A trip aboard Excelsior is a unique experience; no two trips are the same for various reasons:-
- The weather conditions which hugely affect a sailing vessel.
- The people on board. We try to give as much of the decision making as we safely can to the group on board and as they develop their understanding of the boat in its environment as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the group itself so the trip will develop and change. But we do have typical routines and structures to keep people safe and to gain knowledge and feedback throughout the trip.
When a group arrives they are met by the crew and walked down to the boat. Before boarding the boat they are given a quick welcome and safety brief on how to board. Asked to leave their bags on the quay they come aboard to look round. Once they have satisfied their curiosity they then load their bags as a team.
Introductions then commence round the table, the crew introduce themselves and their roles on board and the group are asked to introduce themselves and talk about what they would like from their time on board, expectations, worries, what they hope to learn etc..
Safety briefings then commence, including what to do in the event of a fire, flood and falling off. Equipment like life jackets are explained and issued and fitted. A domestic briefing is also done at this time such as using the heads (toilet) use of cooker etc.
Chart briefing commences with a quick explanation of weather and tide and then a discussion of possibilities for the trip are discussed. Once the group has decided on the intended destinations they organise their teams for watches.
After a brief about safety on deck and basics on how to handle lines and make fast we depart. The group handle lines, sort out fenders and stow mooring gear. We then start hoisting sail. Names and functions of the equipment they are using are explained in tool box talks – it is about to become apparent that there has to be a lot of team work to get the sails up.
Once the ship is set up and on its way typically the watch system starts, the on watch take turns on the helm and taught how to steer by compass, wind, sea and a point of reference. Any sail handling is also done by the on watch. The importance of looking out is explained and what to look out for. The off watch may be preparing food at this point or cleaning or chilling out or sleeping, though if they would like to help out on the deck watch duties they are almost always welcome. Watches are normally 3 hours long then rotate and we normally have 3 watches with a crew member as watch leader.
As we reach the destination it is all hands on deck for dropping sail and preparing warps or anchor. Once secured there is a group debrief and a discussion when decisions are made such as how much time ashore.
There is also time made for a review of the plan for the next passage which often becomes a talk on experiences so far.
This is how most trips aboard Excelsior are constructed and are related. There is no such thing as a typical trip as there are so many variables such as time and weather. Also the trips are constructed round the group and the individual wants and needs within that. We believe in giving the individuals as much responsibility as we safely can and as time on board goes by and the understanding increases we can give over more responsibility and decisions to the group. Typical things that we often provide are:
- Mast climbing, even those that do not like heights are encouraged to give it a go and are supported by the crew and group even if they only get one ratline (bottom rope) up.
- BBQ on a beach, we like to make our own burgers.
- Trips into villages, towns and cities
- Racing, we have often taken part in tall ships races and smaller events.
- Surveys of natural habitats linked in with national programmes
Informal review is held often to encourage the correct use of equipment, to encourage communication of the group and individuals and to rethink plans about the trip often due to weather. As the trip progresses and the skills and understanding from the group develops we encourage more responsibility. We also review round the table when a leg of a trip is completed.