Thank you Anne
Thank you to Anne for the following response to some articles and posts from Classic Sailing. I have included Anne’s response in full here.
I accept many of Anne’s comments and provide a reply below.
I am also very happy to offer Anne any book she chooses from the six shown below as an example of a great letter to the editor. Anne also receives a £50 Classic Sailing Voucher.
Reply to the Adam Purser Article “Tenacious – Such a sad story” 24/01/24 Classic Sailing
It would be interesting to know when Mr Purser last took a voyage on either STV Lord Nelson or SV Tenacious. Many of his observations and views expressed in his article “Tenacious – such a sad story” dated 24/01/24 appear to be outdated. In recent years the two regular Captains did not run the ship on “military lines”. Their characters and style were different as one would expect with different personalities but their focus on the wellbeing of the whole crew was exceptional. Keeping up to 8 wheelchair users, people with a range of disabilities, plus non-disabled crew safe, is not a responsibility many Captains encounter.
Mr Purser seems to have missed the point of the purpose and ethos of the JST and how unique Lord Nelson and Tenacious were. Neither ship was built to offer a “hotel style” experience with the opportunity to indulge in learning a little about sailing if desired. They were designed and built to accommodate and enable disabled crew to take part in the FULL sailing experience. They remain the only tall ships in the world able to fulfil this function. For those who are “turned off” by the thought of sailing with disabled people this is not the place for them. Fortunately, outdated attitudes and perception of disability have changed. Naturally, people may be concerned about saying or doing the wrong thing but these fears were quickly dispelled through informative, introductory talks. All crew interacted quickly, sharing and learning about each other’s lives whether disabled or not.
Witnessing someone self-hauling themselves out of their wheelchair and up the mast or a blind person helming with precision aided by a speaking compass may be “humbling”. Disabled people do not seek to inspire, they want to be treated equally and have the same opportunities as others. If they did motivate fellow crew members to challenge themselves and conquer fears, then it was a cause for celebration for all.
The description of volunteer crew taking many of the interesting roles on deck with little emphasis on sailing for the rest of the crew is not one recognised by many, as evidenced by the comments on Mr Purser’s article on Facebook. On most voyages there were only 3 volunteers, 1 in the galley assisting the Cook and 2 on deck assisting the Bosun, plus 4, reduced fee, watch leaders who were responsible for their watch. Without the participation of all the voyage crew it would not have been possible to sail the ship. Everyone was encouraged to take part to the best of their abilities. There were occasions when some were over enthusiastic and needed a quiet reminder that they needed to work as part of the team and encourage others less experienced than themselves. That is life. Despite working very hard and doing many of the unpleasant tasks, like galley bins and scrubbing, most volunteers did “count themselves lucky to be onboard”
No matter what size ship one chooses to crew on, all tasks from rope pulling to cleaning are essential for the smooth running of the vessel. On Tenacious you were a member of crew not a guest. Those who failed to read the provided information both pre and post booking only had themselves to blame when they realised, they were not on a cruise.
In recent years ‘Happy Hour’ (cleaning the ship) had been reduced to every 3-4 days with the Medical Purser doing much of the toilet cleaning often assisted by those who were happy to volunteer. Much hilarity and fun was experienced during Happy Hour from competitive deck scrubbing to discovering ways to control Henry Hoover in lumpy seas. For the majority it was a bonding experience, being part of the team, working to ensure everyone’s health and welfare.
It would be naive to think there had not been problems at JST leading to the sad announcement of JST Tenacious Ltd no longer trading in December. However, the conclusion that this was due to ‘cleaning toilets’ and lack of ‘guest experience’ misrepresents the ethos, purpose and camaraderie of this special ship. Those who were ‘dissatisfied’ were probably on the wrong vessel due to their own poor research. Many returned to do repeat voyages, some, 20+ voyages, friendships were formed that extended beyond the ship and around the world. The problems at JST were much more complex.
The greatest sadness is the loss of the only tall ship in the world built and sailed by a mixed ability crew. Disabled people will never again be able to go ocean sailing, actively involved in crewing a tall ship on equal terms with non-disabled crew unless Tenacious can be saved. A large community of supporters have come together to form the Save Tall Ship Tenacious group to seek a new future for this unique and special ship.
Anne (Wheelchair user)
A heartfelt thanks to Anne for her perspective on the “Tenacious” story.
Anne raises important points about the unique purpose of STV Lord Nelson and SV Tenacious, not just as sailing vessels but as platforms for inclusive, full sailing experiences for people with disabilities. Contrary to outdated perceptions, these ships foster a welcoming environment where everyone, regardless of ability, contributes equally and learns from one another.
The reality aboard Tenacious, as Anne highlights, is far from the mere ‘volunteer work’ often misunderstood. It’s about teamwork, shared experiences, and the joy of overcoming personal and collective challenges. This spirit is what makes Tenacious not just a ship, but a community.
In all I say it has been and remains the intention to enable the successful return of Tenacious.
It is true I have not sailed with the JST for some time. My current knowledge is based on the feedback both formal and informal that Classic Sailing’s has received from customers who have sailed with the JST.
Like many feedback systems we tend to only hear the good and the bad. The vast majority of people do not give the middle ground feedback.
I accept that the bad feedback has biassed my opinion. However if I did not want to overcome what I saw as a problem I would not have raised it.
Whilst Tenacious was in operation Classic Sailing has always questioned why we found it difficult to market the voyages. With the demise of the JST the opportunity has arisen to publicly discuss the issues without jeopardising the uptake of voyages.
It was heartwarming to see the response to the poll we put on Facebook. The overwhelming majority of people felt that cleaning the heads was not an issue. This was felt both by those that had and had not sailed on Tenacious.
As Anne mentions,’ those that failed to read the provided information’, highlights the need for clear communications.
In the past I would not have known how to explain the issue as I feared mentioning it would have lost bookings.
Now thanks to the poll I have a better grasp of people’s attitude and can tackle the subject head on.
It’s pretty simple to explain.
Keeping prices down.
Running a yacht is expensive.
Running a tall ship is extremely expensive.
Have you ever wondered why there are so few of them?
Running a unique tall ship for people of mixed abilities is ultra expensive.
To keep costs down and maximise availability, some crew members volunteer to help with ship cleanliness, including toilets, reducing overall running costs.
That of course is just part of what you need to say to people but it’s probably how I would describe that section today.
Thank you to everyone that has contributed to the discussion.
All the best