It's goodbye Nelson and bonjour Noumea for six Nelson sea cadets about to set sail for New Caledonia.
The TS Talisman cadets plan to untether the 15-metre yacht Simply Wild from the Nelson marina on Friday and sail for the Pacific French territory, which they expect to reach after two weeks.
Cadet unit commander sub-lieutenant Milo Coldren, who owns the yacht, believes it will be the first time a sea cadet unit in New Zealand has embarked on such an ambitious offshore journey.
"We are doing this to provide an opportunity for these teenagers to show that with dreams, perserverance and hard work, they can do just about anything," Mr Coldren said.
The cadets, with the help of their parents, have in the past 18 months raised the $20,000 needed for the trip.
All the teens have seagoing qualifications, but little or no open-ocean sailing experience.
Maria Schryvers, 15, said the most anxious time now was hoping the weather looked good for departure and the few days it would take to sail beyond challenging coastal conditions.
"The best part about it will be the overall experience and seeing how everyone gets on together."
Part of their preparation included a course on conflict management, Maria said. The year-11 Garin College student, who is aiming for a career in journalism, said everyone was excited.
Mr Coldren said a core crew of three would sail the yacht, including himself as skipper, Ensign Lynley Murtagh as watch leader and experienced offshore Nelson yachtswoman Kathryn Holmes as mate.
New Caledonia was chosen because it was on the closest direct sailing route and several of the cadets were learning French.
They are to be welcomed to New Caledonia by the New Zealand High Commissioner, and plan to visit to HMNZS Canterbury, which is scheduled to be in Noumea at the same time.
The trip required considerable planning and reassurances before signoff, which was helped by input from programme leader Katherine Walker of the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology's School of Marine Studies.
Mr Coldren said the project had received phenomenal backing from a core of about 300 supporters, including businesses and individuals who had donated funds.
The Nelson Amateur Radio Club will set up a station at the cadet headquarters to receive daily radio schedules of the yacht's position and progress. Cadets will take turns to deliver information.
They have also helped provision the yacht and drawn up a shopping list topped by ingredients for homemade bread and pastas.
Maria said a favourite seemed to be baked beans and nachos, but the cooks among them were busy preparing pre-made meals to be frozen and eaten en route.
The cadets would fly home on July 24. Mr Coldren plans to remain in New Caledonia with his family who will fly over to meet him, before bringing the yacht back in October.
The Nelson Mail will provide regular updates of the voyage.
- The Nelson Mail
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