a very happy afternoon varnishing the bridge together and I heard many a yarn from Clive’s sea faring days in the merchant navy and his adventures around the world. Each ship that passed us Clive had either a story about or knew what they were up to, it really was quite staggering. Clive may be retired and not as nimble as he once was but he has a glut of knowledge and experience and I have a lot for him to thank for teaching me the ropes of some basic nautical etiquette, terminology, flag protocol and maritime history! I learnt that I am a fathom tall (6ft) and that a moonraker is the light square sail at the top of a mast (who knew!).

On shore I met Judith one of the charity’s longest serving volunteers. Judith and her husband in fact found love on board the Lord Nelson, meeting each other twenty years ago as volunteers and have continued to support the charity. In fact Judith is now one of its most vocal proponents and the stories of her experiences, told at a club for bereaved Southampton residents, was heartfelt and moving. A nod should also be made to the ship’s cook, Simon. It is not an easy task to prepare three meals and two tea breaks daily for fifty people in a tiny galley kitchen. However despite the fatigue of returning from a three week voyage, Simon did just that with good spirits throughout and heartily delicious it was too.

It wouldn’t be a tall ship without a loose cannon and our band of volunteers had one in the form of cheeky irishman, Martin. Currently a marine engineer on tug boats, Martin is a challenge seeker and keen to lend his expertise on board this very unique type of vessel. His mischievious ways and terrible chat up lines kept all of us volunteers entertained at ‘tot time’ (5pm drinks in the bar) and I learnt about his epic plan to walk the legendary pilgrim’s route, Camino in Spain to escape his 40th birthday this year. Good luck to you sir!

This is a charity with a great deal of history and the ships themselves are held in great affection by supporters, many of whom were involved in physically building them some twenty and thirty years ago. The volunteers are a broad church from ex mariners, to retirees, to adventure seekers, lawyers, plumbers, accountants, grandmothers and students getting oily, sweaty and all pulling together for the same goal. With thanks to all the volunteers supporting this cause and especially to my own motley band aboard ‘Nelly’ this week.

Anchors away and onto my next adventure,


Alice Biggar

Author: Alice Biggar

Alice is our National Philanthropy Manager & current holder of The Nicest Job in Britain.