Voyage of discovery

21:55, Feb 12 2013
Southland Times photo
Tony Cummings is hoping Spirit of Adventure sailing buddies will catch up on the ship while it is in Dunedin.

Southern Spirit of Adventure rep Tony Cummings hopes a visit from our national tall training ship at the weekend will be a voyage of discovery for anyone who has been involved.

Cummings is hoping friends and past voyagers will visit the Spirit of Adventure ship, the Spirit of New Zealand, for a mini-reunion on Saturday afternoon once the two-hour public part of its programme finishes at 4pm.

The recently-refitted ship is visiting the city as part of its 40-year anniversary celebrations.

"I'm trying to get all people involved with the ships over the past 40 years to a low key function. They can just turn up," Cummings says.

The Spirit of Adventure Trust, which previously operated two tall training ships, has visited Dunedin regularly during its 40 years of taking groups of teens to sea for 10 days sailing experience.

Dunedin, Otago and Southland area, have been well catered for, even though the ship tends to spend much of its time sailing in North Island waters.

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Cummings caught the spirit of the Spirit of Adventure in 1989 after being invited to go to Bluff for an adult weekend to Stewart Island.

"I came away saying ‘this is absolutely me, how can I get more involved?"'

Since then he has served as volunteer watch assistant, and sometimes as a volunteer mate, on a number of trips. Last year Cummings spent 100 days on the ship.

Even at 65, Cummings boasts he can still climb the rigging. However, the biggest thrill is seeing 40 teen strangers from all walks of life and backgrounds turn up for a voyage and end up forming intense bonds.

Cummings says continuing University of Otago research, first released in 2006, proved the benefits of trainees participating in Spirit of Adventure youth development has long ranging advantages, even years after the event.

Cummings believes the Spirit experience may be even more relevant today than 40 years ago.

"We've moved with the times. Initially the ships were used for what they called sail training. We recognised many years ago it's actually about the trainees rather than the ship. The ship is only the tool. It's like the classroom. It's bringing the best out of these kids and watching them grow. "

The Spirit of New Zealand sails into Dunedin on Saturday, February 16. It is open to the public on Saturday, 2pm-4pm. It departs for Bluff on Sunday.

D Scene