Sea voyages impart life lessons

16:00, Dec 19 2012
R Tucker Thompson
HARD OUT: Chance August climbs the rigging as the R Tucker Thompson heads back to Russell on Wednesday afternoon.

These days the R Tucker Thompson is hosting reunions for the young people who took part in its youth development voyages over the past year.

The R Tucker Thompson Sail Training Trust takes three or four youth voyages a year aboard the schooner that was first launched in 1985.

The youth aboard are literally learning the ropes of sailing, but they're also taking bush walks, exploring caves, snorkelling, fishing, collecting scallops and oysters, cooking, tying knots - and, most importantly, they're gaining life experiences.

R Tucker Thompson
LUNCH BREAK: The R Tucker Thompson sits moored off the Te Pahi Islands as crew aboard prepare lunch for those who headed ashore.

Ashley Kemp, 19, who has organised this year's reunions, says she realised there was more to life after she sailed for a week aboard the R Tucker Thompson - she gained perspective.

"My first trip up, I was only 13, it was quite an eye-opener for me," she says. "It basically changed how I thought."

She had sailed until she was 7 or 8 years old, but had a fright.


When she went out on the R Tucker Thompson for two hours with her intermediate class, she started wanting more. She learned of the seven-day trips and remembers thinking "OK, I'm getting back out here".

She's right back into sailing now. And now she's seeing the transformation that happened in her happen to others as she's taken on the role of youth ambassador.

"By the end of the week, people don't want to leave. We all bond really well, and we become a tight little family."

Penelope Wilson was back on board the schooner last week simply "to get back out on the boat again".

Her earlier trip was in April - the first voyage of the year. The 15-year-old was excited to get on board and to experience something new.

Penelope lives 40km out of Whangarei and was pleased to have people she could bond with around her.

"The people I was talking to weren't necessarily the people I would normally associate with and then, being in such a small space forced you to get along," she says.

"[The trip] made you realise a lot of the things that you take for granted - like living on a still surface, sleeping on a still surface."

Skipper Stephen Mackay directed the boat out of Russell through Kent Passage, and took the crew out to the Te Pahi islands for a look around before lunch back on the boat.

Mr Mackay barked orders at the kids as a salty sea captain during last week's reunion - and they seemed to revel in it. Smiles beamed from him and the teenagers.

In the winter the R Tucker Thompson takes groups of 10 or 12 teenagers out for a week. Mr Mackay says the boat probably hosted 160 children this year.

Teachers provide pre-trip and post-trip reports in terms of a youth's school work and attitude.

"Sometimes we see some amazing changes - we've had some where teachers have just raved on about it."

Confidence is a key result for many who come aboard the boat. And the desire to achieve has also been noted by those close to youths who have enjoyed the experience.

He taught those on board how to climb the rigging with a knife in his mouth - a must if they wish to pursue a career as a pirate.

The R Tucker Thompson's Kylie Fawcett clearly enjoyed helping direct the youths on the ropes as they raised and lowered sails.

She's a believer when it comes to the life skills that the sailing trips foster.

"They might come here not even knowing they've got leadership qualities and then they develop those skills," Ms Fawcett says.

"They get a real buzz out of it."