Whilst a number of Tall Ships are gathering for the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival in Woolwich, the West India Dock welcomes a Tall Ship that has forged a great reputation as a Training ship for disabled and able-bodied people.
The Lord Nelson was the first tall ship that was purpose-built with the aim of integrating disabled with able-bodied people.The ship was the fulfilment of the vision JST’s founder, Christopher Rudd who believed that physically disabled people should be able to sail alongside able-bodied people as part of the crew. The charity raised the money to build the ship aided by a grant from the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Appeal which led to the charity to being called the Jubilee Sailing Trust.
The Lord Nelson sailed on her maiden voyage in 1986, Since that voyage, the STS Lord Nelson has sailed 461,943 Nautical Miles and taken nearly 29,000 people to sea. Of these, 10,500 people were physically disabled and more than 3,500 were wheelchair users.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the ship is that Lord Nelson’s has many facilities for disabled crew including flat wide decks, powered lifts, speaking compass, Braille signage and bright track radar for visually impaired crew members. An induction loop and vibrating alarms have been installed for hearing impaired crew members. There are also special cabins, toilets and shower facilities for disabled crew.
However, the whole purpose of these facilities is to enable the disabled crew to work side by side with the able bodied crew, there is no room for passengers, everyone has duties to perform.
Between 2012 and 2014, the Lord Nelson undertook its greatest challenge by completing a voyage around the world visiting 7 continents and 30 countries. Whilst in Australia and New Zealand she raced in tall ships races and also carried out an Antarctic Expedition.
The Lord Nelson is a 55m barque that usually has a crew of 50, there is a permanent Crew of Master, First Mate, Second Mate, Bosun, Chief Engineer, Second Engineer, Medical Purser, Cook, two volunteer Bosun’s Mates, volunteer Cook’s Assistant and Deck Officer Cadet. The Voyage Crew consists of 38 people, 50% of whom may be physically disabled (up to eight wheelchair users).
The Jubilee Sailing Trust and the Lord Nelson were pioneers in promoting integration between able-bodied and physically disabled adults through the medium of tall ship sailing. Their success has enabled disabled people to undertake adventures as part of a working crew and earn respect for their contribution. It was this success that led to the Jubilee Sailing Trust to build a second ship, Tenacious, a 65m wooden barque which is the largest ship of her kind to be built-in the UK in over 100 years and undertook her maiden voyage in 2000.
The Tenacious especially is a regular visitor to West India Dock and both ships are a wonderful reminder of what can be achieved by fulfilling a vision of providing opportunities to people of a wide range of abilities.